Adventurers in New England
A Day in Norfolk
Nor-fok, or Naw-fok
Riding the Tide, Visiting the Norfolk Southern RR Museum,
Exploring the neighborhood and the Elizabeth River water front.
Seeing the US Wisconsin and water front in twilight.
June 30, 2015
Text and Photos by Author
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Last night we checked into
our room in the Tazewell Hotel and Suites, built in 1906 and a
downtown hotel. The room had a high ceiling and tall windows
looking out to an air and light vent but we were just interested
in getting some shut-eye after a long train ride.
My morning started out with me going to find
and check out the hotel's continental breakfast. Well, all was
left was a half pot of coffee due to our sleeping late. So Chris
and I decided to walk around the area while looking for a place
to eat. In the first few blocks we saw several options but
nothing hit a ten. We continued our tour while walking toward
the Civic Center area. It was in this area we found it. A cozy
and welcome cafe where we had our late breakfast or early lunch,
not a busy time in the restaurant business but we had several
fellow diners including a couple of Norfolk's finest
officers. Each of us was very satisfied with our meal
selections and enjoyed the time to decompress some. Tummies full
we walked toward city hall in the next block.
Our stop here was to the mayor's office
to see if they had any city pins. Elizabeth, whose sharp eyes
corrects our grammar and typos, collects these city pins on her
travels and is rumored to have a serious collection. Asking at
the info desk for directions, we follow directions and arrive at
His Honor's office. To the kind lady working the desk, we told
her who we were and our purpose. Surprise! She said that there
was a handful of pins in the drawer behind here. So we walked
away with three pins, one for each.
Leaving City Hall, we walked to the Civic
Plaza Station and then on to the MacArthur Square Station where
we took a few photos and bought our Go 1- Day Pass. I paid a
grand total of $2.00 for my Go 1-Day Pass Half-Fare.
Breakfast was served in the ground floor restaurant in white
building, center left.
Light rail 800 runs westbound
from Newtown Road Station to EVMC/Fort Norfolk Station along
its 7.5 mile route.
There are 11 light rail stations and 4 park-and-ride
locations with connections to feeder buses and the Ferry.
Norfolk Public Art
The Electroland "Metalmatisse" near MacArthur Square.
Popping up throughout town, you'll find ornate, thoughtfully
crafted mermaid statues. Posing gracefully at street corners
and storefronts, decorating banners and signs, and showing up
in local art shops and galleries, the cultural icon of Norfolk
has been a major artistic motif for over 15 years. The
mermaids are all designed and decorated by locals, and many of
them represent a theme related to their location and
illustrate the value of public art in the community.
Our Tide ride to Newtown Road Station.
A westbound train headed to Fort Norfolk. Taken through the
wrap on train window.
Public Art on station windows.
Our train at the Newtown Road Station.
The east bound and west bound tracks merge into one entering the
Station has a one track platform.
Chris and I board the Tide
for our return trip and then on to the western end of the line
at Fort Norfolk.
Our train ride has views of the Elizabeth River.
Harbor Park is home to Norfolk's minor league baseball team, the
Tides, the Baltimore Orioles Triple-A affiliate. Harbor Park has
been rated the best minor league stadium by Baseball America.
Nestled on the Elizabeth River, the 36-acre Harbor Park also hosts
NCAA baseball and concerts. The 12,067 seat stadium boasts 20
luxury suites, press facilities, including two TV broadcasting
booths, and a 300-seat restaurant.
Norfolk Southern building and location of their museum.
Freemason Bed & Breakfast.
Mirror image ?
After leaving the York Street/ Freemason Station, the tracks
parallel Brambleton Ave. and we begin to have water views as we
approach the western terminus. Here we cross over The Hague were
it connects to the Elizabeth River.
Art in the Fort Norfolk Station.
See the cultural icon.
Upon reaching the MacArthur
Square Station, Chris and I decided to walk from there the two
blocks to the Arnold McKinnon Building site of Norfolk Southern
Old City Hall.
Entrance to museum.
There was a engine simulator
here that we both enjoyed playing on.
We both had a good time here
at the museum and learned a lot from the excellent historical
displays.From here we walked back to MacArthur Square
The final resting place and museum honoring General of the Army
Douglas MacArthur and his wife, located in the restored 1850
Norfolk City Hall building.
