Lafayette Residence Park Historic District
The Lafayette Residence Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document (prepared by Laura V. Trieschmann and Kathryn A. Gettings). Adaptation copyright © 2009, The Gombach Group.
General Architectural Characteristics
Developed during the first quarter of the twentieth century, Lafayette Residence Park emerged as a suburban community north of the growing downtown area of Norfolk. Catering to upper class patrons, the neighborhood developed with grand single-family dwellings, exhibiting revival and American movement-era styles and forms. The tract was landscaped with numerous parks and an intricate system of curvilinear roads complimented the expansive housing lots. Hindered by the lack of service amenities and few residents desiring to live outside of the city center, Lafayette's initial progress was slowed to constitute roughly eleven dwellings in the years 1902-1908. Construction was accelerated, however, as the First World War generated housing needs, and the Lafayette Development Company altered their original plat in 1908 to allow for smaller housing lots. This created a second phase of development, spurred by the influx of middle-class professional residents.
Today, Lafayette Residence Park is defined by a variety of architectural styles and building types ranging from early twentieth century high-style architecture to mid-twentieth century dwellings and apartment buildings exhibiting vernacular interpretations of the elaborate styles erected decades earlier. The area making up the Lafayette Residence Park neighborhood consists of approximately 284 historic properties, the majority of which are domestic resources.
Lafayette Residence Park (1902-1909)
Prior to the turn of the twentieth century, the far northern region of the city of Norfolk was characterized by their distinctly rural and marshy nature. Early building surveys and maps of the city show the area north of the Lafayette River sparsely developed, with random improvements located within large, open tracts of farmland. During the latter decades of the nineteenth century, when the city began to grow northward, the few farmhouses were demolished, the land tracts surveyed, and suburban plats created. Conceived as a high-class residential suburb, Lafayette Residence Park was sited farther north than the suburban neighborhoods of the late nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries. Research has shown that the property platted in 1902 as Lafayette contained only a single farmhouse and various associated outbuildings. Once development began, however, the resources were razed in favor of grander, more fashionable single-family suburban dwellings.
The new subdivision, platted in September 1902, was composed of intersecting curvilinear streets that took advantage of the irregular shoreline of the Lafayette River. The design was described as "French" in method, utilizing curved and gently winding streets. The curvilinear avenues created opportunities for small parks where their awkward intersections resulted in spaces that proved inappropriate for housing lots. The developers made a point of retaining the existing trees, in order to "relieve the monotony" of the flat landscape, and preserve the natural beauty of the surroundings. The focal point of the neighborhood was the ellipse formed by Orleans and Dupont circles on the southern end of the neighborhood. Bisected by the streetcar line that ran along what would become Lafayette Boulevard, the neighborhood was improved by tree-lined streets, sidewalks, and several pockets of parks. Two stone entrance gates were shown at either end of Lafayette Boulevard at the 26th Street Bridge and at Cottage Toll Road (the gates are no longer extant). Construction was focussed on the western side of Lafayette Boulevard, especially along the pricier waterfront lots.
While Lafayette Residence Park appeared on 1906 city maps as fully laid out with a complete set of streets, an Army Corps of Engineers survey conducted in 1907 indicates that only a fraction of the planned streets had actually been laid, and only eight houses had been erected by that time. To aid in the progress of development, the Lafayette Residence Park Company filed a revised plat for the suburb of Lafayette Residence Park in 1908. In an effort to attract a larger clientele, the company created a greater number of smaller residential lots through the division of larger tracts. The most dramatic change occurred in the lots east of Lafayette Boulevard and north of Dupont Circle. In this area, the company reduced lot sizes from between sixty and 120 feet in width to between twenty-three and thirty feet. Corresponding with this narrowing of the lots, a clause was added to the deed covenants requiring that a single residence occupy a minimum of two lots in the area east of Lafayette Boulevard. Other alterations include the addition of Royale Park and Terrace at the center of Orleans Circle and the addition of Luxembourg Gardens between Versailles Avenue and Avenue De Grasse. Additional streets laid during this period included Vendome Terrace and Place, St. Louis, Moultrie, Bourbon, and Bellevue avenues, Maury Crescent, and Norman Arch.
Between 1902 and 1908, ten dwellings and one school building were erected in Lafayette Residence Park. Of those, five exhibited the Queen Anne style of architecture, while the remaining six illustrated the detailing of the Colonial Revival style. Despite being constructed in the early part of the twentieth century, the buildings displayed the high-style ornamentation and structural form fashionable in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The majority of the houses were constructed on brick foundations with wood frame structural systems clad with shingles or weatherboard. The roofs, presently sheathed in a variety of materials, historically consisted of numerous, intricate pitches that spurred from the main hip or gable. The forms of the dwellings were typically accentuated by corner towers, porches, and bay windows, overwhelmed by scrolled brackets, balustrades, and patterned shingles.
Excellent examples of the early architectural styles and form are reflected in the dwellings at 107 Dupont Circle, 140 Orleans Circle, and 3123 Avenue Luxembourg. The two-and-a-half-story wood frame building at 107 Dupont Circle was constructed in 1906 with Colonial Revival style detailing. Measuring five bays wide, the dwelling is finished with a one-story wrap-around porch, dominate hipped roof with dormers, and balustraded widow's walk.
