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Sept. 20 Mapping Lambert's Point Event Tells a Community History

By Brendan O'Hallarn

For the Old Dominion University community, an event on Sept. 20 will be the equivalent of leaning over the fence to talk to your neighbor.

For that neighbor, the historic Lambert's Point neighborhood, it'll be a long-overdue opportunity to tell its rich story.

At 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Lambert's Point Community Center, Old Dominion will unveil the digital and oral history project Mapping Lambert's Point.

The neighborhood immediately south of campus predates the University by decades. Avi Santo, director of ODU's Institute for the Humanities, and Tom Chapman, associate professor of geography, are spearheading the project. Santo said Mapping Lambert's Point will help fulfill the University's mission of unearthing local history and will provide insight into the unique and diverse neighborhood.

The interactive website, which will be unveiled at the event, will be updated with pictures, memoirs and oral histories as other Lambert's Point community members add their stories and voices. The web address for the project is http://www.mappinglambertspoint.org.

Old Dominion President John R. Broderick will deliver welcoming remarks at the event. Michael Hucles, associate professor of history at Old Dominion and a historian of African-Americans in Hampton Roads, will also speak. A poster exhibit will showcase highlights from the website, which will spotlight moments big and small in the neighborhood's history.

"Everyone's story matters. No story is too small, because they all help make the Lambert's Point neighborhood a unique and important part of Norfolk," Santo said.

Lambert's Point is one of Norfolk's oldest neighborhoods. It was also among the first in Norfolk where African-Americans could buy homes.

Unique landmarks include First Baptist Church of Lambert's Point, founded in 1893; Tidewater Hospital, where African-Americans were guaranteed treatment; and the Smallwood School, an African-American elementary school near where Old Dominion's Mills Godwin Jr. Life Sciences Building stands.

The University and Lambert's Point have a shared experience forged through geography. The neighborhood at one time extended almost to 48th Street. Much of the current Old Dominion campus was built on what was formerly Lambert's Point. The project is unearthing connections between campus and community that stretch back decades, Santo said.

A dozen students with the Institute for the Humanities and Department of Political Science and Geography have collected oral and written histories of current and former residents of Lambert's Point.

The initial phase of Mapping Lambert's Point was funded by a grant from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and by a gift from the Norfolk Southern Foundation. Santo said the project also received support from Brenda Andrews, editor and publisher of the historic African-American newspaper the New Journal & Guide.

The Mapping Lambert's Point website will feature material from the New Journal & Guide from the first half of the 20th century.

It's only the beginning, Santo said.

Santo, Chapman and their students will continue to collect stories from current and former residents who spent time in Lambert's Point over the past 60 years.

Weekly meetings at the Lambert's Point Community Center will be held to collect reminiscences and guide people in navigating the website. In addition, anyone visiting the site can upload their stories.

The Sept. 20 event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact the ODU Institute for the Humanities at 757-683-3821 or by email at humanities@odu.edu.

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