History of Chesapeake Health Department

The Norfolk County Health Department was established in 1914.  It was the first county health department in the state. According to Marilyn Shumaker, an employee from 1944 until 1985, the health department was located in the city of Portsmouth in a five room upstairs apartment on the corner of Green Street and London Blvd in 1944. At that time, the health district consisted of Norfolk County, South Norfolk, Princess Anne County, and the City of Virginia Beach. Each area had its own staff but shared the same Medical Director. In Norfolk County the staff consisted of a Medical Director, Venereal Disease Control Officer and Sanitarian (all three staffed by men from the Medical Corps of the Army), and a civilian Sanitarian, and 5 public health nurses.

On February 2, 1950, South Norfolk’s first full time health center opened at 1010 Poindexter Street in the City of South Norfolk. Prior to this, South Norfolk had been served by part-time services of a private physician, a full time sanitation inspector, and nurses from Kings’ Daughters Hospital.

In 1954, the Norfolk County Health Department moved from Portsmouth to the site of the Norfolk County Farm, on Richmond Cedarworks Road in Great Bridge. (Present day site of the Chesapeake Civic Center)

In December, 1960, the furnace at the South Norfolk Health Center collapsed, resulting in a move of its office to 1204 20th Street in January, 1961.

In 1962, Norfolk County and the City of South Norfolk merged to form the City of Chesapeake and Princess Anne County merged with Virginia Beach to form the City of Virginia Beach. At that time, the health departments of the two new cities became independent of each other and each city had its own Medical Director. Chesapeake maintained two sites, the main office on Cedar Road and the satellite office in South Norfolk.

In 1976, the main office moved from Cedar Road to a new building at 748 N. Battlefield Boulevard. (Behind Chesapeake General Hospital)

On January 17, 1989, a second satellite clinic, the Adult General Medical Clinic, opened at 2709 Campostella Road in Chesapeake.  On June 1, 1995, the Adult Clinic and the South Norfolk Clinic combined services to become the South Norfolk Health Center and moved to a renovated building at 490 Liberty Street in the South Norfolk section of the city. On July 1st 2012 the Adult Clinic services were taken over by Peninsula Institute for Community Health and renamed to the “Chesapeake Community Health Center“. The building was divided and WIC moved into the front wing of the building to continue WIC services. The other Health Department services were moved back to the Main Office.

Other information from Marilyn Shumaker:

In the early 1940’s, the health department did not hold clinics within the health department building. The primary work of the public health nurses was home visiting to teach and demonstrate nursing procedures; they were also responsible for supervising the large number of midwives in the health district. The nurses and Medical Director traveled to the schools or neighborhood front porches to give immunizations. Nurses had to sterilize all medical supplies; no disposable needles and syringes existed.  Supplies were carried in a square wooden box with leather straps.  After World War II, immunization clinics were held at the Health Department or in rented or donated space. When the Health Department was opened on Cedar Road, clinic services increased with Well-Baby, Maternity, and medical screening clinics, requiring a restructuring of nursing duties from field to clinic.

Health Directors (Past & Present):
Dr. William Y. Garrett 1936-1968 **

          • Dr. Joy 1968-1972 **
          • Dr. Laura Morris 1972-1979
          • Dr. Stephen Kendra 1980-1986
          • Dr. Nancy Welch 1987-Present

** Dates for Dr Garrett and Dr Joy provided by Mr Bill Hoddinott.