When we arrived at the
MacArthur Square Station, Chris wanted to return to the hotel
but I decided to take the long, round about way back to the
room. Across the street was Norfolk's pre-eminent shopping
mecca, the MacArthur Center so I walked over to become a mall
walker in the cool air condition for relief. Going the two
blocks inside the mall I could then exit at Tazewell Street
entrance. Walking down Tazewell because the hotel is on the
corner of Tazewell and Granby Streets, I came across a sweet
find. One of my other passions and interests is old theaters and
The Father of Vaudeville in
the Southeast, Jake Wells built the Granby Theatre in Norfolk in
1901. Wells and his brother Otto controlled the largest theatre
circuit in the South by the 1920s with 42 theaters in nine
states. The Wells Theatre opened on August 26, 1913. That first
year, Maude Adams flew across the stage as Peter Pan and Well’s
presented Ben-Hur complete with teams of horses on treadmills.
Fred and Adele Astaire, Will Rogers, Billie Burke, John Drew,
John Phillip Sousa and Dorothy Gish all appeared on the Wells
stage. In 1916, they installed a movie screen and by the
beginning of World War II, burlesque had joined the repertory.
In the 1960s, the Wells became an x-rated movie house, its
backstage area converted into The Jamaican Room, a notorious gin
mill and brothel. The Virginia Stage Company moved into the
Wells Theatre following restoration on February 7, 1980. $3.5
million in additional restorations were completed in 1986,
resulting in the Beaux-Arts gem’s designation as a National
Arriving back at the hotel, I
stopped in the next door Juice Bar Juices shop for a cool drink.
Their car was parked in front of shop. Returning with my juice
to the hotel room, I relaxed, cooled off, played on the
computer. After about one hour and feeling rested, I was ready
to return outside and walk and explore. Chris decided to stay in
the cool room this afternoon. I left the hotel and head up
340 Granby St
The Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center occupies the
former Loews State Theater building in the revitalized downtown
Norfolk, Virginia. Originally built in elegant style in 1926, TCC
(Tidewater Community College) lovingly restored this former movie
and Vaudeville palace as a state-of-the-art performance venue.
Arriving at Freemason and
Granby I take a left and headed toward to water on Freemason St.
and spotted this grand old church.
At the corner of Freemason and Boush St.
The cobble-stone streets and
grand old homes of Norfolk's historic Freemason District, named
by the American Planning Association as a Top 10 Great
Neighborhood in 2013, offer a view into a bygone era. Listed in
the National Register of Historic Places. Historic Freemason is
located along the Elizabeth River just down the brick pathway
from the Battleship Wisconsin. It was first settled in
1686,when "one hundred acres of land in this vicinity were
granted to the Elizabeth River Parish for a glebe." It is the
city's only neighborhood which accurately depicts a visual
chronology of architectural styles over three centuries.
Freemason Abbey Restaurant housed in the 136 year old Second
Walking inside I took a peek
and looked around taking a few pics unobserved.
Corner of Freemason and Boush St.
I returned back on
Freemason to Granby Street and found the Granby Theater.
This unique and one-of-a-kind
venue was constructed 100 years ago under the direction of an
Italian immigrant, Mr. Feroni. Originally the theater was named
The Virginian and was built for small plays, one act operas and
vaudeville shows. Granby Street was “Theater Row” in those days,
and each theater would sell out nightly to thousands of
sharply-dressed visitors. Granby was one of the first buildings
in the south to have air conditioning and fire suppression
Leaving Granby Street I
walked over to the Monticello Station to catch the Tide
westbound to Fort Norfolk for one more ride and sight-seeing.
Located near the Monticello
station is the Scope Arena. Built in 1971, architect Pier Luigi
Nervi designed Scope Arena and to this day the venue remains the
world’s largest reinforced thin-shell concrete dome. The venue’s
concrete monolithic dome and twenty-four flying buttresses make
it a popular, eye-catching and iconic landmark in downtown
Norfolk. Scope Arena is the host to a wide variety of events and
is currently home to the Norfolk Admirals hockey team, Ringling
Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus, the MEAC Basketball
Tournament, conventions, concerts, family shows and much more!
Scope consists of a flexible main arena, modular exhibit halls
and meeting rooms that can accommodate both small and large
groups for private meetings, exhibits or conventions.
After arriving at the end of the line at Fort
Norfolk, I walked down toward the river water front. It was just
two short blocks to river's edge.
A barge on the Elizabeth River.
Navy ships across the river.
Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base, home of the
Atlantic Fleet: Destroyers, Cruisers, Submarines, Aircraft
Carriers and more.
I continue walking down Front
St to a condo complex
Notice Tide overhead wires in background on bridge over The Hague.
See Nauticus building in right background.
Another view of Nauticus.
As the road dead ended here I
walked towards Brambleton Ave and my return ride on the Tide.
Tide trackage and Brambleton Ave.
A spring switch used where
the inbound and outbound tracks merge into one at the end of
line, Fort Norfolk Station. The switch is set for the departing
train and springs for arriving train.
