Lafayette ‘visits’ Suffolk

Published 9:48 pm Saturday, February 26, 2011

You may have noticed a sign stating, “Suffolk welcomes General Lafayette” recently outside of the Young Properties Real Estate Investments business on North Main Street.

The building that houses Young Properties was built on the site of the Castle Inn where General Marquis de Lafayette stayed during a two-day visit to Suffolk.

Every few years, the Suffolk Nansemond Historical Society hosts an event to commemorate his visit, said Christine Young of Young Properties.

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“We like to join in with the Historical Society in commemoration of Lafayette’s visit,” she said.

General Lafayette was invited to Suffolk at the request of the Suffolk’s then-Congressman, Thomas Newton Jr. six months after he arrived to the United States in 1824. At that time, Lafayette was unable to give Suffolk a specific date that he would visit.

Suffolk citizens waited his response. At 6 p.m., Feb. 24, 1825, Lafayette sent word that he would be in Suffolk the next day, giving Suffolk citizens less than a day’s notice to prepare for Lafayette’s visit.

Local residents stayed up all night decorating the banquet room of the Nansemond County Courthouse, now the site of the Suffolk Visitor Center, and the Castle Inn, where he stayed. They would hold a banquet in his honor at the courthouse and provide lodging for Lafayette and his traveling companions at the Castle Inn.

Lafayette and his men were escorted into Suffolk on Feb. 25, 1825, where he was met with the cheers of Suffolk residents. When Lafayette left Suffolk, he continued southward to Murfreesboro, N.C.

General Lafayette noted his appreciation to the city of Suffolk for making him feel welcome.

The Castle Inn was destroyed in a fire June 3, 1837.

“The banner is to remind people of the visit of one of the most prominent figures from the American Revolutionary War,” said Young.

A private event was held Saturday to commemorate the visit.