Plans are underway to preserve Kempsville history

Posted at 6:41 PM, Oct 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-17 18:41:02-04

Virginia Beach, Va. - If you've driven through Kempsville lately, you've probably noticed a lot of road work and construction in this area. But the work being done here, surrounding the intersection of Princess Anne, Kempsville, and South Witchduck Roads, is just a taste of a bigger plan - to preserve the history that made Kempsville what it is today.

"I understand at one point in the 1950s, there were more historic homes in Kempsville than there were in Williamsburg. But the difference is that Williamsburg had a benefactor who preserved the area, and there was nobody here to preserve Kempsville," said Laura Wenslaff.  Wenslaff serves on the Historic Kempsville Committee, just one organization working with Councilwoman Amelia Ross-Hammond and the City of Virginia Beach to save old Kempsville.  Wenslaff also owns the Carraway House located on South Witchduck Road, a historic home that has been part of the Kempsville community since 1734.

Once a thriving farm community and the site of a Revolutionary War skirmish, which resulted in the war's first Virginia casualty, Kempsville became the heart of Princess Anne County.

"We're trying to kind of go back in time and preserve what we can for future generations," said Wenslaff.

So plans are in order to expand the historic district in Kempsville. The old Kemps Landing School will be the centerpiece of the project. In fact, it will be converted into an apartment building.  New street and pedestrian lights will be posted in the area along with historic area signage.  Visitors will be able to use GPS on their phones to locate historic sites and this project proposal will also help buy private property for other developments -- all of this with a price tag of $2.6 million.

"Certainly to preserve the historic aspects, but the other was to create an economic development area where people would want to come," said Bobbie Gribble, chairwoman of the Historic Kempsville Citizens Action Committee.

While this project still has to be approved by city council, folks are hoping work begins next year.