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Norfolk, Virginia

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Norfolk, Virginia
City of Norfolk
Clockwise from top: Downtown Norfolk skyline as viewed from across the Elizabeth River, USS Wisconsin battleship museum, Ocean View Pier, The Tide light rail, ships at Naval Station Norfolk, historic homes in Ghent
Clockwise from top: Downtown Norfolk skyline as viewed from across the Elizabeth River, USS Wisconsin battleship museum, Ocean View Pier, The Tide light rail, ships at Naval Station Norfolk, historic homes in Ghent
Flag of Norfolk, Virginia
Official seal of Norfolk, Virginia
Crescas (Latin for, "Thou shalt grow.")
Norfolk is located in Virginia
Location within the state of Virginia
Coordinates: 36°55′N 76°12′W / 36.917°N 76.200°W / 36.917; -76.200Coordinates: 36°55′N 76°12′W / 36.917°N 76.200°W / 36.917; -76.200
Country United States
State Virginia
MSAVirginia Beach–Norfolk–Newport News
 • MayorKenny Alexander (D)
 • Independent city96.40 sq mi (249.68 km2)
 • Land53.27 sq mi (137.98 km2)
 • Water43.13 sq mi (111.70 km2)
7 ft (2.13 m)
 • Independent city238,005[1]
 • Urban
 • Metro
1,725,246 (37th)
Time zoneUTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP code
23501-23515, 23517-23521, 23523, 23529, 23541, 23551
Area code(s)757, 948 (planned)
FIPS code51-57000[3]
GNIS feature ID1497051[4]
Major AirportNorfolk International Airport
Rapid TransitHampton Roads Transit
[citation needed]

Norfolk (/ˈnɔːrfʊk/ (About this soundlisten) NOR-fuk) is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States. At the 2020 census, the population was 238,005,[1] making it the third-most populous city in Virginia after neighboring Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, and the 91st-largest city in the nation. The city was incorporated in 1705 and is one of the oldest cities in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, and is considered to be the historic, urban, financial, and cultural center of the region.

Norfolk is at the core of the metropolitan area, surrounding the Hampton Roads natural harbor at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It is one of nine cities and seven counties that constitute the Hampton Roads metro area, officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA. The city is bordered to the west by the Elizabeth River and to the north by the Chesapeake Bay. It also shares land borders with the independent cities of Chesapeake to its south and Virginia Beach to its east.

As the city is bordered by multiple bodies of water, Norfolk has many miles of riverfront and bayfront property, including beaches on the Chesapeake Bay. The coastal zones are important for the economy. The largest naval base in the world, Naval Station Norfolk, is located in Norfolk along with one of NATO's two Strategic Command headquarters. Additionally Norfolk is an important contributor to the Port of Virginia. It is home to Maersk Line, Limited, which manages the world's largest fleet of US-flag vessels. However, this low-lying coastal infrastructure is also very vulnerable to sea level rise, with water levels expected to rise by more than 5.5 feet by the end of the 21st century.

The city has a long history as a strategic military and transportation point, where many railroad lines started. It is linked to its neighbors by an extensive network of interstate highways, bridges, tunnels, and three bridge-tunnel complexes.


Colonial years[]

In 1619 the Governor of the Virginia Colony, Sir George Yeardley, incorporated four jurisdictions, termed citties, for the developed portion of the colony. These formed the basis for colonial representative government in the newly minted House of Burgesses. What would become Norfolk was put under the Elizabeth Cittie incorporation.

In 1634 King Charles I reorganized the colony into a system of shires. The former Elizabeth Cittie became Elizabeth City Shire. After persuading 105 people to settle in the colony, Adam Thoroughgood (who had immigrated to Virginia in 1622 from King's Lynn, Norfolk, England) was granted a large land holding, through the head rights system, along the Lynnhaven River in 1636.

When the South Hampton Roads portion of the shire was separated, Thoroughgood suggested the name of his birthplace for the newly formed New Norfolk County. One year later, it was divided into two counties, Upper Norfolk and Lower Norfolk (the latter now incorporated into the City of Norfolk), chiefly on Thoroughgood's recommendation.[5] This area of Virginia became known as the place of entrepreneurs, including men of the Virginia Company of London.

Norfolk developed in the late-seventeenth century as a "Half Moone" fort was constructed and 50 acres (200,000 m2) were acquired from local natives of the Powhatan Confederacy in exchange for 10,000 pounds of tobacco. The House of Burgesses established the "Towne of Lower Norfolk County" in 1680.[6][7] In 1691, a final county subdivision took place when Lower Norfolk County split to form Norfolk County (included in present-day cities of Norfolk, Chesapeake, and parts of Portsmouth) and Princess Anne County (present-day Virginia Beach).

Norfolk was incorporated in 1705. In 1730, a tobacco inspection site was located here. According to the Tobacco Inspection Act, the inspection was "At Norfolk Town, upon the fort land, in the County of Norfolk; and Kemp's Landing, in Princess Anne, under one inspection." In 1736 George II granted it a royal charter as a borough.[8] By 1775, Norfolk developed into what contemporary observers argued was the most prosperous city in Virginia.[citation needed] It was an important port for exporting goods to the British Isles and beyond. In part because of its merchants' numerous trading ties with other parts of the British Empire, Norfolk served as a strong base of Loyalist support during the early part of the American Revolution. After fleeing the colonial capital of Williamsburg, the Royal Governor of Virginia, John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore, tried to reestablish control of the colony from Norfolk. Dunmore secured small victories at Norfolk but was soon driven into exile by the Virginia militia, commanded by Colonel Woodford. His departure brought an end to more than 168 years of British rule in Virginia.[9]

A cannonball lodged in the wall of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, fired by Lord Dunmore's fleet during the Revolutionary War

On New Year's Day, 1776, Lord Dunmore's fleet of three ships shelled the city of Norfolk for more than eight hours. The gunfire, combined with fires started by the British and spread by the Patriots, destroyed more than 800 buildings, constituting nearly two-thirds of the city. The Patriot forces destroyed the remaining buildings for strategic reasons the following month.[10] Only the walls of Saint Paul's Episcopal Church survived the bombardment and subsequent fires. A cannonball from the bombardment (fired by the Liverpool) remains within the wall of Saint Paul's.[11]

Nineteenth century[]

Norfolk, from Gosport, Virginia, New York Public Library

Following recovery from the Revolutionary War's burning, Norfolk and her citizens struggled to rebuild. In 1804, another serious fire along the city's waterfront destroyed some 300 buildings and the city suffered a serious economic setback. During the 1820s, agrarian communities across the American South suffered a prolonged recession, which caused many families to migrate to other areas. Many moved west into the Piedmont, or further into Kentucky and Tennessee. This migration also followed the exhaustion of soil due to tobacco cultivation in the Tidewater, where it had been the primary commodity crop for generations.

Virginia made some attempts to phase out slavery and manumissions increased in the two decades following the war. Thomas Jefferson Randolph gained passage of an 1832 resolution for gradual abolition in the state. However, by that time the increased demand from the settlement of the lower South states had created a large internal market for slavery. The invention of the cotton gin in the late-eighteenth century had made profitable the cultivation of short-staple cotton in the uplands, which was widely practiced.

