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Ballentine Place Historic District

Norfolk City, Independent Cities, VA

The Ballentine Place Historic District‡ is roughly bounded by Cromwell Avenue, Cape Henry Avenue, McKann Avenue, and Lafayette Boulevard.

Adapted from a copy of the original National Register of Historic Places nomination document: Trieschmann, Laura V. and Hallock, Jennifer Bunting, Ballentine Place Historic District, 2002, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, Washington DC.


Ballentine Place is a cohesive residential neighborhood located near the center of Norfolk, Virginia. The community is bordered by the residential neighborhoods of East Fairmont Park to the north, Coleman Place to the east, Belmont Place to the west, and Roberts Park to the south. Physical boundaries include the marshy termination of the Lafayette River along the southwestern edge, the Norfolk Southern Railway line along Cape Henry Boulevard to the south, Cromwell Boulevard to the east near the Norfolk Southern Railway lines, and McKann Avenue to the west. The residential neighborhood currently occupies approximately 145 acres of the original plat conceived by the Ballentine Realty Corporation in 1909. The original boundaries extended just south of the Princess Anne Toll Road, now known as Princess Anne Road. The area, which originally served as a successful truck farm, was improved with modest single-family dwellings exhibiting revival and American movement-era styles and forms. The flat tract was landscaped with tree-lined streets, a central open park space, and a system of roads laid in a grid pattern. In the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration (WPA), part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Program, augmented the landscape plan by creating a park with a lake in the centrally located open space and by adding crepe myrtle trees to the neighborhood streets.

The initial development of Ballentine Place constituted roughly 35 dwellings between the years 1900 and 1915, primarily located along Cape Henry Avenue and the southern portion of the neighborhood. Construction was accelerated, however, to meet the housing needs brought on by the activities of World War I (1914-1918). This began a second phase of development, spurred by the influx of middle- and working-class residents, with over 519 buildings constructed between 1915 and 1953. Today, Ballentine Place is defined by a variety of architectural styles and building types, though primarily domestic. These include modest examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Cape Cods, the American Foursquare, and pre-fabricated kit houses, as well as two modest examples of the Modern Movement and infill housing of the late 20th century. Single-family dwellings built prior to 1953, primarily in the Bungalow/Craftsman and Colonial Revival styles, dominate the neighborhood. Although a number of these dwellings have altered exterior cladding materials, the overall integrity remains intact. The area making up the Ballentine Place Historic District consists of 649 properties, including 616 single dwellings, 26 multiple dwellings, 4 churches, a school, a central landscaped park with a monument and pond, and one commercial building. Additionally, there are 466 supporting outbuildings and secondary resources, including 164 sheds, 286 garages, 2 guesthouses, 9 carports (with an additional 7 attached carports), a monument, and four barbecue pits. There are 862 contributing resources and 257 non-contributing resources.

Prior to the turn of the 20th century, the far northern and eastern regions of the City of Norfolk were characterized by their distinctly rural and marshy nature. Early building surveys and maps of the city show the Tanner's Creek area, east of the Lafayette River, sparsely developed, with small, random improvements located within large, open tracts of farmland. During the latter decades of the 19th century, when the city began to grow outward, many of the original farmhouses were demolished, the land tracts surveyed, and suburban plats created. Conceived as a middle-class residential suburb, Ballentine Place was sited further east of the central city than the suburban neighborhoods of the late 19th and very early 20th centuries. Historic maps reveal that the property, which served as the late-19th-century trucking farm of prominent Norfolk citizen Thomas R. Ballentine, contained a farmhouse or two and various associated outbuildings. Once initial development began at the turn of the 20th century, additional resources, which remain today, were constructed on the southern portion of the tract primarily along Cape Henry Boulevard.

The new subdivision, platted in 1909, was composed of a regular grid plan with long, narrow blocks oriented along a north-south axis, with Ballentine Boulevard serving as the main artery. The focal point of the neighborhood was a centrally located three-block open space, which would house the Ballentine School by 1915. The streets maintained a 50-foot right-of-way, except for Ballentine Boulevard, which had an 80-foot right-of-way. Most of the lots measure approximately 35-50 feet by 100 feet. Tree-lined streets, sidewalks, and a park improved the neighborhood.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, throughout the nation, there was widespread interest in a variety of fashionable architectural styles. Many of the early dwellings constructed in Ballentine Place feature the elements and forms associated with the Queen Anne and Colonial Revival styles of architecture, albeit vernacular and suburban. Between 1900 and 1915, at least twenty dwellings were erected in Ballentine Place. Of those remaining, six are Queen Anne, five exhibit the Colonial Revival style, one house is Italianate, and the remaining illustrate more vernacular interpretations of these styles and early examples of the soon to emerge Bungalow/Craftsman form. Many of the properties have freestanding garages and sheds associated with them that, although historic, were often constructed at a later date.

Following the heels of America's Centennial celebrations in 1876, the Colonial Revival style emerged in the early 1880s. The style, which borrowed heavily from early American architecture—particularly Georgian and Federal buildings—was largely an outgrowth of a new nationwide pride in the past and a rapidly growing interest in historic preservation. In the early phase, the Colonial Revival style remained the exclusive domain of fashionable architectural firms and was favored for the large residences of wealthy clients. In general, as the style spread to the suburbs and increased in popularity, the detailing and form became increasingly more modest. The stylistic impression presented during the first years of development in Ballentine Place epitomizes the suburban expression of the Colonial Revival. The popularity of the style in Norfolk was evidenced by the influential Jamestown Exposition that was held in the city in 1907, two year prior to the platting of Ballentine Place.

The majority of the Colonial Revival-style houses in Ballentine Place were constructed on brick foundations with masonry or wood-frame structural systems often clad with shingles or weatherboard. The roofs, presently clad primarily in asphalt shingles, historically consisted of numerous materials with intricate pitches that spurred from the main hip or gable. The forms of the dwellings were typically accentuated by porches, dormer windows, columns, pediments, balustrades, wide cornices, transoms and patterned shingles. Excellent examples of the early, more-high-style Colonial Revival buildings include the single dwellings at 3032 Cape Henry Avenue (1915), 3006 Cape Henry Avenue (1915), 3014 McLemore Street (1915), and 3014 Grandy Avenue (1920).

The two-and-a-half-story masonry dwelling at 3032 Cape Henry Avenue encompasses many of the quintessential Colonial Revival details. The building is three bays in width and features a hipped roof with asphalt shingles, a one-story full-width porch with Ionic columns on brick piers, a boxed cornice with overhanging eaves and modillions, hipped dormers with paired diamond-paned windows and modillions, jack-arch lintels, brick quoins, and a single-leaf entry with stained-glass transom.

The Colonial Revival dwelling at 3006 Cape Henry Avenue is a two-story masonry dwelling, constructed of six-course American-bond brick. The facade is detailed with a full-width one-story porch supported by fluted Tuscan posts. The hipped roof displays overhanging eaves, a boxed wood cornice, and a central projecting gable. Other details include gabled dormers on the side elevations, segmental-arched elongated windows, and corbeled brick chimneys.

Similar in form, the masonry dwelling located at 3014 McLemore Street is constructed of six-course American-bond brick and features a side-gabled roof with a projecting front-gable two-story porch. Gabled dormers flank the projecting gable. The main block gable peaks are clad with wood shingles. The building is further detailed with a one-story, full-width porch supported by brick posts, a boxed wood cornice, a flush fascia, brick quoins, rock-faced concrete sills, lug concrete lintels, multi-light double-hung sash windows, and central entry with sidelights and a sixteen-light transom.

