Sunday, November 1, 2009

Streetcar Sundays - Norfolk, VA


The City of Norfolk, Virginia had a population of about 46,600 in 1900 and 67,450 in 1910. When this picture was taken (presumably around 1907), the City of Norfolk had been running streetcars for over 35 years. As in many cities, the earliest Norfolk streetcars were pulled by horses. However, in 1872, an epidemic put almost all of the Norfolk streetcar horses out of commission. Workers were hired to pull the streetcars until the horses could return to duty.

By the mid 1890s, horse-drawn streetcars were replaced with electric ones. In 1902, the New York Times reported on a critical streetcar workers' strike in Norfolk. Streetcars were obviously an important part of  city life at that time. However, in the 1920s buses began to replace streetcar routes. Streetcars in Norfolk were slowly phased out, with the last car, No. 407, making its final run on July 10, 1948. The car was packed with passengers, who ripped off souvenirs, including light fixtures and advertising placards. They also ripped out seats, broke windows, and eventually caused such a commotion that the riot squad had to be called.

Norfolk is currently re-introducing the streetcar, although the sleek new cars manufactured by Siemens look nothing like the old ones. Still, to commemorate the historic streetcars, the first car will be named after the last one, No. 407.

The message on the card reads:
More than half the population here are negroes
Arrived at Norfolk noon today
Sun. June 2, 1907

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