Honoring history in the face of progress

Published 8:18 pm Saturday, January 29, 2011

As Suffolk continues to grow, the tension between the city’s rich history and its desire to look toward the future continues to cause frustration for people who are focused on goals in each direction. How to balance the need to protect historic resources and the city’s cultural heritage with the need to build new developments and attend to the needs of the future is a problem that the city’s leaders face explicitly or implicitly in nearly every decision they make.

Some recent choices have made it clear that Suffolk’s elected leaders are not eager to watch that history fade away in the rearview mirror. The renovation of the old courthouse building on Main Street, for example, combined the need for a new tourism center with the desire to maintain a gem of historic architecture downtown. And an agreement to give the Nansemond Indian tribe about 100 acres of a city park for use as a cultural and historic center showed the city’s desire to acknowledge the importance of the tribe’s history, as well.

Recognizing the fact that things are changing in the city’s villages, too, the Chuckatuck Historical Foundation, a group of private citizens in the old community, is working to do its part to preserve the history that would be forgotten as new residents move into the area, as new developments swallow up old farms and as old buildings are replaced by new ones.

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The group is working on a book of photos depicting life as it once existed in the sleepy little hamlet, and it has put out a last call for help from the public. The group has been working on the project since early 2009. Its chairman, Lynn Rose, estimated hard copies of the book will be available for purchase by spring of 2012.

In addition to the book, the foundation also hopes to produce a companion DVD with additional pictures and interviews. The book and DVD will feature history from the areas making up the greater Chuckatuck area, including Oakland, Everets, Wills Corner, Longview, Reid’s Ferry and Sandy Bottom.

Rose encourages anyone with information or pictures to contact her at 255-4663 or Conrad Haas, co-chairman, at 923-0095.

There is no way to freeze Suffolk or any of its villages in time. Progress will come to Chuckatuck, Whaleyville, Holland and the rest of the city, whether we’re ready for it or not. Fortunately, people like Lynn Rose are working to make sure that we don’t forget our roots in the process of moving forward.