The L & J Gardens Neighborhood Historic District is a residential neighborhood at the western edge of the City of Virginia Beach and is adjacent, in part, to the boundary with the City of Norfolk. The neighborhood, which encompasses approximately 76 acres, is roughly rectangular in shape with the long sides running northwest to southeast. The area is bounded by Wesleyan Drive (formerly Burma Road) on the southwest and Norwich Avenue on the northeast. On the northwest end, the neighborhood is bounded by Northampton Boulevard (U.S. Route 13, formerly called Water Works Road) with the southeastern boundary marked by properties on Maywood Boulevard. Streets on the interior of the neighborhood include Tajo Avenue, Dulcie Avenue, Fairlawn Avenue, and Youlous Avenue. All resources are single-family residences; no commercial, educational, or ecclesiastical resources stand within the district boundaries. The neighborhood boundaries and street layout have not been altered since 1961. The district is characterized by mid-20th century housing styles and types (mostly Ranch and Split Level), with dwellings ranging in size from 1,200 square feet to around 3,000 square feet, level lots averaging about 0.4 acre in size (with larger corner lots), attached garages or carports, uniform building setbacks, and well-maintained yards with mature trees and landscaping. The district includes 123 properties and 180 total resources of which there are 111 contributing buildings, 60 non-contributing buildings, and 9 non-contributing structures. Of the 60 non-contributing resources, 24 are primary resources, and the remainder are secondary resources (sheds and garages). The historic district therefore holds 62% contributing resources, and 80% contributing primary resources.
The layout of L & J Gardens is a result of several property subdivisions. In 1946, Walter "Crow" Riddick, in partnership with investors and the Portsmouth-based builder Herolin DeLoatch, created the L & J Sites subdivision, which was further subdivided by plats made in 1946 and 1954. The subdivided property belonged to Riddick and included the site of his own home, built in 1948 at the northwest corner of Northampton Boulevard and Wesleyan Drive. L & J Gardens was a housing subdivision built by and for middle-class African Americans during a period of limited housing opportunities and government policies that encouraged racially segregated developments. The 1954 plat included housing lots on Norwich Avenue, a portion of Fairlawn Avenue, and Maywood Boulevard. In 1961, L & J Gardens was expanded to include lots on the southwest side of the neighborhood along the new streets of Tajo Avenue, Dulcie Avenue, and Youlous Avenue. Most of the houses in the district date from the early 1950s and 1960s; infill construction has occurred, but around 83% of the dwellings were built prior to 1969. The first houses built in L & J Gardens were based on a series of "model" designs developed by Riddick and DeLoatch. Houses completed after the initial development include designs executed by other contractors and those designed by licensed African-American architects, including William "Bill" Milligan, Jr. There are also several dwellings designed by the owners themselves or by self-taught architectural designers or builders such as James A. Richardson, Donald L. Robinson, Thomas L. Marshall, and Napoleon B. Yarn. Houses in the district are primarily brick construction, with weatherboard siding used only as a secondary building material, and are covered by asphalt shingle-clad hipped and gable roofs.
the rural nature of the area in the mid-1950s when L & J Gardens was first developed. An aerial photograph from 1958 shows the L & J Gardens neighborhood accompanied only by the contemporary all-white Diamond Lake Estates neighborhood to the east; otherwise, fields and trees were the only neighbors. Developer Walter Riddick's own horse farm and training facility occupied the acreage along present day Wesleyan Drive. At the time, L & J Gardens was located in Princess Anne County and some of the original residents, many of whom lived in Norfolk prior to buying in L & J Gardens, regarded the location as a "country" setting (E. Rebecca Perry Livas 2020; Margaret T. Davis, personal communication, 2021). Pamela E. Riddick, daughter of Walter and Lillie Riddick, recalls that when her father purchased the land "it was all wooded. It was next door to a dairy. It was totally rural" (Pamela Elizabeth Riddick, personal communication, 2021).
Other residents felt that other Black communities in Princess Anne County were simple "clusters" of houses set in more rural areas and did not present the same suburban concentration of housing like L & J Gardens did. Still, the location of L & J Gardens was "a distance, psychologically" from the city. Some residents preferred the location for the "peace of the countryside" (Dr. Ralph B. Saunders II, personal communication 2021). Dedra Brown Wood, whose parents Bernard and Shirley Brown purchased land in L & J Sites in 1952 and built a home at 6004 Wesleyan Drive, noted that her family moved from Liberty Park in Norfolk because "they wanted to get somewhere where there was a little bit more land and outside of Norfolk" (Dedra Brown Wood, personal communication, 2021).
In 1959, the City of Norfolk annexed a portion of Princess Anne County and already had been extending its municipal water lines to developing suburbs on the outskirts of the city for decades. The annexation moved the Norfolk corporate boundary to Burma Road (present Wesleyan Drive) and immediately adjacent to the L & J Gardens neighborhood. The residents of Princess Anne County and the City of Virginia Beach were concerned about the political implications of Norfolk's continued expansion and campaigned to have the remainder of Princess Anne County absorbed by the City of Virginia Beach. In 1963, Princess Anne County and the City of Virginia Beach merged, and L & J Gardens became part of Virginia Beach (Purvis and McClane 2018:18).
The original buyers in L & J Gardens were successful, middle-class professionals with strong associations with the Black community in Norfolk. Many L & J Gardens residents attended historically Black churches in Norfolk and many owned businesses in Norfolk or were employed by Norfolk-based institutions including the City of Norfolk public schools, the Norfolk office of the U.S. Postal Service, the Naval Supply Center, and Norfolk State University. Many of L & J Gardens' current residents retain these strong ties to Norfolk-based institutions. But L & J Gardens' physical location just outside the boundaries of the City of Norfolk was no accident policies of segregation and racist housing practices meant that housing for Black people in Norfolk was in short supply or was in poor condition. Middle-class Black persons, in particular, had a difficult time finding housing that aligned with their middle-class suburban dream. They were shut out of the white suburbs, but localities made it difficult to develop new suburbs for Blacks. Consequently, when Walter Riddick and Herolin DeLoatch began developing L & J Gardens in the mid-1950s, there was a large population of Norfolk-based, middle-class Black people elated to buy a new house in a Black suburb just outside the city limits. (See Section 8 for a more in-depth discussion of the context of Black suburban development on the outskirts of cities in the South.)
