Larchmont and Edgewater are residential neighborhoods on the west side of Norfolk sharing the 23508 Zip Code. The neighborhoods contain more than 2,300 homes, most of them occupied by single-family owners. Many homes were built in the early 20th century in styles ranging from palatial estates to modest bungalows. The dominant style of homes is Colonial Revival, but the neighborhood also features grand Victorian homes as well as Craftsman bungalows and new construction.
Old Dominion University
Participating neighborhoods are bordered by 49th Street, the Lafayette River to the east and north, the Elizabeth River to the west and Old Dominion University and 52nd Street to the south. The neighborhood is bisected by Hampton Boulevard. Other major streets include Jamestown Crescent, Powhatan Avenue and Bolling Avenue.
Although it is almost totally a residential neighborhood, there are several nonresidential anchors in the neighborhood that make it special. The neighborhood’s southern edge is bordered by Old Dominion University, one of the largest universities in Virginia, and WHRO, the region’s public radio and television station. ODU is in the midst of a major expansion program just a few blocks past the neighborhood’s border. In the past decade ODU has rapidly expanding adding the Ted Constant Convocation Center, classrooms, an indoor tennis center, apartments, dormitories and retail space.
Larchmont Elementary School
Adjacent to WHRO is Larchmont Elementary School with its kindergarten through fifth grade program. Larchmont Elementary is consistently one of Norfolk Public School’s highest-achieving elementary schools and has served students for generations. The school grounds include fields where youth soccer, baseball and football teams practice as well as two playgrounds, six lighted tennis courts and outdoor basketball courts. Its gym is home base for the city-run Larchmont Recreation Center. The Larchmont Elementary PTA traditionally sponsors two popular community events – the September R.A.T. Race, a 5-kilometer and 1-mile run and family walk, and an April spring carnival. Just down the street is Saint Patrick Catholic School, which opened in 2006 as the first new Catholic school in Norfolk to open in the past 50 years. It serves pre-kindergarten students through those in eighth grade.
Larchmont Brick & Mortar Businesses
Near the northern boundaries of the neighborhood are D’Egg West, a restaurant that opened in January 2010, and Taste Unlimited, a gourmet food store and cafe opened in August 2010. The building that houses D’Egg is also home to Dickenson & Dickenson law firm and J. Patrick Baker, a dentist.
Across Hampton Boulevard from the stores is the Larchmont branch of Norfolk Public Library (www.npl.lib.va.us). The busy library branch, which includes computers, a meeting room and children’s area is housed on a site that formerly was a power station used for street cars. Adjacent to it is the Birdsong Wetlands, which volunteers created several years ago as a small park that helps filter water before it enters the rivers. Across the street is the Lafayette River Complex, a small Navy installation housed in a collection of older buildings along the Lafayette River.
The neighborhood includes two churches – Larchmont United Methodist Church on Jamestown Crescent and Crossroads Church, just down the road on Surrey Crescent. Larchmont Methodist is home to Larchmont United Methodist Preschool for children ages 2 through 5.
The Larchmont-Edgewater neighborhoods are home to 5,694 people, according to 2000 U.S. census data. The neighborhoods are divided into two census tracts that are divided by Hampton Boulevard. The largest tract to the west of Hampton Boulevard that includes all of Edgewater and part of Larchmont has 3,247 people living in 1,272 homes, most of them occupied by single families. The median age is 36.2. The census tract to the east of Hampton Boulevard that is in the Larchmont neighborhood has 2,342 people living in 1,032 households, including a group of older apartments that are slated for demolition. The media age of residents is 31.1.
Norfolk Public Schools
Students living in the neighborhood attending public school are assigned to Larchmont Elementary, a neighborhood school. Later they can attend Blair Middle School and Maury High School, about two miles away in the Ghent neighborhood, or opt for one of the public school system’s specialized middle or high schools.
According to Norfolk city historian, Peggy Haile McPhillips, Larchmont-Edgewater was mostly farmland in 1906 when a group of Norfolk businessmen purchased about 200 acres in the northwest portion of Norfolk County. The developers began to lay out streets, sidewalks, a water system and landscaping for a new neighborhood.
Early access to the new neighborhood was by streetcar on tracks running down the length of Atlantic and Jamestown boulevards (now Hampton Boulevard), built to accommodate visitors to the 1907 Jamestown Exposition. Realtors T. Marshall Bellamy and J. Thomas Hough were hired to develop Larchmont-Edgewater. They placed a 1909 ad in the Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch advertising the new subdivision as “Norfolk’s only high class suburb.” An article a year later noted that Larchmont was a city of homes beautified by trees and flowers.
Because of the new development’s location five miles from the heart of downtown Norfolk, some naysayers predicted that the project would fail. Larchmont was considered to be in the country, and businessmen found it an inconvenient commute by streetcar and few of them owned automobiles. In order to entice purchasers, Bellamy instituted his own bus line, the Larchmont Transit Company, which ran from Commercial Place in downtown Norfolk to Larchmont for five cents a ride. A nickel was known as a “jitney” in those days, and so the bus became known as the Larchmont Jitney.
In an early newspaper ad to promote the developing neighborhood, Bellamy said “We have 2 automobiles to show you Larchmont. If you are timid about riding in automobiles, we can take you on the streetcar in 20 minutes.” The property was divided into 25-foot lots and owners were required to purchase a minimum of two to four lots so that their houses would not be crowded together. By 1912, builders had sold 64 homes in the new neighborhood making it one of the fastest-growing Norfolk suburbs. Larchmont-Edgewater was annexed to the City of Norfolk in 1923.
The neighborhood continued to develop over the decades into a pleasant, family-oriented neighborhood whose sidewalks are lined with crepe myrtles, oaks and other trees. The giant magnolia trees that line the eastern part of Magnolia Avenue are more than 150 years old and are reminders of the wide drive that once led to a grand 18th century home on the Lafayette River.
Today many streets wind around the rivers and inlets, and some of them have small parks or large medians for public use. The neighborhood has remained stable throughout the decades and has always been a popular choice for home buyers who want to live in a well-maintained older neighborhood only a few miles from downtown Norfolk.
More information on the history of Larchmont-Edgewater is available at http://www.norfolk.gov/index.aspx?NID=680 and at http://www.npl.lib.va.us/history/history_pages.html