257 Norfolk, VA: Cannonball

Stepping away from the harbor, I pounded the pavement of the Cannonball Trail, Norfolk's walk highlighting the city's history. The Native American Scicoaks who lived here were wiped out by Chief Powhatan's tribe from the west as a preventive measure because one of his advisors had prophesied that they would be destroyed by strangers from the east. Later, of course, the colonists came from the east to fulfill the vision.

In 1610, Hampton Roads was named to honor the Earl of Southampton, Treasurer of the Virginia Company in London. Fifty acres of land were bought in 1682 for "tenn pounds of tobasco and caske" and became the town of Norfolk. On New Year's Day, 1776, English ships opened fire on the town, burning many of the buildings to the ground. A British cannonball (the source of this trail's name) remains in the wall of St. Paul's Church, the only building spared by retreating Colonial troops who razed the town so that the British might not occupy it. In 1855, the steamer Ben Franklin arrived in Hampton Roads with Yellow Fever on board. About one-third of Norfolk's inhabitants died, and half the population fled. The history of Norfolk seems one of desertion and return, like a ship.

By 1894, its modern identity was sealed. The New York Towne Topics nominated Norfolk as the "wickedest city in the United States." The New York Voice seconded the nomination. The city had 240 liquor dealers, 81 brothels, and 35 gambling shops. World War II doubled Norfolk's population, and, in 1940, the U.S. Housing Authority administrator called a Norfolk hotel-apartment "the worst slum he had seen anywhere in the U.S."
By 1998, it had been voted the South's #1 big city to live in by Money magazine. From 50 acres of land and a population of 1, Norfolk had grown to nearly 40,000 acres and a population of 225,700, a financial and insurance center. It was big enough to have an Arena Football League Team which was named (coincidentally enough) "The Nighthawks."

The street corner sculpture series here had the motif of mermaids, including one called "The Jewel of Norfolk."

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