While the character of the surrounding acreage and even the associated municipality have changed, the setting within L & J Gardens remains much as it was in the 1950s and 1960s and the overall design of the subdivision is unchanged. Single-family houses with similar sized footprints are centered on similarly sized lots arranged along streets that are mostly straight and interconnected. Three of the streets form the boundaries of the subdivision—Norwich Avenue, Northampton Boulevard, and Wesleyan Drive—and extend beyond the neighborhood. On those three streets, houses are located on only one side of the street, but on other neighborhood streets, houses line both sides of the roadway. There is only one true cul-de-sac (Tajo Avenue) and one dead end street (Maywood Boulevard); most houses have more than one access into and out of the neighborhood. Each property has a concrete-paved driveway, and most driveways lead to incorporated or attached garages or open carports. The first-phase houses, built in the mid- and late 1950s along Norwich Avenue and Fairlawn Avenue, have a straight, concrete walkway leading directly from the street to the front door. Some of these houses also have a concrete walkway leading from the driveway to the front door. The houses built along Tajo Avenue and Dulcie Avenue during the second phase of development in the 1960s do not have a walkway from the street to the front door, only the one from the front door to the driveway. The roads have concrete curbs and curb cuts for the driveways but there are only sidewalks along Northampton Boulevard and Wesleyan Drive, both of which are the result of road widening projects and associated improvements completed in the last 30 years. There are no streetlights in the neighborhood, but several properties retain original lampposts set beside the front walkway. Fences in the neighborhood are limited to the rear yards, and in some cases enclose swimming pools. People who grew up in the neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s recall that deed restrictions prohibited fences and that the neighborhood had an open, parklike feeling where kids were free to play (Waverly W. Jones, Jr., personal communication, 2021). Although a park and recreational facilities were not part of the L & J Gardens development, neighbors built and shared outdoor amenities. The Sydnors built a tennis court and a basketball court on their property, the Nelsons had a field used for football and baseball; and the Porters, among others, had a backyard, in-ground swimming pool that were made available to the neighborhood children (Jesse Sydnor, personal communication, 2021; Monsignor Eddie Enrique Lopez Tolentino III, personal communication, 2021; Jackie Harold Bowe, personal communication, 2017). Walter Riddick also taught neighborhood children how to ride horses at his estate (Saunders II 2021; Wood 2021).
At present, the neighborhood landscape is a mixture of trees and open space; properties retain unfenced front yards with stands of trees generally clustered along rear property lines. Many trees that are planted in front yards are a variety of pine tree with tall, straight trunks and no lower branches, which contributes to a feeling of openness along the streetscape. Yards tend to be well maintained and many have extensive landscaping in the form of flowering trees, shrubs, flowers, and defined beds. The streetscape has the definite feeling of order and care; yards with overgrown shrubs or untended grass are the anomaly. Large swaths of tree cover are limited to the areas in between the rear yards of houses on Dulcie Avenue and Norwich Avenue, Dulcie Avenue and Fairlawn Avenue, Dulcie Avenue and Wesleyan Drive, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Tajo Avenue and Northampton Boulevard. The 1958 aerial photograph of the neighborhood shows that most of this area was wooded at the time. Exceptions included the areas where construction had already occurred at that point clustered along the north end of Fairlawn Avenue, the south end of Fairlawn Avenue, and an area along Norwich Avenue and the area along Maywood Boulevard. The parcels along Wesleyan Drive and Northampton Boulevard were mostly open and occupied by larger residential properties.
L & J Sites Subdivision, 1946
Walter "Crow" Riddick envisioned a subdivision growing up among the trees as early as 1946. A plat for L & J Sites was recorded in Princess Anne County in July of that year (Princess Anne County (PAC) Map Book (MB) 18:53). The platted acreage included a roughly triangular area that closely matches the modern boundaries of L & J Gardens and is bounded by present-day Northampton Boulevard (labeled "Water Works Road" on the 1946 plat), Wesleyan Drive (just labeled "Road" on the plat), and Norwich Avenue (also just labeled Road). The subdivision included 29 parcels that fronted on one of the three boundary roads. Riddick sold off several of the parcels on Water Works Road, but retained ownership of several parcels. He used some of the acreage that he owned for raising and racing horses, and, in fact, built a stable and racetrack on the property before he built a house. By 1948, his own dwelling was completed on Lot 1 of the recorded plat, on a deep lot at the corner of Northampton Boulevard and Wesleyan Drive (5949 Northampton Boulevard, 134-5607/134-5608-0091).
Henry Livas, Sr., a local Black architect and architectural instructor at Hampton Institute (today's Hampton University), and Hilary Wright, a principal at Norfolk's Booker T. Washington High School, designed the Riddick house. The two-story, five-bay, double-pile, brick Colonial Revival-style residence has a side-gable asphalt shingle roof. There is a flat-roofed porte cochere on the east side of the house and a one-story flat roofed wing on the west side. Both the wing and the porte cochere are topped with rooftop decks ringed by balustrades and accessed from the second story. The main entrance is centered on the facade and sheltered by a gable hood supported by decorative wood brackets. The front door opens onto a brick stoop. There is a large interior brick chimney on the west side elevation and another on the rear elevation of the one-story west wing. A two-story cross-gable wing extends from the rear of the house and features an interior brick chimney. A large brick patio with a built-in brick barbeque is located directly behind the house. A separate three-car garage is located slightly further back. The house was featured in an August 1958 spread in Ebony magazine titled, "Home Life of the Horsy Set: Colonial Home in Virginia is Designed for Carefree Living," and indeed, Riddick and his wife, Lillie, were known for the parties they hosted. Many L & J Gardens residents remember barbeques on the Riddick property with pony rides and games for the children and lots of food and drink. The stable that predated the house is no longer standing and has been replaced by a house built on a lot divided from the Riddick property in the late twentieth century (6040 Wesleyan Drive, 134-5608-0121).
