The amazing history of this bustling “new” corridor.
Granby Street – now known as “restaurant row” in pedestrian-friendly Downtown Norfolk – is the very heart of this centuries-old waterfront city. In fact, during its heyday from the early 1900s through the forties, Granby Street was a premier shopping and gathering spot for the entire Hampton Roads region.
Named in the 1760s after John Manners, Marquis of Granby – a British war hero and member of Parliament who never set foot in America – Granby Street started as a narrow lane less than two blocks long.
By 1910 it was the busiest street in Norfolk with department stores, hotels and theaters lining its sidewalks and accommodating visitors from near and far. As home to the world’s largest Navy base, Norfolk’s population doubled during the war years, setting the stage for some especially lively times on Granby Street. But starting in the sixties, with the advent of suburbs and shopping malls, Granby Street’s star faded as times changed and decades passed.
But now this major thoroughfare of yesteryear has reemerged as the city’s core. Today’s Granby Street is a delightfully walkable stretch of restaurants, boutiques and entertainment venues – bustling with professionals on lunch break, shoppers from the MacArthur Center just one block over, theater-goers, students from nearby colleges, and visitors enjoying their excursion to this historic waterfront city.
And while Granby Street’s character has evolved, echoes of those glory days are more prevalent than many people know. The “arched lights” that were on display from 1909 to 1925 have recently been reinstalled. Today’s light rail trains are reminiscent of the old streetcars that once clanged through the city. And glimpses of architecture and stonework survive from those bygone days.
Everything old is new again. There’s truth in that expression, and the revitalized Granby Street is living, breathing, bustling proof.