Historic Hilton Village: Newport News, Virginia

Summary

The first of some 100 federally financed housing projects during World War I, Historic Hilton Village today remains much as it did when it was first planned and built in 1918-19. On the east bank of the James River about three miles north of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co., the village is patterned after principles and designs of the late-19th century Garden City movement begun in the United Kingdom by Sir Ebenezer Howard. The city established a historic overlay district for the village in 1969, the same year the neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Designated Area

Historic Hilton Village is bounded by River Road to the southwest; the backyard property line between Post Street and Milford Road to the northwest; the property line between Municipal Lane and Hammond Street to the northeast; and the property line between Hopkins Street and Raleigh Road to the southeast.

Planning Excellence

The village is compact with amenities and commercial areas within easy walking or bicycling distance of the homes, which are mostly in the Jacobethan, Dutch Colonial, and Georgian Colonial architectural styles. A streetcar originally transported workers between the neighborhood and the shipyards.

In 1969, the neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1972, Newport News established an architectural review board to ensure the village's character remained intact.

Historic Hilton Village residents are involved in their community – from defeating a proposal to widen a neighborhood thoroughfare to participating in this Fourth of July parade. Photo courtesy of John Davis.

Patterned After British "New Towns"  

  • Designed and planned by landscape architect Henry V. Hubbard, architect Joseph D. Leland III, and engineer Francis H. Bulot following  English Garden City concepts that separated residential, recreational, and commercial areas from industrial uses
  • Four blocks by 11 blocks in size, the original plan  had plots for four churches, an elementary school, parks, and public spaces; a commercial area with service-type businesses was located along Warwick Boulevard; a library and fire station were added later as part of the historic district
  • Planners used modified grid iron street pattern; streets were purposely made narrow (20-50 feet) to discourage automobile traffic in residential areas of village
  • English, Dutch Colonial, and pre-Georgian architectural themes emerge in the design of the neighborhood's 500 houses that vary in style and size to avoid a "tract house" appearance; lot widths vary between 25 and 40 feet; houses are 1½  to 2½ stories

Unique Sense of Place

  • Complete neighborhood with easily accessible recreational activities within walking, and biking distances: a long pier that provides fishing, a beach, a library, schools, and a small park that runs along the ravine of the banks of the James River
  • Streets are narrow to enhance the vista of green areas and to discourage an expected surge of automobile traffic through the neighborhood stemming from increased car ownership during the 1920s; today, the narrow streets help calm area traffic
  • Commercial area includes a library, an Art Deco performing arts theater, restaurants, an art gallery, antique, jewelry, and gift shops; commercial area is mostly made up of row houses and duplexes intermingled; commercial activities on ground floors with residential units on upper floors of many buildings
  • City secured a $2.2 million matching grant for streetscape improvements along Warwick Boulevard corridor commercial area between 1995 and 1997;  patchy concrete sidewalk replaced with decorative special Hilton blend concrete pavers; other amenities include widened street median with trees, decorative planters, racks, benches, trash receptacles, period lighting, and specially designed signs for the businesses to complement the historic theme of the commercial area

Warwick Boulevard has benefited from streetscape improvements including curb extensions, decorative pavers, benches, and bike racks that add to the character and walkability of the street. Photo courtesy of Jeff Stodghill.

Community Engagement and Future Model  

  • Residents defeated a proposal by Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation to widen Warwick Boulevard travel lanes by narrowing sidewalks to accommodate increased traffic
  • City of Newport News recently adopted Framework for the Future 2030, a comprehensive plan that includes a section on historic preservation; citizens participating in development of the plan expressed preferences for many of the Garden City principles embodied in Historic Hilton Village, including compact neighborhoods with sidewalks, bicycle trails, and nearby parks
  • In 2000, Historic Hilton Village made changes to its standard regulatory processes to allow a smart growth approach to development; changes included establishing a special zoning overlay district, and changes to both the site plan and subdivision ordinances