The Colony Inn
Hilton Village
1000 block of Warwick Boulevard and Main Street
Newport News, VA
 
 


Tell your readers I'm working on a story about the place - with Dave Spriggs' ('64 - of VA) invaluable help. Gonna take a little time.

Gathering facts, other illustrations and memories of varying level of detail (and sometimes a bit conflicting).

Please ask if anyone is old enough to have dined or otherwise been inside the place that can provide me interior memories. They can send to me at:

ssamerifan@aol.com 

- Bill Lee (Warwick HS - '54) of NC - 10/24/09

COOL BEANS! Thanks so much, Bill - and Dave!

The attached has been 'in the works' for over a year. I think current and former residents of the Virginia Peninsula will find it interesting; particularly those of you mentioned in the story and/or those on distribution who contributed invaluable information and illustrations for my use. This is your story, as much as mine.

http://www.nnhs65.com/hilton/THE-COLONY-INN.pdf

- Bill Lee (Warwick HS - '54) of NC - 03/06/10

WOWZERONI-RINI! Thank you so much for sharing this valuable work, Bill!
 

 
1910 1922 1920s 1920s 1920s
Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA
Thanks, Dave!
Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA
Thanks, Dave!
Courtesy of Bob Buchan ('61)
of VA
Thanks, Bob!
Courtesy of Bob Buchan ('61)
of VA
Thanks, Bob!
Courtesy of Bob Buchan ('61)
of VA
Thanks, Bob!
10/15/09 10/15/09 03/25/04 03/25/04 03/25/04
1931 1930s 1930s 1939 1940
Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA
Thanks, Dave!
Courtesy of Bob Buchan ('61)
of VA
Thanks, Bob!
Courtesy of Bob Buchan ('61)
of VA
Thanks, Bob!
Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA
Thanks, Dave!
Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA
Thanks, Dave!
10/15/09 04/06/04 04/06/04    
   
      1950  
  Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA
Thanks, Dave!
Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA
Thanks, Dave!
Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64)
of VA
Thanks, Dave!
 
  10/15/09 10/15/09 10/15/09  
 


Hi Carol:

In looking through the pictures of Hilton Village I did not recognize "The Colony Inn." Since I was only 2 years old when my family moved to Newport News so that my dad could work in the shipyard, I've always felt like a native of Newport News. I do not ever recall hearing about or seeing the Colony Inn. Can you or anyone else elaborate on this beautiful old building, which was obviously located somewhere in the Hilton Village area.

I attended Hilton Elementary in the 7th grade, but moved to downtown Newport News where I entered NNHS in the 8th grade. Yes, I was a "mouse" at one time. ha ha

Thanks for all you do for the NNHS Alumni.

- Pat Beck Letzinger ('57) of VA - 10/13/09
Thanks, Pat! It was there in the twenties and thirties. It was waaay too beautiful to be willfully torn down; I would suspect a fire. Let's find out!


Hiya Carol!

Saw the inquiry on the Colony Inn, so asked the best Hilton expert I know – my dad (John “Bud” Lankes, Morrison H.S., 1933).

Dad says the Colony Inn started out around 1918 as a block of 4-room row houses at the corner of Warwick Boulevard and Main Street. Circa 1928, major remodeling took place, the two-story section was added, and it became a hotel. It was an exceptionally nice establishment, and notables such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover stayed there for launching events. In fact, the hotel could have been a shipyard-sponsored project for housing VIP visitors, since the Warwick Hotel was not exactly posh. Dad remembers a Rolls-Royce being parked in front of the inn for a time.

The dining room was a nice place to go; the food was excellent and the inn employed its own dietician. People went there for parties, banquets, and dances.  Dad particularly remembers one musician named Goff who played a “bull fiddle.”

Dad believes the building was torn down sometime in the mid-to-late 1940s. On the south side, a bank building was constructed, and on the north side, a telephone company building went up (behind Silverman’s).

We’d be happy to know of any corrections!

Best,
- Jeanie Lankes (HHS - '72) - 10/15/09

P.S. A postcard on eBay shows the Colony Inn with 1950s-looking cars in front of it -- so I guess it was torn down later than we thought.
Thanks, Jeanie!


Hi Carol,

In answer to Pat Beck Letzinger's question about the Colony Inn .... 

In the summer of 1959 my family moved from the apartments on the 200 block of 37th Street to Palen Avenue in Hilton Village.  I attended Hilton for the 6th and 7th grades and was fortunate to have two really great teachers in the 7th grade - Ms Gilliam (sp?) for math and Ms Katherine Adams for history.  Contrary to popular belief, many Hilton Elementary "grads" chose to go on to NNHS instead of WHS.

During that summer I roamed all all over that part of Newport News - from the Little League field in Hunting Park to Hilton pier to the trails weaving through the woods in Mariners' Museum.  One place that caught my attention was a big old Tudor style building behind the drug store and across Main Street from what was then the Bank of Warwick.  The Tudor building was the Colony Inn and was mostly empty with maybe one or two small insurance/ lawyer offices operating. Within a very short time, that winter or perhaps the next summer, the building was removed and was replaced with a really ugly one story brick building. The new building was first a bank (I think) and then Ma' Bell took possession.

