Now the urban center of the City of Suffolk, Suffolk dates from a charter from the Virginia General Assembly in 1742 and was for years the seat of Nansemond County, formed in 1636. In 1974 the entire county became the City of Suffolk. Situated along the Nansemond River, the community was a trading port. In 1779 the British destroyed what little existed of the town. The original section was rebuilt after the war and became known as Old Town. Concentrated at the intersection of U.S. 58 and U.S. Business 460, or Main Street, it contains government functions. The area south along Main Street was developed as the business-residential center and became known as Up Town. The railroad arrived in 1834, and a conflagration consumed most of the town in 1837. During the Civil War, Union troops occupied Suffolk for four years and caused much destruction. Economic prosperity returned after the war, first with oyster packing, then as Suffolk became a center for the processing and shipping of lumber by the Seaboard and Roanoke and the Norfolk and Western railroads. Peanuts became the new growth industry at the end of the century. The first successful peanut processing plant in Suffolk was established in 1898 by John Beauregard Pinner and John King. Planters Peanuts, founded by Italian immigrant Amadeo Obici in WilkesBarre, Pennsylvania, moved its main processing plant to Suffolk in 1912. The economic activity brought real estate speculation and a new section of town, known as New Town. Still an important rail and peanut center, Suffolk, as have many Virginia cities, has suffered from strip developments and the abandonment of the central city. The town contains a variety of buildings, of which some are noted below; additionally, several areas close to the downtown contain a wide variety of housing types. The tour begins near the river on North Main Street in Old Town and proceeds south.
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