Monday, April 15, 2013

Mr. Peanut Shines in Suffolk!

Few things are more iconic of Suffolk than Mr. Peanut! 

The Planters Peanut Company first located in Suffolk in the early 20th century to be close to the fields of Southside Virginia that grew (arguably!), the world’s finest peanuts.  In 1924, the founder of the company, Amadeo Obici and his wife expanded an 1870’s farmhouse into an Italian Renaissance style home on the banks of the Nansemond River.  Easily recognizable due to its prominent and colorful hipped, terra cotta tile roof, the house was the Obici home until Amadeo’s death in 1947. 

The property was eventually re-developed into Sleepy Hole Golf Course with the Obici House serving as the clubhouse and a reception center for the community.  By the early 21st century however, the house was abandoned and rapidly deteriorating.  An ad hoc group formed as Citizens for the Preservation of the Obici House and refused to allow the house to be demolished.  Through persistent advocacy, they urged the City of Suffolk, by then the owner of the property, to preserve the house and its ties to the history of Suffolk. 

In 2009, Preservation Virginia added The Obici House to its list of Endangered Sites. Because of the strength and determination of the local group, we chose The Obici House as one of the sites for our public announcement of the list. Using the publicity our designation helped generate along with their own efforts, the Citizens group was successful in having the City send out a request for rehabilitation proposals.  Ultimately, the operator of the golf course undertook the work.

We are pleased to see, and as this prototroph taken last week demonstrates, that the Obici House is once again a centerpiece property.  While some early if not original elements were lost or replaced, the house is saved and the legacy of Amadeo Obici and Mr. Peanut are preserved in Suffolk.  Now everyone attending a function, or simply enjoying an afternoon of golf, can see the splendor that was, and is again, this fine house. 

The Citizens can take great satisfaction in the success of their efforts. Suffolk proudly proclaims on a welcoming plaque the City's role in the saving of the house.  A good preservation success can reward many efforts.  Preservation Virginia congratulates all who had a role in the saving of this important place. 

And, Hey! – next time you are in the Suffolk area come by and enjoy some peanuts, a nice round of golf and a beautifully preserved Obici House!

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