The dwelling 140 Orleans Circle illustrates a common building form constructed numerous times throughout the neighborhood during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Queen Anne in form and detailing, the two-and-a-half-story building is constructed of wood frame with a one- story wrap-around porch. The main block is augmented by canted bays on the facade and side elevations, thus presenting the intricate pitches of hipped and gable roofs. This domestic building form appears to be prevalent in the Tidewater region of Virginia, particularly along port communities, which transported building materials, plans, and applied ornamentation by boat from Baltimore, Maryland.
As documented by historic maps, the dwelling commonly known as Talley at 3123 Avenue Luxembourg was constructed between 1902 and 1906, as documented by historic maps. Reserved in scale, the wood frame building is one and a half stories in height. The expansive interior and the wrap-around porch are housed beneath a massive hipped roof, pierced by projecting pediments, dormers, and sleeping porches. The ornamentation of the dwelling plays homage to both the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles of architecture with the multi-paned upper sashes, corbelled chimney caps, Tuscan columns, and exposed rafter ends that are detailed to appear as brackets.
With the exception of the Lafayette Grammar School, the dwelling at 3123 Saint Louis Avenue is the oldest masonry building in the neighborhood. Constructed between 1908 and 1910, the two-story building is built of bricks laid in seven-course American bond. Interestingly, the building has an urban form, measuring three bays wide and four bays deep. The expansive hipped roof and front porch augment the narrow form.
The only non-residential building erected in the community during this period, the Lafayette Grammar School at 3115 Tidewater Drive was constructed in circa 1905 as one of the major architectural focal points for the newly platted neighborhood. The high-style Colonial Revival building, designed by Norfolk architect Vance Hebard, stands two stories in height covered by a weighty hipped roof edged with modillions. Constructed of brick laid in five-course American bond, the school is six bays wide and features an imposing central entry framed by a pedimented portico. The finely detailed windows are influenced by the contemporary Queen Anne style with multi-pane upper sashes, semi-circular arches, and molded lintels. Eventually renovated to serve as residential housing, the school building was expanded in 1915 to accommodate the growing population settling in Lafayette Residence Park.
Subsequent Development in Lafayette Residence Park (1910-1930)
Construction in Lafayette Residence Park picked up in the second decade of the twentieth century. Between 1910 and 191 5, sixty-six buildings were erected compared to a total of eleven constructed during the first years of development between 1902 and 1908. The pace of development in Lafayette was greatly effected by the influx of workers to the port community on the eve of the First World War; consequently, thirty-four houses went up during the years leading up to America's entry into the war in Europe. With the creation of smaller lots available to middle-class residents, modest dwellings were being erected throughout Lafayette. Respecting the architectural heritage of the planned community, the Colonial Revival style was very prominent during the years between 1910 and 1917. Yet, by the time residential development began to take off around 1915, house sizes and stylistic features had begun to change with the construction of a significant numbers of smaller, less ornamented houses in the neighborhood. In fact, between 1918 and 1922, the largest number of dwellings to be erected during any five-year period occurred with the construction of ninety-three modest single-family dwellings, five multiple-family dwellings, and two churches.
The intricate form and detailing of the bungalow was first introduced to Lafayette in 1910, having its greatest advent in 1922. During this later period, the one- to one-and-a-half story bungalow, which earlier had mimicked the architectural ornament of the late Victorian period, began to display the fashionable Craftsman style. Less than half of the ninety-eight dwellings, both single- and multiple-family, erected between 1918 and 1922 were styled in the traditional element associated with the Colonial Revival, although they were more sparsely ornamented. Scattered illustrations of the Dutch Colonial and Shingle styles also filled the smaller lots between the more imposing Colonial Revival and Queen Anne style residences erected prior to this period. Several twin dwellings and apartment buildings were erected in Lafayette during the 1920s as housing needs increased. Smaller in scale than traditionally seen, these buildings were designed to integrate with the surrounding single-family residences and architecturally conformed to the stylistic trends of the period.
Examples of buildings erected during this subsequent phase of development include 1708 Saint Dennis Avenue, 1319 Lafayette Boulevard, 1621 Bellevue Avenue, and 1820 LaSalle Avenue.
The modest dwelling at 1708 Saint Dennis Avenue was constructed in the period between 1910 and 1920. Illustrating the fashionable architectural trends of the day, the one-and-a-half-story building is detailed in the Craftsman style. The residence is larger in scale than traditionally seen with the bungalow form, yet, the wraparound porch, bay windows, shed dormers, and exposed rafter ends at the base of the hipped roof all lend themselves to that form. Stylistically, the Palladian window in the second story of the projecting bay appears out of place, attempting to conform with the surrounding Colonial Revival style dwellings.
The two-and-a-half-story wood frame dwelling at 1319 Lafayette Boulevard, also erected between 1910 and 1920, reflects the twentieth century interpretation of the Colonial Revival. Larger in form than its contemporaries, the building is four bays width with a full-wide front porch. The reserved architectural detailing is illustrated in the Tuscan supports, turned balustrade, and massive dormer with three window openings.