A more vernacular example of the style is located at 2314 Keller Avenue (1900). The two-story wood-frame dwelling, currently clad in vinyl siding, features a front-gabled roof with asphalt shingles, a brick foundation, a full-width wrap-around porch, and a boxed cornice with returns.

Queen Anne was a building style also exhibited in the early development of Ballentine Place. Among the attractions generating considerable interest at the 1876 Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia were several English buildings designed in the Queen Anne style, which would prove to be widely influential in America from the 1870s until just after the turn of the 20th century, when Ballentine Place was platted. The style dismissed the impractical Gothic style by emphasizing human scale and domestic comforts. In America, the style found an exuberant expression in wood, and frequently incorporated classical columns and decorative motifs borrowed from our own colonial architecture. Thus, like the Colonial Revival dwellings, the majority of the Queen Anne houses in Ballentine Place were originally constructed on brick foundations with wood-frame structural systems clad with shingles or weatherboard. Presently clad in a variety of materials, the roofs historically consisted of a number of intricate pitches that rose from the main hip or gable. The forms of the dwellings were typically accentuated by corner towers, porches, and bay windows, accented with columns, balustrades, and patterned shingles.

Dating from before Ballentine Place was platted, the dwelling at 2301 Vincent Avenue (1900) illustrates the vernacular interpretations of the Queen Anne style popular in Ballentine Place. The two-and-a-half-story wood-frame building presents a wrap-around porch supported by Tuscan columns. Off-center projecting gables with peak windows further distinguish this Queen Anne residence. The dwelling located at 3014 Cape Henry Avenue (1905) also illustrates a multitude of Queen Anne details. These include the hipped roof, off-center projecting gable with wood-shingled peak, wrap-around porch, and Tuscan post supports. Additionally, the dwelling at 2832 Vincent Avenue (1905) is representative of the types of Queen Anne dwellings constructed in the early years of the community. Details include the use of a variety of cladding materials, including a seven-course American-bond brick first story, a square-butt wood-shingled second story, and an off-center gable with closed tympanum. The dwelling also exhibits a full-width one-story porch with Tuscan post supports, a hipped standing-seam metal roof, and side gables.

One of the more high-style examples of the Queen Anne style in Ballentine Place is the dwelling located at 2833 Ballentine Boulevard (1905). The wood-frame dwelling, clad in wood shingles, sits on a solid brick foundation. The building stands two-and-a-half stories in height and features an off-center projecting gable with canted bay, multi-light windows, a hipped dormer, decorative scroll-sawn vergeboard, a one-light transom, a molded wood beltcourse, and a boxed wood cornice with molded fascia.

After the platting of Ballentine Place in 1909, the Queen Anne style continued to be constructed, though the style quickly was overtaken in popularity by the Colonial Revival and Craftsman styles. Only five Queen Anne-style residences were constructed after the neighborhood was platted. These include 2327 Vincent Avenue (1910), 2436 Ballentine Boulevard (1915), 2830 Grandy Avenue (1915), 3014 Grandy Avenue (1920), and 3012 Ballentine Boulevard (1915).

The Italianate style, prevalent from the late 1880s to the 1920s, was popularized in England during the Picturesque movement. Identifying features include bracketed cornices, elongated arched windows, bracketed porch supports, molded window hoods, shallow-pitched roofs, beltcourses, and decorative window surrounds, though a less ornate example survives in Ballentine Place at 3030 McLemore Street. Constructed circa 1900, the two-and-a-half-story brick building features a low-pitched hipped roof, a boxed wood cornice, a hipped central dormer, and a flat-fronted elevation with segmental-arched window openings and lintels.

Subsequent Development in Ballentine Place (1915-1953)

Construction in Ballentine Place, as in other suburban Norfolk communities, picked up in the second decade of the 20th century. The pace of this development in Ballentine Place, between 1915 and 1941, was greatly effected by the influx of workers to the port city beginning with World War I (1914-1918). During this period, approximately 391 buildings were erected, compared to the approximately seventeen built prior to 1915.

One of the first buildings constructed during the neighborhood's second building phase, evidencing the important need for supporting social and educational activities, is the Ballentine School (1915-1916), located at 2415 Ballentine Boulevard. Prominently sited on the central three-block open space laid out in the original subdivision plat, the school creates a commanding visual presence in the neighborhood. Designed in the Classical Revival style, which was a popular choice for public building construction, the school was designed by architect J.W. Lee in conjunction with the Seay Brothers, the construction contractors. The imposing school measures three bays in width and is capped by a hipped slate roof with overhanging eaves. Details include exposed rafters, a central projecting two-story portico with Tuscan brick piers and wood column supports, an inset entry, a dentiled wood cornice, a molded entablature, a raised basement, eight central interior brick chimneys, 9/9 and 12/12 wood windows, and a decorative concrete watertable with soldier brick cap. Other details include a rowlock brick stringcourse at sill level, rowlock sills, decorative brick panels, and square concrete cornerblocks. The main block features a large rear addition, which forms the building's wings. The 1920s addition features similar detailing to the main block, with gables projecting to the rear elevation. A circa 1960 gymnasium was added to the south elevation, featuring a flat roof, masonry construction and 4/4 wood windows.

During this period of construction in Ballentine Place, Colonial Revival houses continued to be built, although house sizes and stylistic features had begun to change with the construction of a significant numbers of smaller, less ornamented houses. Numerous examples of buildings in Ballentine Place demonstrate this shift to slightly smaller Colonial Revival-style dwellings. These more modest examples of the Colonial Revival style include the dwellings at 2729 Keller Avenue (1935) and 2831 Keller Avenue (1937), among numerous others in the neighborhood. The wood-frame dwellings are both one story in height and feature gabled roofs with asphalt shingles. The dwelling at 2729 Keller Avenue features a central gabled portico and off-center three-sided projecting bay, while the dwelling at 2831 Keller Avenue is detailed with a bracketed entry pediment and side-gabled wing.

The Cape Cod was also a popular choice for modest Colonial Revival-style building construction. The form generally presents a one-and-a-half-story symmetrical facade with gabled dormers and a central entry, often with a Colonial Revival door surround, entablature, and pilasters. Illustrative of this type of housing is the dwelling at 2511 Vincent Avenue (1940), which is detailed with two gabled dormers, a central gabled portico, and a molded wood cornice. Other examples of the form include dwellings at 3021 Davis Street (1942), which exhibits two large gabled dormers, a central entry with fluted pilaster and molded entablature surround, and one-story wings. Similarly, the dwellings at 2415 Harrell Avenue (1935), 2844 Keller Avenue (1945), 2401 Harrell Avenue (1940), 2408 Grandy Avenue (1945), and 2311 Harrell Avenue (1950) are excellent examples of this prevalent building form.

The early 20th century, with its suburban explosion of the Colonial Revival style, also sparked other similar forms. One such example is the wood-frame dwelling at 2740 Vincent Avenue (1920), which is a classic representation of the Dutch Colonial Revival style, also popularized in American during the early 20th century. The one-and-a-half-story dwelling, now clad in aluminum siding, features a side-gambrel roof with concrete tiles, a central bracketed portico gable with arched opening, paired windows, a four-light fanlight, a shed dormer, and a one-story wing. The style is also visible in Ballentine Place at 2233 Keller Avenue (1920) and at 2934 Chesapeake Boulevard (1925). Each of these buildings stands one-and-a-half stories in height and features a gambrel roof and Colonial Revival detailing.

