This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt features a busy marketplace complete with cows, hotel, shoppers, and the Waterford coffee and tea van, perhaps a forerunner of food trucks and kiosks. The community where I grew up in the 50s and 60s was once equally vibrant while today it struggles to revitalize itself.
|Photo by Laura Purvis|
Cradock is a historic neighborhood built in 1918 to house shipyard workers during World War I since the neighboring city of Portsmouth, Virginia was not equipped to handle the large numbers of workers moving in. It is significant because it was the first government-funded community in the US. Cradock was designed as a fully self-contained pedestrian neighborhood of 35 blocks surrounding a shopping district close enough for most residents to walk to stores, to school, to church, to a library and post office, and to recreation areas. The same theories used in planning Cradock are being used today, but now it’s called “new urbanism.”
Cradock was named for Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock whose fleet was sunk by the Germans in 1914. The street layout is based on an anchor with Gillis Road (where I lived) forming the stock and the main thoroughfare Afton Parkway forming the shank. The curved part is created by Alden and Dahlgren Avenues. Many of the roads were named for naval heroes.
Inspired by Howard over at Postcards Then and Now I’ve put together some before and after shots of the commercial district of Cradock. Let’s go shopping in Cradock then and now.
1. At the corner of Gillis and Afton was Reds, a bit of a forerunner of convenience stores where you could get lunch as well as buy light bulbs, cleaning supplies, toys, and candy. I was scared of this store because greasy boys smoking cigarettes were always hanging around. However, I had to be brave and go in because Reds carried the best selection of Barbie doll clothes.
Today it is a pawn shop. Next door was a hardware store, and I see by the Gliddens paint sign that it still is. At the opposite corner was a bakery and later a florist. I don’t know what is there now.
2. Across the street was a dry cleaners (although it was some other business in this older photo). It later housed a talented upholsterer who did some work for us.
Now, the stores are home to a real estate management company and some other office.
|Older photos from HistoricCradock.org|
The park in the middle was where every summer Holy Angels Catholic Church held its annual bazaar. We went every night. We could play Bingo, enjoy ponies and carnival rides, play carnival games and win cheap prizes (my favorite was picking a plastic duck out of the “pond” to see if I was a winner – yeah, I’m easily entertained). And cotton candy! Cotton candy EVERY. DAY. This park remains although not quite as lush as it used to be, but it still sees plenty of action with fall festival and other “Come Home to Cradock” activities.
4. This part of the shopping strip gives a good view of the “new urbanism” concept with apartments above the stores. On the right was Highs Ice Cream. Five cents a dip when I was a kid. On the far left corner was Moys. They ran both a Chinese laundry and take-out restaurant. We used to get their chow mein quite often. A variety of businesses have come and gone over the years including appliance stores, antique shops, thrift stores, and beauty parlors.
5. Here’s the bank where I had my little savings account and Christmas club. Now it is the latest of a series of restaurants that have tried to make it there. The empty lot was once Overtons Supermarket. We did most of our grocery shopping at Colonial Store on the highway, but if we needed something right away, Momma sent me to Overtons.
6. Going to the Afton Theater was everybody’s Saturday activity. The ladies’ restroom had a vestibule with a picture window where you could continue watching the movie while your friend was occupied. Sometimes we hid in the bathroom after the movie so we could sneak back in and watch it again for free. There have been several failed attempts to raise funds to refurbish the place for 2nd run movies or little theater. Right now it’s a gutted disaster. Next door was a drug store with the best selection of penny candy.
7. Down from the Afton, the shop on the corner was a fabric store where Momma was a frequent customer since she made most of our clothes. At one time it was run by her high school friend Bertie Winn Campbell. It is now just a variety store or junk shop.
8. Chapman’s market was a meat market. My grandmother sometimes helped out since the Chapmans were old family friends.
Now look at that stretch of Afton Parkway. So depressing.
9. The Gazebo (bandstand) has always been the heart of “downtown Cradock.” It was originally on Prospect Parkway but was moved to its current location in Afton Park in the circle to be a focal point for community activities.
|Photo by Laura Purvis|
To see what else is happening in the neighborhood, head over to Sepia Saturday.