The Ghent suburb of Norfolk, Virginia, began its development in 1890 with most construction occurring between 1892 and 1907. Located blocks west of Norfolk’s present commercial core, Ghent originally covered approximately 220 acres. Although most of Ghent was laid along a standard grid plan, the citing of the south section of the suburb by Smith Creek, and a “Y”-shaped inlet off the Elizabeth River, suggesting a different planning approach. Marshlands at this area were filled and the shoreline given a semicircular shape. The resulting street, Mowbray Arch, soon became the favored location for the stately houses of Norfolk’s middle and upper-middle class residents. The Ghent’s plan successfully exploited the area’s strategic waterfront location, providing views over the creek to the grass banks on the opposite shore. While Ghent originally covered more than thirty blocks in area, the Mowbray Arch section displays the highest concentration of houses built during the late 19th century. This area is contained by Smith’s Creek and Olney Road, a four-lane traffic artery connecting the two arms of the creek and providing east-west access to downtown Norfolk.
The area went into steep decline in the years following The Second World War, and was the focus of a very concentrated and successful revitalization effort that continues to this day. As a result, the area is one of the most economically diverse in Norfolk with large turn-of-the century apartment buildings, next to rows of cozy bungalows, side by side with newly developed condominiums. Much of what was East Ghent was torn down and rebuilt (including roads) so that little of the original buildings remain. The main exceptions are Maury High School and the Van Wyck branch of the Norfolk Public Library.
Links to information about Ghent’s history: