A Neighborhood Improvement Journal - Summer 2021


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Neighborhood Stories


Neighborhood Life has, on occasion, published stories of recollections of life in and around home and community. Here are two more such stories, these coming from the Old Wythe neighborhood in Hampton, Virginia.

Especially noteworthy about these is their origin and motivation. Along with several other neighborhood history stories, these were suggested, motivated and collected by the local neighborhood organization, “The Wythe” . Hopefully, such a local history project may serve as an inspiration for other community groups looking for a worthy project.



Mary Todd Lankus: Memories From a Lifetime in Olde Wythe

Posted on: November 8th, 2014 by hollyevans

During most of my eighty years, I have lived in the Wythe area.

When I was a child, my family moved to Osprey Avenue. It was an ideal place to raise children. We soon discovered Robinson Creek right across the street from our house.

We were delighted. Father bought us a small boat and the boys built a pier. There were lots of crabs in the creek in those days, many of which we caught and ate.

These were happy times for us. All seven of us made new friends, some of whom are still around. My best friend is still alive and kicking. We attended the old George Wythe School, which stood where the swimming pool is now (I believe that building was town down around 1959).

We did a lot of roller skating, usually down Orchard Avenue, which was called “Snake Walk” because of its dramatic curves. We sometimes went over to play on the beach near Orchard Avenue, across Chesapeake Avenue. Later we went to swim across from Manteo Avenue, which was called Old Ferry Landing.

The water was much cleaner in those days. My next home in Wythe was on Robinson Road. Soon after we were married, we bought a house across from the park where they occasionally had a band concert.

Once they helped out at an Easter sunrise service there. When our family outgrew our little house, we built a house nearby on Chesapeake Avenue.

To our delight, Robinson Creek backed up to our backyard. History repeated itself when we bought a small boat, built a pier, and went crabbing again. Our children had the same fun we had, also often crossed the street and played on the beach.

Old age caught up with us, then we needed a smaller house. You guessed it, in Old Wythe. We found a lot and built on Kenmore Drive where beautiful trees surround us. “Olde Wythe” truly is a good place to live.




Herbert Walker: A World War II Memory

Posted on: November 8th, 2014 by hollyevans

Herbert Walker shared  this memory of growing up on Powhatan Parkway during World War II.

During the war the U.S. government had built temporary housing on Bay Avenue, behind the Kecoughtan Court Apartment.  Mr. Walker thought these building held Italian POW’s that had been captured during the Africa campaign.  Mr. Walker says that around Wythe the site was known as the Italian POW camp.

Research has verified that during World War II, the US government leased what was then vacant land on Bay Avenue from the Catholic Church and built a 363-bed dormitory for female workers to work in government jobs in the area. We also know that Italian prisoners of war were housed at Camp Patrick Henry and in barracks adjacent to the Chesapeake and Ohio piers in Newport News. When the Italians became our allies during the war, the prisoners were organized into Italian Service Units and allowed to go out into the community on work details. We believe that some of these men were housed on Bay Avenue.

After two hours from the initial alarm was raised, the Italian men were found on the steps of the Wythe Parkway Baptist Church (Reverend Blackburn’s church, as Mr. Walker calls It.) drinking beers not 100 yards from the barracks. Evidently they were in a state of inebriation but managed to walk back to the camp without incident.




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