June 19-22, 2014 – Suffolk and Newport News, VA
Thursday morning we drove to Suffolk, VA where we are staying at Davis Lakes RV Resort. This is a very nice resort around three small lakes and has very good electricity which we will need because it is hot and humid. We were told when we checked in that they are having an unusually hot spell right now. Our site is in the shade and has a large wooden deck which makes it easier to keep the dirt out of the 5th wheel. We enjoy walking the dogs around the lakes each evening.
Friday we went to the Suffolk Visitor Center and got information about the area. Suffolk is famous for peanuts - in 1913 an Italian immigrant, Amedeo Obici, moved his peanut processing plant named Planters Nut and Chocolate Company to Suffolk. The company is now part of Kraft Foods. We visited the Planters Peanut Center but was very disappointed as it was a run-down store with no information about the company and very little to sell. We were told they used to give tours of the processing plant but discontinued the tours a while ago.
Next to the Visitors Center is Riddick’s Folly, an historic house museum. The 8,000 square-foot Greek Revival mansion was built by Mills Riddick in 1837 and was audacious enough in its time to earn the name “Folly”. The house served as headquarters for the commanding generals of the Union Army during the Civil War. We saw penciled messages by Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners on walls in one of the bedrooms. When the war ended the Union soldiers took most of the furnishings from the house.
The docent gave us a very informative tour. He has been with the museum since it opened in the 1980’s. He has been instrumental in helping the museum acquire some of the original furnishings. We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house and because the street was very narrow we were not able to get a very good picture of the outside.
We also toured the historic Cedar Hill Cemetery which was started in 1802 - some of the headstones are very ornate.
We walked around looking at some of the old graves and came upon this headstone with a tree growing around it – very unusual! We were not able to read the dates on the headstone to tell how old it was.
Saturday morning we drove to Newport News where we toured Endview Plantation. William Harwood completed this Georgian-style house in 1769. The house is named Endview because the back of the house faces the road. Confederate generals Lafayette McLaws and Robert Toombs used Endview at their headquarters during the early stages of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. The 1st New York Mounted Rifles and other Union regiments encamped on the grounds until 1864. Again, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the house.
There are a couple of large magnolia trees in front of the house. The blossoms are just about finished but are still beautiful and smell great. Nancy’s hand next to this blossom shows how large they are.
Another tree on the grounds was covered with beautiful blossoms – we think it is an Elder tree.
Down the road from Endview was Lee Hall Mansion, an antebellum home built in 1859. This mansion is 6,000 sq ft and has 12 rooms on three floors. During the Civil War the Confederate War Department rented 8 rooms for headquarters for generals Joseph E. Johnston and John B. Magruder, We were not allowed to take pictures inside the house here either.
We enjoyed seeing these great old houses and learning about their history and the role they played in the Civil War.
Sunday morning we drove back to Newport News to visit the Mariners Museum. This is a great museum with over 120,000 sq ft of gallery space with rare figureheads, handcrafted ship models, Civil War ironclad US Monitor artifacts, paintings, and small craft from around the world, navigational instruments, and much more.
This area is a replica of the gun deck of the 1798 frigate United States, one of the first ships every built for the US Navy. These carronades were the smallest of her guns.
The USS Monitor Center presented a history of the ironclads, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. The Confederates converted the USS Merrimack to the ironclad commissioned as the CSS Virginia on February 17, 1862.
Outside was a full size replica of the Union ironclad the USS Monitor. An expedition recovered the original revolving gun turret and 20-ton steam engine. These artifacts are currently undergoing conservation efforts and we were able to see the gun turret in the tank of water being used to slow corrosion and stabilize it.
There was an exhibition entitled “Miniature Ships of August and Winnifred Crabtree” which was a room with 16 miniature vessels by model maker August F. Crabtree documenting the evolution of the sailing ship. These models were beautiful and exquisitely carved by Mr. Crabtree and painted in great detail by his wife. Unfortunately, the lighting in this room was too dark to get any good pictures.
At the end of the day we saw a great 3D movie about the D-Day Invasion. We learned a lot about the invasion and all that went into planning it. We enjoyed this great museum and really needed more than one day to see it all.