Good time to explore downtown

Published 8:40 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Chris Quilpa

It’s a good time to be in Suffolk! It’s time to get out of the house and go see what the city has in store. You’ll be surprised to discover what awaits you in this largest city of Virginia (by land area), also famous for being the birthplace of Mr. Peanut, the mascot of Planters Peanuts.

I have been a resident of Suffolk for more than two decades, out of the 27 years that I have lived in Virginia. Would you believe it if I say I haven’t explored much about the city, especially downtown?

Email newsletter signup

I kept on putting off going there to gallivant, learn and explore the many aspects of her rich history and tradition. But now that I have a lot of time, I think about it all the time.

From where I live in the northern part, it takes about 25-30 minutes to drive there. But it’s worth the commute, especially if your intent is to explore the place that you’ve learned to appreciate and love.

Until earlier this month, I hadn’t visited Riddick’s Folly House Museum at 510 N. Main St. or attended Mass at St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church at 202 S. Broad St.

My wife, Freny, and I did the above along with our friends Rudy and Marz from Chesapeake. Though Freny and I have been to the farmers market and passed by Riddick’s Folly a number of times before, our friends have not. So we all drove downtown that sunny Saturday.

At the Suffolk Farmers Market, we bought some brownies with walnuts, fresh produce like watermelon, fresh blackberry and cucumber, and raw peanuts. We never expected to see a local performer singing country music with his guitar.

Suffolk Farmers Market is held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, through Nov. 20, at Suffolk Visitor Center Outdoor Pavilion, 524 N. Main St.

Adjacent to the visitor center is the historic Riddick’s Folly House Museum, a three-story brick building. We learned later that Riddick’s Folly was built in 1837.

For history buffs, or curious people like us, you’ll definitely want to meet the ever bubbly and funny, yet witty Mr. Lee King, the director/curator of Riddick’s Folly, who will give you a fantastic, entertaining and educational tour of the historical house museum.

It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call 757-934-0822 or visit

Across town, St. Mary of the Presentation Catholic Church is one place where you can encounter and experience faith, hope, joy, healing and peace. The church does have quite a historical beginning.

Three generations of women, Mrs. Katherine Woodley Holland, her daughter Elfrida Holland Lewis and Katherine “Katie” Lewis Crowder, Elfrida’s daughter, were instrumental in bringing the Catholic faith in 1836 in Suffolk and eventually in the building up of St. Mary’s Parish in downtown Suffolk.

For nearly 100 years, priests from St. Paul’s in Portsmouth had been ministering to Catholics in Suffolk. Elfrida’s last residence was the venue for the First Baptism celebrated by Father Brady in 1902. Katie organized the Ladies Aid Society in 1908, and went door to door, asking for donations for the purchasing of a lot and building of the church. Dedicated originally in 1909, with further construction improvement and upgrades in 1927 and in 1954, the new church features an Italian mosaic of the Crucifixion, formed by more than 50,000 half-inch squares of colored glass. St. Mary’s current pastor is Father Emmanuel Mensah. For more information about the church, visit

Downtown historic Suffolk has much more to offer to residents and visitors. There’s much to know and learn about and appreciate a place, especially if it’s historical. For as long as there’s life, the opportunity to explore and enjoy is there, my friends.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s a good time to be in Suffolk.


Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Portsmouth. Email him at