Joseph Jenkins Roberts, born and raised in Norfolk, became the first President of Liberia

The American Colonization Society proposed to "repatriate" free blacks and freed slaves to Africa by establishing the new colony of Liberia and paying for transportation. But most African-Americans wanted to stay in their birthplace of the United States and achieve freedom and rights there. For a period, many emigrants to Liberia from Virginia and North Carolina embarked from the port of Norfolk. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, a free person of color native to Norfolk, emigrated via the American Colonization Society and later was elected as the first president of Liberia, establishing a powerful family.[12]

On June 7, 1855, the 183-foot vessel Benjamin Franklin put into Hampton Roads for repairs. She had just sailed from the West Indies, where there had been an outbreak of yellow fever. The port health officer ordered the ship quarantined. After eleven days, a second inspection found no issues, so she was allowed to dock. A few days later, the first cases of yellow fever were discovered in Norfolk, and a machinist died from the disease on July 8. By August, several people were dying per day, and a third of the city's population had fled in the hopes of escaping the epidemic. No one understood how the disease was transmitted. With both Norfolk and Portsmouth being infected, New York banned all traffic from those sites. Neighboring cities also banned residents from Norfolk. The epidemic spread through the city via mosquitoes and poor sanitation, affecting every family and causing widespread panic. The number of infected reached 5,000 in September, and by the second week, 1,500 had died in Norfolk and Portsmouth.[13] As the weather cooled, the outbreak began to wane, leaving a final tally of about 3,200 dead.[14] It took the city some time to recover.

In early 1861, Norfolk voters instructed their delegate to vote for secession. Virginia voted to secede from the Union. In the spring of 1862, the Battle of Hampton Roads took place off the northwest shore of the city's Sewell's Point Peninsula, marking the first fight between two ironclads, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. The battle ended in a stalemate, but changed the course of naval warfare; from then on, warships were fortified with metal.[15]

In May 1862, Norfolk Mayor William Lamb surrendered the city to Union General John E. Wool and his forces. They held the city under martial law for the duration of the Civil War. Thousands of slaves from the region escaped to Union lines to gain freedom; they quickly set up schools in Norfolk to start learning how to read and write, years before the end of the war.[16]

20th century to present[]

1907 brought both the Virginian Railway and the Jamestown Exposition to Sewell's Point. The large Naval Review at the Exposition demonstrated the peninsula's favorable location and laid the groundwork for the world's largest naval base. Southern Democrats in Congress gained its location here. Commemorating the tricentennial anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the exposition featured many prominent officials, including President Theodore Roosevelt, members of Congress, and diplomats from twenty-one countries. By 1917, as the US prepared to enter World War I, the Naval Air Station Hampton Roads had been constructed on the former exposition grounds.[17]

In the first half of the twentieth century, the city of Norfolk expanded its borders through annexation. In 1906, the city annexed the incorporated town of Berkley, making the city cross the Elizabeth River.[18] In 1923, the city expanded to include Sewell's Point, Willoughby Spit, the town of Campostella, and the Ocean View area. The city included the Navy Base and miles of beach property fronting on Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay.[19] After a smaller annexation in 1959, and a 1988 land swap with Virginia Beach, the city assumed its current boundaries.[20]

With the dawn of the Interstate Highway System following World War II, new highways were constructed in the region. A series of bridges and tunnels, constructed during fifteen years, linked Norfolk with the Peninsula, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach. In 1952, the Downtown Tunnel opened to connect Norfolk with the city of Portsmouth. The highways also stimulated the development of new housing suburbs, leading to the population spreading out. Additional bridges and tunnels included the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in 1957,[21] the Midtown Tunnel in 1962,[22] and the Virginia Beach-Norfolk Expressway (Interstate 264 and State Route 44) in 1967.[23] In 1991, the new Downtown Tunnel/Berkley Bridge complex opened a new system of multiple lanes of highway and interchanges connecting Downtown Norfolk and Interstate 464 with the Downtown Tunnel tubes.[24]

In 1954 the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, as the public system was supported by all taxpayers. It ordered integration, but Virginia pursued a policy of "massive resistance". (At this time, most black citizens were still disfranchised under the state's turn-of-the-century constitution and discriminatory practices related to voter registration and elections.) The Virginia General Assembly prohibited state funding for integrated public schools.

In 1958, United States district courts in Virginia ordered schools to open for the first time on a racially integrated basis. In response, Governor J. Lindsay Almond ordered the schools closed. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals declared the state law to be in conflict with the state constitution and ordered all public schools to be funded, whether integrated or not. About ten days later, Almond capitulated and asked the General Assembly to rescind several "massive resistance" laws.[25] In September 1959, seventeen black children entered six previously segregated Norfolk public schools. Virginian-Pilot editor Lenoir Chambers editorialized against massive resistance and earned the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.[26]

With new suburban developments beckoning, many white middle-class residents moved out of the city along new highway routes, and Norfolk's population declined, a pattern repeated in numerous cities during the postwar era independently of segregation issues. In the late-1960s and early-1970s, the advent of newer suburban shopping destinations along with freeways spelled demise for the fortunes of downtown's Granby Street commercial corridor, located just a few blocks inland from the waterfront. The opening of malls and large shopping centers drew off retail business from Granby Street.[27]

Norfolk's city leaders began a long push to revive its urban core. While Granby Street underwent decline, Norfolk city leaders focused on the waterfront and its collection of decaying piers and warehouses. Many obsolete shipping and warehousing facilities were demolished. In their place, planners created a new boulevard, Waterside Drive, along which many of the high-rise buildings in Norfolk's skyline have been erected. In 1983, the city and The Rouse Company developed the Waterside festival marketplace to attract people back to the waterfront and catalyze further downtown redevelopment.[28] Waterside was redeveloped in 2017. Additionally the waterfront area hosts the Nauticus maritime museum and the USS Wisconsin. Other facilities opened in the ensuing years, including the Harbor Park baseball stadium, home of the Norfolk Tides Triple-A minor league baseball team. In 1995, the park was named the finest facility in minor league baseball by Baseball America.[29] Norfolk's efforts to revitalize its downtown have attracted acclaim from economic development and urban planning circles throughout the country. Downtown's rising fortunes helped to expand the city's revenues and allowed the city to direct attention to other neighborhoods.[30]


Newport News, Hampton, Isle of Wight County, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Norfolk, from space, July 1996. Norfolk is located in the upper-right quadrant; east is at the top.

The city is located at the southeastern corner of Virginia at the junction of the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay. The Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area (officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA) is the 37th largest in the United States, with an estimated population of 1,716,624 in 2014. The area includes the Virginia cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Williamsburg, and the counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Mathews, and York, as well as the North Carolina counties of Currituck and Gates. The city of Norfolk is recognized as the central business district, while the Virginia Beach oceanside resort district and Williamsburg are primarily centers of tourism. Virginia Beach is the most populated city within the MSA though it functions more as a suburb. Additionally, Norfolk is part of the Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Combined Statistical Area, which includes the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA, the Elizabeth City, North Carolina Micropolitan Statistical Area, and the Kill Devil Hills, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area. The CSA is the 32nd largest in the nation with an estimated population in 2013 of 1,810,266.

In addition to extensive riverfront property, Norfolk has miles of bayfront resort property and beaches in the Willoughby Spit and Ocean View communities.

Sea level rise and subsidence[]

Being low-lying and largely surrounded by water, Norfolk is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change.[31] In addition, the land on which it is built is slowly subsiding. Some areas already flood regularly at high tide, and the city commissioned a study in 2012 to investigate how to address the issue in the future: it reported the cost of dealing with a sea-level rise of one foot would be around $1,000,000,000. Since then, scientists at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in 2013 have estimated that if current trends hold, the sea in Norfolk will rise by 5 and 1/2 feet or more by the end of this century.[32][33]


Skyline of downtown Norfolk looking towards Elizabeth River

When Norfolk was first settled, homes were made of wood and frame construction, similar to most medieval English-style homes. These homes had wide chimneys and thatch roofs. Some decades after the town was first laid out in 1682, the Georgian architectural style, which was popular in the South at the time, was used. Brick was considered more substantial construction; patterns were made by brick laid and Flemish bond. This style evolved to include projecting center pavilions, Palladian windows, balustraded roof decks, and two-story porticoes. By 1740, homes, warehouses, stores, workshops, and taverns began to dot Norfolk's streets.