Walter Riddick's house was not the only L & J Gardens house to garner national attention. In 1955, Dr. John Sydnor's house at 5913 Northampton Boulevard was published in Jet magazine, a weekly publication started in 1951 that focused on news, culture, and entertainment related to the African-American community. The May 26 issue featured the City of Norfolk and the gains made in the City by Black-owned businesses and residents. The article noted that many of Norfolk's Black businessmen and professionals lived in the Broad Creek area (i.e., Boulevard Terrace), "the two plushiest, most expensive ($50,000 or more) homes are located a couple acres apart on a highway just outside of town. Their owners: undertaker-horse fancier Walter (Crow) Riddick and ex-Philadelphian Dr. John T. Sydnor" (Fuller 1955). A photograph of the Sydnor house accompanied the piece.
Dr. Sydnor was a physician in private practice in Norfolk, and his wife, Jesse Smith Sydnor, was an associate professor of psychology at Norfolk State University. Completed in 1950, the house is a two-story, six-bay brick dwelling with a side-gable roof and a large front-facing cross gable. There is a one-story, two-bay, side-gable wing on the east side of the house and a porte cochere on the west side that has a balustraded deck supported by Doric columns set on brick piers. The main entrance is located in the front-gable bay and features a paneled door flanked by sidelights and topped with an elliptical fanlight. It is accessed by brick steps to a brick stoop enclosed with a white wood railing. Daughter Jesse T. Sydnor stated that the house's design was likely a collaboration between her parents, primarily her mother, and DeLoatch (Sydnor 2021).
Other families, including Bernard and Shirley Brown and Ralph and Carlesta Saunders, purchased multiple lots in L & J Sites. Those families, who later built homes at 6004 Wesleyan Drive and 6008 Wesleyan Drive respectively, incorporated their holdings into the later neighborhood plats. Dedra Brown Wood recalled that when the later (1954 and 1961) subdivisions were drawn up, her family's land "went all the way over to the lake [Diamond Lakes Estates]…They sold a large portion of their land to help pay for the roads to go in" (Wood 2021). The Saunders' holdings similarly extended to Norwich Avenue.
1954 Subdivision and "Model" House Designs
Riddick sold only a few of the lots platted in 1946, but he likely spent years refining his plans. By 1954, he recorded a new plat for L & J Gardens, which is described as a "resubdivision of a portion of L & J Sites" (PAC MB 37:19). The 1954 plat included the area of Norwich Avenue, Fairlawn Avenue, Maywood Boulevard, and a small portion of Tajo Avenue (not then named) with a total of 59 lots, most of which encompassed about 1/3 of an acre. An advertisement for the grand opening of the model home in the new development published in the July 23, 1955, edition of the Journal and Guide newspaper promised a "whole new way of life…in a clean, fresh beautiful wooded suburban area…with each home built on a minimum site of 100 by 145 feet" (New Journal and Guide 1955). Herolin DeLoatch, who was a builder by trade, designed four model homes that were available for construction in L & J Gardens. Three of the designs were three-bedroom Ranch-style houses, two with a side-gable roof and one with a gable-on-hip roof; the fourth model was a Split-Level design. All of the model houses were of brick construction. The first houses constructed in the neighborhood were clustered on the east side of the north end of Fairlawn Avenue; according to local property cards, five houses in a row were completed and sold in 1955: 1056, 1060, 1064, 1068, and 1072 Fairlawn Avenue. These five houses are all slightly different and represent three of the four repeated model designs.
One of these houses, 1060 Fairlawn Avenue, is the earliest example of the model home shown in the 1955 Journal and Guide advertisement. This one-story, brick-clad Ranch house is covered by a side-gable roof with a projecting shed-roofed garage bay on the north end. A brick chimney pierces the front slope of the roof. The front elevation holds five bays, including the garage. The wood, paneled overhead garage door in the northernmost bay appears to be original. The main entrance, centered on the facade, is flanked to the north by a picture window with one-over-one sidelights and to the south by two, two-pane slider windows. Window openings are detailed with brick rowlock sills. The brick entrance stoop retains its original wood screen on the south side. This model also has a built-in brick planter that extends below the picture window from the side of the brick stoop to the side wall of the projecting garage bay. The original shed-roofed, screened porch on the back of the house remains intact. This house was purchased by Arthur J. Harper and his wife, Marguerite, in 1955 for $16,000. Mr. Harper worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 40 years, while Mrs. Harper was a substitute teacher. Another early example of this model is 5809 Tajo Avenue. According to local records, a building permit for this house was issued in July 1955 to Walter Riddick; Riddick sold the completed house to Mary Wheeler Newsome in January 1956 for $15,900. Out of 36 existing dwellings that DeLoatch is known to have built in L & J Gardens, nine are executed in this design.
Another DeLoatch-designed Ranch house that was used repeatedly in L & J Gardens featured a side-gable roof and an integrated one-car garage that was flush with the house (rather than the projecting, shed-roofed garage bay found on the model described above). This difference in the garage design was the only exterior difference between the two models. The best example of this model is 1017 Fairlawn Avenue. Built in 1957, this one-story, brick-clad Ranch house is covered by a side-facing gable roof with weatherboard in the gable ends. A brick chimney projects through the front slope of the roof. The five-bay front elevation includes an attached garage in the northernmost bay, which is enclosed by a wood, paneled overhead door. The centrally located entrance is flanked by a three-pane picture window on the north and two, two-pane slider windows to the south. Each opening is detailed with a brick rowlock sill and louvered shutters. The entrance is accessed from a brick stoop that retains its original wood screen on the south side and is edged by a metal rail. A built-in brick planter extends from the stoop to the garage bay. An original shed-roofed screened porch on the rear elevation was incrementally enclosed–first with a brick half wall, then with jalousie windows, and finally fully enclosed with brick and used as an interior living space. This house was built for Mountain Bowe, a graduate of St. Paul's College who was a tailor and an employee of the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control agency, and his wife Regina, who was a physical education teacher.
Land records indicate that the earliest example of this model is 1068 Fairlawn Avenue, which was completed in 1955, though it has since received a side addition and some major alterations. Another early example is 1045 Norwich Avenue which was completed in 1956. That example is missing the original wood screen that formerly stood on the front stoop, but the house has the added detail of clinker bricks (irregular, vitrified bricks) scattered throughout the stretcher bond walls providing depth and texture to the brickwork. This brickwork detail is repeated in only a couple other examples in the neighborhood. There are only five houses executed using this design in L & J Gardens.
