Good time to explore the city center – The Suffolk News-Herald


By Chris Quilpa

Now is a good time to be in Suffolk! It’s time to get out of your house and see what the city has in store for you. You’ll be surprised to find out what awaits you in this largest city in Virginia (by area), also famous for being the birthplace of Mr. Peanut, the Planters Peanuts mascot.

I have been a resident of Suffolk for over two decades, out of the 27 years I lived in Virginia. Would you believe it if I say I haven’t explored the city a lot, especially the downtown area?

I continued to postpone my journey to gallop, learn and explore the many aspects of its rich history and tradition. But now that I have plenty of time, I think about it all the time.

From where I live in the northern part, it takes about 25-30 minutes to get there. But it’s worth a visit, especially if your intention is to explore the place you’ve come to appreciate and love.

Until earlier this month, I had not visited Riddick’s Folly House Museum at 510 N. Main St. or attended mass at St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church at 202 S. Broad St.

My wife Freny and I did the above with our friends Rudy and Marz from Chesapeake. Although Freny and I have been to the farmers market and passed Riddick’s Folly a few times before, our friends haven’t. So we all drove downtown on that sunny Saturday.

At the Suffolk Farmers Market we bought nut brownies, fresh produce like watermelon, fresh blackberries and cucumber, and raw peanuts. We didn’t expect to see a local artist singing country music with his guitar.

The Suffolk Farmers’ Market is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays through November 20 at the outdoor pavilion of the Suffolk Visitor Center, 524 N. Main St.

Adjacent to the Visitor Center is the historic Riddick’s Folly House, a three-story brick building. We later learned that Riddick’s Folly was built in 1837.

For history buffs or the curious like us, you will certainly want to meet the always bubbly and funny, but witty, Mr. Lee King, the director / curator of Riddick’s Folly, who will give you a fantastic visit, entertaining and educational historic house museum.

It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Call 757-934-0822 or visit

Across town, St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church is a place where you can meet and experience faith, hope, joy, healing, and peace. The church has quite a historic start.

Three generations of women, Mrs. Katherine Woodley Holland, her daughter Elfrida Holland Lewis and Katherine “Katie” Lewis Crowder, the daughter of Elfrida, were instrumental in the advent of the Catholic faith in 1836 in Suffolk and ultimately in the construction of St. Mary’s parish in downtown Suffolk.

For nearly 100 years, priests from St. Paul’s in Portsmouth have ministered to the Catholics of Suffolk. Elfrida’s last residence was the site of the first baptism celebrated by Father Brady in 1902. Katie organized the Ladies Aid Society in 1908 and went door to door, asking for donations for the purchase of land and construction of the church. Originally dedicated in 1909, with further construction improvements and upgrades in 1927 and 1954, the new church features an Italian mosaic of the Crucifixion, formed from over 50,000 squares of colored glass a half an inch. The current pastor of St. Mary is Father Emmanuel Mensah. For more information about the church, visit

Suffolk’s historic city center has much more to offer residents and visitors alike. There is a lot to know, learn and appreciate about a place, especially if it is historic. As long as there is life, the opportunity to explore and enjoy is there, my friends.

So what are you waiting for? Now is a good time to be in Suffolk.

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired US Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Portsmouth. Email him at [email protected]

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