A home in the Ghent neighborhood

Norfolk was burned down during the Revolutionary War. After the Revolution, Norfolk was rebuilt in the Federal style, based on Roman ideals. Federal-style homes kept Georgian symmetry, though they had more refined decorations to look like New World homes. Federal homes had features such as narrow sidelights with an embracing fanlight around the doorway, giant porticoes, gable or flat roofs, and projecting bays on exterior walls. Rooms were oval, elliptical or octagonal. Few of these federal rowhouses remain standing today. A majority of buildings were made of wood and had a simple construction.

Taylor-Whittle House (c. 1790), now occupied by the Junior League of Norfolk-Virginia Beach and the Norfolk Historical Society[34]

In the early nineteenth century, Neoclassical architectural elements began to appear in the federal style row homes, such as ionic columns in the porticoes and classic motifs over doorways and windows. Many Federal-style row houses were modernized by placing a Greek-style porch at the front. Greek and Roman elements were integrated into public buildings such as the old City Hall, the old Norfolk Academy, and the Customs House.

Greek-style homes gave way to Gothic Revival in the 1830s, which emphasized pointed arches, steep gable roofs, towers and tracer-lead windows. The Freemason Baptist Church and St. Mary's Catholic Church are examples of Gothic Revival. Italianate elements emerged in the 1840s including cupolas, verandas, ornamental brickwork, or corner quoins. Norfolk still had simple wooden structures among its more ornate buildings.

Norfolk skyline from across the Elizabeth River in 2016

High-rise buildings were first built in the late nineteenth century when structures such as the current Commodore Maury Hotel and the Royster Building were constructed to form the initial Norfolk skyline. Past styles were revived during the early years of the twentieth century. Bungalows and apartment buildings became popular for those living in the city.

As the Great Depression wore on, Art Deco emerged as a popular building style, as evidenced by the Post Office building downtown. Art Deco consisted of streamlined concrete faced appearance with smooth stone or metal, with terracotta, and trimming consisting of glass and colored tiles.


Norfolk has a variety of historic neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods, such as Berkley, were formerly cities and towns. Others, such as Willoughby Spit and Ocean View, have a long “history tied to the Chesapeake Bay. Today, neighborhoods such as Downtown, Ghent and Fairmount Park have transformed with the revitalization that the city has undergone.


Narrative below is based on newly-released (May 2021) climate data; see climate chart below, reflecting 1991-2020 averages. Norfolk has a humid subtropical climate and its USDA Hardiness Zone is 8a. Spring arrives in March with mild days and cool nights, and by late May, the temperature has warmed up considerably to herald warm summer days. Summers are consistently warm and humid, but the nearby Atlantic Ocean often exercises a slight cooling effect on daytime high temperatures, but a slight warming effect on nighttime low temperatures (compared to areas farther inland). As such, temperatures reach 90 °F (32 °C) or higher on an average 35 days annually,[35] and 100 °F (37.8 °C) are uncommon, occurring in fewer than one-third of all years.[36] On average, July is the warmest month, with a normal mean temperature of 81.1 °F (27.3 °C),[35]. On average, July and August are the wettest months, due to frequent summer thunderstorm activity. In August and September, rainfall remains high, due to rising frequency of tropical activity (hurricanes and tropical storms), which can bring high winds and heavy rains. These usually brush Norfolk and only occasionally make landfalls in the area; the highest-risk period is mid-August to the end of September. Fall is marked by mild to warm days and cooler nights. Winter is usually mild in Norfolk, with average winter days featuring lows near or slightly above freezing and highs in the upper-40s to mid-50s (8 to 13 °C). On average, the coldest month of the year is January, with a normal mean temperature of 42.2 °F (5.7 °C),[35] Snow occurs sporadically, with an average winter accumulation of 6.2 in (15.7 cm).[35] Norfolk's record high was 105 °F (41 °C) on August 7, 1918, and July 24 and 25, 2010, and the record low was −3 °F (−19 °C) recorded on January 21, 1985.[35]

Climate data for Norfolk International Airport, Virginia (1991–2020 normals,[a] extremes 1874–present[b])
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 84
Mean maximum °F (°C) 72
Average high °F (°C) 50.7
Daily mean °F (°C) 42.2
Average low °F (°C) 33.6
Mean minimum °F (°C) 19
Record low °F (°C) −3
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.41
Average snowfall inches (cm) 3.2
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 10.7 9.2 10.9 10.0 11.2 9.7 10.6 10.2 9.4 7.7 8.9 9.9 118.4
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 1.7 1.3 0.5 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.5 4.0
Average relative humidity (%) 66.3 65.6 64.6 62.8 68.8 70.6 73.3 75.2 74.4 72.1 68.5 67.0 69.1
Average dew point °F (°C) 27.9
Mean monthly sunshine hours 171.5 175.2 229.3 252.8 271.7 280.1 278.3 260.4 231.4 208.3 175.7 160.4 2,695.1
Percent possible sunshine 56 58 62 64 62 64 62 62 62 60 57 53 61
Average ultraviolet index 2 4 5 7 8 10 9 9 7 5 3 2 6
Source 1: NOAA (relative humidity and sun 1961–1990)[35][37][38]
Source 2: Weather Atlas (UV)[39]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[40]
1790–1960[41] 1900–1990[42]
[1] 2020[1]
Population age distribution for Norfolk

As of the census[44] of 2010, there were 242,803 people, 86,210 households, and 51,898 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,362.8 people per square mile (1,684.4/km2). There were 94,416 housing units at an average density of 1,757.3 per square mile (678.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 47.1% White, 43.1% African American, 0.5% Native American, 3.3% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 2.2% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 6.6% of the population. Non-Hispanic Whites were 44.3% of the population in 2010,[45] down from 68.5% in 1970.[46]

There were 86,210 households, out of which 30.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.9% were married couples living together, 18.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.8% were non-families. 30.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.07.

The age distribution was 24.0% under the age of 18, 18.2% from 18 to 24, 29.9% from 25 to 44, 16.9% from 45 to 64, and 10.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 104.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.8 males. This large gender imbalance is due to the military presence in the city, most notably Naval Station Norfolk.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,815, and the median income for a family was $36,891. Males had a median income of $25,848 versus $21,907 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,372. About 15.5% of families and 19.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.9% of those under age 18 and 13.2% of those ages 65 or over.

For the year of 2007, Norfolk had a total crime index of 514.7 per 100,000 residents. This was above the national average of 320.9 that year. For 2007, the city experienced 48 homicides, for a murder rate of 21.1 per 100,000 residents. Total crime had decreased when compared to the year 2000, which the city had a total crime index of 546.3. The highest murder rate Norfolk has experienced for the 21st century was in 2005 when its rate was 24.5 per 100,000 residents. For the year 2007 per 100,000, Norfolk experienced 21.1 murders, 42.6 rapes, 399.3 robberies, 381.3 assaults, 743.3 burglaries, and 450.6 automobile thefts.[47] According to the Congressional Quarterly Press '2008 City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America, Norfolk, Virginia, ranked as the 87th most dangerous city larger than 75,000 inhabitants.[48]


Norfolk, Virginia products treemap, 2020
1888 advertisement for the Market Square A&P

Since Norfolk serves as the commercial and cultural center for the unusual geographical region of Hampton Roads (and in its political structure of independent cities), it can be difficult to separate the economic characteristics of Norfolk from that of the region as a whole.