Following the form traditionally associated with the bungalow is the dwelling at 1621 Bellevue Avenue, erected in 1927. The building has the classic features including the front porch supported by tapered Tuscan columns, paired window openings, overhanging eaves with brackets, and a jerkin-head hipped roof. An excellent example of the multiple-family housing constructed in Lafayette in the 1920s is the building at 1820 LaSalle Avenue, built in 1928. The form, common throughout the neighborhood, is square with slightly projecting bays capped with enclosed pediments. The facade is clearly marked by the two-story porches flanking the main entry opening. The porches provide the stylistic influences with tapered Tuscan columns on brick piers, square balusters, and enclosed pediments. The main entry is covered by a massive overhanging pediment that mimics the enclosed pediments on the porches,
The stability of the community by the 1920s was further evidenced by the construction of two churches, the Church of the Epiphany in 1920 and the First United Methodist Church in 1922. The construction of two church buildings presented the Lafayette neighborhood with architectural styles not previously displayed. The Church of the Epiphany was Modern by design, having been conceived by Norfolk architect Benjamin F. Mitchell. The Flemish bond brick Methodist Church in contrast drew from the nineteenth century Gothic Revival, an architectural style more commonly utilized in church design.
Although Lafayette Residence Park was well settled by 1926, only a few of the existing streets had been paved. These included Lafayette Boulevard, Norway Place, portions of St. Denis Avenue, Lorraine and Racine streets, and Tidewater Drive. At this time, the Ocean View Main Line and the Fairmont Park Line operated on the streetcar tracks running through the community along Lafayette Boulevard,' By 1928, however, Lafayette Residence Park was ninety to ninety-five percent improved and the planned roadways laid.
Development After 1930
After 1930, Lafayette Residence Park experienced a lull in residential construction with just twenty-seven dwellings erected prior to 1947, The fashion of architectural styles during this period introduced, although minimally, the Tudor Revival and Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival. Of the twenty-three single-family dwellings and four multiple-family dwellings constructed, the majority had been designed in the Colonial Revival or Bungalow/Craftsman styles.
Examples include the dwellings at 1301 Lafayette Boulevard, 1800 St. Dennis Avenue, 1745 LaSalle Avenue, and 3126 Racine Avenue. Each of these dwellings, constructed between 1930 and 1947, are predominately stripped of applied stylistic detailing. The buildings at 1800 St. Denis Avenue and 1745 LaSalle Avenue are bungalows in form, yet lack the common ornament. The two-story brick dwelling at 1301 Lafayette Boulevard and the one-and-a-half-story wood frame dwelling at 3126 Racine Avenue are vernacular interpretations of the Colonial Revival style.
The seventy-seven residential buildings constructed in Lafayette Residence Park after 1948 were built on the unimproved lots laid out in the revised plat of 1908. Consequently, there was no subdivision of existing lots, and the scenic vistas with pockets of landscaped parks remained consistent with the original design intentions of the land developer. Similarly, the neighborhood had not been flawed by the introduction of commercial or industrial properties despite the subsequent development of Lafayette Boulevard. Architecturally, the post-I 948 buildings were stylistically sensitive to their neighbors, typically drawing !?om the Colonial Revival style.
The historic sense of community, gleaned both from the residents and the architecture, was threatened by economic decline and the encroachment of the Norfolk City limits. Widespread alterations occurred on the interior of many of the dwellings with a subdivision of single-family homes into apartment housing. Nevertheless, many of the area's architectural landmarks survived intact on the exterior and despite deterioration continue to characterize the physical nature of the area. Today, renewed interest in the community has spurred renovation and rehabilitation of the extant buildings, often resulting in the restoration of the single-family dwelling and a historic sense of community.
Lafayette Residence Park, a compact suburban neighborhood located north of downtown Norfolk, occupies approximately 112 acres on the east side of the Lafayette River, south of Winona. The neighborhood, connected to downtown via the 26th Street Bridge, is bounded on the north and west by the Lafayette River and on the east by Tidewater Drive. Gowrie Park borders the neighborhood to the south.
Initially developed during the latter part of the Reconstruction and Growth era (1865-1917), Lafayette Residence Park is marked by its architecturally significant early twentieth century revival and American movement residential buildings that emerged as the city of Norfolk expanded northward. From the incorporation of the Lafayette Residence Park Company in 1902 through the World War II era, the community was laid out to attract middle and upper income residents. The building requirements, extensive services, attractive landscaping and generously sized lots attest to their desire to attract a certain class of people.
Lafayette Residence Park is representative of the numerous outlying suburbs developed around the city during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The neighborhood retains eleven of its first resources, designed in a variety of architectural styles, including Colonial Revival and Queen Anne. Based on a 1902 plat map of the community, the area was developed over several decades between 1902 and 1930. The resulting suburb expresses the goals and ideals of the original developers and early residents through a curvilinear street pattern with tree- lined avenues and imposing freestanding domestic architecture. As a whole, Lafayette Residence Park has achieved significance as the product of a distinctive period whose individual components combine to create a distinguishable entity with high artistic value.
The first phase of development in the Lafayette area began in 1902 under the watchful eye of the Lafayette Residence Park Company. The lack of amenities, the marshy appearance of the property, and its distant location from the center of Norfolk slowed early development. The Church Street streetcar line, running eastward from 26th Street across the Lafayette River, traversed the planned suburb to become the spine of Lafayette Residence Park. Connecting the city center to the seaside resort of Ocean View, the streetcar line made the Lafayette tract easily accessible to downtown Norfolk, and essentially opened the area for suburban development by the first decade of the twentieth century. Consequently, the prospects for suburban development brightened and the community of Lafayette began to take shape after the turn of the twentieth century.
