Norfolk is a city in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States of America. It is an independent city, and therefore not included in any county. Norfolk is one of Virginia's largest cities; as of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 234,403. However, a recent 2004 census shows that the city's population has since risen to 237,835.
Norfolk is located on the Elizabeth River, in Hampton Roads, a large natural harbor. It is a part of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area, officially known as the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA.
The city has a long history as a strategic military and transportation point. Norfolk is home to both the Norfolk Navy Base, the world's largest naval base, and the Norfolk Southern Railway, one of North America's principal Class I railroads. It has many miles of riverfront and bayfront property, and is linked with its neighbors through an extensive network of Interstate highways, bridges, tunnels, and bridge-tunnel complexes.
Since the 1970s, the downtown area and waterfront has undergone substantial revitalization. It is home to the Norfolk Tides, the top International League affiliate of the New York Mets, and the Norfolk Admirals, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The site of what is now Norfolk was originally the Chesipean Indian town Skicoak. (The Chesipeans had been destroyed by Powhatan by the time of the arrival of the first English settlers, who, in 1585, settled on Roanoke Island in modern-day North Carolina. In 1591, the colony of Roanoke disappeared without a trace.) The city was laid out in 1682 and incorporated in 1845. It became an independent city from Norfolk County in 1871.
In 1855, the city suffered an epidemic of yellow fever which killed 1 of every 3 citizens. In 1858, the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad built by William Mahone was completed to Petersburg, where major connections were made with railroads to points north, west, and south. During the US Civil War, in 1862, the Battle of Hampton Roads between the ironclads Monitor and Merrimac was fought off Norfolk. Early in the war, Mahone commanded the city's defenses during the period of Confederate occupation which ended in May, 1862.
In the late 19th century, the Norfolk and Western Railway established the community as a major coal export port and built a large transloading facility at Lambert's Point. The year 1907 brought the Virginian Railway and the Jamestown Exposition to Sewell's Point. The large naval review at the Exposition demonstrated the favorable location, laying the groundwork for the Norfolk Navy Base which was built there beginning in 1917. The city limits were expanded in 1923 to include Sewell's Point, Willoughby Spit, and Ocean View, adding the Navy Base and miles of beach property fronting on Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay.
Today, Norfolk is experiencing a great deal of urban renewal. Beginning in the late 1970s, mall-developer James W. Rouse developed Waterside in downtown Norfolk, a festival marketplace concept which helped transform a formerly seedy harbor area into a major catalyst for other redevelopment. Downtown Norfolk is clean, attractive and growing quickly. Many other areas of Norfolk are being revitalized, including Ocean View and East Beach, both on the Chesapeake Bay.