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Hampton Boulevard Bridge, 27 December, 1929. Image courtesy of Sargeant Memorial Collection, Norfolk Public
Library.


Carrol Walker's Old Norfolk

Larchmont

By Peggy Haile McPhillips
Norfolk City Historian

Many of Norfolk's west-side neighborhoods such as Larchmont, Edgewater, Glenwood Park and Meadowbrook owe their origins to a streetcar line that was laid the length of Hampton Boulevard from downtown to Sewells Point in 1906 to carry visitors to the 1907 Jamestown Exposition.

With public transportation in place for the breadwinner to travel to his workplace downtown while his family enjoyed suburban living, a group of local businessmen purchased about 200 acres in the northwest portion of Norfolk County in 1906 for residential development, which they called "Larchmont." They laid out streets and sidewalks, installed a water system and engaged realtors T. Marshall Bellamy and J. Thomas Hough to develop the suburb. Because of its location, some predicted that the project would fail. Larchmont was "in the country," five miles north of the city - an inconvenient commute even by streetcar. To entice purchasers, Mr. Bellamy started his own bus line, the Larchmont Transit Company, which ran from Commercial Place downtown to Larchmont for a fare of five cents. A nickel was known as a "jitney" in those days, and so the bus was dubbed the Larchmont Jitney. In an early newspaper ad, Bellamy offered "we have two automobiles to show you Larchmont. If you are timid about riding in automobiles, we can take you on the streetcar in twenty minutes." The property was divided into 25-foot lots, and owners were required to purchase a minimum of two lots so that their houses would not be crowded together. By September 1908, $200,000 in property had been purchased in Larchmont and the Ledger-Dispatch newspaper predicted "the benets of the boulevard will in the end be so vast to the city's development that they cannot now be reckoned." By 1912, 64 homes had been built and sold. Apart from Ghent, no other neighborhood grew so rapidly in the early days of Norfolk than the suburb of Larchmont.

After World War I, Norfolk was left with a greatly expanded population of military and civilian war workers and their families who came here during wartime and chose to remain. Because of the resulting housing shortage in existing neighborhoods, the city annexed nearly 28 square miles of county land, including Larchmont and much of Norfolk's west side, Ocean View, Willoughby, Titustown and Wards Corner, in 1923.

The Ledger-Dispatch might have been looking into a crystal ball when it predicted that the benefits of Hampton Boulevard would "be so vast to the city's development that they cannot now be reckoned." Just look at the boulevard today!

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