The Constantia House: An Enduring Piece of Suffolk History

constantia-house-baker-funeral-home

Mr. John Constant was one of the first English speaking settlers in the Suffolk, Virginia area. He established a trading business and built a warehouse on the Nansemond River. He named this area Constant?s Wharf. On the highest bluff close to the river, he built his home-thought to be the oldest house in what we now call Suffolk. This house was built around 1724 and was lovingly called the Constantia. Pieces of the original foundation can still be viewed in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Original Constantia House
Original Constantia House from the State Library of Virginia

Well, as the trading business grew so did the warehousing business. John Constant became quite an affluent and prosperous businessman. In 1742, the landing and the area around it was known as Constant Warehouse. In a piece of original writing from the Williamsburg legislature, it is stated:

In May, 1748, while George II reigned in England and Gov. Gooch administered the affairs of Colonial Virginia, at the ancient capital, Williamsburg, the Legislature passed an Act to establish a town at Constance Warehouse on the Nansemond River to be called Suffolk.

Eventually the family moved to parts unknown. The house was soon referred to as the Pest House since people were placed there for quarantine, when they had small pox or other illnesses.

The house endured through two wars and several fires that burned most of Suffolk. The original house was demolished around 1919. In 1926, the newly formed Constantia Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution built a replica of the original site of the home to commemorate John Constant's contribution to the beginning of Nansemond County and the City of Suffolk. The DAR used this house for memorial services and as a rest area for people visiting the cemetery.

By 1990, vandalism forced the DAR to give the property and house back to the city. Upon learning that the city would demolish the house, Robert Baker bought the house in 1994 and took the house down and moved it board by board and window by window to its current site at our West Washington Street location. Boy Scouts, family members and special friends all joined in to be part of this historical adventure.

constantia-house-plaque
Constantia House Plaque

Much of the flooring, chair rail, mantel, some of the windows (some of them hand blown), stairway, porch railing and clapboard were in the original 1926 replica. When visiting look for the two notebooks with pictures and stories in them about the old house. The antique furniture inside the house was either purchased by the Bakers or they were gifts to the Bakers to be used especially in the Constantia House.

View the Constantia House Gallery

The house is again filled with life and activity. It is graciously opened by the Bakers to be enjoyed by the community. It is used for meetings, card games, city commissions, church functions, weddings, parties and funeral gatherings.

If you are interested in learning more about the Constantia House please give us a call at R. W. Baker Funeral Home and Crematory 757-539-4691.

To read more about Historic Suffolk and Nansemond County visit: https://archive.org/details/historyofnansemo00dunn