Port Warwick, Newport News, Virginia
William Styron
William Stryon
William Styron
“Riding down to Port Warwick from Richmond, the train begins to pick up speed on the outskirts of the city, past the tobacco factories with their ever-present haze of acrid, sweetish dust and past the rows of uniformly brown clapboard houses which stretch down the hilly streets for miles…”
So begins, Lie Down In Darkness, the gut-wrenching first novel published in 1951 by Newport News native, William Styron. It’s characters, rumored to be based upon a prominent Newport News family, was very controversial in its day, and still can raise the ire of older peninsula residents. For Styron, it launched a brilliant literary career. He followed, Lie Down In Darkness, with many novels, plays and short stories including; "The Confessions of Nat Turner," for which he won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1967 and "Sophie’s Choice,” winner of the National Book Award in 1978.

The Square, Port Warwick’s prominent development feature, is named "Styron Square", to honor the life and work of this Newport News native. The two main boulevards of Port Warwick, Loftis Boulevard and Nat Turner Boulevard, are characters in the author’s novels. In addition, Mr. Styron himself took on the task of naming the remaining streets and parks in Port Warwick. Given free reign to design a naming plan for the development, Styron decided to honor great American writers.

In naming the various thoroughfares and squares of Port Warwick" says Styron, "I have chosen outstanding American literary figures from the nineteenth and twenty century. These artists seem to me ones who are indisputably lodged in the pantheon of American literature. Limitation in number has forced me to exclude many illustrious writers deserving of recognition, therefore my choices reflect a personal leaning. But the overall selection of names does, I think, represent the best in the great flowering of American literary art.

Mr. Styron attended the dedication of the Styron Square Pavilion in 2001, and while his health never allowed him to revisit Port Warwick, he stayed in constant communication with Port Warwick developer Bobby Freeman. Assisting in reviewing plans for buildings, adding street names and selecting the quotations that appear in the marble base of the Masaru Bando, sculpture on Phillip Roth Street.
     
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