2803 Oak Street ~ 1899
This house has served two families. It was built in 1899 by Dr. William R. Granger as a residence for his large family. In 1906, Granger sold igt to Joseph Thomas Newsome and his wife Mary.
Mr. Newsome was a newly arrived attorney who over the course of 40 years would make his mark in the city. Together, he and Mary prospered as part of the post Civil War South's new urban black middle class. They first lived in Newport News at 1125 30th Street. After the birth of their daughter Maurice in 1904, they were desirous of a more elegant dwelling befitting their advancing economic and social status.
They made the house a showplace filled with fine furnishings. It became a gathering place for voter registration drives, educational pursuits and pioneering equal rights activities. Booker T. Washington crossed its threshould twice.
Home Sweet Home
The Newsomes resided here the rest of their lives; their daughter was the last to do so. The house was sold in 1977 to Newsome House, Inc., a foundation of private citizens interested in preserving is as a memorial to the Newsome legacy of community service. Neighbors Cornelius and Carrie Brown spearheaded these efforts.
The house remained vacant for more than ten years and greatly deteriorated while
funding was sought. In its first major effort at historic preservation, the City of Newport News accepted the challenge. Between 1987-1990, over $600,000 of federal, state, city and private money was spent to restore the house. In April 1990, it was recognized as a landmark in the National Register of Historic Places. In a ceremony attended by over 2,000 people, the refurbished structure was dedicated on February 17, 1991, as a museum and cultural center.
From Saltbox to Queen Anne
The house the Newsome acquired in 1906 was a fram box, located at the corner of Oak Avenue and 28th Street. It had two stories, an attic, a partial basement and city amenities liek indoor plumbing, electricity and gas service. In the years prior to World War I, the Newsome made many improvements — a Palladian window, wrap-around porch, Victorian fretwork, stained glass and an octagonal turret — which transformed the house into a handsome Queen Anne. The front entrance was relocated to open on 28th Street with a set of French doors. Unlike most of the city's houses, built on narow 25'x100' lots, the Newsome propert occupied four lots, permitting them to have a generous yard, garden and detached garage. In the 1920, they put on an addition to provide a large kitchen and enclosed sun porch.