The History of Colonial Place & Riverview

Since their early 20th-century beginnings as streetcar suburbs of Norfolk, Virginia, the adjoining historic neighborhoods of Colonial Place and Riverview have evolved into a vibrant, active community that a diverse citizenry now calls home. 

The history of Colonial Place and Riverview began at the turn of the 20th century during a period of growth for the City of Norfolk. The city annexed a farming community just outside of town and slated it for suburban development; Colonial Place and Riverview were part of this development. Suburban development at that time depended upon connection to the trolley system–a connection that still exists in the neighborhood (although the trolleys no longer require electric lines).

Concurrent with the development of Colonial Place was the historic Jamestown Exposition, marking the three-hundreth anniversary of the founding of Jamestown. Held in 1907 on fairgrounds near Sewell’s Point, this event inspired the developers of the neighborhood to discard their original name, Sterling Place, and rename the development Colonial Place. In keeping with the new motif, all of the east-west streets were named after the original thirteen colonies.

By 1908, the housing boom brought on by the vibrant economy at the turn of the century began to rapidly dissipate. It remained sluggish until World War I, when the influx of military personnel and their families into Norfolk’s Naval Base (built on the site of the Jamestown Exposition) created a high demand for middle-class housing in Colonial Place. In fact, most of the homes standing in Colonial Place today were built during the late teens and early 1920s.

Riverview, on the other hand, began its development a few years before Colonial Place. This head start proved to be Riverview’s buffer against the diminished housing demand in 1908. Riverview saw many stately homes built in the first decade of the century.

By 1930, both Colonial Place and Riverview were well established suburban neighborhoods–neighborhoods whose residents moved in, raised their families, grew old, and eventually passed their homes onto younger families who started the cycle anew. Many home owners today are knowledgeable of the previous owners of their homes and often possess at least a verbal, if not a written history.

In the late 1960s, Colonial Place and Riverview were united by a single civic league, which through the efforts of the Stabilization Committee, successfully guided these two neighborhoods through a period when urban deterioration threatened many beautiful neighborhoods. Today, these two neighborhoods continue to maintain their original charm and middle-class desirability. They are coveted by prospective home buyers for their beautiful old homes, parks, and water views, as well as for the patina of nearly one-hundred years of history. Riverview celebrated its one-hundreth anniversary in 2000; Colonial Place in 2003. In September of 1999 Riverview was designated a National Historic Site and placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Colonial Place received its designation in June 2001.


The images and details have been pulled together from several sources.

Let us know if you have some history about your house or the businesses surrounding Colonial Place & Riverview. 

Historic Neighborhoods in the Heart of Norfolk

4411 Colonial Avenue was built in 1913, by Elijah Jefferson Robertson, who resided there, with his wife, Ella Mae and their son, Robert.

4801 Newport Avenue was built in 1910 by Dr John Wyche Manning and his wife, Jennie.

4801 Newport Avenue was built in 1910 by Dr John Wyche Manning and his wife, Jennie.

1916 Sears catalog home. They shipped the entire house to you by railroad car. Sears was like Ikea before Ikea.