In September 1902, the Lafayette Residence Park Company filed the official plat for its newly devised suburb of "Lafayette Residence Park." The proposed plan, drawn by civil engineer C.F. Petree, depicted the neighborhood's lot divisions, street layout, and open spaces. The new subdivision was composed of intersecting curvilinear streets that took advantage of the irregular shoreline of the Lafayette River. Bisected by the streetcar line that ran along what would become Lafayette Boulevard, the neighborhood was improved with tree-lined curvilinear streets, sidewalks, and several pockets of parks. Two stone entrance gales were placed at either end of Lafayette Boulevard along the 26th Street Bridge and Cottage Toll Road (the gates are no longer extant).
In 1908, the Lafayette Residence Park Company filed a revised plat for the suburb of Lafayette Residence Park. The new plat reflected the company's failure to successfully launch their suburban venture aimed at upper class families. In an effort to attract a larger clientele, the company created a greater number of smaller residential lots though the division of larger lots. By doing this, the company created a larger number of less expensive properties while maintaining the illusion of a "high-class" roomy suburb. Shortly thereafter, this revised plat impacted the development in Lafayette Residence Park. Between 1910 and 1915, sixty-six buildings were erected compared to a total of eleven constructed during the first years of development between 1902 and 1908. The pace of development in Lafayette was greatly effected by the influx of workers brought to the port city on the eve of the First World War. Thirty-four houses went Up during the years leading up to America's entry into the war in Europe, while the largest number of dwellings to be erected during any five year period occurred just after the war between 1918 and 1922 with one hundred buildings constructed. In 1923, the city directory produced the names of roughly 190 residents in Lafayette Residence Park, which by that time consisted of approximately 225 dwellings. That same year, Lafayette Residence Park became part of a twenty-five square mile tract that was annexed to the City of Norfolk.
Lafayette Residential Park retains many of its original early twentieth century residential revival and American movement buildings, the majority of which were designed by local builders and architects. The earliest houses erected were generally imposing Colonial Revival and Queen Anne style residences built for upper-middle class residents. Construction was focused on the northwestern side of Lafayette Boulevard, especially along the pricier waterfront lots. The dwellings, ornamented to the specific tastes of the property owners, were sited on spacious lots with landscaped yards. Each of these large single-family buildings exhibited high-style ornamentation, including wrap-around porches, bracketing, denticulated moldings, sleeping porches, and an array of detailed cladding materials.
By the time residential construction began to take off around 1915, house sizes and stylistic features had begun to change in response to a new clientele. Larger numbers of smaller, less ornamented houses were built in the neighborhood. The dominant styles were modest Colonial Revival dwellings balanced by a significant number of Craftsman-style Bungalows. These dwellings generally housed middle-income residents, and exhibited less architectural ornament than the houses erected prior to 1915.
Physical Make-up of Suburban Norfolk
Most of Norfolk's late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century suburban developments shared common design features. Many were laid out with a grid-like street system combined with semi- circular roads or crescents designed to take fall advantage of waterfront tracts. Each neighborhood featured landscaped streets with medium-sized dwelling houses surrounded by modest yards. Primarily designed by architects from Baltimore and Norfolk, suburban house forms were repeated throughout the residential neighborhoods, making streetscapes in one residential subdivision almost indistinguishable from the next.
The size and character of Norfolk's turn-of-the-twentieth-century domestic architecture reflected the influence of nationwide trends in middle-class family size and the declining availability of domestic servants. For this reason, houses in the earliest suburbs such as Ghent and Park Place differed markedly in size and elaboration from those in the later, farther-out neighborhoods of Colonial Place and Riverview.
In general, the residential architecture of the turn of the twentieth century in Norfolk consisted of Late Victorian Queen Anne-style dwellings, the American Four-square form that revived the applied detailing of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and the well-built Bungalows commonly ornamented with Craftsman-style adornments. Colonial Revival-style dwellings, influenced by the architecture of the 1907 Jamestown Exposition in Norfolk, were also prevalent in many of Norfolk's early suburbs. In addition to influencing single-family residential architectural styles, the Jamestown Exposition also encouraged the construction of a relatively new building type in Norfolk: the apartment house. Built to accommodate the influx of visitors and workers created by the Exposition, many of these apartment buildings went up in established suburban neighborhoods serviced by the electric streetcar lines.
Lafayette Residence Park Prior to Suburban Development (1691-1901)
Prior to its subdivision as a residential neighborhood, the land on which Lafayette Residence Park would be established was undeveloped land surrounded by marshy inlets. Located on a peninsula that jutted out into the north side of Tanner's Creek (now known as the Lafayette River), the property was located within the boundaries of Norfolk County. (Norfolk was established in 1691 with the division of what was then known as Upper Norfolk County, itself formed in 1639). As Norfolk expanded over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the city appropriated land from the surrounding counties, thereby, dwindling the size of Norfolk County. Despite this, Lafayette Residence Park remained within the boundaries of Norfolk County until 1923, when the large tract of platted land was annexed to the growing city.
In the late nineteenth century, a total of 323 acres of property in this area were owned and occupied by local farmer James H. Johnson. Improved by the construction of a dwelling house and various outbuildings, the property was primarily utilized as pastures and light agricultural farmland. In 1885, Johnson had the property surveyed and divided into eighteen parcels, ranging in size from seven to seventeen acres. In anticipation of the subdivision, several of the tracts were conveyed to various individuals. The largest of the tracts, denoted on the survey maps as the "Home Tract," consisted of the sixty-eight acres surrounding Johnson's primary dwelling and outbuildings.
