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Suffolk is an independent city located in the Hampton Roadsmarker metropolitan area of Virginiamarker. By area, it is the largest of the Seven Cities of Hampton Roadsmarker, and the largest independent city in land-area in the entire Commonwealth. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 63,677. A more recent 2007 census estimate shows that the city's population has grown to 81,332, and its median household income was $57,546. It has the smallest population of all the seven cities.


Suffolk was founded by English colonists in 1742 as a port town on the Nansemond River in the Virginia Colony. Originally known as Constance's Warehouse, Suffolk was named after Royal Governor William Gooch's home of Suffolk in East Angliamarker in Englandmarker. Before European contact, indigenous American tribes lived in the region for thousands of years. At the time of English settlement, the Nansemond Indians lived along the river. In the early colonial years, the English cultivated tobacco as a commodity crop, but later turned to mixed farming. The labor-intensive crop depended on enslaved Africans.

Early in its history, Suffolk became a land transportation gateway to the areas east of it in South Hampton Roads. Before the American Civil War, both the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad and the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad were built through Suffolk, early predecessors of 21st century Class 1 railroads operated by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern, respectively. Other railroads and later major highways followed after the war.

Long surrounded by Nansemond County, Suffolk progressively became an incorporated town in 1808 and an independent city in 1906. In 1974, it combined by mutual agreement with the former county, which had become an independent city (City of Nansemondmarker) 18 months earlier. It included the former outlying unincorporated towns of Hollandmarker and Whaleyvillemarker. The newly consolidated cities assumed the name of Suffolk, creating the largest city in geographic area in Virginia.

Peanuts grown in the surrounding areas became a major industry for Suffolk. Notably, Planters' Peanuts was established in Suffolk beginning in 1912. Suffolk was the 'birthplace' of Mr. Peanut, the mascot of Planters' Peanuts. For many years, the call-letters of local AM radio station WLPM stood for World's Largest Peanut Market.


Suffolk is located at (36.741347, -76.609881).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 429.1 square miles (1,111.3 km2), of which, 400.0 square miles (1,036.0 km2) of it is land and 29.0 square miles (75.2 km2) of it (6.77%) is water.

Part of the Great Dismal Swampmarker is located in Suffolk.

Suffolk is the largest city in land mass compared to the other cities that are part of the Hampton Roads area.


Age distribution in Suffolk.
As of the census of 2000, there were 63,677 people, 23,283 households, and 17,718 families residing in the city. The population density was 159.2 people per square mile (61.5/km2). There were 24,704 housing units at an average density of 61.8/sq mi (23.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 53.82% White, 43.53% Black or African American, 0.30% Native American, 0.77% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.37% from other races, and 1.19% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 1.27% of the population.

There were 23,283 households out of which 36.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.1% were married couples living together, 16.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 23.9% were non-families. 20.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.69 and the average family size was 3.09.

The age distribution was 27.8% under the age of 18, 7.1% from 18 to 24, 31.1% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $41,115, and the median income for a family was $47,342. Males had a median income of $35,852 versus $23,777 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,836. About 10.8% of families and 13.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.2% of those under age 18 and 11.2% of those age 65 or over.

As of 2005, the city's median income jumped to $60,484 due to the influx of government-related high-tech jobs in the city's northern corridor and wealthy residents, causing it to be a close second to its neighbor Chesapeake in South Hampton Roads.

Adjacent counties and cities

National protected areas

2008 tornado

The city was hit by an EF3 tornado which produced a large swath of extensive damage through the city and nearby communities during the late afternoon of Monday 28 April, 2008.

Aeriel view of tornado damage in Suffolk on April 28, 2008.
After 4:00 PM EST on April 28, 2008, a tornado touched down multiple times causing damage and leaving over 200 injured in Suffolk along a path which passed north and west of the downtown area striking near Sentara Obici Hospital and in the unincorporated town of Drivermarker. The storm seriously damaged over 120 homes and 12 businesses. The subdivisions of Burnett's Mill and Hillpoint Farms were damaged particularly hard, as well as several of the older historic structures in Driver. However, near Driver, large radio and television broadcast towers located in an antenna farm serving most of Hampton Roads were spared serious damage.

Governor Timothy Kaine declared a state of emergency and directed state agencies to assist the recovery and cleanup efforts. Police officers and firefighters from across Hampton Roads were sent to Suffolk to help in the quarantine and cleanup of the damaged areas.

On May 1, the property damages were estimated at $20 million.

Video of the tornado.


Suffolk Public Schools, the local public school system, operates 13 elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools, and one alternative school. Nansemond-Suffolk Academy is a private college preparatory school located on Pruden Blvd.


Suffolk's early growth was fueled by its location and transportation considerations. These continue to be major factors in the 21st century.

Bike Trails

The Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge includes dozens of miles of trails accessible via White Marsh Road at Washington Ditch and other entry sites. Additional bike trails can be found at Lone Star Lakes City Park off of Godwin Blvd. This city park provides over of rock trails. There are many rural roads with light traffic available for road riding. Adjacent to Suffolk, VA is Smithfield, VA where a city facility called Nike Park includes a bike trail aprox. 2 1/2 miles in a loop.


Suffolk was initially a port at the head of navigation of the Nansemond River. The Nansemond River flows into the James River near its mouth and the great ice-free harbor of Hampton Roadsmarker.


The two railroads completed through Suffolk before the American Civil War were later joined by four more. These were eventually consolidated during the modern merger era of North American railroads which began around 1960. Today, Suffolk is served by three freight railroads, and is located on a potential line for high speed passenger rail service between Richmond and South Hampton Roads being studied by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.


