Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Woodstock Road

If Woodstock Road isn't the oldest residential street in Kempsville, it certainly rates in the oldest 1% of residential streets in Kempsville; and possibly in all of Virginia Beach. I am making a distinction here between residential streets (roads that serve specific neighborhoods; Lord Dunmore Drive, Edwin Drive, Indian Lakes Blvd., etc.) and main roads (roads that interconnect municipalities like Norfolk, Kempsville or Great Bridge and are generally lined with businesses; Kempsville Road, Princess Anne Road, Indian River Road, etc.). I will grant that in Princess Anne County's rural years, farms lined the main roads; and even today Kempsville Road is lined with houses. But with the proliferation of suburban residential development beginning after World War II, and really gaining steam in the 1970's, Woodstock's 19th century origins set it apart from other Kempsville neighborhoods like Fairfield, Larkspur and Indian Lakes.


The Evidence


Plat of Woodstock, 1877. Note the road along the eastern border. This is not the present day Woodstock Road; in fact, this road no longer exists. The present day Woodstock Road is not depicted on this plat, which means it was probably constructed after 1877.


The first mention of the right-of-way that we now refer to as Woodstock Road occurs in the deed of sale between Samuel Kimberly and Pheby Richards in 1878. Mrs. Richards purchased a 65 acre riverfront plot from Kimberly; from present-day Walker Road north to the river, and from I-64 west to the creek. Her land was separated from the main road (Providence Road) by the rest of Kimberly's land to the southeast and the Whitehurst farm to the southwest. The construction of a new road between these two properties would be necessary to allow Mrs. Richards access to her purchase. The deed of sale grants "the said Kimberly ... the right of use of the road or lane running through the land of said Pheby D. Richards to the creek or river, and the said Samuel Kimberly agrees that the said P. D. Richards shall have the right of way to the main road 40 feet wide." (Princess Anne County deed book 54 page 227). A survey plat of Woodstock from 1877 does show a lane from the river to the main road, but it runs along the eastern border of Woodstock, not through Pheby Richards land; and so therefore cannot be the road spoken of here. In fact, Woodstock Road began in 1878 as Pheby Richard's driveway.


Plat of Woodstock Farm, 1914. This map runs north/south along the horizontal axis. Note how the road bends to the east shortly after entering the Chinn property.


Our next exhibit is a survey plat of Woodstock Farm from 1914 (Princess Anne County map book 8, page 76). The former Richards property is now under the ownership of young Cynthia Chinn, who has taken her neighbor to court for logging on her land. The 1914 plat which was entered as evidence in Cynthia Chinn v. Gimbert Brothers et. al., is both remarkably detailed and poorly preserved; but for our purposes it is legible where it needs to be. The plat shows the road that connects Woodstock Farm to the main road; but it is interesting to note that the road takes a noticeable eastward bend once it enters the farm, reaching the river closer to where Sterling Road does today.

In 1922, Woodstock Farm was purchased by John A. Anderson, who subdivided the property and sold the western 20+ acres to James Howe. A road provides an easy boundary for such purposes: but at this time the road probably still took an eastwardly bend, which would not have provided the boundary he was looking for. Anderson moved the road so that it continued in a straight line to the river, and then sold the land west of the road to Howe. In 1924 Anderson dedicated this new section of road for public use:

...a strip of land 40 feet wide, as would lie between the eastern and western sides of a certain road to the east of said W. Davis' land and marked on said plat "road," if prolonged or extended in the same straight line from the southern boundary of the property above described to the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River; which said strip of land 40 feet wide and extending from the southern to the northern boundary, of the said tract of land, the said grantors do nearby dedicate to the public, to and for their use as a public road. (Princess Anne County Deed Book 121, page 279; Emphasis added)

In 1940, Jesse Parkerson purchased the 150 acres of timberland to the east and south of Woodstock Farm, and subdivided it into multiple 4 and 8 acre lots along Woodstock and Providence Roads. Possibly anticipating the increased traffic, and possibly bending to the petitions of Annie Harrison, Princess Anne County purchased the road from each of the property owners along the right of way (Princess Anne County Deed Book 202, page 505) and then a short time later designated it Route 703, Woodstock Road.

Today, a drive along Woodstock Road gives one a vague sense of a rural past -- maybe because the road is a little narrower than it should be; maybe it's the lack of curbs along the eastern edge; maybe it's the utility poles. We do know this for sure: Woodstock developed gradually over more than a century, from Pheby Richards secluded 19th century farm house to the nearly 250 homes that exist today. As you take your next drive down Woodstock Road, remember that you're driving along the same ground Pheby Richards horse-drawn carriage did more than 130 years ago.


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