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North Carolina State Historic Sites

Updated on October 27, 2007

North Carolina is home to a group of 27 unique state historic sites. Each one gives visitors the opportunity to open doors to the past.

  • Alamance Battleground (COLONIAL/REVOLUTIONARY WAR) - In 1771, an armed group farmers called Regulators battled with royal governor William Tryon's militia. This conflict originated from resentment in the Carolina colony against the taxes, dishonest sheriffs, and illegal fees imposed by the British Crown. The Regulators were formed and began to fight back. Although their rebellion was defeated, their tactics later became a model for the colonists fighting the British in the American Revolutionary War.
  • Aycock Birthplace (EDUCATION/FARM LIFE) - Charles B. Aycock was born into a rural home Wayne County in 1859. In 1900, he was elected governor and dedicated himself to improving public education in North Carolina. By the time he left office four years later, one school had been built for each day the governor was in office. Today a typical schoolhouse of the period stands on the site.
  • Historic Bath (COLONIAL PERIOD : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - A European settlement near the Pamlico River in the 1690s led to the founding of Bath, North Carolina's first town, in 1705. It soon became North Carolina's first port. Political rivalries, Indian wars, and piracy marked its early years. However, in 1746 Bath was considered for the colony's capital. The original town limits encompass a historic district today.
  • Bennett Place (CIVIL WAR) - This simple farmhouse was situated between Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's headquarters in Greensboro, and Union Gen. William T. Sherman's headquarters in Raleigh. In April 1865, the two commanders met at the Bennett Place, where they signed surrender papers for Southern armies in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. It was the largest troop surrender of the American Civil War.
  • Bentonville Battlefield (CIVIL WAR : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - The Battle of Bentonville, fought March 19-21, 1865, was the last full-scale action of the Civil War in which a Confederate army was able to mount a tactical offensive. This major battle, the largest ever fought in North Carolina, was the only significant attempt to defeat the large Union army of Gen. William T. Sherman during its march through the Carolinas in the spring of 1865.
  • Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson (COLONIAL/CIVIL WAR) - A major pre-Revolutionary port on North Carolina's Cape Fear River, Brunswick was razed by British troops in 1776 and never rebuilt. During the Civil War, Fort Anderson was constructed atop the old village site, and served as part of the Cape Fear River defenses below Wilmington before the fall of the Confederacy. Colonial foundations still exist on the present-day tour trail, which crosses the earthworks of the Confederate fort.
  • Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum (AFRICAN AMERICAN EDUCATION) - Founded in 1902 by Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown, Palmer Memorial Institute transformed the lives of more than 2,000 African American students. Today, the campus provides the setting where visitors can explore this unique environment where boys and girls lived and learned during the greater part of the 20th century.
  • CSS Neuse/Gov. Caswell Memorial (COLONIAL/CIVIL WAR) - Glimpses into two of our nation's most pivotal wars can be found in one historic site in Kinston. Explore the celebrated life of Richard Caswell, the first governor of the independent state of North Carolina. See the remnants of the ironclad gunboat CSS Neuse, a product of the Confederate navy's ill-fated attempt to regain control of the lower Neuse River and retake the city of New Bern during the Civil War.
  • Duke Homestead (AGRICULTURE/INDUSTRY : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - View the early home, factories, and farm where Washington Duke first grew and processed tobacco. His sons later founded The American Tobacco Company, the world's largest tobacco company. Duke and others helped create a market for Durham-area tobacco products that eventually would turn North Carolina into the heart of an international tobacco empire. Many profits were invested in land and industries but others were used for such humanitarian causes as Duke University.
  • Historic Edenton (COLONIAL PERIOD : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - Featuring 18th and early 19th century history, Edenton is North Carolina's second oldest town. It was one of the young nation's chief political, cultural, and commercial centers. The state's first colonial capital, it was established in the late 17th century. Today it features an extensive historic district with architectural styles spanning 250 years, such as the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse National Historic Landmark.