The advent of land development in Lafayette Residence Park came in November 1890, when James Johnson sold lots one, two, three, and the "Home Tract" to the Investment Company of Norfolk for $35,415. Totaling 112 acres, the conveyed property was located west of Cottage Toll Road (present-day Tidewater Drive) and bounded on the west and south by the Lafayette River. Chartered in October 1890, the Investment Company of Norfolk was founded as a land development firm by the principle partners of Myers & Company, an established Norfolk real estate company. The Investment Company held the Lafayette property for less than a year, turning it over to its successor, the New Norfolk Company, on January 26, 1891. Established in January 1891 for the purpose of purchasing, holding, and disposing of real estate, bonds, and other securities, the New Norfolk Company was run by the same individuals that had established the Investment Company of Norfolk. The company, with capital stock limits of $75,000 to $100,000 to be divided into shares valued at one hundred dollars each, was authorized to hold up to one thousand acres of land in each of several localities, including Norfolk and Princess Anne counties, and the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth.
A second real estate development firm with a similar name and shared officers was established one day prior to the chartering of the New Norfolk Company. Known as the New Norfolk Land Company, this firm was formed by the same group of individuals as the New Norfolk Company. The companies' purposes were nearly identical, save the addition of a clause authorizing the land company to "act as agents or attorneys in fact for individuals, firms, or corporations." The land company's capital stock was limited to no less than $50,000 and no more than $300,000 with shares valued at fifty dollars each. Again, the firm's land holdings were not to exceed one thousand acres in any of the aforementioned localities." Although the deed transfers clearly state that the New Norfolk Company was continuously the legal owner of the Lafayette property, a map dated 1891 indicates that the property was held at that time by the New Norfolk Land Company.
Plans for the establishment of a residential suburb on the Lafayette tract were slow to form. The New Norfolk Company never submitted an official plat for a new suburb during its ten years of ownership. Yet, city maps of the period show at least two proposed layouts for a residential district on the north side of the Lafayette River. The earliest plan, appearing on an 1894 map, consisted of a standard grid composed of six streets running north south. Each of these parallel thoroughfares was named after members of the board of directors for the New Norfolk Company. The roads were bisected by three orthogonal streets, named after varieties of trees. By 1897, an alternate street layout had been developed for the property. More elaborate in design, this plan focussed on two concentric circles with radiating axes extending outward from the center. Despite the designing of these early ideas, the company never began the physical improvement of the land.
In 1898, an U.S. Geological Survey map shows Lafayette Residence Park devoid of streets and houses. As late as 1900, the property contained two groups of wood frame buildings sited along its western shoreline. Used as pasturing ground, and for trucking and farming, the land contained 'only old, dilapidated farmhouses few and far between."" The construction of these building has not been attributed to the New Norfolk Company, nor to the previous property owner, James Johnson. Yet, the existence of these vernacular structures deterred prospective residential buyers from this area, which was traditionally viewed as uninhabitable marshland.
One of the first projects undertaken jointly by the New Norfolk Company and the Norfolk Railway & Light Company to attract residents was the extension of the Church Street streetcar line eastward from 26th Street across the Lafayette River. (see Streetcar Suburbs) This very line, begun in 1899, traversed the planned suburb to become the spine of Lafayette Residence Park. Connecting the city center to the seaside resort of Ocean View, the streetcar line made the Lafayette tract easily accessible to downtown Norfolk, and essentially opened the area for suburban development.
Lafayette Residence Park (1902-1909)
With the establishment of the streetcar line, prospects for suburban development brightened and the community of Lafayette began to take shape. The Lafayette Residence Park Company was chartered in June 1902 specifically in anticipation of purchasing the 112 acres of land on the north side of the Lafayette River from the New Norfolk Company. One month later, in July of 1902, the sale was completed for a cost of $79,700. Established as "...a land and development company," the Lafayette Residence Park Company limited its capital stock to between $5,000 and $25,000 with divided shares valued at one hundred dollars each. The company set no official limits on its land holdings, stating that it would hold as much property "as is convenient for the profitable transaction of business.
The officers of the Lafayette Residence Park Company were prominent Norfolk citizens involved in the city's commerce, industry, and politics, as well as having a long association with the various development companies that had owned the Lafayette property since 1890. Among them was C. Brooks Johnston, part owner of the Norfolk Knitting & Cotton Manufacturing Company, and mayor of Norfolk between 1898 and 1901. Johnston was involved in the consolidation of the Norfolk Street Railroad Company and the Ocean View Railway Company in 1899. After consolidation, the company became known as the Norfolk Railway & Light Company, for which Johnston held the office of first vice president and general manager. It was under the direction of Johnston that the Church Street streetcar line begun in 1899 extended into the Lafayette community. Recognizing the development aspects of the planned suburb, Johnston became president of the Lafayette Residence Park Company less than a year and a half after the consolidation of the railway company.
