Although the modern City of Suffolk now includes what was formerly known as Nansemond County, the original city is a historic Tidewater community with an individual identity. Established in 1742, Suffolk grew as a port on the Nansemond River, trading in wood products from the Dismal Swamp. The commercial center was destroyed by the British during the American Revolution and again was swept away in an 1837 fire. The majority of the earliest buildings in the Suffolk Historic District are Federal-period frame residences north of the downtown. Significant growth, facilitated by the railroads, occurred after the Civil War. Suffolk later became home of the nation’s largest peanut industry. While encompassing the earlier houses on North Main Street, the Suffolk Historic District is primarily a large residential area known as New Town. Its streets are tightly packed with a rich mixture of over 200 late-19th century and early-20th century houses in a variety of styles, a reflection of the city’s prosperity at that time.
The Suffolk Historic District has been expanded three times: first, in 1999 to extend the district north along Main Street to bound Old Town’s Federal-era properties.
[VLR Listed: 9/14/1998; NRHP Listed: 6/10/1999]
In 2002, the Suffolk Historic District grew into the southern area of downtown, south of Market and Bank Streets. This area, called Washington Square, includes 114 contributing resources and 28 noncontributing resources.
[VLR Listed: 6/12/2002; NRHP Listed: 9/14/2002]
In 2004, a third expansion of the Suffolk Historic District incorporated 137 contributing resources that more fully convey the city’s historic and architectural development. The third expansion also extended the district’s period of significance to 1795–1954.
[VLR Listed: 9/8/2004; NRHP Listed: 12/3/2004]
Many properties listed in the registers are private dwellings and are not open to the public, however many are visible from the public right-of-way. Please be respectful of owner privacy.
VLR: Virginia Landmarks Register
NPS: National Park Service
NRHP: National Register of Historic Places
NHL: National Historic Landmark
DHR has secured permanent legal protection for over 700 historic places - including 15,000 acres of battlefield lands
DHR has erected 2,532 highway markers in every county and city across Virginia
DHR has engaged over 450 students in 3 highway marker contests
DHR has stimulated more than $4.2 billion dollars in private investments related to historic tax credit incentives, revitalizing communities of all sizes throughout Virginia