Rountree would like to see more Suffolkians discover Riddick’s Folly

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 1, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Robin Rountree is helping bring Suffolk’s history to life.

As director of Riddick’s Folly for the past three years, the Chesapeake resident has worked to promote the elegant Greek Revival home near Constant’s Wharf to the Hampton Roads community.

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Despite the many workshops and special exhibits sponsored by Suffolk’s only house museum, Rountree doesn’t believe enough locals people have visited the house built in 1837 by one of Suffolk’s leading residents of the era, Mills Riddick.

&uot;I would like to see this article create more interest in the house among the general public,&uot; she said. Rountree, who has a bachelor’s degree in history, grew up in Suffolk and spent three months interning at the museum before becoming its director.

Mills Riddick came from a large and prominent family in Suffolk and Nansemond County. &uot;He was the grandson of Revolutionary War hero, Col. Willis S. Riddick and was a captain of the calvary during the War of 1812,&uot; she said.

He was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1819-1820.

After Mills Riddick died, his son, Nathaniel, became head of the family and lived at the home until the Civil War.

&uot;During the Union occupation of Suffolk, the house served as the headquarters of Maj. Gen. John J. Peck and his staff of Union Army officers,&uot; Rountree said. &uot;Penciled messages left on the walls by Union Soldiers are still legible today.

&uot;When the family returned after the war, they found their home stripped of most of their possessions.&uot;

Riddick’s descendants continued to live in the house until 1967, when the house and grounds were sold to Nansemond County for use as offices.

A decade later, Riddick’s Folly was established as a facility for cultural events in Suffolk, Rountree said. Then, in the 1980s, the home underwent extensive privately funded restoration.

Today, Riddick’s Folly is continually being enhanced by further restoration, Rountree said.

Part of her job is helping to organize the fundraisers and cultural programs for the museum, including the Gov. Mills E. Godwin Jr. exhibit and a Peanut exhibit.

Rountree says she loves her job.

&uot;Every time I conduct tours or plan a program and see the looks on people’s faces when they learn about the history here, it’s like I am doing it for the first time,&uot; Rountree said. &uot;It’s wonderful.&uot;

To make arrangements to visit Riddick’s Folly, call Rountree at 934-1390 or e-mail at

Museum and gift shop hours are: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday-Friday; 1 to 4 p.m.,

Saturday; and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Riddick’s Folly is closed on major holidays.

Name: Robin K. Rountree

Age: 34

Family: Single

Education: B.S. degree in history from Christopher Newport University.

Career/Occupation: Director of Riddick’s Folly, Suffolk’s only house museum.

Volunteer activities: I have been spending my time at Riddick’s Folly but look forward to finding a charitable institution with which to volunteer my time for the upcoming year.

Favorite thing about Suffolk: The people in Suffolk are so friendly.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I love history.

Favorite thing about your job? Riddick’s Folly is a beautiful historic house and I love showing it off.

Least favorite thing about our job: Everyone in Suffolk has not visited Riddick’s Folly yet.

What accomplishments are you proudest of? Getting the grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the Museum Assessment program for Riddick’s Folly.

Who are what motivates and inspires you? Intelligent people who also have drive, determination, and focus are the people who inspire me.

Favorite way to spend your time: Reading.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? Never give up on making your dreams a reality.

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Understanding, respect for others, the drive and determination to make things better, a willingness and initiative to change and grow as a person.

We all have our 15 minutes of fame in this life. How would you spend your time in the spotlight? I would tell everyone what a wonderful place Riddick’s Folly is and encourage them to visit that house and to tour Suffolk.