Immerse yourself in Norfolk’s history at the Willoughby-Baylor House. The ground floor features changing exhibitions of American art from the Chrysler Museum while the second floor is devoted to the history of one of America’s original heritage port cities with Norfolk-made art and artifacts on display. See period paintings, furniture, and silver, including Cephas Thompson’s stately portrait of Norfolk attorney John Nivison, painted in 1812, and a delicately-engraved silver sugar bowl created by Jeremiah Andrews around 1791.
The Willoughby-Baylor House was built in 1794 by Captain William Willoughby, a sixth-generation descendant of English immigrant Captain Thomas Willoughby. The architecturally-restrained townhouse is representative of the many middle-class, side-passage dwellings built following Norfolk’s destruction during the Revolution.
Thomas Willoughby was the recipient of a 1636 Royal grant of 200 acres—50 of which would become the town of Norfolk in 1682. Before William Willoughby built this townhouse in 1794, the site was occupied by a Masonic Lodge that gave Freemason Street its name. The lot on which the home was built was part of Norfolk’s original 50 acres.
When William Willoughby died in 1800, at the age of 42, his estate included fourteen slaves, ten lots, and six dwellings. The house remained under the Baylor family name until it was sold in 1890. Over time, the house fell into decline and was slated for demolition until it was bought and restored by the Norfolk Historical Foundation in the early 1960s. Stewardship of the Willoughby-Baylor House was transferred to the Chrysler Museum in 1969. The garden, designed by Siska Aurand Landscape Architects, was installed in 1991 and represents colonial landscaping practices.
The above historical description is based upon The Willoughby-Baylor House’s entry on the National Register of Historical Places and Virginia Landmarks Register, where it has been listed since 1971.
601 E. Freemason St.