By far the most popular of the original designs was DeLoatch's gable-on-hip Ranch-style house. On the outside, this house was very similar to the side-gable designs. It was one story, of brick construction, with an integrated one-car garage in a slightly projecting bay. The five-bay facade featured a front door in the center bay that opened onto a stoop with a decorative wood screen, a built-in brick planter extending below the picture window from the stoop to the side of the garage bay, and three windows across the front, one of which was a large picture window while the other two were one-by-one sliders. The only major difference between the styles on the exterior was the use of a gable-on-hip roof with a hipped projecting garage bay in this model. The house at 1064 Fairlawn Avenue may be the earliest example of this model; it was purchased in 1955 by Charles J. Green and his wife, Bernice. Mr. Green was an administrator at Norfolk Community Hospital, and Mrs. Green was a teacher at Union Kempsville High School. The house retains the open shed-roofed porch on the rear elevation, although it is missing the decorative screen beside the front door. The house at 6004 Wesleyan Drive is another early example of this design; it was built in 1955 and first owned by Bernard and Shirley Brown. It also retains good integrity, including the wood screen beside the front door. Interestingly, Wesleyan Drive (then Burma Road) was not part of the original area of L & J Gardens platted in 1954, but it was part of the 1946 plat for L & J Sites. Another good example of the gable-on-hip model, built in 1957, is 1029 Fairlawn Avenue. Unlike the two earlier examples, this house retains what appear to be original window sash, including a large picture window comprised of nine rectangular panes, some of which tilt open. This window extends from nearly floor to ceiling and, if not original, is the same size as the original window. There are 15 examples of the gable-on-hip model in the neighborhood.
The fourth model that early buyers in L & J Gardens had to choose from was a Split-Level design and only four examples of this design were constructed in the neighborhood. The earliest, built in 1957, is 1048 Fairlawn Avenue. Unlike many Split-Level houses, which are often one story on one side of the main entrance and two stories on the other, the Split-Level model used in L & J Gardens is one story in the front and two stories in the back. The house at 1048 Fairlawn is clad with red brick laid in a stretcher bond pattern and is covered by a side-facing gable roof with a cross gable wing at the front. At present, the front gable and the second story of the house in the rear are clad with vinyl siding. The one-car attached garage, which is set at a lower level than the main section of the house, extends from the north end of the house and holds an overhead door on the front. A one-story, flat-roofed addition extends from the south end of the house. The dwelling's facade holds an entrance bay and a three-part window (picture window with slider sidelights). A similar, but smaller, three-part window and a fixed window are on the facade of the projecting front gable wing. The entrance door is accessed from a set of brick steps that open to the side (north), rather than the front (west); a metal handrail extends along the side of the steps. Other details on the house include an interior brick chimney on the front slope of the house roof, and brick rowlock sills and paneled shutters at the window openings. This house was built for John L. Perry, an eminent educator and the first Black member of the Virginia Beach City Council, and his wife Ellen. Mr. Perry taught at the National Science Foundation Institute for High School Teachers at American University, then taught for 39 years in Norfolk and Virginia Beach public schools. Mrs. Perry worked at Norfolk State College and was a librarian at Booker T. Washington High School.
Other examples of this model are found at 5805 and 5809 Maywood Boulevard and 1033 Dulcie Avenue. The house at 5805 Maywood Boulevard was built in 1959, while the other two were completed in 1963. The Split-Level examples on Maywood Boulevard are the only two that retain the original hood detail in the front facing gable, and the house at 5805 Maywood Boulevard has the added detail of clinker bricks randomly scattered throughout the stretcher bond brick walls.
The house that Daniel W. and Margaret Davis had built at 1057 Fairlawn Avenue is based on one of DeLoatch's Ranch house designs with modifications to the plan (Trina Davis Rollins and Margaret T. Davis, personal communication, 2021). According to his daughter, Daniel Davis, who worked at the Norfolk Naval Base in public works and was a contractor, purchased the property around 1960 and built the house himself the following year. The original DeLoatch design had one bathroom, three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and attached one-car garage. Davis added a bathroom to the master bedroom, converted the dining area into a family room, and enlarged the garage for two cars. Davis also enlarged the size of the bathroom and added walk-in closets.
1961 Expansion and Significant Designers
In 1961, Riddick and his partners expanded L & J Gardens to its current size (PAC MB 54:38). Herolin DeLoatch does not seem to have been formally involved in the development of the second half of the neighborhood, but Riddick had the support and backing of 17 others who owned property within the expansion area. Some of these individuals simply allowed their property to be included within the boundaries of the subdivision, while others, like Elmer and Emerson Harris, invested financially in the expansion and were co-developers of the project. In October 1961, Riddick recorded a new plat for the area between State Route #13 (present Northampton Boulevard), Burma Road (present Wesleyan Drive), and Fairlawn Avenue. The new section connected to the original neighborhood along Water Works Road and Tajo Avenue, and included new streets named Dulcie Avenue and Youlous Avenue. Forty-six new building lots are shown on this plat. The expanded area incorporated, and excluded for sale, Riddick's existing house at the corner of Northampton Boulevard and Wesleyan Drive and two other preexisting houses on Wesleyan Drive–the Saunders House (6008 Wesleyan Drive, 134-5608-0113) and the Brown House (6004 Wesleyan Drive, 134-5608-0012). Because it had been previously subdivided into two lots, the parcel at the southwestern corner of Fairlawn Avenue and Tajo Avenue, the original Lot 5 of L & J Sites that was owned by Dr. John Sydnor, also was excluded from sale but was incorporated into the 1961 expansion (PAC MB 49:47).
The design of the L & J Gardens expansion was identical to the original portion and there is no obvious seam between the two. The lots are approximately the same size along the interior roads of Tajo, Dulcie, and Youlous, and along the southern portion of Burma Road, with the same 40-foot building setback shown. The exception was Riddick's own property, which was much larger. The four lots that front onto State Route #13 are also much larger than the interior lots—about three or four times as large. The 1961 expansion area also included two cul-de-sacs at the ends of Tajo Avenue and Youlous Avenue, although the one at the end of Tajo is oddly shaped due to the boundary lines with Riddick's own property; the one at the end of Youlous is not a true cul-de-sac as it includes an intersection with Dulcie Avenue.
