Shea Terrace Beginnings
Shea Terrace began life in pre-Revolutionary times as Church Point and the surrounding waterway was known as Church Creek. It was subsequently purchased by the Scott family in 1714. The Scotts owned a marina and a home in the neighborhood. The Scott’s house has since been lost to time. Church Point became known as Scottsville and the creek as Scott’s Creek.
Back in the day, Scotts Creek flowed all the way past IC Norcom High School. An elderly Shea Terrace resident, Mr. Sawyer, shared that when he was very little, boys used to skinny dip in Scotts Creek. At that time, Scotts Creek had a white, sandy bottom. One day, the boys were teasing the girls and threw rocks at them to keep them away from their swimming hole. The girls had their revenge however, When the boys were away from the creek banks, the girls stole all the boy’s discarded clothing and tied the clothes to the porch railing of a home on Constitution Avenue!
Scotts Creek is teeming with wildlife including crabs, egrets, ducks, Canadian geese, green herons, and Cooper’s hawks. It is a natural border around Shea Terrace, surrounding the community with the unspoiled beauty of nature.
The Shea Family Era
Shea Terrace has always had a number of businesses, including water-based businesses and a family-operated grocery store located on Holladay Street
World War II
During the WW II era, Portsmouth abounded with military personnel and shipyard workers who migrated to the area for the war effort. Many homeowners were urged at that time to split one-family homes into two-family homes as a patriotic duty. Housing was desperately needed at that time to shelter military-affiliated workers. Thus, many older homes in Shea Terrace have apartment units originally fashioned to help win the war. Victory Blvd. was also renamed at this time to reflect Portsmouth’s patriotic fervor.
The majoirity of homes in Shea Terrace were built from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, representing numerous archtectural styles. Some of the more interesting homes are the Craftsman bungalows, American Four-Square houses, and remaining Shea homes.
The Flagship Restaurant has been in the neighborhood since just before WW I and draws its life from Scotts Creek. It began as a ship’s store associated with a family marina. It has operated as a restaurant since the 1920’s. It was first known as Saunder’s Ship Seafood, but has been known as the Flagship since the 1950’s.
It is currently operated by Jay Skinner, a strong corporate supporter committed to the quality of life of Shea Terrace. A satellite Community Policing Office is located on the Flagship property overlooking Scotts Creek.
The Renewal of Shea Terrace
Shea Terrace formerly ran across the area now occupied by London Blvd. Some older residents still refer to the area now known as “Cottage Place,” as “Shea Terrace”. The neighborhood was split in half in the 1950’s by the extension of London Street in Olde Towne through the area as London Blvd, leaving homes on one side of North Street with their back side facing London Blvd.
Shea Terrace had numbered streets at one time. Constitution Avenue was formerly Sixth Avenue, Idlewood was Seventh, and Sandpiper was Eighth Street. These streets were renamed as part of urban renewal efforts in the 1960’s. Elizabeth Street was changed to Booker Street at this time However, city officials made a little mistake. There is one house alone which remains on “Eleventh” Street, which missed being renamed as part of Plover Street.
Urban planner Ray Gindroz recommended the concept of strong boundaries and neighborhood centers to revitalize Shea Terrace. The preservation of the former Shea Terrace Elementary school, as well as the creation of the linear Scotts Creek Park, were initiated based on Mr. Gindorz’ suggestions. Between 1995 and 2007, blighted homes whose back side faced London Blvd. were demolished, making way for Scotts Creek Park.
Scotts Creek Park
Scotts Creek Park is one of the first Senior Citizen’s Parks in the United States. It was founded via a federal Hope IV HUD Grant. It occupies a linear space of one block of North Street in Shea Terrace, It is located in this neighborhood to compliment the Shea Terrace Senior Apartments.
Shea Terrace Elementary School/Senior Apartments
The Shea Terrace Senior Apartments began life as the Sixth Avenue School. The property was deeded to the City by John Shea of the 200 block of Constitution Avenue. The architect was Charles M. Robinson. The style is known as “Late Nineteenth, Early Twentieth Century Revival.
The last class bell at Shea Terrace Elementary School sounded in May of 1999. The City used it for urban assault classes for Portsmouth Police Department Canine Officers and their canine partners. Windows were broken out, vandalism ensued. The City decided to tear it down.
Shea Terrace residents got active and saved the school. Transom Developers, a subsidiary of Sun Trust Bank, bought and rehabilitated the property. It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 2002.