Society to present Candlelight Tour

Published 9:59 pm Monday, November 28, 2016

The Suffolk-Nansemond Historical Society will present the 40th anniversary of its Candlelight Tour this weekend.

The tour will feature a number of historic homes, churches and businesses in the downtown core. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the holidays will be in season.

“This year, we’re really focusing on businesses, churches and houses around Main Street,” said Sandra Councill, president of the historical society. “I’m thrilled, because you can park your car one time and do the whole tour. It’s a very walkable tour.”

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Music provided by local choirs and other groups will be featured along Main Street, Councill said. But perhaps the greatest musical curiosity on display during the tour will be an antique music box on display at the Phillips-Dawson House on Bank Street, the headquarters of the historical society.

Kermit Hobbs, the historian of the society, said he acquired the music box around two years ago. It was manufactured in the United States in the late 1890s by Stella with parts made in Switzerland.

Hobbs said he fixed up the music box and has acquired around 25 discs with tunes on them. The box cost about $100 when it was made — the equivalent of more than $2,000 today — and the discs cost about 40 cents each.

“It’s hard to imagine, back in those days, what a luxury music was,” Hobbs said.

The box works with a hand crank that turns the disc, causing two “combs” to strike holes in the disc. The lower notes are closer to the inside of the disc, while the higher notes are near the outside.

“I thought maybe this would be a draw,” Hobbs said of the music box. “It’s something most people haven’t seen or don’t know about.”

Buildings on the tour include:

  • Prentis House, 321 N. Main St. — The Prentis House is one of the oldest homes in Suffolk. It was purchased by Peter Bowdoin Prentis from Dr. John Thompson Kilby in 1857. It formerly served as the Suffolk Visitor Center.
  • Old Post Office, 200 N. Main St. — The former post office was built in the American Renaissance style and is the only monumental building on Main Street constructed of dressed stone. It closed in 1987 and today serves as the PretlowJackson law office.
  • Suffolk Christian Church, 216 N. Main St. — Dr. Brock Wellons founded the church in 1870. During the Civil War, Union troops occupied Suffolk and forced the pastor to flee the city. The current structure was built in 1894.
  • Van Valkenburg House, 220 N. Main St. — This typical 19th-century clapboard house has been moved about 80 feet north from where it was constructed. Mr. and Mrs. Richard Seth Eley set up housekeeping here, and Elizabeth Campbell van Valkenburg and her husband, Paul, later refurbished it. It now is an Edward Jones office.
  • Truitt House, 204 Bank St. — This mansion has three floors with a ballroom, orchestra pit and a floating spiral stairway. It currently is being lovingly restored as a bed and breakfast by owner Ruth Baker.
  • Beatty House, 214 Pinner St. — John Thornton Withers, great-grandson of Mills and Mary Taylor Riddick, built this home in 1910 with his wife, Phoebe Jones. It was built on property owned by her parents.
  • Riddick’s Folly House Museum, 510 N. Main St. — Mills and Mary Taylor Riddick build Riddick’s Folly in 1837. It has four completely furnished floors, 21 rooms and 16 fireplaces. It served as General Peck’s headquarters during the Civil War and now houses multiple historical exhibits about the Riddicks and their contemporaries.
  • Phillips-Dawson House, 137 Bank St. — The home was built in 1889 and later became home to Dr. and Mrs. Dawson. Their son, Gerard, gave it to the historical society.
  • Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church, 213 N. Main St. — The fifth building of the church, the present-day 1895 Gothic-style church is filled with relics from the past.
  • Main Street United Methodist Church, 202 N. Main St. — The church was founded in 1801, just 59 years after the original chartering of the town of Suffolk. The current building recently celebrated its 100th birthday.
  • First Baptist Church, 237 N. Main St. — The church was organized in 1827, and the congregation has been meeting at the current location since 1836. The church recently undertook an addition and upgrade project that enhanced the skyline of North Main Street.
  • Trinity Christian Church, 128 Franklin St. — This church was originally the Presbyterian church, until the congregation left for another site in 1967.
  • Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, 326 N. Main St. — The station was built in 1885 and has been basically unchanged over the years. It is owned and operated by the historical society and includes a model train spanning two rooms, depicting Suffolk in 1907.

The tour will take place this Saturday and Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and can be purchased at the Suffolk Seaboard Station Railroad Museum or the Suffolk Visitor Center. Tickets are $25 on the day of the tour and can be purchased only at the Dawson House that day.

Call 539-2781 for more information.