Discover the magic!

The Olde Towne experience has been treasured by visitors the world over-an opportunity to shop our fine antique shops, visit our galleries and unique specialty stores, enjoy excellent dining, both indoors and out in one of our many fine restaurants and pubs. Discover all of the magic yourself.
Discover Olde Towne Portsmouth!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia Square(d)- The Portsmouth Heritage Initiative

by Joe Elder

A respectable turnout of Portsmouth residents, members of the press, City of Portsmouth
A map of Portsmouth, Virginia, 1851 showing
the original names of the town squares.
Department Heads including Portsmouth City Manager Dr. Lydia Patton were present late morning for the inaugural installation of the corner stones to be laid in place, naming the historic squares as originally laid out in 1751 by Colonel William Crawford, the  founder of the town of Portsmouth, Virginia. The stones were presented by the Portsmouth Heritage Initiative under the direction by founder Aaron Kelley, with the first two historic square stones located on opposite sides of the two hundred block of High Street.

The Portsmouth Heritage Initiative project titled "Portsmouth Square(d)" was introduced by Aaron Kelley who discussed the history of the original town plan designed by Colonel William Crawford in 1752 and the significance of the size and scope of the square installations planned for installation over the next year and how it compares in importance to similar port cities like Savannah, Georgia that was laid out in squares in the 1730's similar to Portsmouth, Virginia. Aaron expressed the importance of preserving our history and presenting it through creative incentives as a way to demonstrate it to others.

Planned installations of the historic squares. High Street squares are shown in yellow, historic Olde Towne district in green and new towne in orange.

Other remarks were made by Portsmouth's mayor Kenny Wright followed by The Olde Towne Business Association's President, Tony Goodwin. The mayor also expressed his thoughts
Major Kenny Wright and Portsmouth Heritage
Initiative Director Aaron Kelley prepare to
install the first square marker.
concerning the importance of preserving our cities history and that we should learn from it as we move forward into the future. These remarks were followed by the reading of declaration by Paul Danaher and a praise by Ricky Price, actor Colonel Crawford in costume. The ceremony was completed with closing remarks by Aaron Kelley, and the first stone "Golden Square" installed  by Aaron Kelley and Mayor Kenny Wright adjacent to the Portsmouth Towne Bank building, and in front of the bronze sculpture of Colonel William Crawford. This was followed immediately with the installation of "Bloomsberry Square" stone on the opposite corner of the two hundred block of High Street.

The Portsmouth Heritage Initiative was formed to illuminate and enhance the rich history of the City of Portsmouth through education, marketing, and tourism promotion. We believe that our history is one of the city’s greatest competitive advantages. This was the second heritage initiative with the first being the dramatic silhouette wall mural painting along the historic Cedar Grove Cemetery wall on Effingham Street depicting the battle of Craney Island that took place here in Portsmouth during the War of 1812.

The inaugural stone square marker installed at Golden Square
in front of Towne Bank.

For more information about Portsmouth's historic squares, go to my blog http://oldetowneportsmouth.blogspot.com/2016/05/portsmouth-squared-inaugural.html

Friday, May 27, 2016

Portsmouth Square(d) Inaugural Installation of Olde Towne Cornerstones

Portsmouth, VA – The Portsmouth Heritage Initiative will lay the inaugural stone in the Portsmouth Squared project on Friday, June 3, 2016 at 11:30AM.  The ceremony will be held at Golden Square – 200 High Street, at the intersection of High & Crawford Streets.




Portsmouth, the first city in Hampton Roads, was well planned from its inception in 1752. Much like its British port counterpart in Savannah, Georgia, Portsmouth was laid out in a series of squares.  Many squares were labeled to designate the desired use for the property (i.e. CHURCH, MARKET, PRISON).  With help from the writings of many Portsmouth historians and a found portion of an 1851 map, we were able to identify the square names used throughout the original boundaries of the city.  The Portsmouth Heritage Initiative plans to place granite footers at the corner of each Olde Towne intersection to commemorate each square’s historical significance. Our hope is to bring the community together to celebrate and market our old world charm while restoring a sense of place to this seaport city. 

The Portsmouth Heritage Initiative plans to place granite 
footers at the corner of each Olde Towne intersection to commemorate each square’s historical significance.

Portsmouth gets its name from the English naval port of Portsmouth, England. The town was laid out checkerboard style with 122 half-acre lots around its town square at High and Court streets. Streets were organized in a grid pattern with street widths alternating between 32, 50 and 100 feet. Each block or square was named for noted Virginians, Englishmen, or places in England or the United States.
Streets were named similarly. High Street was named for the main commercial corridor in Portsmouth, England. It is 100 feet wide, with two narrow parallel streets of 32-foot widths (Queen and King streets), located to the north and south. Narrower streets served as alleys for High Street, facilitating the access to commercial buildings from the rear. For more information about Portsmouths historic squares, go to:  http://oldetowneportsmouth.blogspot.com/2012/10/12-historic-squares-of-high-street-olde.html


Portsmouth Heritage Initiative was formed by Aaron Kelley to illuminate and enhance the rich history of the City of Portsmouth through education, marketing, and tourism promotion. We believe that our history is one of the city’s greatest competitive advantages.

 If you would like more information about the Portsmouth Heritage Initiative, a donor-funded non-profit organization, or the Portsmouth Squared Project, please contact Aaron Kelley at 757-478-3888 or email at portsmouthheritage@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Commodore Richard Dale, USN, (1756-1826)

Richard Dale was born in Norfolk County, Virginia, on 6 November 1756. He went to sea at the age of twelve and had command of several merchant vessels before his twentieth birthday. After the outbreak of the American Revolution, Dale became an officer in the Virginia State Navy. Taken Lexington. That vessel's Commanding Officer, John Barry, persuaded young Dale to return to the American cause.
Portrait of Commodore Richard Dale
in uniform.
Taken prisoner by the British, he joined the Loyalist forces but was subsequently captured by the Continental Brig
He was an officer on Lexington from mid-1776 until she was taken by the British cutter Alert on 19 September 1777. Imprisoned in England, Dale twice escaped, finally making his way to France. His next position was as a Lieutenant on board the Continental warship Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones. He performed valiantly during her desperate fight with HMS Serapis on 23 September 1779. For the remainder of the war, Dale served in the frigates Alliance and Trumbull, and was Commanding Officer of the privateer Queen of France.
After the Revolution Dale was again a merchant marine officer. When the United States established its Navy in 1794, he was one of the first six men appointed to the rank of Captain, though the Navy's lack of ships ensured that he was primarily employed in commercial trade for the next four years. In 1798, after undeclared war began with France, Dale took command of USS Ganges, in which he cruised in search of enemy shipping. Returning to the merchant marine, he made a cruise to China in 1799. In 1801 Captain Dale was given command of a U.S. Navy squadron and sent to the Mediterranean Sea to confront the piratical states along the North African coast. Relieved of this command in 1802, after a successful cruise, he resigned his commission shortly afterwards.

Commodore Richard Dale monument located on
Washington Street in Olde Towne Portsmouth, VA.
Dale spent the rest of his life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was a prominent citizen and was active in local defense efforts during the War of 1812. Richard Dale died in that city on 26 February 1826.
The U.S. Navy has named five ships in honor of Richard Dale, including: USS Dale (1840-1921); USS Dale (Destroyer # 4), 1902-1920; USS Dale (Destroyer # 290, later DD-290), 1920-1931; USS Dale (DD-353), 1935-1946; and USS Dale (DLG-19, later CG-19), 1963-2000.