The Colony Inn was a hotel and part of the Hilton Village Planned Community.  Being involved in the growth management side of  local government over the last 30 years I often hear discussions about "New Urbanism".  In reality, Hilton was probably the first "New Urbanism" development in the US and was designed back at the turn of the century (19th to 20th century)... hardly qualifying as "new".  It was a wonderful  place to be a kid in the 50/60's but not nearly as wonderful as the friendships I formed with my JW Daniel classmates and my 37th Street neighbors.

- Jim Dossett ('66) of NC - 10/15/09
Thanks, Jim!


The Colony Inn was located on the east side of Main Street on the corner of Piez Avenue.

The site is now occupied by some ugly cement and glass bank “thing”.

Some additional images are attached.

It was demolished in 1951 to make way for the bank building now occupying the site.

- Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 10/15/09

Silly me. I was naive enough to think that surely no one would tear down such a beautiful, historic structure only to replace it with an ugly one.....
Thank you for the beautiful old postcards, David!


As we all know, Hilton Village was a "planned" community, the first federally financed housing project in the USA, built between 1918-19 to house workers at the shipyard, which was growing rapidly due to WWI.  They were well-built, with stucco exteriors, slate roofs, and designed to be served by a central heating facility.

In the original design for Hilton, there were two institutions on Main street in the block just SW (toward the school) of Warwick Boulevard, between Warwick and Piez Avenue.  They were essentially twins.  On the North side was "the Colony Inn" and on the South Side was "the Village Inn," which was really a restaurant   The Colony Inn was torn down in the early 1950s, at first replaced by a parking lot, and later by the one-story stores there now.  The Village Inn was torn down in about 1955, replaced by the bank and parking lot that are still there.

A few years later, the large building on Warwick Boulevard that housed the grocery store, with a social hall upstairs, was torn down to form the parking lot that is now in the middle of the block just north of Main Street.

Much of the original plan nonetheless survives.  At the corner of Main and Warwick, and at the corner of Main and River Road, there are churches on two of the corners (representing the major protestant Christian denominations: Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist and Presbyterian).  Main street businesses were served by alleys to the rear.  On the northeast side of Main & are the fire station and the library.  The Elementary School anchored Main Street on the river.  Houses, originally built for rental, were sold after WWI.  The central heating system never developed and refitting the houses with heat was a major challenge.  The elm trees planted throughout the village suffered from the great American (Chinese Elm Beetle) blight.  Most died by the 1950s and were replaced with chestnuts and pines. 

- Frank Blechman ('65) of Northern VA - 10/23/09
Thanks, Frank!


I visited the Hilton Library today to have a look at the Hill’s Directories. I was sure that I would finally put to rest all this controversy over the location of The Colony Inn.

But, alas, it was not to be.

I began with the 1946 Directory, believing that the Colony Inn would be listed, as well as the corresponding building across Main Street
to which Frank Blechman ('65 - of Northern VA) alluded, The Village Inn.

Well, The Colony Inn was there, listed at 90 Main Street, but there was no other listing on the 90-block of Main Street. Neither was there a listing
on Piez Avenue, which might have been that building.

OK, let’s jump back to the 1939 Hill’s. Same listings … or lack of, I should say.

Now, I am getting perplexed. I know that Frank did not fabricate his recollection, yet the archives do not corroborate it.

So, I spent an hour looking through the photographic files. Under other circumstances, I would have had a wonderful time looking at old NN photos, but none of the Hilton Village (and there are literally scores of them) showed a view covering those two corners at Main and Piez. There did exist a number of exterior and interior views of The Colony Inn, all of which I had seen previously online in the Library of Virginia collection.

I am ready to chalk this one up as an unsolvable mystery, when I looked over and saw the Sanborn Maps. Experienced  researchers know that Sanborn Maps were detailed maps used by insurance underwriters to assess risk. The “book” is about three feet square and quite heavy.

When I opened it to the page showing Hilton Village, I saw this:

I wish that I could date the book for research purposes, but Sanborn Maps were continuously updated with paste-over corrections, so it is impossible to know exactly when this particular image created.

But, now we’re getting’ summers. It appear clearly that there was a mirror-image building across Main Street from the “90 Main Street” listing I found in Hill’s. This fits with the designers’ penchant for symmetry in HV. Assuming that the entire complex, notwithstanding its physical separation, was named “The Colony Inn”, it made sense that it was listed only once at its mailing address: 90 Main Street.

So, now the puzzle pieces fit together. The buildings are exactly as Frank described them. The Hill’s listings are correct in listing only 90 Main Street.
Perhaps we can now file this on under “solved”.

- Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 11/03/09
Thanks, Dave!
 


(This page was created on 10/24/09.)


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