The waterways which almost completely surround the Hampton Roads region play an important part in the local economy. As a strategic location at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, its protected deep-water channels serve as a major trade artery for the import and export of goods from across the Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West, and internationally.[49]

In addition to commercial activities, Hampton Roads is a major military center, particularly for the United States Navy, and Norfolk serves as the home for Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval installation. Located on Sewell's Point Peninsula, in the northwest corner of the city, the station is the headquarters of the United States Fleet Forces Command (formerly known as the Atlantic Fleet), which compromises over 62,000 active duty personnel, 75 ships, and 132 aircraft. The base also serves as the headquarters to NATO's Allied Command Transformation.[50][51]

The region also plays an important role in defense contracting, with particular emphasis in the shipbuilding and ship repair businesses for the city of Norfolk. Major private shipyards located in Norfolk or the Hampton Roads area include: Huntington Ingalls Industries (formerly Northrop Grumman Newport News) in Newport News, BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair, General Dynamics NASSCO Norfolk, and Colonna's Shipyard Inc., while the US Navy's Norfolk Naval Shipyard is just across the Downtown Tunnel in Portsmouth. Most contracts fulfilled by these shipyards are issued by the Navy, though some private commercial repair also takes place. Over 35% of Gross Regional Product (which includes the entire Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach MSA), is attributable to defense spending, and that 75% of all regional growth since 2001 is attributable to increases in defense spending.[52]

A view of Norfolk from Portsmouth

After the military, the second largest and most important industry for Hampton Roads and Norfolk based on economic impact are the region's cargo ports. Headquartered in Norfolk, the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a Commonwealth of Virginia owned-entity that, in turn, owns and operates three major port facilities in Hampton Roads for break-bulk and container type cargo. In Norfolk, Norfolk International Terminals (NIT) represents one of those three facilities and is home to the world's largest and fastest container cranes.[53] Together, the three terminals of the VPA handled a total of over 2 million TEUs and 475,000 tons of breakbulk cargo in 2006, making it the second busiest port on the east coast of North America by total cargo volume after the Port of New York and New Jersey.[54]

In addition to NIT, Norfolk is home to Lambert's Point Docks, the largest coal trans-shipment point in the Northern Hemisphere, with an annual throughput of approximately 48,000,000 tons.[55] Bituminous coal is primarily sourced from the Appalachian mountains in western Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The coal is loaded onto trains and sent to the port where it is unloaded onto large breakbulk cargo ships and destined for New England, Europe, and Asia.

Between 1925 and 2007, Ford Motor Company operated Norfolk Assembly, a manufacturing plant located on the Elizabeth River that had produced the Model-T, sedans and station wagons before building F-150 pick-up trucks.[56] Before it closed, the plant employed more than 2,600 people at the 2,800,000-square-foot (260,000 m2) facility.[56]

Dominion Square, headquarters of Dominion Enterprises

Most major shipping lines have a permanent presence in the region with some combination of sales, distribution, and/or logistical offices, many of which are located in Norfolk. In addition, many of the largest international shipping companies have chosen Norfolk as their North American headquarters. These companies are either located at the Norfolk World Trade Center building or have constructed buildings in the Lake Wright Executive Center office park. The French firm CMA CGM, the Israeli firm Zim Integrated Shipping Services, and Maersk Line Limited, a subsidiary of the world's largest shipping line, A. P. Moller-Maersk Group, have their North American headquarters in Norfolk.[57][58][59] Major companies headquartered in Norfolk include Norfolk Southern,[60] Landmark Communications,[61] Dominion Enterprises,[62] FHC Health Systems (parent company of ValueOptions),[63] Portfolio Recovery Associates,[64] and BlackHawk Products Group.[65]

Nauticus and USS Wisconsin
Half Moone Cruise & Celebration Center

Though Virginia Beach and Williamsburg have traditionally been the centers of tourism for the region, the rebirth of downtown Norfolk and the construction of a cruise ship pier at the foot of Nauticus in downtown has driven tourism to become an increasingly important part of the city's economy. The number of cruise ship passengers who visited Norfolk increased from 50,000 in 2003, to 107,000 in 2004 and 2005. Also in April 2007, the city completed construction on a $36 million state-of-the-art cruise ship terminal alongside the pier.[66] Partly due to this construction, passenger counts dropped to 70,000 in 2006, but is expected to rebound to 90,000 in 2007, and higher in later years. Unlike most cruise ship terminals which are located in industrial areas, the downtown location of Norfolk's terminal has received favorable reviews from both tourists and the cruise lines who enjoy its proximity to the city's hotels, restaurants, shopping, and cultural amenities.[67]

Hampton Roads is home to four Fortune 500 companies. Representing the food industry, transportation, retail and shipbuilding, these four companies are located in Smithfield, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Newport News.

2013 Fortune 500 Corporations[68]

26% of the 130,000 people working in Norfolk live in the city, while 74% commute in. 37% of those come from Virginia Beach and 20% come from Chesapeake. An additional 51,575 people commute outside for work, with 35% going to Virginia Beach and 20% going to Chesapeake.[69]

Top employers[]

USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67) arriving at Naval Station Norfolk

According to a report published by the Virginia Employment Commission,[70] below are the top employers in Norfolk:

# Employer
1 U.S. Department of Defense
2 Sentara Healthcare
3 Norfolk City Public Schools
4 City of Norfolk
5 Old Dominion University
6 Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters
7 Eastern Virginia Medical School
8 Portfolio Recovery Associates
9 Anthem, Inc.
10 U.S. Navy Exchange

Arts and culture[]

The Douglas MacArthur Statue

Norfolk is the cultural heart of the Hampton Roads region. In addition to its museums, Norfolk is the principal home for several major performing arts companies. Norfolk also plays host to numerous yearly festivals and parades, mostly at Town Point Park in downtown.

The Chrysler Museum of Art, located in the Ghent district, is the region's foremost art museum and is considered by The New York Times to be the finest in the state.[71] Of particular note is the extensive glass collection, the Glass Studio,[72] the 1792 Moses Myers House, the ca. 1794 Willoughby-Baylor House and American neoclassical marble sculptures. Since opening in 1933, the museum's main building has been expanded six times to allow for larger glass galleries, generous space for Impressionist and Baroque works and more. Major improvements were completed in 2014, and today the museum features more than 50 galleries, a restaurant and catering facilities.[73][74]

Nauticus (National Maritime Center)

Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, opened on the downtown waterfront in 1994. It features hands-on exhibits, interactive theaters, aquaria, digital high-definition films and an extensive variety of educational programs. Since 2000, Nauticus has been home to the battleship USS Wisconsin, the last battleship to be built in the United States. It served briefly in World War II and later in the Korean and Gulf Wars.[75]

The MacArthur Memorial, located in the nineteenth century Norfolk courthouse and city hall in downtown, contains the tombs of General Douglas MacArthur and his wife, a museum and a vast research library, personal belongings (including his famous corncob pipe) and a short film that chronicles his life.[76]

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is based in Norfolk.[77]

The Hermitage Foundation Museum, located in an early 20th-century Tudor-style home on a 12-acre (49,000 m2) estate fronting the Lafayette River, features an eclectic collection of Asian and Western art, including Chinese bronze and ceramics, Persian rugs, and ivory carvings.[78]

Harrison Opera House

Norfolk has a variety of performing groups with regular seasons. The Virginia Opera was founded in Norfolk in 1974. Its artistic director since its inception has been Peter Mark,[79] who conducted his 100th opera production for the VOA in 2008. Though performances are staged statewide, the company's principal venue is the Harrison Opera House in the Ghent district.[80]

The Virginia Stage Company, founded in 1968, is one of the country's leading regional theaters and produces a full season of plays in the Wells Theatre downtown. The company shares facilities with the Governor's School for the Arts.[81]'

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1920 and directed by JoAnn Falletta, has been a regular staple on the regional fine arts scene. Most Norfolk performances take place at Chrysler Hall in the Scope complex downtown. The orchestra also provides musicians for many other performing arts organizations in the area.[82]

Large-scale concerts are held at either the Norfolk Scope arena or the Ted Constant Convocation Center at ODU, while The Norva provides a more intimate atmosphere for smaller groups. Other Norfolk cultural venues include the Attucks Theatre, the Jeanne and George Roper Performing Arts Center (formerly the Loew's State Theater) and the Naro Expanded Cinema.