Barton Myers and Frederick M. Killam, the other two officers of the development company, were partners in the real estate firm of Myers & Company. Established in 1786 by prominent Norfolk citizen Moses Myers, the firm was the oldest commercial business in the city of Norfolk by the turn of the twentieth century. Senior partner Barton Myers, grandson of the firm's founder, was not only an established businessman in Norfolk, but also served as the city's mayor, and as consul for Great Britain, the Netherlands and Brazil. He also served as a director of the Jamestown Exposition Company, and played an important role in Norfolk industry as president of the Lambert's Point Knitting Mills. Myers' real estate interests included an involvement in more than six major land development companies in the city. The junior partner in the firm of Myers & Company was Frederick M. Killam, A native of Nova Scotia, Killam moved to Norfolk in 1882. He began as a clerk in Myers' office, being promoted to partner in 1889.
The firm of Myers & Company played a central role in the development of Lafayette Residence Park. From the beginning, Myers and Killam had been involved in plans to establish a residential suburb across the Lafayette River. The partners formed the Investment Company of Norfolk in 1890 to buy the original 112-acre tract of property owned by James Johnson. As officers and directors, the partners continued to play an active role in the various land development companies that owned the property over the years. Myers was president and Killam secretary of the first such company, the Investment Company of Norfolk. When this group was reformed in 1891 as the New Norfolk Company, Myers again served as president, and Killam as one of the directors. After the final corporate transition, Myers was elected secretary and Killam was on the board of directors of the Lafayette Residence Park Company.
In September 1902, the Lafayette Residence Park Company filed the official plat for its newly devised suburb of "Lafayette Residence Park." The development's name celebrated the Marquis de Lafayette's 1824 visit to the City of Norfolk, and the street names drew on French history. The proposed plan, drawn by civil engineer C.F. Petree, depicted the neighborhood's lot divisions, street layout, and open spaces.
In May 1903, an advertisement for lots in the newly platted Lafayette Residence Park appeared in the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch. The advertisement, which included a copy of the plat, described the lots that varied in size from one-quarter acre to a fall acre. Many of the waterfront lots came with riparian rights to the river's shoreline. It was estimated that one hundred houses would be built in "The Park." A major selling point was relative affordability, with the company boasting that a one-acre lot could be purchased for the same price as a much smaller lot in the popular suburb of Ghent. Additionally, the neighborhood was extolled for its strict building requirements that would insure a pleasing, "high-class" neighborhood. These stipulations included a uniform building setback line, the inclusion of alleyways, and a minimum construction cost for all houses of $2,500. The company also promised such "high-class" improvements as water and sewer services, graded streets with sidewalks, and street trees. Other amenities described in the advertisement included the major thoroughfare, Lafayette Boulevard. Designed as the spine of the Residence Park, this avenue was one hundred feet wide with four rows of trees lining it. The Norfolk Railway and Light Company's Ocean View streetcar line ran down the center of the boulevard, stopping at each intersection to provide residents modern transportation to any point in the city for a five-cent fare. The Lafayette Residence Park Company concluded their advertisement, urging that:
Those who wish a strictly first class home, near the park [City Park, later renamed Lafayette Park] with plenty of ground around them, giving the conveniences of city with the freedom of country, will do well to purchase now, while a choice can be had.
Although the preliminary planning of Lafayette Residence Park was completed by 1903, actual construction was slow to progress. A 1904 advertisement for the Residence Park in the Jamestown Exposition Edition of the Norfolk Dispatch claimed that the company was in the process of "grading the streets ... laying granolithic sidewalks, planting trees, [and] beautifying the parks and the streets." Furthermore, they had already extended the Norfolk County Water Company's mains through the streets of Lafayette Residence Park, provided for electricity from the Norfolk Electric Railway & Light Company, and were guaranteeing a future system of free sewerage. However, while Lafayette Residence Park appeared on 1906 city maps as fully laid out with a complete set of streets, an Army Corps of Engineers survey conducted in 1907 indicates that only a fraction of the planned streets had actually been laid, and only a handful of houses erected by that time. Only eight buildings and a few streets appear on the 1907 Corps map." The discrepancy between the 1906 city maps and the Army Corps of Engineers 1907 survey may have been another attempt by the Lafayette Residence Park Company to attract potential buyers and residents, as the sale of unimproved lots in the suburb progressed slowly during the early years.
One factor that affected the pace of development in Lafayette included the lengthy process of improving the swampy marshland. Several shallow inlets at the property's edges had to be infilled with earth, roads laid, and lots graded. It was common among early twentieth century land development companies in Norfolk to undertake only minimal improvements at the outset of a project, leaving the major amenities for a later date when the most of existing lots had been sold and money was more readily available. Although, the Lafayette Residence Park Company offered all the amenities expected in a high-class suburb of this period, it is doubtful that many of these features were actually in place and available to the earliest buyers. Progress was also impeded by stiff competition from closer-in suburban developments south of the river in the City of Norfolk. At the same time that Lafayette was being planned and promoted, several close-in suburbs were developing. These included the suburbs of Park Place (1890s), Riverview (1900), Colonial Place (1904), and Larchmont (1906). Lafayette's relative distance from the city and its rural, marshy character could only have lent to the area's slow pace of development.
In 1908, the Lafayette Residence Park Company filed a revised plat for the suburb of Lafayette Residence Park. The new plat reflected the company's failure to successfully launch their suburban venture aimed at upper class families. In an effort to attract a larger clientele, the company created a greater number of smaller residential lots through the division of larger lots. Corresponding with this narrowing of the lots, a clause was added to the deed covenants requiring that a single residence occupy a minimum of two lots in the area east of Lafayette Boulevard. By doing this, the company created a larger number of less expensive properties while maintaining the illusion of a "high-class" roomy suburb.
