Looking Back to the Future: Norfolk Renewal in Photographs by Carroll H. Walker
April 21, 2018 — March 31, 2019
With the demolition of the National Hotel in 1958, Norfolk launched the biggest urban renewal project in its history.
The Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) had already begun redevelopment programs in other parts of the city, mostly focusing on public housing. With the Downtown Redevelopment Project, urban planners sought to replace Norfolk’s old downtown with something entirely new. When the dust settled at the end of the 1960s, 140 acres had been cleared. Taverns, burlesque houses, markets, and hotels had been leveled; grand boulevards, modern civic buildings, and towering high-rises took their place. The city’s leaders aimed to establish a new identity for Norfolk by replacing old and dilapidated buildings with modern structures.
Photographer Carroll Herbert Walker, Sr. (1904–1990) had an eye for both the dramatic and the subtle changes brought about by the redevelopment of downtown. The Baltimore native was raised in Norfolk’s Brambleton neighborhood, just east of downtown. Interested in art from an early age, Walker studied painting and book illustration until the Depression drove him to seek other work. He became a sales representative for the Norfolk & Western Railroad, where he worked for 38 years.
As a photographer and avid photography collector, Walker focused on the built and natural environment of Hampton Roads, publishing multiple books about the region that combined historical images with his own contemporary photographs. The works in this exhibition come from a substantial collection given to the Chrysler Museum by Walker in the late 1960s.
This exhibition is on view at the Willoughby-Baylor House, 601 E. Freemason Street, Norfolk.