At the center of the neighborhood is Coleman Place Elementary School. The school first opened its doors in January of 1925, when the area was still known as Norfolk County. At that time, the school consisted of a two-story building with eight classrooms and 130 students. As the years passed, and the neighborhood grew, the building also grew with additions and portable classrooms.
Garth Edwards’ “Enchanted Garden”
In 1999, Coleman Place Elementary School brought Norfolk into the spotlight when former President Clinton visited the school. Clinton gave the first of several speeches there as a part of his movement to bring attention to and preserve funding for the reconstruction of public schools in need of expansion and repair.
“Let’s deal with our responsibilities to our children and our future first. I have put forward a plan that does that,” Clinton said that day. “I ask you to leave here on this Labor Day committed to fix all the buildings.”
Though the construction wasn’t immediate, Coleman Place Elementary School did open new doors in the fall of 2007, after a $20 million dollar renovation and build. The building now has 800 students, an expanded Pre-K program, and improved technology. One of Norfolk’s public art installations also shines on this new building. Garth Edwards, an artist from Portland, Oregon, created “Enchanted Garden” for the school. Aluminum murals of animals, trees, and birds bring a magical charm to the building and schoolyard.
Though Coleman Place is mainly a residential area, businesses in this neighborhood have thrived as well. Thelma’s Interiors, a custom window treatment workroom, has been at the same location in Coleman Place since the company’s inception in 1981. Thelma’s Interiors shares a building with three other businesses on Azalea Garden Road. I have personally worked with Thelma’s Interiors on several window treatment projects for my interior design clients. I spoke with Kim Montgomery, Thelma’s granddaughter, who works at the company. One of the things she appreciates most is the neighborhood’s location. “It’s centrally located, and so close to the interstate.”
“[Thelma] opened the business when I was eleven,” Kim said. “I would come here after school, and started working here when I was in high school.” Though she no longer lives in the area, Kim grew up in Coleman Place. Kim’s other grandmother lived in the neighborhood for 60 years. “She raised all her children there, and stayed.”
The Coleman Place Civic League President, Red Gallup, is another long-time resident. Now 74, he has lived on the same street his entire life.
“I was raised on one end [of the street]; my wife was raised on the other end. We got married, and moved to the middle,” he told me with a laugh. He said he’d seen it all; he’s seen Coleman Place grow, add houses, and rebuild.
And he has his favorite spots, of course, one of which is Lew’s Hot Dogs on Azalea Garden Road. Open for lunch, Lew’s has been a staple of the neighborhood for years. “They have the best hot dogs around. You can’t eat just one.”
The Coleman Place Civic League was established in the 1990’s, and Red has been President for two years. They meet once a month (except for July and August) and Red described them as a very active civic league.
“We have lots of good people here,” he said. “It’s a good place to live, play, and retire.”