The revitalization of downtown Norfolk has helped to improve the Hampton Roads cultural scene. In particular, a large number of clubs, representing a wide range of music interests and sophistication now line the lower Granby Street area.[83] The nearby Waterside Festival Marketplace has also continued to be successful as a nightclub and bar venue.[84] Norfolk celebrates the rich ethnic diversity of its population with sights, sounds, attractions and special events that pay tribute to the city's long multicultural heritage.[85]


Norfolk serves as home to the two highest level professional franchises in the state of Virginia — the Norfolk Tides play baseball in the Triple-A East, and the Norfolk Admirals play ice hockey in the ECHL.

Norfolk has two universities with Division I sports teams — the Old Dominion Monarchs and the Norfolk State University Spartans — which provide many sports including football, basketball, and baseball.[86][87][88][89][90]

From 1970 to 1976, Norfolk served as the home court (along with Hampton, Richmond, and Roanoke) for the Virginia Squires regional professional basketball franchise of the now-defunct American Basketball Association (ABA). From 1970 to 1971, the Squires played their Norfolk home games at the Old Dominion University Fieldhouse. In November 1971, the Squires played their Norfolk home games at the new Norfolk Scope arena, until the team and the ABA league folded in May 1976.[91]

In 1971, Norfolk built an entertainment and sports complex, featuring Chrysler Hall and the 13,800-seat Norfolk Scope indoor arena, located in the northern section of downtown. Norfolk Scope has served as a venue for major events including the American Basketball Association All-Star Game in 1974,[92] and the first and second NCAA Women's Division I Basketball Championships (also known as the Women's Final Four) in 1982 and 1983.[93][94]

Norfolk is also home to the Norfolk Blues Rugby Football Club.

National Wrestling Alliance, Jim Crockett Promotions, World Championship Wrestling, World Wrestling Entertainment had wrestling show at Norfolk Arena and Scope many times from 1960s with many times Pay Per View event. Six-time World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Lou Thesz lived in Norfolk and opened wrestling school Virginia Wrestling Academy downtown in 1988.[95][96]

Parks and recreation[]

Canal at the Norfolk Botanical Garden

Town Point Park in downtown plays host to a wide variety of annual events from early spring through late fall. Harborfest, the region's largest annual festival, celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2006. It is held during the first weekend of June and celebrates the region's proximity and attachment to the water. The Parade of Sails (numerous tall sailing ships from around the world form in line and sail past downtown before docking at the marina), music concerts, regional food, and a large fireworks display highlight this three-day festival.[97] Bayou Boogaloo and Cajun Food Festival, a celebration of the Cajun people and culture, had small beginnings. This three-day festival during the third week of June has become one of the largest in the region and, in addition to serving up Cajun cuisine, also features Cajun music.[97] Norfolk's Fourth of July celebration of American independence contains a spectacular fireworks display and a special Navy reenlistment ceremony.[97] The , though smaller by comparison to some of the big city jazz festivals, still manages to attract the country's top jazz performers. It is held in August.[97] The Town Point Virginia Wine Festival has become a showcase for Virginia-produced wines and has enjoyed increasing success over the years. Virginia's burgeoning wine industry has become noted both within the United States and on an international level. The festival has grown with the industry. Wines can be sampled and then purchased by the bottle and/or case directly from the winery kiosks. This event takes place during the third weekend of October. There is also a Spring Wine Festival held during the second weekend of May.[97] Nearby are the museum ship USS Wisconsin (BB-64) and Wisconsin Square.

The St. Patrick's Day annual parade in the city's Ocean View neighborhood, celebrates Ocean View's rich Irish heritage.[98]

Virginia Zoo

Norfolk has a variety of parks[99] and open spaces in its city parks system. The city maintains three beaches on its north shore in the Ocean View area. Five additional parks contain picnic facilities and playgrounds for children. The city also has some community pools open to city residents.[100]

The Norfolk Botanical Garden, opened in 1939, is a 155-acre (0.6 km2) botanical garden and arboretum located near the Norfolk International Airport. It is open year-round.[101]

The Virginia Zoological Park, opened in 1900, is a 65-acre (260,000 m2) zoo with hundreds of animals on display, including the critically endangered Siberian tiger and threatened white rhino.[102]

The city is also known for its "Mermaids on Parade," a public art program launched in 2002 to place mermaid statues all over the city. Tourists can take a walking tour of downtown and locate 17 mermaids while others can be found further afield.[103]


Presidential Elections Results[104]
Year Republican Democratic Third Parties
2020 26.1% 23,443 71.7% 64,440 2.2% 1,998
2016 25.9% 21,552 68.4% 57,023 5.8% 4,810
2012 26.6% 23,147 72.0% 62,687 1.4% 1,209
2008 28.1% 24,814 71.0% 62,819 0.9% 813
2004 37.4% 26,401 61.7% 43,518 0.9% 651
2000 35.4% 21,920 61.7% 38,221 2.9% 1,805
1996 31.1% 18,693 62.6% 37,655 6.3% 3,776
1992 32.4% 22,362 54.5% 37,602 13.1% 9,063
1988 44.3% 30,538 54.8% 37,778 0.8% 575
1984 48.2% 36,360 51.5% 38,913 0.3% 243
1980 40.9% 27,506 52.3% 35,118 6.8% 4,576
1976 39.9% 28,099 55.8% 39,295 4.3% 3,008
1972 58.0% 38,385 38.9% 25,737 3.2% 2,095
1968 33.9% 22,302 43.3% 28,477 22.9% 15,050
1964 35.8% 18,429 62.8% 32,388 1.4% 729
1960 43.5% 17,174 55.8% 22,037 0.7% 262
1956 54.0% 18,650 42.2% 14,571 3.8% 1,304
1952 54.3% 14,166 45.5% 11,862 0.2% 46
1948 40.9% 7,556 50.8% 9,370 8.3% 1,534
1944 29.2% 4,958 70.7% 12,010 0.2% 28
1940 24.4% 3,485 75.4% 10,783 0.3% 36
1936 23.3% 3,229 76.3% 10,561 0.4% 59
1932 32.7% 4,403 65.5% 8,814 1.9% 250
1928 58.8% 8,392 41.2% 5,888
1924 30.9% 2,447 63.9% 5,061 5.3% 416
1920 28.4% 2,386 70.7% 5,953 0.9% 78
1916 22.4% 963 75.4% 3,234 2.2% 95
1912 4.6% 195 83.7% 3,539 11.7% 494
1908 30.1% 991 68.9% 2,271 0.9% 30
1904 27.2% 977 71.2% 2,559 1.7% 60
1900 43.4% 3,024 55.7% 3,883 0.9% 62
1896 51.8% 3,475 45.7% 3,068 2.5% 166
1892 47.8% 2,452 50.4% 2,587 1.8% 97
1888 65.4% 3,741 34.4% 1,969 0.2% 23
1884 54.9% 2,913 45.1% 2,392
1880 50.4% 2,047 49.6% 2,012

Norfolk is an independent city with services that both counties and cities in Virginia provide, such as a sheriff, social services, and a court system. Norfolk operates under a council-manager form of government.

