Antique Shop Find: A Collection of Virginia Postcards from Decades Past

31020408326_0d8ccdb980_oA few weekends ago my family and I took a fall weekend trip to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia in hopes of seeing deeper shades of autumn than Alexandria was offering. It’s a quaint little town that my wife and I have visited several times during our stays at the nearby, now-abandoned Coolfont resort.

One of the shops in town that I quite enjoy is the Berkley Springs Antique Mall, an expansive space chock-full of all manner of things out of the past century or so. We stopped in for a visit and after wandering about the place for half an hour or so, I found myself rummaging through a series of boxes full of postcards organized by state. I dug around and uncovered the Virginia box and, flipping through the postcards, pulled out a few that particularly struck my interest and brought them home with a mind to share them here.

The postcards I selected appear to be from the 1960’s or thereabouts. Two of them were postmarked (1961, 1967) with greeting notes penned on the back. I have laid them out below, with all of the descriptive text found on the back of each shown below its card face. You can also see these in my Flickr album.

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The Motor House Pool, Williamsburg, Virginia

The three swimming pools of The Motor House offer guests of this unusual establishment a refreshing pause in the sightseeing schedule of the historic city. There is a pool for diving, one for swimming and another for wading. Adjacent are a playground for children and sports areas for adults. The Motor House is Williamsburg’s most popular family accommodation.

Ektachrome by Thos. L. Williams

Mirro-Krome® Card by H. S. Crocker Co., Inc., Baltimore, Md. 21224

Official Colonial Williamsburg Card

[ see the back of this postcard ]

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Remembering The Boathouse

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This morning I found this concert ticket at the back of my dresser drawer while rummaging about for something or other. That Crash Test Dummies show back in 1996 was the last time I ever set foot in my favorite concert venue, The Boathouse in Norfolk. It was also my second date with she who would become my wife (presently of 17 years). I’m glad she got to see it before it died.

Here’s a bit of history about The Boathouse from a 2004 Virginian-Pilot article that has also faded out of existence (thanks Internet Archive):

The Boathouse started as an adjunct to Bessie’s Place, the cavernous farmers/flea market that opened in mid-1983 where Harbor Park now stands.

The market’s management asked Cellar Door Concert’s Bill Reid to look at the old warehouse on a pier to see if it might be usable.

Reid, now president of Rising Tide Productions, remembers walking into the decrepit place.

“You could literally see the water underneath when we walked in,” Reid said. But he got it into shape and began booking bands to play. The first were the Skip Castro Band and the Knighthawks.

He innovated by offering all-ages shows, one of the first venues in the country to do so. Those of drinking age were segregated from those who weren’t by a moveable wall of chicken wire.

“At the time, there just wasn’t a good concert venue for smaller drawing acts,” said Maisey, also a free-lance music writer for The Virginian-Pilot .

Sadly, late 2003 brought Hurricane Isabel and it was more than that wondrous warehouse on a pier on the Elizabeth River could bear.

The Boathouse was an incredible concert hall and I have a great many wonderful memories enjoying concerts there with friends throughout high school and college. I’ve been on both sides of that chicken-wire fence as the years rolled by. I even arm-wrestled a bouncer. (He won.)

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Some of the headliners I recall seeing at The Boathouse include They Might Be Giants, Violent Femmes, Waxing Poetics, The Smithereens, Bad Religion, James, The Replacements, Pixies, The Connells, Faith No More, BoDeans, Tori Amos, and Crash Test Dummies. And yes, I saw the best concert of my life there: They Might Be Giants on their Flood tour in 1990. Here’s a nearly complete concert setlist running from 1983 to 2003.

I’ve been to a number of venues that are pointed in the same direction, but none has ever come close to the experience that was The Boathouse.

On the Passing of The Pottery Wine and Cheese Shop in Williamsburg

cheeseOn my last trip to the Hampton Roads area with my family, I was dealt a sorrowful blow. One of the favorite fixtures of my youth is The Pottery Wine and Cheese Shop in the The Village Shops at Kingsmill on Pocahontas Trail in Williamsburg. I should say that’s the name by which I came to know it when my mother and I first discovered it in the mid-’80s, though it has more recently been known as The Wine & Cheese Shop at Kingsmill. What it has lately been called is of litter import however as, quite sadly, after over 30 years in business it has closed.

The place holds a great many pleasant memories for me. I grew up in York County, and my family and I (my mother and I, mostly) spent a lot of time in Williamsburg. I attended Walsingham Academy during Kindergarten and 1st Grade, and so we made the weekday trip up the Colonial Parkway from Dandy to that Catholic private school on Jamestown Rd. Even on weekends we spent a lot of time around CW. The whole region was and is awash with history and my parents were fond of the colonial atmosphere of Williamsburg. I, too, became so and at a very early age.