The 1908 plat also depicted Lafayette Grammar School located on Cottage Toll Road (now 3115 Tidewater Drive) between Lafayette Boulevard and Bellevue Avenue. Built in 1905 as a part of the Norfolk County school system, the Lafayette School was designed by Norfolk architect Vance Hebard in the Colonial Revival style. The two-story brick building with an imposing hipped roof was a focal point of the neighborhood, serving the community for over sixty years.
By 1909, the population of the neighborhood had grown enough to justify the formation of the Lafayette Residence Park Improvement Board, a citizen's organization aimed at beautifying and improving their neighborhood. Prominent Lafayette resident E.M. Isaac served as the board's first president. Early projects undertaken by the improvement board included the establishment of fire and police protection. Following the establishment of a private volunteer fire company, a firehouse was erected at 3031 Avenue Luxembourg, the present site of the First United Methodist Church. The original firehouse was a two-and-a-half-story wood frame structure that served not only as a firehouse, but also as a community meeting house, and later as a Sunday school for the church.
Subsequent Development in Lafayette Residence Park (1910-1930)
Although the City of Norfolk experienced a building boom between 1907 and 1908, the suburb of Lafayette Residence Park did not feel its effects because of the extensive competition from the more prominent suburbs located closer to the city. The citywide boom was quickly followed by a slump in house construction in 1909 and 1910. Real estate developers, attempting to attract residents and halt the building depression, published fall-page advertisements in local newspapers between 1910 and 1912.
A colorful map of Lafayette Residence Park, used for advertising, was produced by a local lithographer around 1910. The map depicted seventeen building in the neighborhood, mostly located along the western and northern edges. However, the map inaccurately depicted the conditions of the suburb. Again, a U.S.Geological Survey Map, dated 1910, showed that only a few streets and a handful of houses had been built by that time. The only streets actually laid by 1910 included Lafayette Boulevard, Orleans Circle, Royale Terrace, and portions of Luxembourg, Versailles, and St. Denis avenues.
Accompanied by numerous photographs of dwellings displaying the fashionable architectural styles of the period, a 1912 article entitled "Beautiful Lafayette Residence Park" described the sudden interest in this new residential area. It claimed that "homes along the beautifully curved boulevards of Lafayette are among the most desirable in Tidewater Virginia." The article further praised the wide variety of modern, well-built dwellings that had been erected in the neighborhood. These included the "snug little bungalow," the "old Colonial manor house," and houses designed in the "French colonial architectural tradition." Promoters of the community appealed to the public's desire to escape the crowds of the city, and go "back to the country." They offered the suburbs as a compromise where the commuter could "have all the advantages of country life, with the comforts and conveniences of their city homes. In 1923, the city directory produced the names of roughly 190 residents in Lafayette Residence Park, which by that time consisted of approximately 225 dwellings.
In 1923, Lafayette Residence Park became part of a twenty-five square mile tract that was annexed to the City of Norfolk. Most of the tract lay north of the Lafayette River, and included the suburbs of Edgewater, Larchmont, Titustown, Meadowbrook, Lochaven, Ocean View, Willoughby, Lenox, Fairmont Park, Winona, Ballentine Place, Riverside, Chesterfield Heights, Newton Park, and Campostella. This annexation increased the city's population from an estimated 31,000 to nearly 150,000, and nearly quadrupled the land size. The move to annex was spurred by a desire to portray Norfolk as a progressive city, and the need to acquire a larger tax base. Shortly after the annexation, the city began a program aimed at upgrading the schools and fire protection services in the newly acquired suburbs. In 1924, Lafayette Residence Park was affected by these measures when Fire Station Number 11 was built across Tidewater Drive, south of Lafayette Boulevard on Verdun Avenue. Fire Station Number 11 continues to function as the firehouse for the area. The Lafayette School, which had been erected in 1905 and expanded in 1915 by Norfolk County, was relegated to a minor role in the Norfolk City educational system shortly after the 1923 annexation. In 1930, the Francis Willard School that still stands today on Tidewater Drive replaced the Lafayette School as the primary educational institution in the area.
Development After 1930
Lafayette Residence Park, today known solely as Lafayette, continued to grow with infill housing erected during the 1930s through the 1960s on unimproved lots laid out in the early part of the twentieth century. The architectural character of the infill construction generally followed the lines of current fashions in middle-class residential housing. With the influx of defense- industry workers to the port city of Norfolk during World War 11, many Lafayette residents rented rooms to workers. After the war, a number of the original single-family dwellings were converted for use as boarding houses, twin dwellings, or apartments. By 1978, thirty-eight percent of the houses in the neighborhood were utilized as rental housing. The same year, the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority conducted a preliminary survey Lafayette and neighboring Winona, estimating that approximately two hundred of the eight hundred houses in the combined neighborhoods were in need of extensive repairs.
In the mid-1970s, residents recognizing the architectural significance and historical heritage of their declining neighborhood began to lobby for the establishment of a conservation district. This prompted the Norfolk City Council to approve the creation of a 310-acre conservation district covering some 800 buildings in Lafayette and Winona in 1979. The conservation district status established maintenance standards that were traditionally stricter than the city's standard building codes, and provided for federally funded low-interest rehabilitation loans for homeowner's whose buildings failed to meet the conservation standards. The City Council noted that "the architectural and historic character of the neighborhood is of substantial importance to the residents and to the City as a whole, and is a significant component of the value and quality of the property."
