Thursday, March 14, 2013

Henry Driskill -- The Mayor of Woodstock

George Henry Driskill was born May 15, 1900 and grew up just a few hours west, in Keysville, VA. He married his sweetheart Alice in his early 20's, and in his late 20's he moved to Norfolk to accept a job offer from the Ford Plant on Indian River Road. He and Alice rented a home on the river in the historic Oaklette neighborhood, but by the 1940's he wanted land of his own. In 1947 he purchased 8 acres of partly cleared, mostly wooded farm land on Providence Road in rural Kempsville, where spent his non-work hours bird hunting, then rabbit hunting, then drinking, then herding goats; all the while earning the admiration of his neighbors.

Henry retired from the Ford Plant in 1965; and by this time, Kempsville's transition from rural to residential was underway. I-64 construction would overtake his neighbor's property within the next couple of years; and by the late 1970's, most of the farm land around Henry's patch had given way to home construction.  Henry's neighbor Harry Davis donated part of his property on the other side of Providence Road to the city for the development of Woodstock Park. You can read some of Henry's thoughts on the changes in a Virginia Beach Beacon article from 1981 here -- page 1, page 2, page 3.

Henry Driskill died on May 23, 1988. His wife Alice died just a few years later, in December of 1991.   The Driskills had no children of their own, so the land was left to a good friend, a self-described "adopted grandson". Richard Spreder did the reasonable thing and sold the land for development, but he insisted that the new right-of-way that serviced the new homes be named in honor of Henry and Alice.

Henry and Alice, 1965. Henry is admiring his retirement present from the guys at the Ford Plant. I am told that one of their favorite married-couple activities was dynamiting tree stumps.

Before retiring, Henry purchased a car from the Ford Plant for Alice -- a 1964 Galaxy 500. He dubbed it "Miss Alice". It is in pristine condition, with just over 20K miles on it. It is currently under the care of the adopted grandson.

The Driskill residence on Old Providence Road, ca. 1980.  You can see "Miss Alice" in the garage.   The view from the overpass inspired Mr. Driskill to refer to his property as "Driskill Valley"

The same view from the same location in 2013. Trees have grown since then...

looking north, on the property line separating Driskill's property from Avalon Church of Christ.

Next door, neighbor Eloise Cesil's house was in the path of I-64 construction. Henry helped her move her home out of the construction zone and then provided a parcel of land for her to live on. When development began on Driskill Court, this house was moved to Pungo.

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