Similarly, the Tudor Revival style, derived from 16th-century Elizabethan and Jacobean England, was adapted and became popular in the United States for mid-20th-century suburban construction. Modest, minimally influenced examples of the style are featured in Ballentine Place. Character-defining features of the style that are displayed in these dwellings often include a steeply pitched front-gable roof, a front-elevation exterior chimney, flared eaves, or half-timbering. Two examples of the style are evident in Ballentine Place, including the dwelling at 2851 Ballentine Boulevard (1930), which features a steeply pitched front-gable and entry vestibule with flared eaves. The other example is the dwelling at 2521 Ballentine Boulevard (1935), which is detailed with multiple front-gables, a large front elevation exterior chimney, and a concrete tile roof.

The architecture of this period soon shifted from the Colonial Revival with the introduction of the Bungalow/Craftsman form and style. The form was typically covered by a low-pitched, intersecting gable roof that encompassed an often-wrapping porch. Stylistic Craftsman details include exposed rafters, overhanging eaves, multi-light windows, battered posts, massive porch supports, and are trimmed with a variety of materials including stone, wood, and brick. The second building phase in Ballentine Place was clearly dominated by this form and style, which increased tremendously in popularity during this time nationwide. Approximately 191 of the over 537 buildings constructed between 1915 and 1953 in Ballentine Place were Craftsman in style and/or Bungalow in form.

One of the more elaborate examples of the style, as constructed in Ballentine Place, is the dwelling at 2848-2850 Vincent Avenue (1925). Currently divided to serve as a multiple dwelling, the one-and-a-half-story bungalow also reflects the Craftsman style and workmanship associated with the building type. The wood-frame dwelling, clad in asphalt-shingle siding, is crowned by a hipped roof with projecting gables. Detailing includes a large inset porch with cobblestone posts, banked multi-light windows, a porte-cochere, corner brackets, gabled dormers on the side elevations, exposed rafters, and overhanging bracketed eaves. The decorative cobblestone work used for the porch posts is also revealed as a foundation veneer, on the chimneys, and on the porch planters.

The wood-frame building at 2321 Vincent Avenue (1925), typical of the bungalow form, presents a front-gabled porch supported by paneled wood posts on brick piers, a side-gabled roof with overhanging eaves and knee-bracket supports, and square-edge wood window surrounds. Other details, typical of the style, include wood-shingle cladding, a decorative porch screen, a side-elevation boxed bay, and exposed purlins.

The dwelling at 3111 Tait Terrace (1925) was also constructed illustrating the fashionable Craftsman-style architectural trends of the period, including multiple projecting gables, cut-out brackets, exposed purlins, battered wood posts on brick piers, a multi-light entry with sidelights, and a wood cornice with exposed rafters.

The dwelling at 2538 Vincent Avenue (1925) represents a more modest use of the bungalow form. The one-story wood-frame dwelling, currently clad in vinyl siding, features a front-gabled roof and central portico, both with jerkinhead detailing. The dwelling, which sits on a solid brick foundation, is further distinguished with a symmetrical fenestration pattern, overhanging eaves, square-edged surrounds, a multi-light single-leaf entry, and a peak window.

Similarly, the dwelling at 2853 Keller Avenue (1935) represents a simpler use of the bungalow form. Measuring two bays in width, the one-story dwelling presents a hipped roof, boxed cornice with wide overhanging eaves, a Tuscan post supported inset porch, and a central entry with Craftsman-style four-light sidelights.

Augmenting the bungalow is the American Foursquare building form, also representing a popular building trend in Ballentine Place. The two-story, four-room-per-floor plan without a hall is a much-used concept that refers to the hall/parlor plan of the 18th century. Popular throughout the nation, the foursquare provided the working and middle class with a larger, more stylish form that lacked the traditional ornamentation. Consequently, the form was cheaper to construct and fit well with an egalitarian society's demand for simple building materials that made no false claims to richness. Additionally, the foursquare suited the modern building techniques and materials that ranged from conventional frames covered in weatherboard, shingles or brick veneer to solid brick, cast-cement block, or poured concrete. Although the majority of the foursquare dwellings in Ballentine Place exhibit Craftsman-influenced detailing, the form is also often associated with the Colonial Revival, with details including Tuscan porch columns and gabled porches or porticos.

Following the ubiquitous form associated with the building's nomenclature, the dwelling located at 2229 Harrell Avenue (1915) is an excellent example of the Craftsman-style foursquare. The building is distinguished by its cubic shape, overhanging eaves with exposed rafters, wood-shingle cladding, and full-width one-story porch with characteristic massive battered wood posts on brick piers. Other examples of the foursquare form as represented in Ballentine Place include the dwellings at 2926 Cape Henry Avenue (1920), 2339 Harrell Avenue (1925), and 2537 Vincent Avenue (1925), among numerous other examples.

Throughout the United States, a notable number of these types of dwellings, including both bungalows and foursquares, were prefabricated kit or mail-order houses from companies including Sears Roebuck, Aladdin Homes, the Hodgson Company, Montgomery Ward, and the Ray H. Bennett Lumber Company, among others. The kit houses were often purchased by a builder, who copied the plans when constructing other dwellings of the same design. As a result, it is often difficult to determine from the exterior which dwellings are actual kit houses or copied designs. Although no research revealed specific examples in Ballentine Place, the widespread popularity and use of kit houses suggests that at least a few were constructed in the neighborhood.

The Modern Movement was gaining popularity in urban environments throughout the United States after World War II (1941-1945). The movement, which focused on pure, rational forms stripped of decorative applications. Though the form was popular with public buildings, a more vernacular version was translated for domestic use. Two examples of the domestic suburban use of modernism are visible in Ballentine Place, including in the dwelling at 2404 Grandy Avenue (1945) and the dwelling at 2800 Vincent Avenue (1950). These dwellings epitomize the use of clean, geometrical lines and surfaces. Details of the buildings include flat roofs, stucco or metal cladding, industrial windows, and a horseshoe-shaped or square footprint.

Spurred by the Jamestown Exposition in 1907, many of the earlier streetcar suburbs in Norfolk saw the introduction of the multi-family dwelling and apartment building. The Exposition was a major impetus for this development type due to the need for housing for exposition workers and planners, as well as tourists. This new housing type was quickly embraced for similar purposes nationwide. As Ballentine Place was developed on the heels of the Exposition, the neighborhood escaped a large-scale influence of the building type. However, a handful of historic multiple dwellings, primarily composed of twin dwellings and duplexes, exist in the neighborhood. Each of these dwellings presents a style and scale in keeping with the existing single-family dwellings in the neighborhood and were modified from single family residences into multi-family dwellings as needs required. This was a particularly prevalent practice in Norfolk after World War II (1941-1945) when housing was in particularly high demand.

Examples of these building types include the twin dwelling at 2774-2776 McKann Avenue (1920), the duplex at 2606-2608 Ballentine Boulevard (1925), the duplex at 2626-2628 Keller Avenue (1930), and the duplex at 2630-2632 Keller Avenue (1930), and the duplex at 2607 A and B Ballentine Boulevard (1945). Examples of dwellings that were converted from single-family to multiple-family use include the dwellings at 2848-2850 Vincent Avenue (1925) and 2531 Ballentine Boulevard (1950).

Showing the initial influence of the automobile, many of the dwellings within Ballentine Place have freestanding garages. These structures are typically built of wood frame, often matching the cladding of the primary dwelling, and are capped with gable roofs. A number of the properties also have sheds and carports, although many are non-historic, dating to the last quarter of the 20th century.

