Virginia Beach Awarded Underrepresented Community Grant from National Park Service for Seatack and L&J Gardens Nominations

Thursday, July 16, 2020

​The City of Virginia Beach has been awarded an FY2019 Underrepresented Community grant program grant from the National Park Service (NPS), a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The $47,183 grant will partially fund projects to prepare National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) nominations for the L&J Gardens and Seatack neighborhoods. Virginia Beach was one of 18 grant awardees announced by the NPS on July 7, and one of only two local government recipients.

The NPS news release notes that the Underrepresented Community grant program focuses on documenting the homes, lives, landscapes and experiences of underrepresented peoples who played a significant role in national history. Eligible applicants included state and tribal historic preservation offices and certified local governments.

The Virginia State Review Board reviewed the two  neighborhoods for eligibility for the NRHP in December 2019 and determined both to be eligible. The Department of Planning and Community Development prepared and submitted the grant application to NPS. Each community's civic league provided a letter of support.

The Seatack neighborhood has its origins as one of the oldest free Black communities in Virginia and the United States. It is located along both sides of Birdneck Road in the area south of Interstate 264. For the NRHP, the Seatack community is significant as an intact, early 20th century Black community. The majority of the houses are one- or 1 ½-story frame bungalows, typical of more modest vernacular housing forms, and date from the first half of the 20th century. The neighborhood also includes ranch and minimal traditional style homes. The northern boundary of the proposed historic district is anchored by the old Seatack Elementary School, which opened in 1952 for African American students.

By contrast, L&J Gardens developed as a post-World War II suburban community for African American professionals. It was platted in 1954 by Walter L. Riddick and his sister Lillian Riddick near Wesleyan Drive and Northampton Boulevard. They named the neighborhood after their parents, Lizzie and John Riddick. The Riddicks hired  a local African American builder, Herolin Deloatch, to design and construct homes on the newly subdivided lots. His designs included ranch and split-level homes clad in brick. By 1958 there were 30 families living in the community. Some of the original property owners still reside in L&J Gardens.

The NRHP is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. It was authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, is managed by the NPS, and is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America's historic and archaeological resources. As of 2019, there were more than 95,000 properties listed in the NRHP representing 1.8 million contributing resources — buildings, sites, districts, structures and objects. Listing in the NRHP is honorary and does not provide specific protections or regulations for historic properties or districts.

The City of Virginia Beach was designated as a Certified Local Government (CLG) in 2016. The program establishes partnerships between local governments, the federal historic preservation program and each state's State Historic Preservation Office. Each CLG community assumes a formal role in the identification, evaluation and protection of its heritage resources. In Virginia Beach, the Department of Planning manages this through the Historic Preservation Commission and the Historical Review Board, each of which have the right to comment on the eligibility of resources nominated to the NRHP. Being a CLG community provided Virginia Beach the necessary criteria for eligibility to apply for this grant award.

# # # 

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​