Despite its location along Lafayette Boulevard, a major transportation artery, the neighborhood has escaped the effects of encroaching commercial interests. This freedom from commercial intrusion is largely due to the proximity of Tidewater Drive, which carries the majority of the north-south traffic along with a number of commercial establishments. The only non-residential buildings today located within Lafayette are three churches and a maintenance pump house. The earliest of the churches, the Church of the Epiphany, was built in 1920 at 1530 Lafayette Boulevard. Norfolk architect, Benjamin F. Mitchell designed the church, and a Sunday school addition was added prior to 1928. The second church building erected in Lafayette Residence Park was the First United Methodist Church located at 3031 Luxembourg Avenue. Founded in 1772 as Cumberland Street Church, the congregation occupied three different church buildings downtown before moving to its current site in 1922. The 1922 Colonial Revival-style building was expanded and partially obscured by the construction of a new sanctuary in 1951. Erected in 1925 at the southwest corner of Lafayette Boulevard and Tidewater Drive, Lafayette Presbyterian Church was the last of the neighborhood churches erected in Lafayette. Established before 1911, the church was originally located in Lafayette Annex on Lafayette Boulevard. In 1925, the new church building was completed in the present location. Several houses that were located on the site had to be moved when the church was built, and the stone entrance gate was removed.
In the 1930s, the City of Norfolk built several neighborhood pump stations linking to the city's water system. One of these was built on land set aside as Luxembourg Gardens on Avenue Luxembourg in Lafayette. The former Lafayette School was converted to apartments during the 1980s. Despite its change in use, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as an excellent representative of only a handful of intact early twentieth century public school buildings in Norfolk.
With the establishment of the conservation district, a significant number of property owners returned to the neighborhood in the 1980s and 1990s, restoring many of the historic building to their original appearance. Encompassing both single-family and multiple-family housing, the well-established neighborhood possesses many modest wood frame and brick dwellings, dating from the second quarter of the twentieth century, that were stylistically integrated to stand alongside the more imposing dwelling houses constructed prior to 1910. Today, the community of Lafayette Residence Park appears as it was originally envisioned by the development company that platted the marshy tract at the turn of the twentieth century. It stands as a quiet residential community conveniently located near the city's center.
Citizens of Lafayette Residence Park
A map produced in 1910 by the Office of the City Engineer of Norfolk delineates Lafayette Residence Park as a "High Class White Residential" neighborhood that was thirty percent built-up. The original developers of the neighborhood organized their suburb to attract middle and upper income residents. The building requirements, extensive services, attractive landscaping and generously sized lots attest to their desire to attract a certain class of people.
Many of earliest residents conformed to this upper-income profile. Among the prominent early residents were Justice of the Peace, John S. Carmine, who lived at 156 Orleans Circle, and George M. Compere, who built a grand Shingle Style house at 133 Orleans Circle around 1910. Other early residents living on Orleans Circle included Maurice G. Long, proprietor of a steam laundry business; Eugene M. Isaac, press agent for the Granby Family Theatre; and Elwood F. Moore, an editor of a local newspaper, The Weekly Gazette. As the neighborhood grew, however, the cultural and professional make-up of the residents became more diverse. By the early 1920s, the Citizens of Lafayette Residence Park included a mixture of upper and upper-middle income families. The occupations of these residents indicated that the neighborhood was home to a preponderance of business managers, salesmen, proprietors, and professionals.
The federal census of 1920 reveals that the majority of the families living in Lafayette Residence Park were native Virginians, or had moved from nearby states such as North Carolina, Kentucky, and Maryland. Household size ranged from two to nine persons. Many of the larger households included several boarders, an outgrowth of the World War I housing demand. By this period, the residents of Lafayette Residence Park were solidly middle class, employed in such skilled positions as accountant, machinist, electrician, teacher and salesman. Several residents owned their own businesses. One such entrepreneur was L.R. Bennett who owned and operated the Bennett Medicine Company at 20 Orleans Circle in 1923. In 1928, W.P. Mason, president and treasurer of the Multistamp Company, Inc. was living at 115 Dupont Circle; and E.K. Wilson, owner of a plumbing business, lived at 1328 Lafayette Boulevard.
In the 1930s Lafayette's population remained stable. At the outset of the Second World War, Norfolk saw an influx of military personnel and civilian laborers that created a demand for housing. Many homeowners began renting out rooms in their houses, and single-family dwellings were converted to use as boarding houses. In Lafayette, however, the majority of the houses remained single-family dwellings, although boarders and renters became more common.
During the 1950s and 1960s, with the growth of Norfolk's suburbs and the decline of the city center, many middle-class inner-city residents began to move out to the outlying suburbs. Lafayette, by this time, was located near the center of Norfolk, and consequently began to lose some of its middle-class residents. As people moved out, the area became more transient and property values began to fall. Working-class residents, both renters and owners, took the place of the middle-class, changing the neighborhood's makeup.
Following the initiation of urban renewal in Norfolk, interest in revitalizing the city's close-in neighborhoods blossomed. An influx of funds and local interest in the neighborhood spurred resurgence in the community. Professional middle-class residents began to move back to the area, buying and restoring houses. By 1990, the neighborhood consisted of a mostly professional and partly working-class population with a varied ethnic and age makeup.