kids encyclopedia robot

Suffolk, Virginia facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Quick facts for kids
Suffolk, Virginia
A view of North Main Street in downtown Suffolk, Virginia
A view of North Main Street in downtown Suffolk, Virginia
Official seal of Suffolk, Virginia
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Location in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Suffolk, Virginia is located in the United States
Suffolk, Virginia
Suffolk, Virginia
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Virginia
County None (Independent city)
Founded 1742
 • Independent city 428.91 sq mi (1,110.86 km2)
 • Land 399.16 sq mi (1,033.82 km2)
 • Water 29.75 sq mi (77.05 km2)
39 ft (12 m)
 • Independent city 94,324
 • Density 219.916/sq mi (84.9108/km2)
 • Metro
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 757, 948 (planned)
FIPS code 51-76432
GNIS feature ID 1500187

Suffolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and as such has no county. As of the 2020 census, the population was 94,324. It is the 9th most populous city in Virginia and the largest city in Virginia by boundary land area as well as the 14th largest in the country.

Suffolk is located in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. This also includes the independent cities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Virginia Beach, and smaller cities, counties, and towns of Hampton Roads. With miles of waterfront property on the Nansemond and James rivers, present-day Suffolk was formed in 1974 after consolidating with Nansemond County and the towns of Holland and Whaleyville. The current mayor (as of 2021) is Mike Duman.


Suffolk was founded by English colonists in 1742 as a port town on the Nansemond River in the Virginia Colony. Originally known as Constant's Warehouse, for John Constant, Suffolk was renamed after Royal Governor William Gooch's home of Suffolk, a county in East Anglia, England. 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. It became the county seat of Nansemond County in 1750.

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.

Suffolk became an incorporated town in 1808. In 1910, it incorporated as a city and separated from Nansemond County. However, it remained the seat of Nansemond County until 1972, when its former county became the independent city of Nansemond. In 1974, the independent cities of Suffolk and Nansemond merged under Suffolk's name and charter.

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°44′29″N 76°36′36″W / 36.741347°N 76.609881°W / 36.741347; -76.609881 (36.741347, -76.609881).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 429 square miles (1,110 km2), of which 400 square miles (1,000 km2) is land and 29 square miles (75 km2) (6.7%) is water. It is the largest city in Virginia by land area and second-largest by total area. Part of the Great Dismal Swamp is located in Suffolk.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 1,395
1870 930 −33.3%
1880 1,963 111.1%
1890 3,354 70.9%
1900 3,827 14.1%
1910 7,008 83.1%
1920 9,123 30.2%
1930 10,271 12.6%
1940 11,343 10.4%
1950 12,339 8.8%
1960 12,609 2.2%
1970 9,858 −21.8%
1980 47,621 383.1%
1990 52,141 9.5%
2000 63,677 22.1%
2010 84,585 32.8%
2020 94,324 11.5%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020

2020 census

Suffolk city, Virginia - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 43,034 43,837 50.88% 46.47%
Black or African American alone (NH) 35,771 39,194 42.29% 41.55%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 232 255 0.27% 0.27%
Asian alone (NH) 1,324 1,672 1.57% 1.77%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 50 68 0.06% 0.07%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 109 543 0.13% 0.58%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 1,650 4,503 1.95% 4.77%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 2,415 4,252 2.86% 4.51%
Total 84,585 94,324 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.

2010 Census

USA Suffolk city, Virginia age pyramid
Age distribution in Suffolk.

As of the census of 2010, there were 84,585 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 per square mile (23.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 50.1% White, 42.7% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.8% from other races, and 2.3% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.9% 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. A number of government-related, contractor high-tech jobs had developed with new businesses in the city's northern corridor, bringing in wealthier residents. Suffolk ranked a close second in median income 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 April 28, 2008. After 4:00 PM EDT on April 28, a tornado touched down multiple times, causing damage and leaving more than 200 injured in Suffolk. the path of the storm passed north and west of the downtown area, striking near Sentara Obici Hospital and in the unincorporated town of Driver. The storm seriously damaged more than 120 homes and 12 businesses. The subdivisions of Burnett's Mill and Hillpoint Farms were severely damaged, as were several older historic structures in Driver. Near Driver, the large radio and television broadcast towers, which were located in an antenna farm serving most of Hampton Roads, were spared serious damage.

