Ghent Historic District
|Location||Roughly bounded by Olney Rd., Virginia Beach Blvd., Smith's Creek, and Brambleton Ave., Norfolk, Virginia|
|Area||77 acres (31 ha)|
|Architectural style||Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival, Queen Anne|
|NRHP reference #||80004455|
|Added to NRHP||July 4, 1980|
|Designated VLR||June 19, 1979|
The Ghent District includes the various Ghent neighborhoods (Ghent, West Ghent, and Ghent Square) in Norfolk, Virginia. Its boundaries are roughly Brambleton Avenue/The Hague on the south, the Elizabeth River on west, Monticello Avenue on the east and the railroad crossing immediately north of 22nd Street. The area continues to spread eastward with newer developments (The Alexander at Ghent  and The Row at Ghent ). The main north/south thoroughfares are Hampton Boulevard, Colley Avenue, Colonial Avenue, Llewellyn Avenue, Granby Street, and Monticello Avenue. The main east/west thoroughfares are Olney Road, Princess Anne Road, and 21st Street. Brambleton Avenue acts as a connector from Ghent to Downtown and crosses the southern tip of Ghent briefly.
The Ghent district of Norfolk, Virginia, was developed beginning in 1890, with most construction occurring between 1892 and 1907. Richard Drummer, a 19th-century Norfolk resident is credited with naming the neighborhood "Ghent." On 24 December 1814, the Treaty of Ghent was signed, ending the War of 1812. It is said that, because one of his ships had the distinction of bringing the signed treaty to America, Drummond renamed his "Pleasant Point" house "Ghent" to commemorate the event. The street "Drummond Place" in Ghent also bears his name. Located blocks west of Norfolk's present commercial core, Ghent originally covered approximately 220 acres (0.89 km2). Although most of Ghent was laid along a standard grid plan, the siting of the south section of the suburb by Smith Creek (now called "The Hague"), and a "Y"-shaped inlet off the Elizabeth River, suggested a different planning approach. Marshlands at this area were filled and the shoreline given a semicircular shape. The resulting street, Mowbray Arch, soon became the favored location for the stately houses of Norfolk's middle and upper-middle class residents. Ghent's plan was not particularly innovative, but it successfully exploited the area's strategic waterfront location, providing views over the creek to the grass banks on the opposite shore. While Ghent originally covered more than thirty blocks in area, the Mowbray Arch section displays the highest concentration of houses built during the late 19th century. This area is contained by Smith's Creek and Olney Road, a four-lane traffic artery connecting the two arms of the creek and providing east-west access to downtown Norfolk.
The area went into steep decline in the years following World War II (especially eastern Ghent, today's Ghent Square neighborhood). It more recently has been the focus of a very concentrated and successful gentrification effort that continues to this day. As a result, the area is one of the most economically diverse in Norfolk with large turn-of-the century apartment buildings, next to rows of cozy bungalows, side by side with newly developed condominiums. During the first few years of the 21st century, many former apartment buildings were redeveloped into condominium units at a rapid pace. Much of what was eastern Ghent, in which was torn down and rebuilt (including roads) as today's Ghent Square neighborhood. Consequently, few of the original buildings remain with the notable exceptions of Maury High School and the Van Wyck branch of the Norfolk Public Library.
The Ghent Historic District is a national historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It encompasses 184 contributing buildings and one contributing site in a primarily residential section of Norfolk. The neighborhood includes notable examples of the Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival styles. Notable buildings include the Warren (c. 1925), the Holland (1904), the Mowbray (c. 1914), Eastern Virginia Medical School, Sarah Leigh Hospital (1902), Fergus Reid residence (1892), the Frank S. Royster residence (c. 1900-02), the William H. White residence (c. 1892), the Richard B. Tunstall residence (c. 1892), the Robert M. and Robert W. Hughes residence (c. 1895-1900), and the William Tait residence (c. 1895).
Ghent's commercial district is known for unique shops, restaurants, the Naro Cinema (which screens foreign and independent films), and Doumar's Cones and BBQ (known for having the world's first ice cream cone machine). The businesses within Ghent are predominantly located on Colley Avenue, Colonial Avenue, Monticello Avenue (which includes many fast-food establishments as it is the transition area between Ghent and an industrial area to the east), and along 20th, 21st and 22nd Streets. There are many other businesses tucked into side streets leading from the main streets in Ghent as well.
Nearby cultural attractions include Norfolk's major art museum, the Chrysler Museum of Art, and the Virginia Opera's home stage, the Harrison Opera House. Also located in the Ghent district of Norfolk is the historic Naro Theatre.
The neighborhood is also home to Norfolk's largest medical complex, containing Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Sentara Heart Hospital, Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters, and Eastern Virginia Medical School.