Opening doors at Phillips-Dawson

Published 10:29 pm Friday, April 29, 2016

For the relatively few people in Suffolk who have had the good fortune to prowl among the stacks of photos and documents located inside the Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society’s Phillips-Dawson House in downtown Suffolk, it is easy to recognize the great treasure trove of the city’s history that exists there. But for most folks, the structure is just another old house on Bank Street.

A new thrust for the society, however, should make the collection of Suffolk antiques and antiquities housed there more accessible to the general public, and the effort will honor two women who were or have been instrumental in amassing and maintaining the collection and building the historical society into the important city resource that it is today.

On Sunday, the organization will begin a months-long 50th anniversary celebration by dedicating two new public spaces within the historic home. The Susan Felton Woodward exhibit room, honoring a longtime volunteer, board member and aficionado of Suffolk history, will house a rotating display of Suffolk history.

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The Marion Joyner Watson research room will honor the late historian of Suffolk and Nansemond County, who spent many years recording and organizing records. In that room, folks will be able to examine records from the society’s extensive collection, including photographs, yearbooks from local schools, maps, letters, business ledgers, newspaper clippings, personal effects, genealogical information and more.

Renovations also have been made in other rooms of the house and will help present the story of the Dawson family, which once lived there.

Suffolk’s history is rich with stories about families of all social classes, of Native American peoples, of agricultural and business interests by turns colliding and cooperating and of great architectural structures that failed to weather the course of time.

It’s a history that should be widely available for research and understanding, and the historical society’s efforts to improve the availability of its resources will be a boon to students of history young and old.