Folly to get new steps

Published 10:26 pm Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A historic building in Suffolk will get a new set of steps in the next few months.

Riddick’s Folly House Museum, which stands near the intersection of Main Street and Constance Road, will have its front steps rebuilt. The city, which owns the building, will pay to have the work performed.

A sign strung on a chain in front of Riddick’s Folly asks visitors to use the back door into the historic home. The steps have been closed for several months because they are deteriorating.

“The steps have gone through some deterioration over the last year or so,” said Gerry Jones, director of Capital Programs and Buildings for the city.

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Jones said the city undertook some minor repairs, but a substantial shift in recent months made it apparent the steps would have to be replaced, rather than repaired.

“We decided not to continue to repair them, but to actually rebuild them,” Jones said. “We’re in the process of getting them re-engineered now, and in the next few months we’ll be taking those steps down and placing them back in proper historic context.”

The building was constructed in 1837 by Mills Riddick, who owned several plantations surrounding the town of Suffolk, as well as stakes in the Albemarle Land Company and Dismal Swamp Land Company. Locals at the time dubbed the home “Riddick’s Folly” because of its immense size.

He and his wife, Mary Taylor Riddick, had 10 children who lived to adulthood. When he died in 1844, she moved into a smaller home nearby. The home fell to her children in equal shares, but Nathaniel Riddick, purchased his siblings’ shares and moved in with his wife, Missouri. He was a lawyer and used the home for his practice until he built a separate office on the property.

Nathaniel Riddick would go on to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates and as a judge. The Union Army used the house as a headquarters during its occupation of Suffolk during the Civil War. Riddick died in 1882.

The home now serves as a repository for items related to the Riddicks, a reflection of how Suffolk was during the time period they occupied it and one of the most visible Civil War sites in Suffolk.

Lee King, curator of Riddick’s Folly, said it will be great to have the steps back. Visitors have come in through the back door while the steps have been closed off the last several months.

“It really makes the visitors think when they come up those front steps,” he said. “It’s a grand entrance into the home, compared to the back steps.”