Architecturally, the houses that were built in the 1961 expansion area are very similar to those built in the original section of the neighborhood. A notable difference between the two sections is that the four original models designed by Riddick and DeLoatch were not widely used in the second half of the neighborhood, suggesting that DeLoatch had moved on to other projects. There are only two examples of DeLoatch's model designs in this part of the neighborhood: the house at 6004 Wesleyan, which was built in 1955 and predates the platting of this part of the development, and the house at 1033 Dulcie Avenue, which is one of only four examples of the Split-Level model. Similarities between the houses in the original section of L & J Gardens and those in the 1961 expansion include the predominant use of brick construction, the use of Ranch or Split-Level designs, and original attached garages.
A self-taught architectural designer, Donald Robinson, who designed his own house at 1033 Norwich Avenue, reportedly designed as many as twelve of the houses along Tajo and Dulcie Avenues. Renowned Black architect William Milligan, Jr., designed several houses, including his own dwelling at 1009 Dulcie Avenue. Other houses were a collaborative effort between the original owners, who utilized house plans and designs from magazines or built examples, and their builders.
Donald L. Robinson attended Virginia State University where he earned a B.S. in Industrial Arts Education and enrolled in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. He served as Battalion Commander and upon graduation was commissioned as Second Lieutenant, Quartermaster Corps, U.S. Army Reserve. He was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. Following his service, he earned a master's degree in Public School Administration. He served in a variety of positions with the City of Norfolk Public School system in both the classroom and administration. He was a Shop Teacher in the Carpentry and Wood Shop, Industrial Arts and Drafting Teacher, and was principal and assistant principal at various schools and facilities throughout the school district (Graves Funeral Home 2019). He and his wife, Jacquetta, bought Lot 12 in L & J Gardens in 1963 and Robinson designed and built their house at 1033 Norwich Avenue. This one-story, brick-clad Ranch house is covered by a hipped roof with a projecting hip-roofed wing on the north end (a former garage, now enclosed). Details on the house include a soldier course of brick at the top of the exterior brick walls, rowlock sills at all window openings, and a brick interior chimney located on the north end of the roof ridge.
According to his son, Tracy Robinson, and another neighborhood resident, Robinson went on to design as many as twelve additional houses in the neighborhood, primarily in the western half of the neighborhood along Dulcie and Tajo Avenues (Tracy Robinson, personal communication, 2021). The same year he designed and built his own house on Norwich Avenue, Robinson also designed a house for the Shropshire family at 5908 Tajo Avenue. According to the local tax records, this house was built in 1963 for Robert L. and Helen P. Shropshire and remains in the Shropshire family today. Like his own house on Norwich Avenue, Robinson designed the Shropshire House as a brick Ranch-style house with a low-pitched hipped roof and a long rectangular footprint. It features a combination of double-hung and picture windows, rowlock sills, and a brick soldier course detail at the cornice.
Also in 1963, Robinson designed the house built for Joseph G. and Clara H. Echols at 5913 Tajo Avenue. This two-story, brick house has a side-gable roof and one-story wings off the east and west sides. The east wing is a two-bay attached garage with a side-gable roof, while the west wing is a one-bay addition (ca. 1965) with a side-gable roof. This two-story, four-bay-wide house appears to have a modified Split-Level form, with the southern two bays of the house at a lower level than the northern two bays. The front door is sheltered by a shed-roofed entry porch supported by trellised metal supports above a brick stoop. To the right of the front door on the first story is a tripartite picture window with a 24-light fixed window flanked by narrow six-over-six double-hung windows. To the left of the door are two six-over-six double-hung windows. The four second-story windows are all paired six-over-six double-hung sash. All of the windows appear to be original wood sash. This two-story block of the house is flanked by exterior end brick chimneys on either side. The one-story west wing addition has a large picture window on the front elevation that matches the other one on the facade, and this addition also appears to be in between the first and second stories of the main block. Both Joseph and Clara Echols worked at Norfolk State University, he in the Physical Education department while she was a mathematician. The house is currently owned by their niece, Maia Chaka, who is a health and physical education teacher in the City of Virginia Beach public schools and is distinguished as the first Black female to officiate a game in the National Football League (Farrington 2021).
While Donald Robinson was leaving his mark along Tajo Avenue in the early 1960s, well-known Black architect William "Bill" Milligan, Jr. was also designing several houses in L & J Gardens. Milligan earned his bachelor's degree from Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) before joining the U.S. Army. Following his service, he joined the architectural office of Henry L. Livas, AIA, Architect and Associated (now known as The Livas Group, Inc.). The firm was established in 1948 by Henry L. Livas and was the only African American-owned architectural firm in the area at the time. From 1960 to 1964, Bill Milligan was the only employee in the newly-opened Norfolk office, which handled all work and acquisitions of new business at a time when racial biases limited the firm's professional opportunities. Milligan also served as a substitute teacher in Norfolk public schools and mentored countless youth through his involvement in various organizations. In 1965, Milligan designed his own house in L & J Gardens at 1009 Dulcie Avenue.
Milligan's Modernist-influenced, one-story, frame house has a very low-pitched front-gable roof and a roughly square footprint. Walls are clad with a mixture of stone, brick, and wood board-and-batten siding. The facade is three bays wide, not including the attached one-bay carport. The main entrance is in the center bay and consists of a single-leaf door protected by a glass storm door and flanked by narrow sidelights with patterned yellow glass. The entrance bay is edged by spans of cut ashlar stone. There is a brick stoop at the entrance that is sheltered by the house's wide, overhanging eave. The end bays of the facade feature single-light, wood frame windows located at the corners of the house. Windows on the side elevations are paired casements. The walls below the windows are clad with stretcher bond brick, while the wall space in between windows is clad with vertical board-and-batten wooden siding. The semi-detached carport is located on the north side of the main block of the house. An addition to the rear of the carport was made in 1987, according to tax records for the property, and the carport seems to be attached to the main block of the house via this addition. The carport has a shed roof at the same angle as the slope of the roof on the main house and is supported by square posts clad with wood panels set on concrete bases. There are two interior brick chimneys, one much larger than the other. This house has an interior courtyard.