Limited commercial development in Ballentine Place was initially located along Ballentine Boulevard in the form of small grocers supporting the immediate neighborhood. The 1923 City Directory reveals the Barnes Grocery at 1731 Ballentine Boulevard near the intersection of Tait Terrace (addresses renumbered by 1930). During the 1930s, the commercial development was also limited, but also included the Ballentine Grocery at 2632 Ballentine Boulevard. The development was primarily low-scale, rising just one or two stories in height. By 1940, a number of service and filling stations skirted the northern perimeter of the neighborhood at 3033 and 3036 Ballentine Boulevard. Presently, the encroachment of commercial interests resides outside the boundaries of the neighborhood, except for the low-rise commercial soda fountain at 3107 Tait Terrace (1960). Additionally, the dwelling at 2606 Ballentine Boulevard presents an historic commercial wing with a flat roof, single-light picture window, and enamel tile cladding.

During the 1930s, the Ballentine Park was landscaped by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The efforts included the construction of the present pond, land infill, and landscaping. The resulting park, which shares property with the Ballentine School, has remained a centerpiece of the neighborhood, visually as well as socially.

The last building to be constructed during Ballentine Place's period of significance is the Trinity Baptist Church located at 2808 Ballentine Boulevard. Constructed in 1953 by Rudolph, Cocke, and Van Leeuwen Architects, this historic building marks the end of the building boom in the neighborhood and reflects the need for community-oriented buildings. The church replaced the original Fairmont Park Baptist Church constructed along Ballentine Boulevard. The congregation had an established presence in the neighborhood since the construction of its first building in 1908. The large, masonry church is constructed of brick laid in Flemish bond with grapevine pointing and is capped by a flat roof. Measuring nine bays in width, the church features an off-center entry, two 4/4 double-hung wood windows, four 6/6 double-hung wood windows, one round multi-light window, and five round-arch leaded stained glass windows with keystones. Other details include rowlock lintels, a continuous stringcourse, cast concrete sills, and jack arches atop the smaller windows. The primary off-center entry is located in a projecting brick entry vestibule and features a pedimented concrete surround topped by a concrete cross, a rounded window, and a wood steeple.

Three other churches were also established in the community. However, the buildings were not all originally built as churches, but rather adapted previously existing buildings for religious purposes. These include the United New Life Church of Christ in Holiness Church at 2605 Ballentine Boulevard (adapted single dwelling, 1930), the Emmanuel Holy Temple Church at 2850 Ballentine Boulevard (once the Fairmont Park Sunday School, 1920), and the Tabernacle of the Congregation Church of God in Christ at 2546 Ballentine Boulevard (adapted from a commercial building, 1930).

Development After 1953

After 1953 approximately 93 buildings were constructed within Ballentine Place, primarily as infill housing. The residential buildings constructed in Ballentine Place after 1953 were primarily built on unimproved lots laid out in the original 1909 plat. Consequently, there was no subdivision of existing lots, and the layout remained consistent with the original design intentions of the land developer. In general, the massing, material, and scale of the modern buildings is consistent with that of their historic neighbors, creating a cohesive residential neighborhood reflective of building trends from the turn of the 20th century to the present.

The fashion of styles and forms of this infill construction was even less detailed than the modest dwellings historically associated with the neighborhood. Most of the infill construction consisted of small, one-story dwellings. Showing the increased influence of the automobile, another trend exhibited in these dwellings is the attached garage, which began to show up in the neighborhood after 1960, though the trend was popularized in America after World War II. Examples can be seen at 2306 Harrell Avenue (1965), 2545 Harrell Avenue (1970, now enclosed), 2510 Keller Avenue (1975), 2732 Harrell Avenue (1980), and 2720 Harrell Avenue (1980). These attached garages are set either in side wings or on the facade of the dwelling and have roll-up garage doors.

The early-20th-century fondness for horizontality reflected in the bungalow found expression later in the century with the ranch form. Also, the two-story Colonial Revival was reduced to the more modest single-story Cape Cod with front-gabled dormers. Common idioms included the illusion of masonry construction by the application of brick veneer and textured vinyl siding to mimic wood weatherboard. Craftsman and Colonial Revival elements are commonly displayed, however, the interpretations are typically more vernacular than previous examples. Stylistically, the most modern infill housing, dating to the late 20th century, generally respects the established architectural heritage of the community by adopting traditional features, although often with synthetic materials such as vinyl. This is evident at 2635 Vincent Avenue (1995) and 2609 Harrell Avenue (2000). Details on the dwellings include overhanging eaves, boxed cornices with returns, gabled porticos, patterned shingles, and projecting gables.



(See Norfolk City [Beginnings])

The Ballentine Place Historic District is significant as a planned suburb of Norfolk, Virginia. The growth of this historic community is tied to the arrival of the commuter railroads in Norfolk during the early 20th century, coupled with the booming housing needs of naval workers in the years leading up to World Wars I and II. The Ballentine Place subdivision, located to the northeast of the city proper, was developed in 1909 by the Ballentine Realty Corporation on the farm property historically associated with Thomas R. Ballentine, one of Norfolk's more prominent citizens. In contrast to many of the neighboring residential communities platted around the turn of the 20th century, Ballentine Place was laid out as a grid-system with small lots meant to appeal to the city's working class. Instead of a relentless grid, however, Ballentine Place consisted of a series of long and narrow blocks punctuated at the center by a large, open park. The open space was landscaped as a federally-funded Works Progress Administration (WPA) project circa 1935 and was combined with the neighboring Ballentine School property. Architecturally, the community features a number of early- to mid 20th-century buildings that reflect the fashionable styles and building forms of the period, including the Queen Anne, Bungalow/Craftsman, Cape Cod, Colonial Revival, and the American Foursquare. Civic, religious, and educational structures, as well as low-rise commercial buildings, and a landscaped park support the approximately 145-acre neighborhood, defined by landscaped streets and early-to-mid 20th century dwellings, many supported by freestanding garages.

Eligible under the National Register of Historic Places criteria A and C, the Ballentine Place Historic District is significant for the themes of architecture and community planning/development, coupled with landscape architecture and politics/government for the Depression-era WPA projects. The period of significance for the Ballentine Place Historic District extends from the construction of the earliest extant dwelling in 1900 to the construction of the present Trinity Baptist Church in 1953. The area making up the Ballentine Place Historic District consists of 649 properties, including 616 single dwellings, 26 multiple dwellings, four churches, a school, a central landscaped park with a monument and pond, and one commercial building. Additionally, there are 466 supporting outbuildings and secondary resources, including 164 sheds, 286 garages, two guesthouses, nine carports, a monument, pond, and four barbecues. There are 861 contributing resources and 257 non-contributing resources, resulting in 1,118 total resources in Ballentine Place.

Criterion A: That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.

Significant as a planned suburban community, Ballentine Place represents the attraction of the middle- and working-class populations to planned suburban communities with the arrival of the commuter rail lines. By 1900, the streetcar line began to allow easy access to downtown Norfolk from outlying areas, essentially opening vast areas to suburban development by the first decade of the 20th century. Much of the city's residential building boom during the period leading up to and between the World Wars, encompassed and expanded numerous neighborhoods that had been platted around the turn of the 20th century, among them Ghent, Riverview, Lafayette Residence Park, Winona, Colonial Place, Chesterfield Heights, and Ballentine Place. Such communities offered residents a scenic alternative to the older, more dense inner city neighborhoods. Many of the communities were laid out and specifically advertised to attract upper-income residents with strict building requirements, extensive amenities, attractive landscaping and generously sized lots, often along the cities numerous scenic waterfronts. However, the majority of the development companies' ambitious dreams of a restrictive upper-class neighborhood never completely materialized, in part due to the intense competition of the numerous neighboring suburban developments. In contrast to the aims of these development companies, the Ballentine Realty Corporation specifically catered to the growing needs of the middle and working class, creating one of the few suburban communities that all could afford.

