HONORING THE CENTENNIAL OF THE TRUXTUN COMMUNITY IN PORTSMOUTH, VIRGINIA

May 16, 2019
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Madam Speaker, I rise today to commemorate a historic neighborhood in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. The Historic Truxtun Community in Portsmouth, Virginia will celebrate its centennial on May 18, 2019. To mark the occasion, I would like to take a moment to highlight the history of this neighborhood and recognize its contributions to our community.

The community of Truxtun was named after Thomas Truxtun, a Revolutionary War sailor who was known for successfully capturing British ships during the Revolutionary War. He went on to captain the USS Constellation and the USS President. There have been six United States Navy ships named in his honor.

The Truxtun community sits on 43 acres of land within walking distance of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia. It was constructed in 1918 as a project of the U.S. Housing Corporation to address the housing shortage for shipbuilders employed at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. At the time, the United States had just entered World War I and the newly developed Naval Operating Base was gearing up to assist with the war effort.

Truxtun stands out in United States history as the first government housing project developed for African-Americans. The neighborhood had 250 lots consisting of duplexes and five-bedroom single family homes. The homes in Truxtun had a distinguished style--exposed rafter ends, jerkinhead roofs, and central chimneys. Truxtun homes also offered indoor plumbing and electricity at a time where many people, especially African Americans, did not have access to such amenities. Despite the modern architecture and amenities in Truxtun, it was still a segregated community. Because of the Supreme Court's 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, Jim Crow segregation laws forced blacks to reside in Truxtun while whites lived in their own nearby government housing project called Cradock.

Those who relocated to Truxtun considered the community tightknit and vibrant. Rents were affordable and started at $17.50 per month. Southern black workers were happy to abandon their agricultural lives and start fresh with higher wages and improved working conditions. Truxtun helped transformed the Hampton Roads region and the region benefitted economically, socially and culturally.

The Truxtun community was developed with a ``new urbanism'' style and had everything a town needed to thrive. From its own convenience store, school and church to civic leagues and sporting events, this town provided residents a place to live, play and shop within an easy commute to the shipyard. The neighborhood had four policemen, a town manager and even a townhouse to do official work. Since Truxtun was formed as an independent township within what was then Norfolk county, its locally elected town manager could levy taxes and provide public services. That is, until Portsmouth acquired the community in 1923.

100 years after its founding, Truxtun is experiencing a revival that places it as one of Portsmouth's most prized cultural centers. In 1982, Truxtun was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was one of the first out of about 100 federally financed housing projects during World War I, and it remains a national model for communities that are looking to plan and build inclusive, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods.

Madam Speaker, I congratulate the residents of Truxtun on their centennial celebration and for helping to make Portsmouth a great place to live and raise a family.