We actually moved to Williamsburg (the Kingspoint neighborhood) in the late spring of 1986, but our stay there was destined to be a short one, as my parents decided to divorce the morning after we moved in. All of the stress and anxiety which that sort of thing puts on a 14-year-old aside, it was nice living in town for the summer while we waited for the house to sell. (After the summer, mom and I ended up in Village Green in the Oyster Point area of Newport News).

22289313384_fc5f50b64a_oAfter we got settled, mom and I resumed our weekend trips up to Williamsburg and around that time discovered The Pottery Wine & Cheese Shop when we were walking around The Village Shops, mom in search of sewing supplies of some sort. It was a lovely place, a small gourmet market and deli that made wonderful fresh baked bread and sandwiches with the most amazing sweet mustard sauce. Mom and I ordered the Turkey Trot (french bread, turkey, swiss, sauce) that day and, since then, I’ve surely eaten over a hundred of them. I have an aunt Jane on my father’s side who is a gourmet, and on our visits to her cottage on Fishing Bay in Deltaville she instilled in me a love of cuisine rather richer and more exotic than that which piques the typical young boy’s palette. Because of this, the cheeses, meats, imported crackers and pastries, and all manner of such things that lined the market’s shelves appealed  to me greatly. (There was much wine, as well, but that was something that would wait some years to enter my sphere.) I remember young teenage me thinking that it would certainly be a measure of adult professional success to be able to regularly shop at this market. I hoped I’d get there one day!

Lunch at the Wine & Cheese shop became a weekend ritual for my mother and I, compounded by the proximity of Next Generation Computers of Williamsburg, just around the corner. Being a computer geek since age 10, we purchased an original Macintosh, an Apple IIe, and an Apple IIgs from the place, and so I would have fun fiddling around in there for half an hour, chatting the ears off of poor salesman Dennis Long, while mom perused the yarn and fabrics a few shops down. And after that: the Turkey Trots. That was the drill, basically every weekend for a couple of years, and we loved it.

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This mini-post links to a post on Nostlgic Virginian's sister website, Byte Cellar, a vintage computing blog. It is included here becuase the post in question is significantly tied to happenings or locales in the state of Virginia.

LINK: A Few Hampton Roads Academy Memories From a Geek in the Making

Remembering Coliseum Mall

coliseum_mapI guess it’s a cliché, kids hanging out at the mall for fun, but so it was with me. I grew up in Yorktown and remember my (stay-at-home) mom (what was then called a “housewife”) going to the local mall several times a week in the summer and bringing me along. I loved it. I have very specific memories of the toy stores and department stores as far back as when I was five or six years old.

For us, the “local” mall was Coliseum Mall in Hampton, VA (it was actually a good little hike from home). I feel like I grew up there, in a lot of ways. When I think of my youth and the fun I had in the ’80s, my thoughts often take me to those large orange and brown floor tiles and water fountains, the zig-zag ceiling window arrangements, and the overall feel of the place. Early on it was the toy stores I was most interested in and, of course, and as I headed towards the teenage years, electronics and books stores came into the mix. I loved that mall and the experience of walking around in that thick ’80s atmosphere I remember so fondly.

Coliseum Mall was built by Mall Properties, Inc. (MPI) and opened on Halloween Day in 1973 along Mercury Boulevard in Hampton.  It was the largest and busiest shopping area on the Virginia Peninsula. It’s original anchors were Korvettes, JC Penny, and Nachmans. In 1976 another wing was added, perpendicular to the original, bringing with it Smith & Welton and Thalhimers. Sometime in the early nineties the Cinema I & II movie theaters (I saw Return of the Jedi and Space Camp there!) were replaced by a food court with, as best I can put it together, an overall re-styling of the mall following soon after. (Bye-bye seventies-style orange tiles, hello boring white.)

As these renovations were underway the mall was in decline, not due in small part to the opening of Crown American’s Patrick Henry Mall in the Oyster Point area of Newport News in 1987. (At the time I lived in walking distance to the new mall and that, along with changing interests, marked the end of any frequent trips to Coliseum.) Coliseum Mall continued its slow decline until it closed its doors in January of 2007 for demolition the following month. It was replaced by an open-air shopping area known as Peninsula Town Center which is, at the time of this writing, on its third owner and doing rather poorly.

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Click above for photo gallery.