Planned development in the area that became Ballentine Place began in 1909 under the Ballentine Realty Corporation, which subdivided the land previously known as the Ballentine Farm.[1] With the annexation of large tracts of suburban land into the City of Norfolk in 1923 and the increasing acceptance of the automobile with efficient vehicular routes to the city, Ballentine Place became firmly established as a working class commuting suburb by 1950. Today, Ballentine Place retains its working-class heritage as a firmly established mixed-race neighborhood, primarily composed of an African-American population.

The neighborhood's central landscaped park, representing a community town green space ideal, also exemplifies the lasting effects of the landscape projects initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration, a successful government program aimed at keeping the employment level high during the height of an economic decline.

Criteria C: That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.

The suburban neighborhood of Ballentine Place meets Criterion C of the National Register of Historic Places for its substantial concentration of domestic architecture, representing the Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Craftsman styles that were popular throughout America during the first half of the 20th century. Ballentine Place retains many of its original early-20th-century residential revival and American-movement buildings, the majority of which were designed by local builders or architects. The earliest houses erected, circa 1900, were generally the more imposing Colonial Revival- and Queen Anne-style residences, located along Cape Henry Avenue in the southern portion of the neighborhood for middle- and working class residents. These large single dwellings were sited on spacious lots with landscaped yards. Each of buildings exhibited more high-style ornamentation, including wrap-around porches, bracketing, denticulated moldings, side wings, rear ells, and an array of detailed cladding materials.

By the time residential construction began to take off in the late 1920s, house sizes and stylistic features had begun to change in response to a new clientele, a trend typical of suburban neighborhoods throughout Norfolk. Larger numbers of smaller, less ornamented houses were built throughout the neighborhood. The dominant styles were modest Colonial Revival dwellings balanced by a significant number of Craftsman-style Bungalows. These later dwellings were home to more working-class residents, and exhibited less architectural ornament than the houses erected prior to 1915.

Therefore, the suburban neighborhood of Ballentine Place meets Criterion C of the National Register of Historic Places for its early concentration of high style and, as the market demanded, more modest suburban architecture.


The City of Norfolk

[City of Norfolk for portion of transcription relating to history of the City.]

Physical Make-up of Suburban Norfolk

Most of Norfolk's late-19th and early-20th-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 full advantage of scenic waterfront tracts. Each neighborhood featured landscaped streets with medium-sized dwellings 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 subdivision almost indistinguishable from the next.

The size and character of Norfolk's turn-of-the-20th-century domestic architecture reflected the influence of nationwide trends in middle-class family 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, such as Colonial Place, Riverview Park, Chesterfield Heights, and Ballentine Place.

In general, the residential architecture of the turn of the 20th century and soon thereafter in Norfolk consisted of late-Victorian Queen Anne-style dwellings, the American foursquare form, and the bungalow, commonly ornamented with Craftsman-style detailing. 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 the residential architectural styles, the Jamestown Exposition also encouraged the construction of a new building type in Norfolk: the apartment house. Built to accommodate the influx of visitors and workers for the Exposition, many of these apartment buildings went up in established suburban neighborhoods serviced by the electric streetcar lines.

The Ballentine Place Tract Prior to Suburban Development: 1867-1908

Prior to subdivision as a planned residential suburban neighborhood, the land along the terminus of the Lafayette River on which Ballentine Place would be established was largely undeveloped, consisting of the rural plantation and truck farm of prominent Norfolk citizen and philanthropist, Thomas R. Ballentine.

Thomas Ballentine, born in 1820, hailed from a rural farm in Currituck County, North Carolina. Arriving in Norfolk in 1849, Ballentine, who was trained early as a mechanic, purchased a farm eighteen miles from downtown. By 1853, he was among five people noted for the "best conducted farm" at an agricultural fair.[2] In 1855, he sold the original farm and spent the next two years working as an agent for the Norfolk County Ferries. Ballentine then purchased a farm at Hickory Ground, where he resided for the next three years. He then purchased another nearby farm, which he used as a rental property. By 1867, he purchased the future Ballentine Place tract. The trend of judiciously buying area farms that had been ruined by mismanagement, returning them to working order, and selling them for a hefty profit, resulted in Ballentine's success as a Norfolk businessman.

During the Civil War, Ballentine joined the Norfolk County Rifle patriots, Company F, 41 Virginia Regiment. Following the war, he chose to remain in Norfolk, where he owned substantial farmland, rather than return to his family and farm in North Carolina. During the Reconstruction era, Ballentine's keen business sense earned him the elected position of Norfolk City Councilman. Eventually, Ballentine's farm, which took advantage of the rich, sandy loam soils of the area, became the largest truck farm in the county, shipping produce to markets all along the East Coast.

In 1894, in memory of his wife, Mary F. Hughes, who died the previous year, he built and endowed the Mary F. Ballentine Home for the Aged, a large masonry Romanesque Revival-style building located nearby at 927 Park Avenue in Brambleton. The charitable organization, of which he was president, served the community for numerous years in its original capacity, and was later converted into the Phyllis Wheatley Branch of the YWCA (1954-1974) and later converted to Wheatley Hall for dormitory use by Norfolk State University (1982-1983). However, the Ballentine legacy endures at The Ballentine, an Episcopal-church affiliated retirement facility located at 7211 Granby Street. Among Ballentine's other notable contributions to the city were the downtown Ballentine Building and the Arcade Market. He also served as the director of the Norfolk National Bank and the Norfolk Bank for Savings and Trusts, as well as an investor in the old Exchange Bank.

Ballentine's property remained farmland until 1909, when it was platted as Ballentine Place. The suburban development of this area of Norfolk, east of the city's central core, was located within the boundaries of Norfolk County until annexed by the city in 1923.[3] According to historic bird's eye views from 1892, this property appears to have been primarily utilized as pastures and light agricultural farmland and contained only a handful of farmhouses.[4] The 1900 federal census for the Tanner's Creek District of Norfolk states that most of the residents of the area were of Caucasian descent, primarily from Virginia and North Carolina. The vast majority of these residents were laborers, many renting their property from merchants. The household size ranged from one to seven persons in over fifty households. The census is not specific enough to pinpoint exact statistical information for the tract that would soon be platted as Ballentine Place, as the Tanner's Creek district included vast acreage of not yet annexed land.[5]

A significant impetus to suburban growth occurred with one of the first projects undertaken jointly by the New Norfolk Company and the Norfolk Railway & Light Company. The company aimed to attract residents to outlying areas of Norfolk with the extension of the streetcar lines. The streetcar line made the suburbs easily accessible to downtown Norfolk. Prospects for suburban development brightened with the establishment of the streetcar line, and communities such as Ballentine Place began to take shape. By the time the suburb was platted, there were approximately seven dwellings located in Ballentine Place.