*History reprinted from the Naval Historic Association.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 STEEPLE TO STEEPLE TOUR IN OLDE TOWNE PORTSMOUTH, VA

Saturday, May 9, 2015
Start starts at 9:00 am  (includes lunch with the price of a ticket) and ends at 3:00 pm. The tour begins at St. Paul's Catholic Church (Corner of Washington & High Streets)

Portsmouth’s annual Steeple To Steeple church and synagogue tour takes you inside seven of Hampton Roads most interesting and beautiful churches as well as the Chevra T'helim synagogue.

It starts at St. Paul’s Catholic Church on the corner of Washington and High streets. St. Paul’s stunning German glass from the early years of the twentieth century has just been cleaned as have its many murals and statuary.

Other church interiors on the tour are Trinity Church, from 1762, with its six windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany (on his pencil list and so done by him, not Tiffany and Co.), painted windows from the 1850's and Civil War era and rare English White Friars windows.


Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, perhaps the oldest black congregation in the nations, with handsome ceiling murals, pews hand hewn by slaves, hiding places on the “underground railroad,” and slave made stained glass and ironwork.

St. John’s Church in high Victorian style with what is thought to be the largest window ever made by Tiffany and Company; Monumental Methodist which claims to be the oldest continuously operating Methodist congregation in the South and third oldest in the nation.

Chevra Thelim synagogue, recently restored as a museum with a Holocaust Torah; First Presbyterian with two-hundred year old English pews and rare English stenciled glass windows.

Court Street Baptist which is one of only two Baptist churches in the nation in the Romanesque Revival style - inside its dozens of stained glass windows in gold and pink fill the interior with a golden glow.

The tour starts at 9:00 am Saturday, May 9th, with lunch (included in the price of the ticket) and ends at 3:00 pm. It is led by three costumed interpreters, among them: Colonel William Crawford, the town’s founder, and the Rev. John Braidfoot, the second rector of the Colonial church.

Tickets are $21 in advance (limit 100 people). For tickets contact Clifford Harbin (committee chair) at 757-575-8594, or  Dean Burgess, 757-393-0973 or at redlion3@juno.com, or send your check to Steeple to Steeple , P. O. Box 126, Portsmouth, VA 23705-0126 (made out to Steeple To Steeple ). Tickets are $20 in advance, $21 if ordered online and $25 on teh day of teh walk. The tour starts at Saint Paul’s Catholic Church (518 High Street, corner of Washington Street). All profits go to the HER Shelter for battered women in Portsmouth. All the churches are handicapped accessible, but please note your special needs in advance. http://www.steepletosteeple.com/

http://oldetowneportsmouth.com/events/

Contact Clifford King Harbin, Committee Chair
704-575-8594
757-759-7371
and Dean Burgess
P. O. Box 126, Portsmouth, VA 23705-0126
757-393-0973
redlion3@juno.com


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Olde Towne Scottish Walk. Happy Hogmanay!

Flag bearers at the start of the Olde Towne Scottish Walk.

Each New Year's Eve, people from all around eastern Virginia, come to Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia for the annual Scottish Walk. Modeled after Scotland's Hogmanay Festival, a day when townspeople honor their community and merchants and offer blessings for prosperity in the coming year. The procession includes  locals, family, friends and visitors led by pipe-and-drum bands. The participants gather at the corner of  Queen and Washington streets and march through the historic streets of Olde Towne ending at the High Street Landing where all  join hands and sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’.

Some of our Scottish youth carries the banner for the Scottish
Society of Tidewater,Virginia. 

The Story Behind the Music: ‘Auld Lang Syne’

Many people are familiar with ‘Auld Lang Syne’ yet few may actually know what 'Auld Lang Syne' is all about.  Of course, many people will instantly associate the words with "Scotland" or perhaps ‘New Year’.  Some people consider it to be an international expression of friendship, fellowship and hope.  Others perceive it to be a simple song, presented at the conclusion of a social gathering, remembering the past and re-affirming the importance of our future, and those important to us.  Of course ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is ALL of these things! 