  • Fort Dobbs (FRENCH AND INDIAN WAR/ARCHAEOLOGY) - Named for royal governor Arthur Dobbs, the fort was built during the French and Indian War to protect settlers. In 1760, a raiding party of Cherokee Indians were repelled during the only direct attack attempted against the fort. Historians believe it was dismantled after pioneers pushed further west. Ft. Dobbs is the only North Carolina state historic site associated with the French and Indian War and the only one located along the official colonial frontier. The site is currently under redevelopment.
  • Fort Fisher (CIVIL WAR : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - Until the last few months of the Civil War, Fort Fisher kept North Carolina's port of Wilmington open to blockade-runners supplying necessary goods to Confederate armies inland. By 1865, the supply line through Wilmington was the last remaining supply route open to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
  • Historic Halifax (COLONIAL/REVOLUTIONARY WAR) - Located on the Roanoke River, the town of Halifax developed into a commercial and political center at the time of the American Revolution. North Carolina's Fourth Provincial Congress met in Halifax in the spring of 1776. On April 12 that body unanimously adopted a document later called the "Halifax Resolves," which was the first official action by an entire colony recommending independence from England.
  • Horne Creek Living Historical Farm (FARM LIFE/AGRICULTURE) - Once the Hauser family farm, Horne Creek enables visitors to experience farm life in North Carolina's northwestern Piedmont circa 1900. The site features the family's original farm house, a tobacco curing barn, a corn crib, adjacent fields under cultivation, and even a heritage apple orchard. Through programs ranging from old fashioned ice cream socials to an annual corn shucking frolic, Horne Creek Living Historical Farm provides a unique opportunity to learn about our rural past.
  • House in the Horseshoe (REVOLUTIONARY WAR) - In spring and summer, bright flowers surround this plantation house named for its location on a horseshoe bend in the Deep River. The house (ca. 1770) was owned by Philip Alston, whose band of colonists seeking independence from Britain was attacked here in 1781 during the American Revolution by British loyalists led by David Fanning. Later, four-term governor Benjamin Williams lived in the house, which now features antiques of the colonial and Revolutionary War eras.
  • North Carolina Transportation Museum (TRANSPORTATION/INDUSTRY) - Discover the people and machines that have moved North Carolina. Located on the site of Southern Railway's former steam locomotive repair facility Spencer Shops, this is where locomotives that hauled Southern's passenger trains and freight trains filled with North Carolina furniture, textiles, tobacco, and produce were serviced from 1896 to the late 1970's. Up to 3,000 people once worked here but today visitors can see an authentic train depot, antique automobiles, and a roundhouse with 25 locomotives.
  • USS North Carolina Battleship Memorial (WORLD WAR II/NAVAL) - Standing majestically across from downtown Wilmington, the battleship USS North Carolina beckons visitors to walk her decks and envision daily life as well as the fierce combat her veterans faced in World War II. The first fast battleship to join the American fleet during the war, she was then considered the world's greatest sea weapon. The North Carolina participated in every major naval offensive in the Pacific, earned 15 battle stars, and was home to 144 commissioned officers and 2,195 enlisted men.
  • President James K. Polk (U.S. PRESIDENT/MEXICAN AMERICAN WAR) - Located on land once owned by President James K. Polk's family, this historic site is where our eleventh chief executive grew up. Here he spent spent most of his childhood, helping work the 250-acre farm. The site recalls significant events in the Polk administration including the Mexican War, settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute, and the annexation of California. Reconstructions of typical homestead buildings-a log house, separate kitchen, and barn-are authentically furnished.
  • Reed Gold Mine (GOLD MINING/INDUSTRY : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - Located near Charlotte, the Reed Gold Mine is the site of the first documented gold find in the United States. It was here in 1799 where Conrad Reed discovered a 17-pound yellow rock, which later turned out to be gold and was sold for only $3.50. From this discovery, gold mining spread gradually to nearby counties and eventually into other southern states. Sections of the mine's old underground tunnels are open for guided tours. The site includes a museum with exhibits on gold mining and several nature trails. From April through October, visitors may learn how to pan for gold for a small fee.