Norfolk city government consists of a city council with representatives from seven districts serving in a legislative and oversight capacity, as well as a popularly elected, at-large mayor. The city manager serves as head of the executive branch and supervises all city departments and executing policies adopted by the Council. Citizens in each of the five wards elect one council representative each to serve a four-year term. There are two additional council members elected from two citywide "superwards." The city council meets at City Hall weekly[105] and, as of May 2016, consists of: Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander; Mamie Johnson, Ward 3; Angelia Williams, Superward 7; Paul R. Riddick, Ward 4; Vice Mayor Dr. Theresa W. Whibley, Ward 2; Martin Thomas, Ward 1; Andria McClellan, Superward 6; Thomas R. Smigiel, Jr., Ward 5.[105]

List of mayors of Norfolk, Virginia[106][107]
  • Samuel Boush, 1736 (died in office)[108]
  • George Newton, 1736 etc.
  • John Hutchings, 1737 etc.[109]
  • John Taylor, 1739 etc.
  • Samuel Smith
  • Josiah Smith, 1741 etc.
  • John Phripp, 1744 etc.
  • Edward Pugh
  • Thomas Newton
  • John Tucker, 1748 etc.
  • Robert Tucker, 1749 etc.
  • Durham Hall
  • Wilson Newton, 1751 etc.
  • Christopher Perkins, 1752 etc.
  • George Abyvon, 1754 etc.
  • Richard Kelsick
  • John Phripp
  • Paul Loyall, 1762 etc.
  • Archibald Campbell
  • Lewis Hansford
  • Maximilian Calvert, 1765 etc.
  • James Taylor, 1766 etc.
  • Cornelius Calvert, 1768 etc.
  • Charles Thomas, 1770 etc.
  • Thomas Newton, Jr., 1780 etc.
  • George Kelly, 1783 and 1788
  • Robert Taylor, 1784
  • Cary H. Hansford
  • Benjamin Pollard, 1787
  • Robert Taylor, 1789 and 1793
  • John Boush
  • Cary H. Hansford
  • Thomas Newton, Jr., 1792 etc.
  • John Ramsay
  • Seth Foster
  • Samuel Moseley
  • George Loyall
  • Baylor Hill
  • John K. Read
  • Seth Foster
  • John Cowper
  • William Vaughan
  • Thomas H. Parker
  • Miles King, Sr., 1804 etc.
  • Luke Wheeler, 1805
  • Thomas H. Parker, 1806
  • Richard E. Lee, 1807
  • John E. Holt, 1808–1832, various nonsequential years[110]
  • William Boswell Lamb, 1810, 1812, 1814, 1816, and 1823[111]
  • John Tabb, 1818 etc.
  • Wright Southgate, 1819 etc.
  • George W. Camp
  • William A. Armistead
  • Isaac Talbot
  • Daniel C. Barraud
  • George T. Kennon
  • Thomas Williamson
  • Giles B. Cook
  • Miles King, Jr., 1832
  • W.D. Delaney, 1843
  • Simon S. Stubbs, 1851 etc.
  • Hunter Woodis, 1853, 1855 (died in office)
  • Ezra T. Summers
  • Finlay F. Ferguson
  • William Wilson Lamb, 1858-1863[112]
  • William H. Brooks, 1863
  • James L. Belote, 1864
  • Thomas C. Tabb
  • John R. Ludlow, 1866 etc.
  • Francis DeCordy[113]
  • John B. Whitehead, 1870 etc.
  • John S. Tucker, 1876-1880
  • William Lamb, 1880-1886
  • Barton Myers, 1886-1888[114]
  • Richard G. Banks, 1888-1890[114]
  • E.M. Henry
  • Frank Morris
  • S. Marx
  • A.B. Cooke
  • Charles W. Pettit[115]
  • Wyndham R. Mayo, 1896-1898 and 1912-1918
  • C. Brooks Johnston, 1898-1901[112]
  • Nathaniel Beaman, 1901[112]
  • James Gregory Riddick, 1901-1912[116]
  • Albert L. Roper, 1918-1924
  • S. Heth Tyler, 1924-1932
  • E. Jeff Robertson
  • Phillip H. Mason
  • S.L. Slover
  • W. R. L. Taylor, 1934-1938
  • John A. Gurkin, 1938-1940
  • Joseph D. Wood, 1940-1944
  • James W. Reed
  • R.D. Cooke
  • Pretlow Darden, 1949-1950
  • W. Fred Duckworth, 1950-1962[117]
  • Roy Butler Martin, Jr., 1962-1974
  • Irvine B. Hill, 1974-1976
  • Vincent J. Thomas, 1976-1984
  • Joseph A. Leafe
  • Mason Andrews, 1992-1994[118]
  • Paul D. Fraim, 1994-2016[119]
  • Kenneth Cooper Alexander, 2016-

The City government has an infrastructure to create close working relationships with its citizens. Norfolk's city government provides services for neighborhoods, including service centers and civic leagues that interact directly with members of City Council. Such services include preserving area histories, home rehabilitation centers, outreach programs, and a university that trains citizens in neighborhood clean-up, event planning, neighborhood leadership, and financial planning.[120] Norfolk's police department also provides support for neighborhood watch programs including a citizens' training academy, security design, a police athletic program for youth, and business watch programs.[121]

Norfolk also has a federal courthouse for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The Walter E. Hoffman U.S. Courthouse in Norfolk has four judges, four magistrate judges, and two bankruptcy judges.[122] Additionally, Norfolk has its own general district and circuit courts, which convene downtown.[123] It is considered a Democratic stronghold.

Norfolk is located in Virginia's 2nd congressional district, served by U.S. Representative Elaine Luria (Democrat) and in Virginia's 3rd congressional district, served by U.S. Representative Robert C. Scott (Democrat).


Norfolk City Public Schools, the public school system, comprises five high schools, eight middle schools, 34 elementary schools, and nine special-purpose/preschools. In 2005, Norfolk Public Schools won the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education for having demonstrated, "the greatest overall performance and improvement in student achievement while reducing achievement gaps for poor and minority students".[124] The city had previously been nominated in 2003 and 2004. There are also a number of private schools located in the city, the oldest of which, Norfolk Academy, was founded in 1728. Religious schools located in the city include St. Pius X Catholic School, Alliance Christian School, Christ the King School, Norfolk Christian Schools and Trinity Lutheran School.[125] The city also hosts the Governor's School for the Arts which holds performances and classes at the Wells Theatre.

The Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine at Eastern Virginia Medical School

Norfolk is home to three public universities and one private. It also hosts a community college campus in downtown. Old Dominion University, founded as the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary in 1930, became an independent institution in 1962 and now offers degrees in 68 undergraduate and 95 (60 masters/35 doctoral) graduate degree programs. Eastern Virginia Medical School, founded as a community medical school by the surrounding jurisdictions in 1973, is noted for its research into reproductive medicine[126] and is located in the region's major medical complex in the Ghent district. Norfolk State University founded in 1935 is the largest HBCU in Virginia. Norfolk State offers degrees in a wide variety of liberal arts, Social Work, Nursing, and Engineering.[127] Virginia Wesleyan College is a small private liberal arts college and shares its eastern border with the neighboring city of Virginia Beach.[128] Tidewater Community College offers two-year degrees and specialized training programs and is located in downtown. Additionally, several for-profit schools operate in the city.

