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Norfolk, Tide, US Wisconsin, Norfolk Southern Museum

Adventurers in New England

Chapter Twenty-Three

A Day in Norfolk

Nor-fok, or Naw-fok

Norfolk, VA

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.



Robin Bowers

June 30, 2015


Text and Photos by Author
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated at...

    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.
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.




Elizabeth River.


    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 Museum.



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 Station.   




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 movie palaces.

Wells Theatre


    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 Historic Landmark.



Inside lobby.


    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 Granby Street.


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 Presbyterian Church.


    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 systems.



    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.


Norfolk Scope.

    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 Magazine


I continue walking down Monticello Ave past MacArthur Center.


Another Urban Outfitters.


Tazewell Hotel.

    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. 

Battleship Wisconsin








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.







Freemason Harbor.



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 history.


The sticker mermaid.


After leaving the museum leave your admittance sticker here on the mermaid.






    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 hotel.


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.



Monticello Station.



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.


The James.
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 Cresent.

Return to last Chapter - Twenty-two Albany, Penn Station, Newport Norfolk,VA

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Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated at...