Suffolk history hides behind funeral home

Published 8:27 pm Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tucked away, behind R.W. Baker and Co. Funeral Home is a modest home surrounded by shrubs and trees.

The Constantia House, with its white with red shudders, hidden behind a massive white home West Washington — R.W. Baker Funeral Home — has a rich history that predates the 1742 charter of Suffolk.

In information provided by the Nansemond-Suffolk Historical Society, John Constant is believed to have been the first permanent English settler in Suffolk and started a wharf and trading center that laid the foundation for the town.

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Constant built a small frame house on the hill overlooking the river. Land on which the home was built became known as Constantia.

After the Revolutionary War, the Church of England was abandoned and by 1802 — long after the Constants were gone — the town fathers bought the south end of the land. They constructed a chapel to be used by all denominations. The land around the chapel was used for burials, which later became Cedar Hill Cemetery.

More land was acquired over the years and in the 1920s the Constantia chapter of the Daughters of the American Revaluation took a look at the decaying home and decided to build a replica.

For years it stayed there but by the late 20th century vandalism was leading to the rapid decay of the home and it was offered to anyone who could move it.

Robert Baker offered to move the home and, now in its third life, the Constantia House is situated in its current place.

Although not an original feature, the redwood in its front yard is believed to be the second largest redwood tree in Virginia. The largest tree is located in the Botanical Gardens in Norfolk, but is believed to be two trees together.