Norfolk Public Library[]

Norfolk Public Library, Virginia's first public library, consists of one main library, two anchor libraries, nine branch libraries and a bookmobile. The library also has a local history and genealogy room and contains government documents dating back to the 19th century. The libraries offer services such as computer classes, book reviews, tax forms, and online book clubs.[129]


Norfolk's daily newspaper is The Virginian-Pilot. Its alternative papers include the (now defunct) Port Folio Weekly, the New Journal and Guide, and the online Inside Business serves the regional business community with local business news.[130] College newspapers include Old Dominion University's Mace and Crown, Norfolk State University's The Spartan Echo, and Virginia Wesleyan College's Marlin Chronicle.

Local universities publish their own newspapers: Old Dominion University's Mace and Crown, Norfolk State University's The Spartan Echo, and Virginia Wesleyan College's Marlin Chronicles.[130]

Coastal Virginia Magazine is a bi-monthly regional magazine for Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area.[131]

Hampton Roads Times is an online magazine for Norfolk and the Hampton Roads area.

Norfolk is served by a variety of radio stations on the AM and FM dials, with towers located around the Hampton Roads area. These cater to many different interests, including news, talk radio, and sports, as well as an eclectic mix of musical interests.[132]

Norfolk is served by several television stations. The Hampton Roads designated market area (DMA) is the 42nd largest in the U.S. with 712,790 homes (0.64% of the total U.S.).[133] Major network television affiliates include:

Channel Callsign Network(s) Website
27 WGNT (CW)
33 WTVZ (MyNetworkTV)
43 WVBT (Fox)
49 WPXV (ION Television)

Norfolk residents also can receive independent stations, such as WSKY broadcasting on channel 4 from the Outer Banks of North Carolina and WGBS-LD broadcasting on channel 11 from Hampton. Norfolk is served by Cox Cable which provides LNC 5, a local 24-hour cable news television network. DirecTV and Dish Network are also very popular as an alternative to cable television in Norfolk.

Several major motion pictures have been filmed in and around Norfolk, including Rollercoaster (filmed at the former Ocean View Amusement Park), Navy Seals, and Mission: Impossible III (partially filmed at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel).[134]

Central Radio controversy[]

In 2010 the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority moved to take over the property of Central Radio, a communications and engineering firm, and other businesses and residential properties through eminent domain, and turn the land over to Old Dominion University. In response, Central Radio hung a 375-square foot banner reading, "50 years on this street/78 years in Norfolk/100 workers/Threatened by eminent domain!" The city cited Central Radio for sign code infringement and ordered the banner removed.

In 2013 the Supreme Court of Virginia held that the city's attempt to take over the business properties was illegal.[135] However, the U.S. District Court ruled in favor the city regarding the sign removal. In January 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling. In April 2015, the Institute for Justice asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case as a First Amendment free speech issue.[136]



The city has a long history as a strategic military and transportation point, where many railroad lines started. Norfolk was the terminus of the Atlantic and Danville Railway in 1890.[137] It is linked to its neighbors by an extensive network of interstate highways, bridges, tunnels, and three bridge-tunnel complexes, which are the only bridge-tunnels in the United States. The city was the corporate headquarters of Norfolk Southern Railway, one of North America's principal Class I railroads, before the company relocated their headquarters to Atlanta, Georgia.

Hampton Roads Transit bus at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital
Ferry to Portsmouth

Norfolk is linked with its neighbors through an extensive network of arterial and Interstate highways, bridges, tunnels, and bridge-tunnel complexes. The major east–west routes are Interstate 64, U.S. Route 58 (Virginia Beach Boulevard) and U.S. Route 60 (Ocean View Avenue). The major north–south routes are U.S. Route 13 and U.S. Route 460, also known as Granby Street. Other main roadways in Norfolk include Newtown Road, Waterside Drive, Tidewater Drive, and Military Highway. The Hampton Roads Beltway (I-64, I-264, I-464, and I-664) makes a loop around Norfolk.

Norfolk is primarily served by the Norfolk International Airport (IATA: ORF, ICAO: KORF, FAA LID: ORF), now the region's major commercial airport. The airport is located near the Chesapeake Bay, along with the city limits straddling neighboring Virginia Beach.[138] Seven airlines provide nonstop services to twenty five destinations. ORF had 3,703,664 passengers take off or land at its facility and 68,778,934 pounds of cargo were processed through its facilities.[139] Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport also provides commercial air service for the Hampton Roads area.[140] NNWIA is also the only airport in the region with direct international flights, as of February 2013. The Chesapeake Regional Airport provides general aviation services and is located 5 miles (8.0 km) outside the city limits.

Norfolk is served by Amtrak's Northeast Regional service through the Norfolk station, located in downtown Norfolk adjacent to Harbor Park stadium. The line runs west along Norfolk Southern trackage, paralleling the US Route 460 corridor to Petersburg, thence on to Richmond and beyond. A high-speed rail connection at Richmond to both the Northeast Corridor and the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor are also under study.[141]

Greyhound Lines provides service from a central bus terminal in downtown Norfolk.[142]

In April 2007, construction of the new $36 million Half Moone Cruise Terminal was completed downtown adjacent to the Nauticus Museum, providing a state-of-the-art permanent structure for various cruise lines and passengers wishing to embark from Norfolk. Previously, makeshift structures were used to embark/disembark passengers, supplies, and crew.[66]

The Intracoastal Waterway passes through Norfolk. Norfolk also has extensive frontage and port facilities on the navigable portions of the Western and Southern Branches of the Elizabeth River.

Light rail, bus, ferry and paratransit services are provided by Hampton Roads Transit (HRT), the regional public transport system headquartered in Hampton. HRT buses operate throughout Norfolk and South Hampton Roads and onto the Peninsula all the way up to Williamsburg. Other routes travel to Smithfield. HRT's ferry service connects downtown Norfolk to Old Town Portsmouth.[143] Additional services include an HOV express bus to the Norfolk Naval Base, paratransit services, park-and-ride lots, and the Norfolk Electric Trolley, which provides service in the downtown area.[144] The Tide light rail service began operations in August 2011.[145] The light rail is a starter route running along the southern portion of Norfolk, commencing at Newtown Road and passing through stations serving areas such as Norfolk State University and Harbor Park before going through the heart of downtown Norfolk and terminating at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.[146] Hampton Roads Transportation, Inc. dispatches Black and White Cabs of Norfolk, Yellow Cab of Norfolk and Norfolk Checker Cab.


Water and sewer services are provided by the city's Department of Utilities. Norfolk receives its electricity from Dominion Virginia Power which has local sources including the Chesapeake Energy Center (a gas power plant), coal-fired plants in Chesapeake and Southampton County, and the Surry Nuclear Power Plant. Norfolk-headquartered Virginia Natural Gas, a subsidiary of AGL Resources, distributes natural gas to the city from storage plants in James City County and Chesapeake.

