Street Signs

Where did the Historic District's historic street signs go?

Ever notice the street signs in the "Historic District" of Ghent? It's easy to overlook something as mundane as street signs, but take a look. Instead of historic-looking street signs, you'll find only an assortment of modern, cheap-looking, utilitarian street signs. Many of them are even only strap-ons, without posts of their own, attached instead to lamp posts or telephone poles.

Modern street signs that hardly fit a neighborhood founded in the 1890s:


The street signs weren't always like this.

Ghent used to have charming old ornate street signs that befitted a vintage neighborhood, but today not one of them seems to be left in the Ghent Historic District (see map). Only a few of the old signs seem to remain in all of Ghent, for example, this couple of them in the block of Colley Avenue between Blair Middle School and the Do-Nut Dinette:

Question to the Ghent Neighborhood League: Who allowed the Norfolk City Government to get away with remjoving the old street signs and replacing them with street signs that do not fit the neighborhood?


Ghent versus West Ghent

Want to see what an old neighborhood with appropriate street signs looks like? Just step across Hampton Boulevard into West Ghent, which is still chock full of the old signs, even though no part of West Ghent is not designated a Historic District. All the intersections in West Ghent (except for those on its busy Hampton Boulevard border and three on its Redgate Avenue border) still sport an ornate old-fashioned street sign — block after block of street signs appropriate to a vintage neighborhood. The charming old signs in West Ghent are a joy to behold next to all the vapid, minimalist, utilitarian replacement street signs of Ghent. They make one realize that not only is the devil in the details, but so is the character of a neighborhood.

Street signs fit for an historic neighborhood:

Tip to West Ghent: You might want to lobby the Norfolk City Government to paint and otherwise maintain your nice old street signs — before it decides that they too need to be replaced by cheap, bland substitutes.


So what gives, Norfolk City Government?

The City has Historic Guidelines that are supposed to be followed in its historic districts, and these guidlines clearly state that something old cannot be replaced with just anything. The historic look of the neighborhood is supposed to be preserved. So why then has the Norfolk City Government yanked out practically all of the old street signs in Ghent and replaced them with ill-fitting modern signs? Why? Should not the City maintain the historic look of Ghent, including its street signs, in the same way that it requires the citizens of Ghent to maintain the historic look of their old houses? Just as the City's Architectural Review Board passes judgement on the signs of businesses located in the Historic District, should not the City Government's choice of street signs be subject to similar appropriateness standards? The Norfolk City Government can get plenty picky about other signs.


The City Government wins again!

The Norfolk City Government, for the thirty-seventh year in a row (since 1977 when the Historic Guidelines were established) has presented itself with its own most prestigious award:





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