The history of the Olde Towne Historic District is the early history of the City of Portsmouth. A ferry connection between Portsmouth and Norfolk existed as early as 1636 although the town was not platted until 1752. In that year, Colonel William Crawford gave 65 acres for the establishment of the town. The 20 blocks that comprise the Olde Towne Historic District are located in the northeastern section of the city and overlook Crawford Bay. The early townscape was laid out based on a grid pattern, with wide and narrow streets alternating and quarter block lots laid out in squares. The four corners at High and Court streets were reserved for public use such as a courthouse, market, jail and church and are included in the Downtown Portsmouth Historic District. Eleven years later the town was extended to a half-mile square, more than double its original size, through the annexation of the land west to Chestnut Street previously owned by Thomas Veale. The oldest historic district in Portsmouth, Olde Towne was placed on the National Register in 1970, preceded by local review that began in 1967. In 1983, the boundaries of the district were increased to include a late- nineteenth to early-twentieth century residential neighborhood including a row of five houses historically occupied by African-American residents. The extension also includes the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, the first church built by and for African Americans in the city and home to the oldest black congregation in southeastern Virginia.(Courtesy of Portsmouth Department of Planning)
The oldest historic district in Portsmouth, Olde Towne was placed on the National Register in 1970.
Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia 23704
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