Spartina’s Cameo


Born and raised in Norfolk, VA, I watched a recent video of the town’s recent  “reinvention” with much interest. One fellow in the film comments that the town has been burned to the ground twice. It is its military and transportation significance that has drawn such attention. Norfolk’s Naval Base and Air Station is reputed to be the world’s largest. The first burning was led by Loyalist Governor Lord Dunmore who, with his three ships, shelled the city, destroying 800 buildings (or 2/3’s of the city). The Patriots then burned the balance of their town (that’s commitment), leaving only the walls of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church standing. A cannonball remains today in one of the church walls. That razing was on New Years of 1776. In 1804 a second destruction resulted from fire breaking out along the waterfront. Some 300 buildings were lost then. One could argue that a third destruction has been ongoing since then as Norfolk is landlocked by the Elizabeth River, Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay. Recent history has forced choosing between what to keep and what to let go. The town is confined to a footprint that cannot expand. However, neighbors Portsmouth and Chesapeake may raise objections to that statement as all three push to grow and prosper in the region.

This black and white film drew nostalgia for my hometown and though I’ve lived away from Norfolk for too many years, I still consider her home. As I viewed familiar sights and heard names with nostalgia, the sails of a small yawl briefly slid across the screen. I immediately recognized them belonging to Steve Early’s “Spartina” and forwarded the video to him for viewing. He posted it with more comments in his blog. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Spartina graces the Elizabeth River.

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