Several years after designing his own house, Milligan drew the plans for a neighboring dwelling. In 1967, John H. and Margaret A. Finney hired Milligan to design their house at 1013 Dulcie Avenue (John and Margaret Finney, personal communication, 2021). More typical of the other houses in the neighborhood, the Finney House is a one-story, double-pile, Ranch-style dwelling with a side-gable roof
characterized by a low slope and a wide eave overhang. Walls are clad with stretcher brick bond and the roof features a large projecting cross gable on the front, which is detailed with wood siding. A corner of this projecting gable creates an engaged entry porch over the main entrance. To the right of the entrance are two eight-over-eight double-hung wood windows, while to the left is a large, 12-light picture window. A pair of casement windows with diamond-shaped panes is located to the left of the picture window. The incorporated one-car garage is sheltered by a shed-roofed projection on the north end of the facade and is clad with board-and-batten siding. Almost 40 years later, Milligan designed another house in L & J Gardens at 1008 Dulcie Avenue. That house is a non-contributing resource to the district because it is postdates the district's period of significance, but it is compatible with the overall scale and aesthetic of the neighborhood.
While some owners, like the Finneys, hired an architect to design a new house in L & J Gardens, others actively participated in the design of their own homes. John W. Munford and his wife, Levon, purchased Lot 41 in L & J Gardens in 1969. Munford, who still lives in his house at 1025 Dulcie Avenue), designed the house himself and worked with a builder to execute his vision. He stated that he had to submit his plans for his house to developers and property owners Emerson and Elmer Harris for their approval before they would sell him the lot (John Munford, personal communication, 2021). Like the other houses in L & J Gardens, the Munford house has predominantly brick walls and features an integrated two-car garage. It is one of the few full two-story houses in the neighborhood.
Developer Emerson Harris knew about designing one's own house, as he had done the same several years earlier. The Harris brothers, Emerson and Elmer, who were twins, purchased six acres along present day Wesleyan Drive in the late 1950s at the same time that Walter Riddick was developing the first half of L & J Gardens. The Harrises both worked for the Naval Supply Center in Norfolk but had difficulty in finding decent housing in the city (a common problem for middle-class Black residents, see Section 8). They purchased property from Riddick with the intention of building houses for themselves. Before they executed their vision, Riddick approached them about joining him in his effort to expand the L & J Gardens neighborhood (Emerson Harris, personal communication, 2018 and 2021). Riddick wanted to incorporate their land, along with several other parcels in the vicinity owned by others, with his own, and solicited their financial backing in his efforts to expand his subdivision plan. The Harrises agreed to become partners in the venture and supplied both their land, their financial support, and their active participation in the development of the second half of L & J Gardens.
Both Harrises retained ownership of property within the newly platted development and in 1962, they built houses for themselves on adjacent lots at 1020 and 1024 Dulcie Avenue. Emerson Harris reports that for the design of his own house he found a picture in a magazine of a house that he liked and asked builder Herolin DeLoatch to replicate it. Emerson Harris' house at 1020 Dulcie Avenue is a one-story, double-pile, brick Ranch-style house covered by a hipped roof with a projecting hipped garage bay. The facade is five bays wide, including the two-car garage, and the front entrance is located in the center bay. The solid door has a mid-20th century panel design with three square panels vertically aligned, each with a bull's eye motif in the center. This door is protected by a glass storm door and opens onto a brick stoop with metal railings. To the left of the door are two one-over-one, double-hung windows. To the right of the door is a large picture window consisting of five vertical casement windows. The two-car garage is in the right end bay. The most prominent design feature on this house is a massive, rectangular brick chimney that extends perpendicularly through the front wall of the house beside the front door. The chimney is textured with rough clinker bricks scattered randomly throughout the bond. The walls of the house are of reddish-brown bricks laid in a stretcher bond, and also has scattered clinker bricks throughout. The roof is covered with asphalt shingles and has a wide eave overhang. Elmer Harris built a Ranch house next door at 1024 Dulcie Avenue the same year. The Harrises lived next door to each other, with their wives, until Elmer Harris' death in 2014. Mr. Emerson Harris continues to reside in his house at the age of 98; he is the last surviving member of the original developers of L & J Gardens.
Ranch-style houses, like those built by the Harris brothers, are the most prevalent in L & J Gardens, but there are several excellent examples of Split-Level dwellings. While the DeLoatch-designed Split Levels (described above) featured an atypical arrangement of space, there are several examples of more traditional Split Level houses in L & J Gardens. The J. Hugo Madison house at 1001 Dulcie Avenue, completed in 1963, is an excellent example of the style . This large Split Level house is of brick and frame construction with a cross-gable roof. The one-story section of the house is brick with a side-gable roof while the two-story section has brick on the first story and vertical wood siding or paneling on the second story and a front gable roof. The main entrance is roughly centered on the house between the two sections and is sheltered by an engaged porch. The porch roof is supported by a brick side wall decorated with large square cutouts in the brickwork. The double-leaf entrance has two glazed doors with leaded glass and a large square fixed transom above. To the left of the entrance, in the one-story section of the house, is a large 25-light curving bay window. There are two window bays on the two-story section of the house; windows have paired one-light casements that are vertically aligned. Shutters flank all windows. The house has a wide, open eave overhang and two exterior end brick chimneys. A side-entry garage is located on the southwest side of the house. Mr. Madison, who initially lived in a house on Norwich Avenue, was a prominent civil rights attorney who worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and served on the Board of Visitors and as rector at Norfolk State University.
Another excellent example of a Split-Level house is 6032 Wesleyan Drive (134-5608-0119), which is of brick and frame construction with a side entry garage on the north side. The center section of the house is two stories tall with brick on the first story and wooden shingles on the second. This section is two bays wide. A one-story wing on the south end is half a story above this first floor. The side-entry garage is located in a one-story wing on the north side of the house. The two-story center section has a front gable roof, while both side wings are covered by side-gable roofs. The main entrance is in the center section and consists of a single-leaf door protected by a louvered storm door with a large, 10-light sidelight beside it. This arrangement is framed with stone. To the left of the door is a pair of short eight-over-eight double-hung wooden windows. The two eight-over-eight double-hung wood window sash on the second story are much larger than those on the first story. The one-story wing on the south end of the house has a large, 16-light picture window, which appears to be original. The north wing (garage) has a pair of eight-over-eight double-hung windows on the facade. All windows have louvered shutters. A one-story, partial-width porch spans the first story of the two-story section of the house; the roof is an extension of the roof on the north wing. The porch roof is supported by square wood posts with shallow arches between them. There is an exterior end brick chimney on the south side of the house and an interior brick chimney on the two-story section. The brick portion of the house is laid in stretcher bond while the frame portion is clad with wooden shingles. The roof is covered with asphalt shingles. This house has excellent integrity of materials and design.
