L & J Gardens Neighborhood Historic District Achieves Listing in Virginia Landmarks Register
The L & J Gardens neighborhood in Virginia Beach is now listed as a historic district in the Virginia Landmarks Register. The Virginia Board of Historic Resources voted to accept the nomination at its June 16 meeting. Located at Wesleyan Drive and Northampton Boulevard, it is a post-World War II suburban development that was planned by Black owner-developers and built primarily by Black contractors and builders. The platted subdivision was marketed to African American professionals who faced limited housing options due to racial segregation and unfair housing practices.
The neighborhood was originally platted in 1946 by Walter Riddick, his sister, Elizabeth, and other investors, as L & J Sites. In 1954, a section of this plat was redivided as L & J Gardens, named after the Riddick's parents, Lizzie and John. The Riddicks engaged builder Herolin DeLoatch to construct homes on the newly subdivided lots. Additional subdivisions of the original plat followed. Although L & J Gardens was one of many subdivisions platted in then Princess Anne County during a period of rapid residential expansion, it was the only neighborhood intended for affluent middle-class African Americans.
Original residents of L & J Gardens were educated, upwardly mobile, middle-class professionals that included accomplished attorneys, educators, doctors, and military veterans. A small number of original owners remain, and many residents are second and third-generation members of the L & J Gardens community. The list of notable residents in L & J Gardens from the 1950s to today is extensive and many achieved firsts for African Americans in the area, including John Perry (Virginia Beach City Council), Roy Woods, (Virginia Beach School Board), Robert F. Hagans, Jr. (Judge, Virginia Beach District Court), and Ellen "Becky" Livas (female television reporter on Norfolk's CBS affiliate WTAR).
The nomination was produced with assistance from the Underrepresented Communities grant program, administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. The grant program focuses on documenting the homes, lives, landscapes, and experiences of underrepresented peoples who played a significant role in national history. Additional funding was provided by the City of Virginia Beach through the Historic Preservation Commission. The nomination will next be forwarded to the National Park Service for consideration for listing the L & J Gardens Neighborhood Historic District in the National Register of Historic Places.
L & J Gardens is a historically African American neighborhood that has just been listed as a Historic District in the Virginia Landmarks Register.
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