I boarded the eastbound train
and rode to the Monticello Station. There I got off and walked
down Monticello Ave stopping at a 7-11 for a ice cream bar.
317 Monticello Avenue, built as a theater in the 1920's.
A historic concert venue that was recently named one of America's
Venues that Rock's the Hardest by Rolling Stone
I continue walking down Monticello Ave past MacArthur Center.
Another Urban Outfitters.
At Tazewell St. I turn there
and walk to the Tazewell Hotel and Suites. I am afraid the grand
old lady is not long for this life. Last April, 2015, the
building was sold and plans are for it to be re-purposed as a
condo complex. Returning to our room, I cooled off and relaxed
for a while. Then Chris and I decided it was time for dinner.
And for that we choose the sports bar across the street. No need
to travel far if not needed. While we were enjoying our
sandwiches, I decided that a cold draft would be a fine
complement and so I ordered one and I was right - they did go
good together. Returning to our room to let our meal settle and
relax, I was looking through the tourist magazines and found out
the Battleship Wisconsin was located just a few blocks away. I
wanted to check it out as there was a hour or so of daylight
left. Chris wanted to stay in the room and work on his stories
so I struck out on my own. It was only a few short blocks to the
river water front and my destination.
Visit the USS Iowa in Los Angeles Harbor at San Pedro, CA
Sailor keeping watch on his ship.
From the Wisconsin I walked
next door to the Pagoda Garden Tea House & Gallery at
Freemason Harbor that boasts of over 125 species of Asian
plantings and is home to the largest Koi pond on the East Coast.
The Marine Observation Tower,
a.k.a. the Pagoda, was a gift to the Commonwealth of Virginia
and the City of Norfolk from the Taiwan Provincial Government.
During a good will trade mission to Norfolk in 1983, Dr. Lee
Teng-Hui, then Governor of Taiwan and, later, the President of
the Republic of China, proposed the riverfront gift. In 1989,
the two-story octagon structure was built on and around the
pillars that previously supported a 500,000 gallon molasses
storage tank. Materials for the tower were manufactured in
Taiwan and shipped to Norfolk where the Pagoda was meticulously
assembled by artisans from Taiwan.
In 1998, the Friends of the
Pagoda & Oriental Garden Foundation (a.k.a. Pagoda &
Garden Foundation) was formed by members of the Freemason Street
Area Association and the United Chinese-American Association.
The mission of the Foundation is to assist the City of Norfolk
in preserving the Marine Observation Tower (Pagoda) and
developing an Oriental Garden to be the historic landmark on
Norfolk’s waterfront, in enhancing the friendship and cultural
exchange with Asian-Americans, and in providing an aesthetic and
educational experience for the public.
Photo of author taken by a kind lady.
I walked back to the
battleship to try taking pics as it was getting dark and good
for some night shots.
The Norfolk waterfront
maritime science museum features hands-on exhibits that explore
the naval, economic and natural power of the sea. Visitors can
observe weather patterns on a 6-foot globe, touch horseshoe
crabs, see science demonstrations, construct an ROV (remotely
operated vehicle), watch 3-D movies and learn about sharks. The
museum manages the day-to-day operations of the USS Wisconsin,
berthed adjacent to Nauticus. While on the Nauticus campus
you'll find the Hampton Roads Naval Museum located on the second
floor, which examines more than two centuries of local naval
The sticker mermaid.
After leaving the museum leave your admittance sticker here on the
Having decided I was ready to
leave and head back, I walked back to the Pagoda Garden Tea
House. Located at 265 W. Tazewell it was a quick walk back to
As the night was still young, I decided to go for another ride on
the Tide. Going to squeeze every nickle out of that Go-One Day
Pass. It was a warm pleasant summer night here in Norfolk so I
walked to the Monticello Station for a ride to Fort Norfolk.
After my round trip ride I exited at the Monticello Station and
walked over to Granby St and then down it to the hotel.
Plaza Azteca on left. Granby St is also known as restaurant row.
I just liked the lighting.
Arriving at the hotel it was
now time to pack up and move out early in the morning. I think
one of the best thing in traveling is to be able to spend two or
more nights in the same room. Our two nights here in Norfolk
went fast and were enjoyable.
Tomorrow - Amtrak to Washington D.C., U.S. Capitol,
Mall and museums, ride Crescent
to New Orleans overnight.
Go to next Chapter - Twenty-Four Norfolk
to D.C., US Capital, National Mall and overnight on the
Return to last Chapter - Twenty-two
Albany, Penn Station, Newport Norfolk,VA
Text and Photos by Author
The author retains all
rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's
Comments are appreciated at... firstname.lastname@example.org