Questions answered about North Suffolk’s history

Published 9:50 pm Saturday, September 17, 2011

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh and last in a series on the history of North Suffolk.

Why did Chicago Bridge and Iron decide not to build an oil refinery on the land in Harbour View?

During the 1970s oil embargo, Chicago Bridge and Iron purchased a piece of land in North Suffolk, which eventually became Harbour View, to develop an oil refinery.

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Bob Williams, who helped develop Harbour View, said the company was looking to take advantage of an opportunity during a time when small businesses made extra money on oil they produced in order to help them compete in the market with bigger companies.

However, he said, in the time it took the company to get the proper permits to open the refinery, the oil embargo ended, and the company lost its incentive for construction.

The land sat unused for several years after that, until Chicago Bridge and Iron hired Goodman Segar Hogan to find a good use for the land, and Harbour View was developed.

Was the Shoulder’s Hill Road area developed before, during or after the time Harbour View was established?

While the land in the Shoulder’s Hill Road area was rezoned for development at the same time as the land in Harbour View in the late ‘80s, it wasn’t developed until after the multi-use community.

Bob Williams, one of the developers of Harbour View, said Dominion Land, a subsidiary of Dominion Resources, purchased the land will the intent to develop both residential and commercial areas.

While construction began in Harbour View in the early ‘90s, he said, home construction didn’t begin on property south of the development until around 1999.

“We had pretty much finished Burbage Grant and were working on the golf course side when all that started taking off,” Williams said.

He said most of the homes, the apartment complex, Creekside Elementary School and the police and fire station were built after most of the work on Harbour View was completed.

What are the pilings sticking out of the James River near the old Tidewater Community College campus site?

As you cross the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel, approaching Suffolk, there is a collection of wooden poles sticking out of the river.

The poles are the remains of a pier that used to provide access to U.S. military munitions depot, which later became the site of Tidewater Community College’s Portsmouth Campus, until that campus was relocated to Portsmouth about a year ago.

The depot opened in 1917 as Pig Point Ordinance Depot with a prime location on the James River.

Munitions were shipped to and from the munitions depot throughout both World War I and World War II. The military used the land until 1959, when Frederick W. Beazley purchased it to open a college.

How did residents cross Bennett’s Creek before the old drawbridge was built?

Before new bridges were built in the ‘60s, drivers crossed Bennett’s Creek using a hand-operated drawbridge.

But even before the drawbridge opened in the 1930s, residents got over the creek in an even less elegant way. Longtime Bennett’s Creek resident John Eberwine said before the drawbridge, residents had to get on a floating barge and pull themselves across the creek using a rope. The barge was located near the current location of the Bennett’s Creek Restaurant and Marina.