Governor Tim 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 a quarantine and cleanup of the damaged areas. On May 1, the state estimated property damages at $20 million.

Video of the tornado.


Suffolk's early growth depended on its waterfront location, with access to the waterways for power and transportation. Subsequent transportation infrastructure upgraded its connections with other markets. 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 Godwin Blvd. This city park provides over 4 miles (6.4 km) of rock trails. There are many rural roads with light traffic available for road riding. Adjacent to Suffolk is Isle of Wight County, where a county facility called Nike Park includes a bike trail approximately 212 miles in a loop.


Nansemond River is a major waterway in Suffolk, Virginia
The Nansemond River is a major waterway in the city of Suffolk, Virginia.

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


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. Suffolk was served by several passenger lines, concluding with Amtrak's Mountaineer, which ended in 1977. At least two former passenger stations are still standing, the Seaboard Coast Line station, now the Seaboard Station Railroad Museum, and the Norfolk and Western Railway station at 100 Hollady Street. The N&W station was used by Amtrak (as "Holiday Street") until 1977 when the Mountaineer was replaced by a bus connection to the Hilltopper. Currently, Amtrak's Northeast Regional between Norfolk and Petersburg passes by the N&W station without stopping.

Today, Suffolk is served by three freight railroads. It is located on a potential branch line for the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor between Petersburg, Virginia 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. Since the Byrd Road Act of 1932 created Virginia's Secondary Roads System, the state maintains the roads in most counties and towns. 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 maintained the primary and secondary routes in Suffolk until July 1, 2006.

Bridges, bridge-tunnel

The Monitor–Merrimac Memorial Bridge–Tunnel connects Suffolk to the independent city of Newport News on the Virginia Peninsula from South Hampton Roads. It is part of the Hampton Roads Beltway, a circumferential interstate highway that links the seven largest cities of Hampton Roads. Completed in 1992, it provided a third major vehicle crossing of the Hampton Roads harbor area and cost $400 million to build.

The city and VDOT have had disputes over ownership and responsibility for the Kings Highway Bridge (circa 1928) across the Nansemond River on State Route 125. VDOT closed it in 2005 for safety reasons.

About 3,300 motorists a day used the bridge that connected Chuckatuck and Driver. The closure forced detours of as much as 19 miles (31 km). 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 was the first time in VDOT's history that it did not plan for a replacement facility.

Virginia is reviewing proposals under a public-private partnership for a major realignment and upgrade of U.S. 460 from Suffolk west to Interstate 295 near Petersburg. In 1995, the Virginia General Assembly 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.

As part of the Suffolk 2026 Comprehensive Plan, the city plans to bypass the crossroads community of Whaleyville in southwestern Suffolk City. US 13 (along with NC Highway 11) is a strategic highway corridor in North Carolina toward Greenville.

Public transportation

The City of Suffolk operates Suffolk Transit, which provides local bus service.


Suffolk is divided politically into seven boroughs, one corresponding to the former city of Suffolk and one corresponding to each of the six magisterial districts of the former Nansemond County. The boroughs are Chuckatuck, Cypress, Holy Neck, Nansemond, Sleepy Hole, Suffolk, and Whaleyville.

Sister cities

In 1981, Suffolk County, England became Suffolk's first sister city as a result of the personal interest in the Sister Cities concept by Virginia's Governor, Mills E. Godwin. A native of the city, Governor Godwin believed that Sister Cities would benefit the community culturally and educationally. Suffolk's second sister city relationship with Oderzo, Italy, began in 1995 because of one man, Amedeo Obici. Mr. Obici was a native of Oderzo and the founder of Planters Nut and Chocolate Company in Suffolk.

Suffolk Sister Cities International, Inc. (SSCI) is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit established to promote international relationships as directed by Suffolk City Council through its appointed Suffolk Sister Cities Commission. Its membership is open to all who are interested in fostering the goals of the organization.

