The approximately 30 acres comprising Norfolk Azalea Gardens surround Mirror Lake and constitute the original portion of the 158-acre Norfolk Botanical Gardens, located in the city, just north of the Norfolk International Airport. The azalea gardens were created between 1938 and 1941 by 200 African American women who cleared the land of trees and brush and planted azaleas and other plants. The women were paid for their work through the federal government’s Works Progress Administration. Norfolk city manager Thomas Thompson proposed the idea for the gardens in 1938, during the Great Depression, inspired by the profitable Charleston Azalea Gardens in South Carolina. Under the advisement of Fred Huette, Supervisor of Norfolk’s Parks and Recreation, and with consultation from Charles Gillette, landscape architect, Norfolk secured WPA funds for the project. In 1968, an airport expansion, which only marginally affected the WPA azalea garden, set the stage for the development of the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark
DHR has secured permanent legal protection for over 700 historic places - including 15,000 acres of battlefield lands
DHR has erected 2,532 highway markers in every county and city across Virginia
DHR has engaged over 450 students in 3 highway marker contests
DHR has stimulated more than $4.2 billion dollars in private investments related to historic tax credit incentives, revitalizing communities of all sizes throughout Virginia