Over the past year I have been on the search for photos of the mall as I best remember it, with its original decor. There is almost nothing on the Internet showing the mall at that period. Having come up with little in the way of a photographic history, I contacted MPI (now Olshan Properties) in hopes they could help me. They gave the name of a contact in the City of Hampton who I was told might be able to help, as the city had prepared “a wonderful collage of photos” of the mall for former owner, Mr. Olshan. Happily, my city contact was able to provide me with a number of scanned photos, schematics, and newspaper clippings showing Coliseum Mall in its early days. Unfortunately, these photos are black and white, but a single color photo of the interior of the mall as it once was (that orange!) can be found in a post about the Peninsula Town Center Information Pamphlet (the collage that Olshan spoke of) at the That Mall is sick and that Store is dead! website. It’s the upper-right photo at the top of the page. (The owner of that website has requested I not use her scanned image on my site, unfortunately.)

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This mini-post links to a post on Nostlgic Virginian's sister website, Byte Cellar, a vintage computing blog. It is included here becuase the post in question is significantly tied to happenings or locales in the state of Virginia.

LINK: Whither Radio Shack

“Beverley Hills — The Completely-Planned Residential Community”

Beverley Hills pamphlet coverIn March 2003, my wife and I moved to the Beverley Hills neighborhood in northwest Alexandria [map], leaving a townhome where we had lived since August ’98 in the Old Town area of Alexandria [map]. The house we moved into was built in 1939 as part of a later phase of the neighborhood, which was established a year or two prior.

Most of the homes in Beverley Hills (one of the planners was named Beverley) were of rather small and basic design, with expansions being added as new owners came and old owners went over the years. Our home saw five expansions between 1939 and today (thought it’s still of only moderate square footage).

Well, a few years ago one, of our neighbors mentioned that she had located a 1930s brochure promoting the under construction Beverley Hills neighborhood. Being one intrigued by the histories of things, I asked if I might scan the item to archive and share. The result is the PDF document you see here (click the photo to link over). The illustrations and the language within are certainly from a different time.

While the street my family and I live on cannot be seen in the included aerial photo — it hadn’t been built yet — the area shown does happen to be the part of the neighborhood we first stumbled into and found so appealing, in searching Alexandria for a larger home than our Old Town dwelling.

I was thrilled to find this little piece of history that hits so…close to home.

The Tiny Little Book Nook That Once Was My Library

York County Public Library pre-1984

Here in Alexandria, my family and I visit the local libraries rather frequently (we have an eight year old daughter). The libraries around here are excellent — expansive and full of books, audio / video media, and computers for the public galore.

When I was a kid growing up (long ago) in York County, however, things were a little less lavish. First of all, spotting a computer anywhere in public when I was my daughter’s age (that would be 1980) was an occasion to be noted. And second, the local library was, well, a somewhat limited resource.

Our local library, the York County Public Library in Grafton, was small. It was so small that it resided in a (small) strip mall along George Washington Memorial Highway known as Grafton Shopping Center [map]. It was roughly the same size as the ABC store next to it and smaller, as I recall, than the lovely Joe & Mima’s pizzeria and the Boulevard Cleaners that flanked them both. It was truly small.

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This mini-post links to a post on Nostlgic Virginian's sister website, Byte Cellar, a vintage computing blog. It is included here becuase the post in question is significantly tied to happenings or locales in the state of Virginia.

LINK: It Was More Fun When Stores Had Arcade Games

Beethoven’s Inn — Oh, How I Miss Thee

beethovens_inn_sqFrom birth to present I’ve lived in Williamsburg exactly one summer and one full year.

The summer I speak of was in 1986 when my mother, father, and I moved from Dandy in York County to Kingspoint in Williamsburg. The morning after the move, my parents decided to get a divorce, and so that Williamsburg stay was limited to one summer. I was disappointed (on a few counts).

My second stint as a citizen of Williamsburg came after I graduated CNU and moved to an apartment there, where I lived while working for an engineering firm in Newport News. The year was 1996 — ten years later.

While I’ve spent a rather small percentage of my life as a Williamsburg resident, I’ve spent a great deal of time in Williamsburg. I love the colonial atmosphere and have enjoyed frequently visiting with my family, as both child and adult. I also had a habit of dating Williamsburg girls in my youth (and outside that, those I met in Williamsburg, at any rate). Ahh, the romance of Williamsburg…

Nowadays, most of my family’s visits are centered around the Great Wolf Lodge, which my daughter loves. But at each visit my mind wanders back — far back — to people and places that were truly special to me. One of them is the now defunct Beethoven’s Inn which was located on Merrimac Trail in Williamsburg.

Beethoven’s Inn was a special place. It was a New York-style deli that was opened by Jim Wesson on December 16, 1975, 205 years — to the day — after Beethoven’s birth.

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