Although most of the houses in L & J Gardens are constructed of brick and can be described as either Ranch or Split Level, there are a couple of noteworthy outliers. The properties on the streets that predated the subdivision*—present-day Wesleyan Drive and Northampton Boulevard—tend to have more variation in lot size, setback, and architectural detail. On both the 1954 and 1961 plats for the neighborhood, the lots fronting Northampton Boulevard are at least four times as large as those shown on the interior of the neighborhood. A 1958 aerial photograph of the area shows four houses situated on large lots arranged along the road between the intersection with Wesleyan Drive to the west and Norwich Avenue to the east. The large brick house shown on that image at the intersection of Northampton Boulevard and Wesleyan Drive (5949 Northampton Boulevard was the Colonial Revival-style home of L & J Gardens developer Walter Riddick, discussed above, and the Sydnor House at 5913 Northampton Boulevard, also discussed above, was located to the east.
In between these two substantial dwellings is another architectural outlier–the Boyd House at 5933 Northampton Boulevard, built in 1961 for Dr. James H. Boyd, a Black dentist with an office in Norfolk. Boyd purchased the lot in 1957 and was one of the existing property owners that Walter Riddick approached about pooling their acreage and providing seed money to support the expansion of L & J Gardens in 1961. According to Emerson Harris, Boyd was one of those who agreed to provide financial support for the development. Boyd's house was a large, one-story, four-bay stone house with a side-gable roof and a front cross gable. It is connected to a side-gable, two-bay garage by a three-bay hyphen. The walls of the house are laid in coursed ashlar and there are two large exterior stone chimneys, one on the front wall of the house and one on the west wall. An engaged entry porch is located beneath the front-gable section of the house and features elaborate cast metal supports and cast metal handrails. The door is a mid-20th century flush door with diamond-shaped panels or lights in the center; it is protected by a glass and metal storm door. There is a massive, 56-light picture window to the right of the entrance; this original window has a stone sill and curves outward slightly and is either wood or metal. There are two other windows on the facade, in the front gable section, that consist of three horizontal lights. Each pane may tilt in or out. The front of the hyphen has two additional windows, one is the same three-light design while the other is smaller, and an additional entrance door. The two-bay garage has paneled overhead doors. According to tax records, this house contains over 5,000 square feet. While it is much larger than most Minimal Traditional style houses, the side-gable roof with front-facing gable, closed eaves, and one-story height make it an exuberant example of the style and an anomaly in the neighborhood. It is also the only house in L & J Gardens that appears to be built entirely of stone (others have areas of stone veneer, but this house appears to be masonry construction).
The vast majority of houses built in L & J Gardens were constructed prior to 1970—83% of the 123 primary resources. By 1970, the neighborhood was largely built out, with only a few scattered undeveloped lots; in many cases, the owners of those lots owned and lived in a house on the adjacent lot. Some of the original developers, including the Riddicks, the Harrises, and the Saunders, also retained ownership of multiple lots for several more decades. All resources built post-1970 are located in the western half of the neighborhood. Clusters of recently constructed houses are found at the western end of Tajo Avenue and the northern end of Wesleyan Drive because this acreage remained undeveloped as part of the Riddick property into the early 1980s. There are also several newer houses along Northampton Boulevard where the large parcels shown on the 1961 plat have been subdivided over the years. The new construction, however, is all single-family residential and is, in general, compatible with the historic development and architecture of the neighborhood. The new houses have the same setback as their historic neighbors and are compatible in scale. The most notable difference is the increased use of vinyl building materials and the absence of brick construction in houses built within the last twenty years. Because they were built after the significant construction period in the late 1950s and 1960s, all houses in the neighborhood that were built after 1969 are noncontributing resources within the historic district. Common Alterations
Among the contributing resources, there are some alterations that are found repeatedly throughout the district. By far the most common alteration is the replacement of original window sash. Many houses have had the original sash replaced with vinyl units, and, in some cases, this included the reduction in size of the large original picture window, which often extended to the floor on the interior. It is often easy to spot these examples by examining the brickwork below the existing window. Other common alterations include replacement of the front door and storm door, replacement of garage doors, replacement of railings around front stoops, and enclosing existing unfinished spaces, such as garages and rear screened porches, to capture more living space. Most of these alterations are minor and do not negatively impact a resource's ability to contribute to the historic significance of the neighborhood or to convey its overall historic appearance and association. Additions are less common but have occurred; one-story additions and those built on the rear or side elevation of a dwelling generally do not negatively impact the integrity of design. In a few cases, second stories have been added to original Ranch-style dwellings, which has diminished the integrity of design, workmanship, and feeling to such an extent that they are classified as non-contributing to the district.
Note: Over the years, the names of some of the roads surrounding L &J Gardens have changed. Northampton Boulevard was formerly known as Water Works Road and is also known as U.S. Route 13. Wesleyan Drive was formerly known as Burma Road. In addition, house numbers were changed around 1963 when Princess Anne County and the City of Virginia Beach merged. The original house numbers, where known, have been recorded on the individual inventory forms on file at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
L & J Gardens is significant at the statewide level under Criterion A in the areas of Ethnic Heritage (African American) and Social History (Civil Rights) as a residential subdivision owned, planned, developed, and built primarily by Black professionals and property owners and intended as a middle-class Black neighborhood during the Jim Crow era. Although other primarily Black neighborhoods existed in the surrounding municipalities of Chesapeake, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, Black neighborhoods in Princess Anne County were generally less affluent and were not planned communities. L & J Gardens provided an option for Black residents who were priced out of the Norfolk markets or could not find suitable housing for their families in other areas due to discriminatory practices. The neighborhood's location on the western end of Princess Anne County, while relatively "rural," was convenient to Norfolk and proved an attractive residential alternative to available urban options.