  • Roanoke Island Festival Park (SIXTEENTH CENTURY SETTLEMENT) - A 27-acre state historic site and cultural center celebrating history, education, and the arts. Step aboard the Elizabeth II, a representative 16th century sailing vessel. Visit with Elizabethan explorers and soldiers in the Settlement Site. The Roanoke Adventure Museum explores 400 years of Outer Banks history. View the docudrama, "The Legend of Two-Path."
  • Somerset Place (SLAVERY/PLANTATION LIFE) - One of the upper South's largest antebellum plantations, Somerset Place was home from 1785-1865 to 850 enslaved people, three generations of owners, and around 50 white and two black employees. It once included more than 100,000 wooded, swampy acres bordering Lake Phelps, in present-day Washington County where such crops as rice were cultivated. Today, the 31-acre site offers a realistic view of 19th-century life on a large North Carolina plantation through seven original buildings and meshes the lifestyles of all of the plantation's residents in one concise chronological social history.
  • Historic Stagville (SLAVERY/PLANTATION LIFE) - Comprises the remains of North Carolina's largest pre-Civil War plantation and one of the South's largest. It once belonged to the Bennehan-Cameron family, whose combined holdings totaled approximately 900 slaves and almost 30,000 acres by 1860. Today, Stagville consists of 71 acres, on three tracts. On this land stand the late 18th-century Bennehan House, four rare slave houses, a pre-Revolutionary War farmer's house, a huge timber framed barn built by skilled slave craftsmen, and the Bennehan Family cemetery.
  • State Capitol (GOVERNMENT/ARCHITECTURE : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - Located in Raleigh is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of the Greek Revival style of architecture in the United States. The Capitol features a domed rotunda and state senate and house chambers, meticulously restored to their 1840 appearance. Its granite walls housed all of North Carolina state government until 1888. The legislature met here until 1961. Today, the governor and his staff still occupy offices in the Capitol.
  • Town Creek Indian Mound (NATIVE AMERICAN CULTURE : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - For more than a thousand years, Indians farmed on lands later known as North Carolina. Around A.D. 1200, a new cultural tradition arrived in the Pee Dee River Valley. Termed "Pee Dee" by archaeologists, it was part of a widespread tradition known as "South Appalachian Mississippian." These Native Americans established a political and ceremonial center at the Town Creek and Little Rivers. Here visitors can now see a reconstructed ceremonial center, featuring a temple mound and major temple, minor temple, and burial hut.
  • Tryon Palace Historic Sites & Gardens (COLONIAL GOVERNMENT) - North Carolina's first capitol-where governors ruled, legislators debated, patriots gathered, and George Washington danced. Meticulously reconstructed in the 1950's, the original Tryon Palace was built between 1767 and 1770 for colonial Governor Tryon as the first permanent capitol of North Carolina. Today visitors to the complex marvel at the palace's English antiques, stroll its renowned gardens, and learn about various periods of New Bern's proud history at the Academy Museum as well as the Stanly, Hay, and Dixon houses.
  • Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (PIONEER LIFE/GOVERNMENT/CIVIL WAR) - This pioneer farmstead, tucked in the Reems Creek Valley, features the birthplace of Zebulon Baird Vance, North Carolina's Civil War governor. Before becoming governor, Vance served as a Confederate Army officer and later became a U.S. Senator. Vance had a dynamic political career, which is traced at the homestead. The five-room log house--reconstructed around original chimneys--and its outbuildings are furnished to evoke the period from 1795 to 1840 when three successive generations of the famed mountain family lived here.
  • Thomas Wolfe Memorial (AMERICAN LITERATURE : NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK) - Thomas Wolfe left an indelible mark on American letters. His mother's boardinghouse in Asheville-now the Thomas Wolfe Memorial-has become one of literature's most famous landmarks. Named "Old Kentucky Home" by a previous owner, the rambling Victorian structure was immortalized by Wolfe as "Dixieland" in his epic autobiographical novel, "Look Homeward, Angel". Restored to look as it did in the early 20th century when young Tom Wolfe and Mrs. Wolfe's boarders shared a roof, the house evokes a time and a place that inspired one of the South's greatest writers.


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