The Initial Development of Ballentine Place: 1909-1914

Ballentine Place was platted in 1909 as the "Ballentine Place Suburb of Norfolk, " by the Ballentine Realty Corporation, under the direction of company president J.W. Halstead. The plan utilized fifty-seven blocks extending north from the Princess Anne Toll Road and ten blocks extending south. The proposed plat depicted the neighborhood's original lot divisions, street layout, and central open space. The new subdivision was composed of a regular grid plan, with narrow lots. Advertisements, which offered houses for sale beginning in 1909, stated that Ballentine Place was, "lying high and dry, with perfect drainage into Tanner's Creek, which skirts one side, and no farther from the heart of the business of Norfolk than is City Park to the left, no more advantageous piece of property could be found around Norfolk for the ideal location of the moderate priced home." [6] The advertisement also touted that Ballentine Place was a "suburb of natural beauty and wonderful growth" on land that "has for a number of years had more than a local reputation as being one of the most productive in the United States." [7] Advertisements on the same day included the "advantages" of living in Ballentine Place, including that "it is the only tract of land on which a person can stand and take a car directly to the business center of Norfolk by two electric routes, with five-cent fare, and also take a car to Ocean View, Old Point, the Exposition grounds, Pine Beach and the Virginian Railway terminals, or to Cape Henry and Virginia Beach."[8] The numerous advertisements boast that buying the lots for sale in Ballentine Place would teach your children "to save their money and buy real estate. It may prevent them from being homeless in their old age."[9] The lots were offered at the low prices of $150 to $250 and corner lots at $275, with the terms of one dollar down and one dollar per week, or five dollars down and five dollars per month. The Ballentine Realty Company, claiming to be developing one of Norfolk's most beautiful suburbs, providing "many six, seven, eight and nine room houses ... . Some are of solid brick, with slate roofs. Some first story brick, and second story shingles. Streets are being graded and sidewalks laid. Much of this work is being done by the teams and labor that is employed part of the year on the farm work. This largely accounts for the price of the lots. Much of the building material was bought at very low figures during the panic year prices."[10] Other amenities in the neighborhood that were advertised from the community's inception included the streetcar service, and the mains of both the Norfolk County Water Company and the City Water Works, as well as the "property adjoining and beyond this has been sold to, and is being built up by white people only." [11]

The first planned phase of construction in Ballentine Place began as early as 1909 and continued through 1915. This initial development coincided with the building boom between 1907 and 1908 experienced by the City of Norfolk. Many prominent suburbs reveled in the increased development. However, this citywide period of prosperity was quickly followed by a slump in housing construction between 1909 and 1910, as Ballentine Place was still attempting to establish itself as the one of the city's leading suburbs.

The boundaries of Ballentine Place were slightly altered from the original plat when the subdivision was actually developed. The use of Princess Anne Road as a major transportation corridor, originally designated as a toll road, prompted the seventeen small blocks south of Cape Henry Avenue to and across Princess Anne Road to be disassociated with the neighborhood, putting a buffer between Ballentine Place and Princess Anne Road.

The majority of the buildings constructed during the initial building phase of Ballentine Place were typical of domestic construction throughout the nation and were influenced by the forms, materials, details, or other features associated with the architectural styles that were currently in vogue. In this manner, the original plan and design of buildings in Ballentine Place followed a more high-style pattern, with the majority of the dwellings exhibiting the Colonial Revival and Queen Anne styles. Additionally, more vernacular and suburban interpretations of the popular styles are visible as well. As these new architectural trends were spread from the cities to the suburbs, and later to the rural communities, the styles were modified to accommodate smaller resources, utilizing varied materials that typically reduced construction costs, as evidenced in such suburban neighborhoods as Ballentine Place.

Real estate development firms throughout the city attempted to attract residents and halt the building depression by publishing full-page advertisements in local newspapers between 1910 and 1917. Despite these efforts, the plans for the establishment of a residential suburb on the tract were slow to form, in part due to the fierce suburban tract competition and the continued building slump. The 1910 census, taken just after the establishment of Ballentine Place, designated the area as a portion of the Tanner's Creek District. The ethnic make-up is exclusively Caucasian, consisting primarily of laborers.[12]

Subsequent Development in Ballentine Place: 1915-1953

As Norfolk expanded over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the city appropriated surrounding unincorporated land, thereby, reducing the size of Norfolk County. Ballentine Place remained within the boundaries of Norfolk County until 1923, when a large twenty-five square mile tract of platted land was annexed to the growing city. Most of the tract lay north of the Lafayette River, and included the suburbs of Winona, Lafayette Residence Park, Edgewater, Larchmont, Titustown, Meadowbrook, Lochaven, Ocean View, Willoughby, Lenox, Fairmount Park, Riverview, Chesterfield Heights, Newton Park, Campostella, and Ballentine Place.[13] 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. In turn, the city began a program aimed at upgrading the newly acquired suburbs with fire protection services and schools.

Located at 2415 Ballentine Boulevard, the Ballentine School, designed in the Classical Revival style by architect J.W. Lee with the Seay Brothers as contractors, was constructed between 1915-1916 to meet the growing population of Norfolk County. Constructed on a portion of the central open space along Ballentine Boulevard, the public school, which provided education for grades one to six, was one of only eleven public schools in Norfolk by the 1920s. The school served the community as an elementary school until 1980, when it was converted to a special needs educational center.

A sampling of the federal census of 1920 reveals that the majority of the families living in Ballentine Place were native Virginians, or had moved from nearby states such as North Carolina, South Carolina, and Maryland, though a handful were from other states, including New York and Illinois, and even England. Household sizes ranged from one to eleven persons.[14] Many of the larger households in the suburban neighborhood included several boarders, an outgrowth of the World War I housing demand. Many of the residents of Ballentine Place by 1923 were solidly middle and working class. The occupations noted in the city directory indicated that the neighborhood was home to a preponderance of business managers, salesmen, and laborers. These include D.W. Davis (1929 Vincent Avenue, poultry worker); P.B. Clowes (1948 Vincent Avenue, painter); W.N. and Miss M.A. Kirkland (1927 Ballentine Boulevard, district manager Norfolk Times-Dispatch and schoolteacher); A.R. Holland (1946 Ballentine Boulevard, painter), R.O. Tate (3010 McLemore Street, real estate); W.E. Deford (2914 McLemore Street, no occupation listed); George Burgess (3002 Tait Terrace, carpenter); J.V. McVey (2814 Cape Henry Avenue, laundry); and G.I. Hardy (3206 Cape Henry Avenue, electrician), among numerous others. The 1930 directories included Jason F. Gardner (2444 Ballentine Boulevard, Gardner's Inc.); Ossie O. Culpepper (2514 Ballentine Boulevard, foreman); John E. Hamilton (2702 Ballentine Boulevard, fireman); Quinton T. Aydlett (2709 Ballentine Boulevard, salesman); Joseph R. Carter (3026 Ballentine Boulevard, manager D.P. Stores); William O. Mitchell (3015 Ballentine Boulevard, insurance agent); Mrs. Sadie E. Dowe (3122 Cape Henry Avenue, stenographer); Lindsay Cornelison (2848 Cromwell Road, carpenter); Willie W. Toxey (1515 Grandy Avenue, captain CFD); George W. Parker (3021 Grandy Avenue, electrician); Jason F. Stringer (2648 McKann Avenue, checker); Edward Townsend (2755 McKann Avenue, student); John N. Lassiter (2215 Cape Henry Avenue, salesman); Coburn Smith (2615 Vincent Avenue, carpenter); and Edward J. Wilkinson (2841 Vincent Avenue, car repair), among numerous others. Similar findings were revealed in the 1940 directories, which included E. Worth Winslow (3011 Ballentine Boulevard, Winslow's Market); Anne Shearer (2650 Ballentine Boulevard, clerk, Sears Roebuck); Houston L. Wilson (2717 Cromwell Road, Central Radio Company); C.A. Glanville (1708 Cromwell Road, boilermaker); Walter F. Fentress (3036 Grandy Avenue, policeman); George O. Tise (2642 McKann Avenue, bricklayer); and Gilbert R. Connock (2301 Vincent Avenue, checker, Britcherd Dairy).

Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps reveal that there were approximately eighty-five buildings standing on the original platted lots by 1921. The vigorous building boom of the 1920s is documented on the 1928 Sanborn maps, which depict approximately 350 buildings in Ballentine Place. Ballentine Place continued to grow with the construction of housing, almost wholly constructed in the Colonial Revival and Craftsman/Bungalow styles and forms, or similar vernacular interpretations, on unimproved lots laid out in the early part of the 20th century. Encompassing both single-family and multiple-family housing, the growing neighborhood possessed many modest wood-frame dwellings dating from the second quarter of the 20th century that were stylistically integrated to stand alongside the more imposing dwelling houses constructed prior to 1910. Sanborn maps from 1921 also reveal that the development was scattered throughout the platted area, rather than concentrated in one particular area, as had been the case during the initial development phase.

Churches were present in the community as early as 1908 when the Fairmount Park Baptist Church was erected at 3002 Ballentine Boulevard. In 1924, a Sunday School Building was erected next to the Fairmount Park Baptist Church on Ballentine Boulevard. The complex was renamed Trinity Baptist Church on March 5, 1930 and the present building at 2808 Ballentine Boulevard, designed by architects Rudolph, Cocke and Van Leeuwen, opened for services in September 1953. It is the last building constructed in Ballentine Place that is a contributing element to the historic district. The three other churches in Ballentine Place are located at 2546, 2605, and 2850 Ballentine Boulevard. These churches occupy a commercial building (1930), a single dwelling with additions (1930), and the 1924 Sunday School building.

With the stable military economy and the influx of new defense-industry workers to the port city of Norfolk prior to World War II, Norfolk was not as drastically impacted by the Depression as were many other cities. In addition, a booming coal industry further fueled the economy. The Great Depression still suppressed the vigorous building rate and economic stability that had occurred in Norfolk, though not as profoundly as experienced in other parts of the nation.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA) contributed landscaping to the Ballentine Place neighborhood. The WPA, developed under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933 New Deal Program, was one of the economic stimulus projects designed to "pick America back up on its feet and get the economy moving again" after the Great Depression hit the United States in 1929 and the dollar became virtually worthless and millions of Americans lost their jobs.[15] The WPA was initially designed to fund the building and improvement of America's infrastructure while employing qualified out-of-work Americans. The program was quickly expanded to fund artistic, historical, and cultural efforts as well. The WPA was initiated in 1935 with 4.88 billion dollars of funding from the Emergency Relief Fund and during its mere eight-year existence employed over 8.5 million Americans, putting over eleven billion dollars into the economy. The program, organized into regional, state, and local divisions, was responsible paving 651,000 miles of roads, building 78,000 bridges, 8,000 parks, and 800 airports.

The WPA projects in Norfolk were spearheaded by Frederic Heutte (1899-1979), a native of France who served as Norfolk's first Director of Parks and Forestry, hired by the city to develop its parks. Heutte, who described Norfolk as lacking "organized beauty" jointly served as the Superintendent of the WPA projects, as the city used the WPA grant program to fund its beautification efforts.[16] Heutte's legacy included the landscape projects he lead throughout the city. These projects included the planting of live oak trees in Lafayette (City) Park, the landscaping of Ballentine Boulevard with crape myrtles in 1937 after a door-to-door campaign urging residents to beautify their city, the creation of the Municipal Gardens (now Norfolk Botanical Gardens) in 1938, and the establishment of the Norfolk Azalea Gardens. The azalea gardens were envisioned to rival the nationally renowned gardens of Charleston, South Carolina. He employed over 200 African American women, displaced from a WPA sewing project by white women, to labor in these projects. The landscaping of numerous streets, such as Ballentine Boulevard and Granby Street, was born from Heutte's visualization of a landscaped parkway system once the streetcar era had ended. The WPA ran its course soon after Americans returned to work when America entered World War II in 1941. Residential development in Ballentine Place was again sparked after the close of World War II in order to house many war-time workers returning to the local economy, with 145 dwellings constructed between 1945 and 1950.

In Ballentine Place, the WPA constructed Ballentine Park on the neighborhood's central open space.[17] Residents fondly remarked that "almost every conceivable neighborhood activity in Ballentine Place has been held at the school or on its grounds." [18] The WPA was "responsible for the conversion of a swampy marshland into the recreational heart of Ballentine Place ... The grounds behind the Ballentine School were little more than a hovel for lizards, mosquitoes and other swampland creatures until the 1930s [when] the WPA, using city materials, drained the swamp and landscaped the entire grounds. The work was accompanied by the paving of Ballentine Boulevard and the planting of crape myrtle trees in the community by the city."[19]

A sampling of City Directories revealed that most of the commercial activity was located just outside the neighborhood boundaries to the north on Lafayette Boulevard. Limited commercial activity, which supported the neighborhood, was scattered along Ballentine Boulevard. In 1923, Barnes Grocery was located at 1731 Ballentine Boulevard, with the Ballentine School and the Ballentine Place Church also along this street. In 1930, the D.P. Stores Company Grocery (1514 Ballentine Boulevard) was located at the southern end of the original neighborhood boundaries at Princess Anne Boulevard. The Ballentine Grocery (2632 Ballentine Boulevard) and the Fairmount Park Sunday School (2848 Ballentine Place) also serviced the neighborhood. By 1930, the Fairmount Park Sunday School had become the Trinity Baptist Church Sunday School and the new commercial activity was located to the northern edges, including the Trainer Service Station (3033 Ballentine Boulevard), the Laird Boat Company (3033 Ballentine Boulevard), and the Fairmount Filling Station (3036 Ballentine Boulevard).[20]

Final Phase of Development in Ballentine Place (1954-Present)

After the close of World War II, residential and commercial communities began to develop at an increasing rate. As a whole, the country was impacted by the following conditions: an unprecedented rise in automobile use and relative decline of mass transit; the evolution of regional shopping centers; and the presence of defense communities, with a need for additional housing. Ballentine Place followed the national model, and buildings constructed during this housing boom were generally without ornamentation. The lack of detailing and grand form allowed for quick inexpensive construction using readily available materials. This marks a change in the building practices originally established in Ballentine Place.

Infill construction resumed, reaching a highpoint in the 1960s, only to decline over the following decades. Commercial development, encouraged by the automobile, became the most substantial transition to affect many of Norfolk's early suburbs. Cape Henry Avenue serves as the southern boundary of Ballentine Place, screening the majority of the detached residential community from rapidly passing motorists along Princess Anne Avenue. Despite its location near this major transportation route, the neighborhood escaped the effects of encroaching commercial interests due to this buffer. Historically, only a small number of locally-owned businesses have occupied space along Ballentine Boulevard. The freedom from commercial intrusion is also largely due to the close proximity of Cromwell Avenue. This thoroughfare also carries much of the north-south traffic and has been commercially encroached upon with a number of establishments, including service stations, stores, and restaurants. Ballentine Place, now located in the center of Norfolk, has the added advantage of easy access to interstates, downtown, and medical, commercial, and cultural areas, despite not being directly affected.

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 to the outlying suburbs. Ballentine Place, 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.

As many Norfolk neighborhoods began to suffer from similar circumstances and fall into disrepair, the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority applied for, and was the first to receive funds from, the 1949 Federal Housing Act aimed at rehabilitating neighborhoods. In order to protect other neighborhoods, housing codes began to establish strict requirements. Accordingly, every room had to contain a window and houses were required to have interior running water. Such measures were taken "to protect older middle-class areas such as Ghent, Riverview, Fairmount Park, Brambleton, and Winona from deterioration."[21] Similar efforts were attempted in other older suburbs, including Chesterfield Heights and Ballentine Place.