L & J Gardens is significant at the statewide level in the area of Social History: Civil Rights for its role as the home of numerous residents who had a direct association with significant social, professional, and political processes affecting Black citizens. The neighborhood also exemplified the methods by which Black Americans built and financed equal housing with modern infrastructure despite discriminatory practices at all levels of governments during the Jim Crow era. The development extended "the American dream of suburban life [and] home ownership to an increasing broad spectrum of Americans" (Ames and McClelland 2002:97-99). Because of its high quality of buildings, its covenant-restricted deeds, its all-owner-occupied-dwellings policy, and its convenient location, many of the original residents in L & J Gardens were professionals or white-collar workers who sought a stable neighborhood where Black residents felt safe and comfortable. Initial residents included attorneys, politicians, educators and school employees, religious leaders, military veterans and employees at local military bases, doctors, builders and masons, and U.S. Postal Service workers. Many of the residents had direct ties to Norfolk State University (formerly Norfolk State College) and Hampton University (formerly Hampton Institute), either as graduates of those institutions or as professors or employees. Several residents were teachers, coaches, or employees of the City of Norfolk, Princess Anne County, or City of Virginia Beach public school systems. Some of L & J Gardens' notable residents include Miss Hattie Goodman, who was the first Black teacher to provide high school classes to Black children in the Princess Anne County/City of Virginia Beach system. Several of the attorneys who lived in L & J Gardens operated their own practices and were active participants in civil rights issues of the times, including the establishment of Black schools in Princess Anne County/City of Virginia Beach, voting rights, and housing issues. Residents who played significant roles in local Civil Rights campaigns included Victor J. Ashe, a Navy veteran who was a trailblazing attorney and community leader in Norfolk, and J. Hugo Madison, a lawyer for the Norfolk Chapter of the NAACP, member of the Norfolk State Board of Visitors, and owner of Norfolk's Journal and Guide newspaper. Both attorneys played pivotal roles in the desegregation of Norfolk Public Schools, and improvements in Princess Anne County/Virginia Beach schools. Robert L. Hagans, Jr., who served a term as Chairman of the Virginia Beach School Board, was appointed as a judge on the Norfolk Circuit Court and Virginia Beach District Court. Upon his election in 1986, resident John L. Perry, who was a science teacher at Booker T. Washington High School, became the first Black member of the Virginia Beach City Council.
L & J Gardens residents also were highly active members of local chapters of Black Greek fraternities and sororities, and many held national-level offices in these organizations, including Walter Riddick, who was Grand Keeper of Records and Seal, and a National Chair of the Life Membership Committee of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Residents participated in other social and family-oriented organizations including churches, lodges, and professional organizations including regional and state bar associations, architectural associations, and institutional boards.
L & J Gardens residents were influential in their neighborhoods, their regional communities, and their professions. In these capacities they influenced Civil Rights Movement policies that affected Black people throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia and the neighborhood itself became recognized as a community of affluence and importance. Through their active participation in statewide and national organizations, they also influenced policies that improved opportunities for citizens of all races. L & J Gardens was an example in self-determination and was a neighborhood of citizens who became actively engaged in the governmental and educational processes and organizations that significantly influenced and improved the quality of life for their families and other Black families in the community.
Architecture and Community Planning and Development
L & J Gardens is significant at the statewide level under Criterion C in the areas of Architecture and Community Planning and Development as a Black-owned neighborhood associated with Walter Riddick and Elizabeth Riddick Harrison Morgan, developers, and Herolin S. DeLoatch, Sr., builder. The Riddick family was the driving force behind the concept of L & J Gardens and was instrumental in gathering investors for the eventual realization of the subdivision. A mortician by trade, Walter Riddick was a local influencer in the acquisition of land and encouraged homeownership among the Black community. Dr. Elizabeth Riddick Harrison Morgan was an educator who began her career as a math teacher and guidance counselor in the City of Norfolk public school system, was the director of guidance and counseling at Norfolk State University and co-founded the Black Child Development Institute of Williamsburg. Herolin S. DeLoatch, Sr., took over his father's Portsmouth-based construction firm in 1945 and became well known for building hundreds of houses in the Tidewater area, as well as commercial buildings. These individuals were instrumental in developing a mid-20th century, middle-class, African American community in Princess Anne County on land that had been part of a nineteenth-century slaveholding plantation.
The present configuration of L & J Gardens is the result of three major subdivisions (1946, 1954, and 1961) and later subdivisions of larger lots. The initial plat encompassed the entire area that would become L & J Gardens and depicted the surrounding roads of Water Works Road (Northampton Boulevard), Burma Road, and an unnamed road that became Norwich Avenue. The 1954 plat set out lots along Norwich Avenue, part of Fairlawn Avenue, and Maywood Boulevard. The 1961 plat set out lots on the remaining section of Fairlawn Avenue, and established lots on the adjoining land on Tajo Avenue, Dulcie Avenue, Youlous Avenue, and Wesleyan Drive (formerly Burma Road). Since that time, the boundaries and streets of L & J Gardens have remained unchanged.
The neighborhood represents a distinguishable entity whose individual components reflect a common character and visual unity. The initial dwellings were Ranch and Split-Level styles of brick construction with attached garages. Herolin DeLoatch, a graduate of Hampton Institute (today's Hampton University) and a U.S. Army veteran, took over his father's Portsmouth-based construction business. Although much of DeLoatch's work was commercial, his personal relationship with Riddick drew him to L & J Gardens as an initial investor and the designer and builder of most of the first homes in the neighborhood. Current research has not revealed DeLoatch's involvement in any other residential subdivision construction projects, making L & J Gardens the sole representative of this part of his career. Current research has identified 36 L & J Gardens houses as DeLoatch designs with 32 constructed prior to 1960. Other Black architects and builders later contributed to L & J Gardens including William Milligan, Jr., James A. Richardson, Donald L. Robinson, Thomas L. Marshall, and Napoleon B. Yarn. Its concentration of the works of Black developers, architects, designers, and builders adds to the statewide significance of the L & J Gardens Neighborhood Historic District in the areas of Architecture and Community Planning and Development.
† Adapted from. Architectural Historians: Debra A. McClane and Kristin H. Kirchen; Historians: Edna Hawkins-Hendrix and Dr. Joanne H. Lucas, L & J Gardens Nomination Team, L & J Gardens Neighborhood Historic District. nomination document, 2022, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Dulcie Avenue • Fairlawn Avenue • Northampton Road • Norwich Avenue • Weslyan Drive