Suffolk is served by U.S. Highways 17, 13, 58, 258, and 460. Interstate 664, part of the Hampton Roads Beltway, crosses through the northeastern edge of the city. State Route 10 is also a major highway in the area.

In 2006, Suffolk assumed control of its road system from the Virginia Department of Transportation, which is customary among Virginia's independent cities, although since the Byrd Road Act of 1932 created Virginia's Secondary Roads System, which maintains the roads in most counties and town. An exception was made by the General Assembly when the former Nansemond County became an independent city and consolidated Suffolk in the 1970s. The state still maintained the primary and secondary routes in Suffolk until July 1, 2006.

Bridges, bridge-tunnel

The southern terminus of the four-laned Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnelmarker, completed in 1992, is in Suffolk. There have been conflicts with VDOT and the city over ownership and responsibility for the circa 1928 Kings Highway Bridgemarker across the Nansemond River on State Route 125, which was closed in 2005 by VDOT for safety reasons. About 3,300 motorists a day used the bridge that connected Chuckatuckmarker and Drivermarker. Now, they face detours of as much as . The cost of a new bridge for the King's Highway crossing is estimated at $48 million, far more than could be recovered through collection of tolls at that location. In 2007, VDOT announced that it would contract for demolition and removal of the bridge. According to newspaper accounts, this will be the first time in VDOT's history of such action when no replacement facility was planned.

Virginia is currently reviewing proposals under a public-private partnership for a major realignment and upgrade of U.S. 460 from Suffolk west to Interstate 295 near Petersburgmarker. In 1995, the Virginia General Assemblymarker passed the Public-Private Transportation Act allowing private entities to propose innovative solutions for designing, constructing, financing, and operating transportation improvements. The new roadway would be funded through collection of tolls.


In modern times, Suffolk remains a major peanut processing center and railroad and highway transportation hub. It hosts a diverse combination of industrial, manufacturing, distribution, retail, and hospitality businesses, as well as active farming.

Planters' Peanuts continues to be a major employer, now owned by Kraft Foods. Other large employers in the City of Suffolk include Unilever, Lipton Tea, Wal-Martmarker, Target, QVC, and two major modeling and simulation companies, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Lockheed Martin bases its Center for Innovation in Suffolk. The Center for Innovation is called 'The Lighthouse' because the campus is built around a lighthouse and actually envelops the lighthouse.

Suffolk is experiencing a boom in the economy.

In 2002, the new Louise Obici Memorial Hospital was completed and dedicated. The hospital was acquired in 2005 by the Sentara Health System.

Each year in the fall, the City of Suffolk hosts Suffolk Festivals Incorporated's annual Peanut Fest; the 2007 Peanut Fest was the 30th since its inception.


Suffolk's daily newspapers are the local Suffolk News Herald, the Virginian-Pilot from Norfolk and the Daily Press of Newport News. Other papers include the Port Folio Weekly, the New Journal and Guide, and the Hampton Roads Business Journal. Hampton Roads Magazine serves as a bi-monthly regional magazine for Suffolk and the Hampton Roadsmarker area. Suffolk is served by a variety of radio stations on the AM and FM dials, with towers located around the Hampton Roadsmarker area.

Suffolk is also served by several television stations. The Hampton Roads designated market area (DMA) is the 42nd largest in the U.S. with 712,790 homes (0.64% of the total U.S.). The major network television affiliates are WTKR-TVmarker 3 (CBS), WAVYmarker 10 (NBC), WVEC-TVmarker 13 (ABC), WGNTmarker 27 (CW), WTVZmarker 33 (MyNetworkTV), WVBTmarker 43 (FOX), and WPXVmarker 49 (ION Television). The Public Broadcasting Service station is WHRO-TVmarker 15. Suffolk residents also can receive independent stations, such as WSKYmarker broadcasting on channel 4 from the Outer Banks of North Carolina and WGBS broadcasting on channel 7 from Hamptonmarker. Suffolk is served by Charter Communications.. DirecTV and Dish Network are also popular as an alternative to cable television in Suffolk.

Sister cities

Suffolk has one sister city:

Notable people

  • Amedeo Obici, founder of Planters' Peanuts, and his wife Louise, made Suffolk their adopted home. The 1951 Louise Obici Memorial Hospital was a gift to the community in her memory, recently replaced by a new facility, and later acquired by the Sentara Health System and renamed to Sentara Obici Hospital.

  • Jazz guitarist Charlie Byrd hailed originally from Chuckatuck.

  • Antwan Lewis, a television news journalist with Superstation WGN in Chicagomarker was born in Suffolk and grew up in the Old Norfolk Road neighborhood. Lewis is actually a direct paternal descendant of infamous 19th century slave revolt leader, Nat Turner. Turner was from Southampton County, Virginiamarker, which borders Suffolk. Coincidentally, Antwan Lewis is also distantly related to the above named, Ruth McBride Jordan. Lewis' maternal great-aunt, Rachel McNair, was a lifelong friend of Shilsky/Jordan and is godmother to her son, James McBride, author of The Color of Water.

See also


  4. Aaron Applegate, VDOT, city of Suffolk battle over closed Kings Highway Bridge, The Virginian-Pilot, May 1, 2006
  5. John Warren, Flooding blamed on clogged ditches, The Virginian-Pilot, July 11, 2006
  8. Holmes, Gary. " Nielsen Reports 1.1% increase in U.S. Television Households for the 2006-2007 Season." Nielsen Media Research. September 23, 2006. Retrieved on September 28, 2007.
  9. [1] Charter Communications
  10. Sister Cities designated by Sister Cities International, Inc. (SCI). Retrieved June 6, 2006.

External links

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