Campers visit historic Suffolk residence

Published 8:48 pm Monday, September 2, 2019

Children in the Suffolk Art Gallery’s Art Camp enjoyed a tour of Suffolk’s history Thursday at Riddick’s Folly on North Main Street.

Built in 1837, the four-story Greek Revival home is Suffolk’s only historic house. The house features period furnishings, art and artifacts that belonged to the Riddick family, one of the most prominent families living in the Tidewater area at the time.

Locals in the mid-19th century found Mills Riddick’s 8,000 square-feet mansion to be a ridiculously large venture, which is how it earned the name “Riddick’s Folly.” This Folly also served as headquarters for General John James Peck of the Union Army during the Union’s occupation of Suffolk in the Civil War.

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This summer’s Art Camp was offered by the Suffolk Art Gallery as part of the Suffolk Parks and Recreation. Campers ages 10 to 14 visited Riddick’s Folly on Aug. 22, while those ages 6 to 9 visited on Thursday.

It’s the first time that Riddick’s Folly has partnered with Suffolk Parks and Recreation to facilitate a tour for the Art League’s campers, according to Curator Edward Smith.

The children made colonial “Whirligig” toys, which are buttons threaded by string that they twirl in circular motions, and they also painted their ball-and-cup toys. They went home with goodie bags of these toys to remind them how children played in the 19th century.

“They got to learn a little bit about how the children lived in the early 19th century,” said Riddick’s Folly Curator Edward Smith.

The art campers also enjoyed their tour of the historic building on Thursday. Each room features different artifacts, furnishings and amenities from the Riddick family’s everyday lives.

One of the more popular finds for the children that visit Riddick’s Folly was an old folk toy of blocks together by string: a Jacob’s ladder.

“When I show them that (toy), within five minutes they forget what a computer is,” Smith said. “They’re just so amazed by it.”

The well-behaved group of youngsters listened closely to Jane O’Connor Smith as she guided them through the house, while also keeping their hands off the delicate antiques.

“We’ll welcome them back anytime,” Edward Smith said.