Norfolk's water quality has been recognized one of the cleanest water systems in the United States and ranked as the fourth best in the United States by Men's Health.[147] The city of Norfolk has a tremendous capacity for clean fresh water. The city owns nine reservoirs: Lake Whitehurst, Little Creek Reservoir, Lake Lawson, Lake Smith, Lake Wright, Lake Burnt Mills, Western Branch Reservoir, Lake Prince and Lake Taylor.[148] The Virginia tidewater area has grown faster than the local freshwater supply. The river water has always been salty, and the fresh groundwater is no longer available in most areas. Currently, water for the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach is pumped from Lake Gaston (which straddles the Virginia-North Carolina border) into the City of Norfolk's reservoir system and then diverted to the City of Chesapeake for treatment by the City of Chesapeake. Virginia Beach's portion of water is treated by the City of Norfolk at Moores Bridges water treatment plant and then piped into Virginia Beach. The pipeline is 76 miles (122 km) long and 60 inches (1,500 mm) in diameter. Much of its follows the former right-of-way of an abandoned portion of the Virginian Railway.[149] It is capable of pumping 60 million gallons of water per day; Virginia Beach and Chesapeake are partners in the project.[150]

The city provides wastewater services for residents and transports wastewater to the regional Hampton Roads Sanitation District treatment plants.[147]


Sentara Norfolk General Hospital

Because of the prominence of the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and the Hampton VA Medical Center in Hampton, Norfolk has had a strong role in medicine. Norfolk is served by Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Sentara Leigh Hospital, and Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center. The city is also home to the Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters and Lake Taylor Transitional Care Hospital.[151]

Norfolk is home to Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS), which is known for its specialists in diabetes, dermatology, and obstetrics. It achieved international fame on March 1, 1980, when Drs. Georgianna and Howard Jones opened the first in vitro fertilization[152] clinic in the U.S. at EVMS. The country's first in-vitro test-tube baby was born there in December 1981.[153]

The international headquarters of Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization that specializes in repairing facial deformities in underprivileged children from around the globe, is located in the city.[154]

,[155] a non-profit that focuses on providing training and education to medical professionals in the developing world, is based in Norfolk.

Notable people[]

  • Jimmy Archey, jazz trombonist 1920s–1960s
  • Ella Josephine Baker, African-American civil rights and human rights activist
  • Steve Bannon, former executive chair of Breitbart News and former White House Chief Strategist under U.S. President Donald Trump
  • Michael Basnight, NFL player
  • Zinn Beck, MLB infielder, managed Norfolk Tars in 1928
  • David S. Bill III, U.S. Navy rear admiral
  • Aline Elizabeth Black, African-American educator
  • Gary U.S. Bonds, rhythm & blues singer
  • Martha Haines Butt (1833–1871), author, suffragist
  • Elizabeth Jordan Carr, the first baby in the United States conceived by in vitro fertilization, born at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in 1981
  • William Harvey Carney, soldier, Medal of Honor recipient
  • Kam Chancellor, safety for NFL's Seattle Seahawks
  • Clarence Clemons, saxophonist with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band
  • Matt Coleman III, college basketball player for Texas Longhorns
  • Michael Cuddyer, professional baseball player
  • James Joseph Dresnok, American soldier who defected to North Korea after the Korean War
  • Rob Estes, actor
  • Samuel Face, inventor
  • Hap Farber, football player
  • Ryan Farish, musician, electronic producer
  • Florian-Ayala Fauna, artist, musician[156]
  • Joseph T. Fitzpatrick, Virginia State Senator
  • Stephen Furst, actor
  • Grant Gustin, actor, The Flash, Glee
  • Blanche Hecht Consolvo Cariaggi, singer, Italian countess
  • Allan C. Hill, founder of the Great American Circus
  • A. Byron Holderby, Jr., Chief of Chaplains of the U.S. Navy
  • Jalyn Holmes, defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings
  • Louis Isaac Jaffe (1888–1950), editorial page editor of the Virginian-Pilot, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Knucks James, second baseman in Negro league baseball
  • Hester C. Jeffrey, suffragette
  • Chris Jones, football player
  • Louisa Venable Kyle, writer
  • Mary Lawson, All-American Girls Professional Baseball League player
  • Elaine Luria, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Virginia's 2nd district, and former United States Navy Commander.
  • Matt Maeson, musician.
  • William Magee, plastic surgeon, founder of Operation Smile
  • Alex Marshall, journalist and author
  • Samuel Mason, Revolutionary War soldier and American outlaw
  • James Michael McAdoo, basketball player at University of North Carolina
  • John Mullan, Army officer and builder of Mullan Road
  • Lenda Murray, IFBB professional bodybuilder
  • Barton Myers, Architect
  • Steven Newsome, arts and museum administrator[157]
  • Wayne Newton, singer and actor who resides in Las Vegas
  • Norfolk Four, four US Navy men stationed at Norfolk in 1997: Danial Williams, Joseph J. Dick, Eric Wilson, and Derek Tice, and who were wrongfully convicted in 1999 and 2000 in a rape/murder case based on false confessions and sentenced to life. They were released from prison in 2009 under a conditional pardon. The last convictions were overturned in 2016, and they were granted full pardons in 2017 by Governor Terry McAuliffe. In December 2018 they received a settlement from the city and state.
  • Nottz, musician, hip-hop producer
  • Richard G. L. Paige, one of the first African-Americans delegates in Virginia
  • John Parker, Abolitionist and inventor
  • Barbara Perry, actress
  • Hughie Prince, film composer and songwriter
  • Emmy Raver-Lampman, actress and singer
  • Leah Ray, singer and actress
  • Tim Reid, actor, WKRP in Cincinnati
  • Joseph Jenkins Roberts, first president of Liberia
  • Larry Sabato, American political scientist
  • Ed Schultz, American television and radio personality
  • Rhea Seehorn, actress, Better Call Saul
  • Deborah Shelton, actress, Miss Virginia USA 1970, Miss USA 1970
  • Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., Marine Corps General, Commandant of the Marine Corps, 1952-1955
  • John Wesley Shipp, actor, The Flash
  • Bruce Smith, NFL defensive end for Buffalo Bills
  • Keely Smith, singer and recording artist
  • Joe Smith, former NBA basketball player
  • Joseph Stika, Coast Guard vice admiral
  • Margaret Sullavan, Oscar-nominated actress
  • Timbaland, musician, hip-hop producer
  • Doris Eaton Travis, dancer and actress
  • Scott Travis, drummer for rock bands Racer X, Judas Priest, Fight and Thin Lizzy
  • Justin Upton, MLB outfielder for Detroit Tigers
  • Melvin Upton, Jr, MLB outfielder for Toronto Blue Jays
  • Gene Vincent, member of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
  • Benjamin Watson, American football tight end
  • Joe Weatherly, former NASCAR driver
  • Pernell Whitaker, boxer, 1984 Olympic gold medalist, 4-division world champion
  • Thomas Wilkins, symphony conductor
  • Patrick Wilson, Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actor
  • Harold G. Wren (1921-2016), dean of three law schools
  • David Wright, MLB third baseman for New York Mets
  • Mark Williams, college basketball player for Duke University
  • Jake E. Lee (1957), rock guitarist

Sister cities[]

Norfolk's sister cities are:[158]

  • Japan Kitakyushu, Japan (1963)
  • Germany Wilhelmshaven, Germany (1976)
  • England Norfolk, England, United Kingdom (1986)
  • France Toulon, France (1989)
  • Russia Kaliningrad, Russia (1992)
  • Canada Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (2006)
  • Philippines Cagayan de Oro, Philippines (2008)
  • Ghana Tema, Ghana (2010)
  • India Kochi, India (2010)

Wilhelmshaven is the Germany's largest military harbour and naval base and Toulon is the Europe's largest military harbour.

See also[]


  1. ^ Mean monthly maxima and minima (i.e. the expected highest and lowest temperature readings at any point during the year or given month) calculated based on data at said location from 1991 to 2020.
  2. ^ Official records for Norfolk kept January 1874 to December 1945 at the Weather Bureau Office in downtown, and at Norfolk Int'l since January 1946. For more information, see Threadex.


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