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The Willoughby-Baylor House

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Punch, the cigar store figurine, stood in downtown Norfolk from the 1860s to 1916. The pocket watch sign in the background dates to the late 1800s. Click image to enlarge.

The Willoughby-Baylor House, the long-time home of the Norfolk History Museum, now features a display of art and artifacts related to the history of one of America's original heritage port cities.

Norfolk History Museum artifact

Upon entering, you'll be greeted by a friendly gallery host and a cannon dating to the War of 1812. Also in the entry, but out of view in this photograph, is a large painting depicting the landing of the first settlers in this area, at Cape Henry, in 1607. Click image to enlarge.

On the second floor you'll find The Norfolk Rooms. This suite of Norfolk-made art and artifacts includes period paintings, furniture, and silver. Highlights includes Cephas Thompson's stately portrait of Norfolk attorney John Nivison, painted in 1812, and a delicately engraved silver sugar bowl by Jeremiah Andrews created around 1791.

"Andrews and other local silversmiths often embossed their wares with both their initials and the word Norfolk, building name recognition for this city as a source of fine craftsmanship," said Crawford Alexander Mann III, the Chrysler's Brock Curator of American Art. "We've built new cases to show off more of their work, and we will switch these displays periodically."

The ground floor is a changing exhibition space, and opening April 18 is Tidewater Wildflowers: Watercolors by Bessie Tyler. A Richmond native who worked in Norfolk for decades, the portrait painter by profession turned to wildflowers for inspiration time after time. The result is a rich botanical survey told one beautiful image at a time.

The Willoughby-Baylor House is a two-story brick townhouse built in 1794 by Captain William Willoughby, a descendent of one of Norfolk's founding families. After falling into disrepair, it was saved from demolition and opened as a house museum in 1970. For a complete look at the history of the Willoughby-Baylor House, click here.