By Herb Sparrow
Although downtown Newport News, Va., once a bustling area known as Broadway on the James, has more of an industrial feel today, it still is a draw for traveling groups.
“We incorporate downtown Newport News into our group tours with a driving tour of that area,” said Rebecca Cutchins, media relations manager for the Newport News Tourism Development Office. “Our downtown attractions include the James A. Fields House, the Newsome House, Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center and Victory Arch.
“Our Civil War groups are typically taken to the Monitor-Merrimac Overlook in downtown. This is where the Battle of Hampton Roads took place.”
The famous Civil War battle between the Union’s Monitor and the Confederate’s Merrimac was the first naval encounter between two ironclad warships.
“Our military groups usually want to see the Victory Arch for a group photo, and then we drive by the Dorothy, the first ship built by Newport News Shipbuilding in 1891. It is a tugboat that is now on display outside of the shipyard gates,” said Cutchins.
Victory Arch, first made of wood and plaster, was dedicated in 1919 to honor World War I veterans. Rebuilt in stone in 1962, the memorial burns an eternal flame for all men and women of the armed forces.
The Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center is a 52,000-square-foot facility with galleries, banquet and meeting rooms, and a 276-seat theater named after Newport News native Ella Fitzgerald.
Originally built as the Walter Reed School, the historic building was restored and reopened to the public in 2008.