SSCI and its international youth association, SIYA, have won national awards for Youth and Education and for the Best Overall Program for cities with populations less than 100,000.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Suffolk has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.


RBOX 30437
A RailBox boxcar exporting peanuts.

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.

In 2002, the new Louise Obici Memorial Hospital was completed and dedicated. It was acquired in 2005 by the Sentara Health System. Planters' Peanuts has been a major employer, now owned by Kraft Foods. Each fall since 1977, the City of Suffolk hosts Suffolk Festivals Incorporated's annual Peanut Fest.

Other large employers in the City of Suffolk include Unilever, Lipton Tea, Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group, Wal-Mart, Target, QVC, and two major modeling and simulation companies, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon. Lockheed Martin built its "Center for Innovation" around a lighthouse in Suffolk, for which the campus is called 'The Lighthouse'. Raytheon won a DoD contract to manufacture 'Miniature Air-Launched Decoy Jammers'(MALD-J), which it has been producing with Cobham Composite Products: 202 vehicles for a price of $81 million .

The U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) facility, near the intersection of US 17 and Interstate 664, has resulted in a growth in defense contracting and high tech jobs since 1999. Through the following decade, JFCOM employed a growing number of defense contractors until it reached over 3,000. By September 2010, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recommended to decommission JFCOM, as a matter of reallocating and rebalancing the U.S. Department of Defense budget, to better address changing needs and fiscal demands.

The announcement led to speculation about the effects the loss of JFCOM would have on the Hampton Roads economy in general and (more specifically), on the future of related businesses located in the Harborview section of Suffolk. In August 2011 JFCOM was disestablished. But many critical JFCOM functions, such as joint training, joint exercises, and joint development were retained in the buildings vacated by JFCOM, under the auspices of the Joint Staff J7 Directorate, referred to as either "Pentagon South" or "Joint and Coalition Warfighting".

By summer 2013, city officials expected the Naval Network Warfare Command, NNWC Global Network Operations Center Detachment, Navy Cyber Defense Operations Command and Navy Cyber Forces to occupy buildings vacated by JFCOM. These commands have been considered a boon to north Suffolk, bringing an estimated 1,000 additional employees, counting military, civilians and contractors, with an estimated annual payroll of $88.9 million. The buildup in these defense functions resulted in Suffolk's median income increasing markedly in this period.


Suffolk Public Schools, the local public school system, operates 12 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.

Paul D. Camp Community College has a campus in Suffolk.

Notable people

Virginia (Watford) Cuff, renowned author of the book and workbook "The Pity Party Has Stopped". Former tennis standout for Suffolk Tennis Association (see article by Tracy Agnew 7/7/2014), Suffolk News Herald and US Army Corps tennis champion.

  • James Avery (1945-2013), actor who portrayed the father on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was from Pughsville, Virginia, much of which is now located in Suffolk
  • Johnnie Barnes, former NFL player
  • Darius Bea, Negro league outfielder and pitcher
  • Jessie Britt, former NFL player
  • Rose Marie Brown (1919-2015), Broadway performer, Miss Virginia and fourth runner-up Miss America 1939
  • Charlie Byrd, guitarist
  • Judith Godwin, abstract expressionist artist
  • Mills E. Godwin Jr., Virginia governor
  • Phyllis Gordon (1889-1964), actress, born in Suffolk
  • Ryan Speedo Green, bass-baritone opera singer
  • D. Arthur Kelsey, Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia
  • Joe Kenda, retired homicide detective
  • Lex Luger (musician), musician
  • Joe Maphis, country music guitarist
  • Jeff W. Mathis III, U.S. Army major general
  • Amedeo Obici, founder of Planters' Peanuts
  • Lewis F. Powell Jr. (1907-1998), US Supreme Court Justice 1972-1987
  • Sugar Rodgers, (WNBA) Basketball player for the Las Vegas Aces
  • M. Virginia Rosenbaum, surveyor and newspaper editor
  • Hope Spivey, gymnast, participated in 1988 Olympics in Seoul
  • Deatrich Wise Jr., football player for New England Patriots
  • Shane Dollar, Hip Hop Artist

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Suffolk (Virginia) para niños

kids search engine
Suffolk, Virginia Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.