By the mid-1960s, Ballentine Place had begun to experience many of the same social and urban trends affecting older suburbs across America. As newer and more fashionable subdivisions were built farther from the city center, affluent white residents moved out of the older neighborhoods, where many of the large historic houses were divided into multiple dwellings. Additionally, the older suburbs became home to the many African-American families affected by urban renewal projects in the downtown area. From its inception, Ballentine Place was a strictly white neighborhood in which African Americans were specifically excluded. In the 1960s, African-American families broke this social barrier and moved into the neighborhood in the ensuing years. Integration in the area and the development of modest houses targeted at upwardly mobile African Americans proceeded quickly.[22] By 1975, approximately 35 percent of the population of Ballentine Place was African American. Unlike other suburban communities where white flight succeeded the entry of African Americans, Ballentine Place continued to attract white buyers in the 1960s.

In an attempt to meet the needs of the changing residential make-up of the neighborhood, the Civic League of Ballentine Place was formed in 1973. The new league developed programs and policies to reverse the physical decline of the neighborhood and to publicly promote racial stability and integration. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 gave the Civic League the power to oppose racial prejudice by the real estate community and to move forward in their efforts to improve the physical character of the neighborhood. Racial integration was described as "harmonious. Despite some reported 'blockbusting' and panic selling attempts, prices of real estate did not fall."[23] Additionally, residents fought to keep a racial balance in their neighborhood and to keep it "a nice place to live—keep the neighborhood stable and keep it looking well." [24] Residents in 1975 commented that "optimism abounds" and that "the black people who are moving in are here to stay. They are making roots. We have a good class of black people, and we have a good class of white people" and that "the people who wanted to flee, fled, and the people who are still here are deeply rooted and here to stay." [25 ]

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. The active Civic League, led by the desire to "keep today's Ballentine Place as desirable as it must have been 60 years ago," successfully began a maintenance program to make sure streets were repaired and fought the invasion of unwanted commercialism, including a slaughterhouse and a gas station, as well as the issuance of permits for beer licenses and a large apartment complex.[26] A twenty-seven-block area was inspected by the Division of Environmental Protection in 1975 to select 70-100 of the worst structures and put them on notice for improvement. By 1978, it was stated that "the old-timey feeling evoked by barbershop quartets and Sundays in the park lives on in Ballentine Place."[27]

The Civic League's efforts gained further support in 1987, when the City of Norfolk named Ballentine Place a Conservation District of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority. This allowed property owners to receive low-interest loans and grants for rehabilitation and renovation to existing houses. Neighborhood residents cheered that their neighborhood would be returned to "one of Norfolk's prettiest" as the program is "one of the best things that can happen to a neighborhood. It's like getting new clothes. Your self-esteem is better."28 This was one of the many actions that increased the stability of the neighborhood and the confidence of house buyers. To further insure the neighborhood context of Ballentine Place, the Norfolk City Council changed the zoning from a two-family residential district to a one-family residential district. The change, called downzoning, meant that caps were put on the number of multiple-family units and rental housing in the neighborhood between Vincent and Cromwell Avenues.

Today, the community of Ballentine Place appears closely as it was originally envisioned by the development company that platted the marshy tract at the turn of the 20th century. It stands as a quiet residential community conveniently located near the city's center. Much of the original well-landscaped design remains intact, including the central, open green space. Many of the community's streets are lined with trees and lit with black lamp posts, while the landscaped park beckons residents to enjoy the peace and tranquility. Additionally, the civic-minded Garden Club erected a memorial monument to World War II soldiers in Ballentine Place, marking the landscaped Ballentine Park. 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. Although commercialism is rampant outside the boundaries of the neighborhood, Ballentine Place retains "noises that are mostly from birds, windchimes, and trains. Traffic is kept at a minimum, so that residents are often seen out for a stroll."[29] Enhanced by the establishment of the conservation district, the revitalization was facilitated by the specific housing code standards and zoning requirements guiding preservation of the neighborhood Ballentine Place survives as a suburban subdivision that grew and adapted to the changing physical, social and cultural environment from its inception in 1909 to the present.


  1. Development was begun in Ballentine Place under the Ballentine Realty Corporation in 1909. However, the plat was not officially filed until October 10, 1910.
  2. William S. Forrest, Historical and descriptive sketches of Norfolk and vicinity: including Portsmouth and the adjacent counties, during a period of two hundred years; also sketches of Williamsburg, Hampton, Suffolk, Smithfield, and other places, with descriptions of some of the principal objects of interest in eastern Virginia. Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1853.
  3. Norfolk was established in 1691 with the division of what was then known as Upper Norfolk County, formed in 1639.
  4. Panorama of Norfolk and Surroundings 1892. Map Division. Library of Congress.
  5. U.S. Bureau of the Census. The Census of 1900, Norfolk, VA. National Archives.
  6. Advertisement. Virginian-Pilot. February, 12, 1911.
  7. Advertisement. Virginian-Pilot. February, 12, 1911.
  8. Advertisement, Virginian-Pilot, January 3, 1909.
  9. Advertisement, Virginian-Pilot, January 3, 1909.
  10. Advertisement, Virginian-Pilot, January 3, 1909
  11. Advertisement, Virginian-Pilot, January 3, 1909.
  12. U.S. Bureau of the Census. The Census of 1910, Norfolk, VA. National Archives.
  13. Thomas C. Parramore, Norfolk: The First Four Centuries (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1994), p. 311.
  14. U.S. Bureau of the Census. The Census of 1920, Norfolk, VA. National Archives.
  15. Steve Paul Johnson. "WPA Historical Records Survey." July 28, 1999.
  16. Frederic Heutte, Oral History Interview by James R. Sweeney, Old Dominion University. June 28, 1979.
  17. The original plat calls for a central open space, though the Sanborn Maps show a dwelling on the park property through the 1928-1950 period.
  18. Wayne Woodlief. "Ballentine's Fun Center: WPA Converted Swamp to Lake and Playground." Ledger-Dispatch and Star, July 25, 1956.
  19. Wayne Woodlief. "Ballentine's Fun Center: WPA Converted Swamp to Lake and Playground." Ledger-Dispatch and Star, July 25, 1956.
  20. Hill Directory Company. Norfolk and Portsmouth Directory, Norfolk, VA: Hill Directory Company, Inc., 1923-1940.
  21. Thomas C. Parramore, Norfolk: The First Four Centuries (Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia Press, 1994), p. 352.
  22. Although not overtly advertised for African-American, these houses entered the market at high prices given their cheap construction, and were therefore rejected by whites that had alternative options. Blacks wishing to leave the inner city for suburbia did not have the privileges of choice afforded by the white population and were compelled to pay more for less.
  23. Richard Cobb. "Tree-lined Ballentine Place Is Reminder of Good Old Days." Virginian-Pilot, March 9, 1980.
  24. Linda Waller, "People are Making it Work." Virginian-Pilot. January 26, 1975.
  25. Linda Waller, "People are Making it Work." Virginian-Pilot. January 26, 1975.
  26. Linda Waller, "People are Making it Work." Virginian-Pilot. January 26, 1975.
  27. Terri Mulqueeny, "Friendliness, Convenience Strong Points," Norfolk Compass, August 3, 1978.
  28. Mike Knepler, "Ballentine Place Votes to Seek Housing-Conservation Program." Norfolk Compass, March 25, 1987.
  29. Debbie O'Dell, "Neighbors Keep Ballentine Attractive." Virginian-Pilot. No Date.
  30. Bibliography

    Nearby Neighborhoods

    Street Names
    Ballentine Boulevard • Cape Henry Avenue • Chesapeake Boulevard • Cromwell Road • Dana Street • Davis Street • Grandy Avenue • Hanbury Street • Harrell Avenue • Keller Avenue • McKann Avenue • McLemore Street • Peterson Street • Tait Terrace • Tarrant Street • Vincent Avenue