Go east, young man
When I was a young man, eastern North Carolina was the forlorn stretch of tobacco fields, Wal-Marts, and bait shops that you had to endure in order to get to the beach. I thought little of it, and certainly never imagined that there might be anything COOL there. But, when you buy a really old house, you become a really old house voyeur, and that’s done a lot to change the way I see the eastern part of the state. Our neighbors to the north and south like to take all the credit for historical significance, but North Carolina holds its own, particularly if you’re willing to venture off the beaten path.
My newfound appreciation for the region was jump-started when I met Weezie and began accompanying her on trips to Tarboro to visit her mom. It’s an enchanting place, with block after block of gorgeous homes, the only original town common outside of Boston, and some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.
In desperate need of a weekend away, Weezie and I spent last weekend in Edenton, another gem of a town that overlooks the Albemarle Sound. Founded in 1712, Edenton was the capital of North Carolina for several decades in the early 18th century. The town’s early significance is reflected in its stunning architecture, with fine examples of every major historical style of the past three centuries.
Its location couldn’t be more seductive. Broad Street, the main commercial drag, dead ends at a park that overlooks the cypress stands of Albemarle Sound. There sits the Barker House, Edenton’s “living room”, with impressive double-decker side porches and commanding views of the water:
Nearby is the Chowan County courthouse, situated at the end of a green overlooking the same vista as the Barker House. This is the only place in the state outside of Raleigh that the North Carolina Supreme Court can hear cases:
A few blocks in the opposite direction is the Cupola House, a quirky and endearing house with a connection to Hillsborough. Our town was first established as Corbin Town, in honor of Francis Corbin, an agent of Earl Granville. This was his home, completed in 1758:
West of Broad Street, close to the water are several awe-inspiring, big-money mansions. The first one pictured here, Pembroke Hall, can be yours for a cool one-point-three:
Wandering away from the waterfront, there are plenty of less imposing, but no less beautiful homes. This one, built in 1744, gives me hope that the Ordinary House can still look good a decade from now:
Across the train tracks on the east side of town, the old cotton mill has been swankified as loft apartments:
Broad Street, which impressively still supports an independent, first-run movie theater was desolate on Sunday morning – church is serious business in these parts:
And just when you start to get really impressed by all this highbrow culture out in the middle of nowhere, there’s always something to remind you that, yes, you’re still in eastern NC:
I’ll let you know if I win.