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

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:

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

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.