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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 Penney, 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.

coliseum_mall_collage

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 who is 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 laid 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.

Related Links:

Related update: Two torn newspaper comic strips from the 1930s found inside of our kitchen wall in Beverley Hills during a water repair back in 2012. I imagine these are a construction worker’s lunchtime reading, accidentally left behind and walled in.

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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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Yorktown’s 1977 Bicentennial Time Capsule Ceremony

Taylor and Warner at Bicentennial Ceremony

I grew up in an area of York County known as Dandy. It’s located just a few miles from historic Yorktown and its Revolutionary War battlefield and historic museums. My family spent a lot of time in Yorktown when I was young, and one of my earliest memories of Yorktown proper is the April 1977 burial of a time capsule on the grounds of the Yorktown Victory Center in celebration of the American Revolution Bicentennial.

1097103_10151597728728129_1204954903_oThe event took place on Friday, April 15th and was presided over by then-Governor Mills Godwin. Notably in attendance were then-Senator John Warner and his wife, actress Elizabeth Taylor. During the procession, the bullet-shaped time capsule was filled with a variety of items, including a letter written by Godwin to a future governor, a Bicentennial pen worn by Warner in his travels across the country during the Bicentennial year 1976, and a red bandana donated by Taylor used in her film Giant (filmed, in-part, in Virginia).

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Welcome to My New Blog!

blake_kite_yorktown_1975

Let me welcome you to Nostalgic Virginian, a blog that I conceived several years ago and has finally been born. For, you see, I happen to be a nostalgic Virginian.

This is a place where I look forward to openly sharing a few stand-out memories of people, places, and experiences that I formed over the years living all my life here in Virginia. It is my hope that a few geographically similar, like-minded people will find this blog and have their memories occasionally stirred by my accounts and, if so inspired, share their own thoughts and memories in the comments.

That’s what this blog is all about, in a nutshell. More details can be found in my About Page, for the intrigued.

This is going to be fun. Welcome and enjoy.

[ Photo is of me at age three or so (~1975), flying a kite in my front yard in Dandy (Yorktown) where the York River meets The Bay ]

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