Carrying the colors.

"Auld Lang Syne" is a Scottish poem that was written by Robert Burns in 1788 and set to the tune of a traditional folk song.  It is well known in many English-speaking (and other) countries and is often sung to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight.  Canadian band leader Guy Lombardo is often credited with popularizing the use of the song at New Year’s celebrations in America, through his annual broadcasts on radio and television, beginning in 1929. The song became his trademark.

The Rampant Lion/The Royal Arms of Scotland.
Kilts and tartans.

and Lassie too!

Ready to march through historic Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia.

Waiting for the rifle salute that starts the Scottish Walk.

Susan Healey. The grand lady!

The Scottish Society of Tidewater.

The procession though Olde Towne begins.

Walking along Washington Street, Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia.

Happy New Years to all!
Photos by Joe Elder.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Commodore Theatre Celebrates 25 Years of Excellence

The Commodore Theatre in Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia.
The Commodore Theatre will celebrate 25 years to the day that it re-opened as the restored Commodore Theatre with a new vision of first-run movies and fine dining, the first such cinema-eatery in the country.

The Commodore Theatre was recently named one of the "10 greatest dine-in theaters in America" in a Motion Picture Association of America publication (2014) and one of America's 7 Best Movie Theaters of Food Lovers," in a 2013 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine.

Originally built in 1945, the Commodore is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and on the Virginia Landmarks Register, for it's architecture, decor and rich history.

The public is invited to stop by the theatre between noon and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 21 to celebrate with friends of the theatre. Commemorative cakes and other refreshments will be available. A brief recognition ceremony will be held from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m..

The theatre will be showing National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation," starting December 19 through December 24 which also premiered 25 years ago in 1989.

For more information, call the theatre at 757-393-4383 or visit the Commodore's website at www.commodoretheatre.com  

Monday, December 8, 2014

The 2014 Historic Olde Towne Holiday Home Tour

Friday, December 12, 2014 from 5-9 pm
Saturday, December 13, 2014 from 2-8 pm

Visit historic Olde Towne Portsmouth, Virginia for a weekend full of holiday events. The Historic Olde Towne Holiday Home Tour will again be a two-day event with seven Southern homes decked out with Christmas spirit. Ticket holders may tour either day or split the seven tour stops between the two days.
The historic Hill House is part of this years
Olde Towne Holiday Home Tour.

This Years Olde Towne Homes Open for the Holiday Home Tour include:

106 London Street
221 North Street - Historic Hill House
339 Court Street
340 court Street
329 Court 
497 North
506 Hampton Place

Live music will be playing throughout the tour celebrating the traditional sounds of the season and historical vignettes are part of the entertainment at some of the homes, including a colonial dance demonstration and recollections by a 19th century sea captain. Refreshments will be served at the Hill House including hot wassail for purchase. And don't miss the commemorative merchandise for this year's tour by local artist Karen Goins, also on sale at the Hill House (221 North Street).

The Historic Olde Towne Holiday Home Tour this year is held in conjunction with the Annual Olde Towne Holiday Music Festival. Launched in 1998, this festival has become one of Portsmouth's signature Holiday Season events. It is a musical tribute to the spirit of the Holiday Season, enlivening the historic High Street corridor with performances, children's activities, re-en-actors in period attire and strolling characters. This event offers a musically packed day for visitors to Olde Towne Portsmouth featuring choral groups from regional schools as well as performances by established recording artists. http://www.portsvaevents.com/december_2014.html

Tickets for the Historic Olde Towne Holiday Home Tour are $20 per person and can be purchased at the event, at many Olde Towne business locations and also online. For more information, ticket locations and online ticket sales go to: http://www.otcl.org/Events.html  or call 757-235-2608.


This holiday event is sponsored by the Olde Towne Civic League, The Olde Towne Business Association the City of Portsmouth and the new Portsmouth Kroger's Marketplace.