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Thomas R. Ballentine

Elmwood Cemetery
5th Alley East, Lot 15
(     - 1904)

Thomas R. Ballentine grew up on his family’s farm in Currituck County, North Carolina.  He joined the Norfolk County Rifle Patriots, Company F, during the Civil War.  Following the war, Ballentine stayed in Norfolk County and purchased farms that “had gone to ruin by mismanagement.”  He returned these farms to working order and then sold them for a profit.  Ballentine was elected as a Norfolk City Councilman during Reconstruction.

Mr. Ballentine is most well known for three tangible aspects of Norfolk history:  The residential area of Ballentine Place, Ballentine Boulevard and The Mary F. Ballentine Home for the Aged

Ballentine's Norfolk plantation was located just within the line of trenches thrown up by the Confederacy in 1861 to save Norfolk from invasion. In the first decade of this century, the area was platted with its eastern and southern boundary formed by the Norfolk and Western Railroad tracks and the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks, respectively. The Ballentine Place residential subdivision was platted in the early 1900s and was progressively built upon over the years. Although some houses were built as early as 1909 and being advertised for sale at that time, the subdivision was primarily developed between the Wars with modest, affordable houses for the working class population. In 1923, more than a decade after its development as Ballentine Place, the neighborhood was annexed by the city, along with Ocean View, Edgewater and Larchmont.  The irregularly-shaped, corner lots of Ballentine Place where the older, more substantial houses were built facing the railroad tracks are part of what is now recognized as an historic district.

In the 1960s, the residents of Ballentine Place fought white flight as African Americans, driven from their former homes by redevelopment, sought housing they could afford. Despite initial reports of panic selling in the neighborhood by white residents, real estate prices remained stable and racial integration occurred harmoniously.

Ballentine Place survives today as a racially mixed, working class community. Although its architecture generally lacks distinction, the area provides important information on the socio-economic development of Norfolk and provides a good example of a working class residential community. *

Thomas R. Ballentine established the Mary F. Ballentine Home for the Aged in 1896 in memory of his deceased wife, Mary (d. 1884).  The establishment of a “home for ladies of gentle birth” was her idea, and the home was to be a memorial to her.  Robert Hitchings of the Norfolk Public Library who has written a book on Mr. Ballentine explains that during the late 1800s there was a considerable population of homeless women because “…after the yellow fever epidemic and the Civil War, a lot of men didn’t come marching back home.”  Mrs. Ballentine was troubled by this and, thus requested the establishment of the home in her name.  In 1906 a stately four-story building on Park Avenue in what was then the fashionable Brambleton section of Norfolk was dedicated to the “care and protection” of elderly women. 

When Thomas Ballentine died in 1904, he bequeathed the bulk of the large fortune he accumulated in truck framing to the Home.  Under the provision of his will, the Home was to be operated by a Board of Trustees who was given full authority the philosophy has always been to maintain a “home” rather than an “institution.”

Around 1950 changing conditions and obsolescence of the Park Avenue building made it necessary to relocate.  In 1952 a block was purchased on Granby Street north of Granby High School, and a new home was constructed. 

In June 1985, the Mary F. Ballentine Home for the Aged moved into a new era of service, and it was transferred to The Ballentine Home Corporation.  An 18 member Board of Trustees was formed by members of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Virginia and the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia.

Under the new plan of operation the home was extensively renovated and reoriented toward serving a wider range of older persons, under a management contract with Westminster-Canterbury of Virginia Beach.

Between 1985-87 a complete interior renovation took place.  The capacity of the home was increased to 60 residents, 44 single rooms and 8 two-rooms suites all with private baths. Telephones and individual heat and air conditioning controls were included in the renovation.

The new arrangements allowed the admission of men and women, a major change for The Ballentine.  Nursing care was made available at Westminster-Canterbury’s Health Care center at current community rate, on a priority basis. 

Responding to the needs of current as well as prospective residents, The Ballentine introduced Independent Plus + in 1994.  This included three levels of care and a fourth level was added in 1999.  These services allow residents to age in place and allow the facility to admit residents in need of some assistance.  Also in 1999 a hospice program (outside hospice agencies currently provide the services to the residents as necessary) was established allowing resident to remain in the home until the very end of their lives. The Ballentine presently has Licensed Practical Nurses as well as Certified Nursing Assistants on duty 24 hours a day.

In 1996, The Ballentine celebrated its centennial year.  The theme was “Celebrating 100 Years of Living.”

In 1999, the Board of Trustees undertook another tremendous step in the history or The Ballentine.   After a number of years of discussion and planning, expansions plans were finalized for remodeling and addition.  Construction began in early 2000.  Today the Ballentine has a new expanded lobby and dining room in addition to 24 new resident rooms.  This brings the total number of rooms and suites to 74.

In 2006 Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay took over ownership of The Ballentine.  Both continue to be sponsored by the Episcopal and Presbyterian churches. **



Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.

Visitor Information

Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Office hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Free parking inside cemetery.

Admission Cost: Free

Address: 238 E. Princess Anne Road , Norfolk, VA 23510

Official web site for more information: www.norfolk.gov/cemeteries

Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation Web Site: www.norfolksocietyforcemeteryconservation.org