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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:

barker house

barker house porch

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:

chowan county courthouse

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:

cupola house

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:

pembroke hall

italianate house

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:

edenton old house

Across the train tracks on the east side of town, the old cotton mill has been swankified as loft apartments:

edenton cotton mill

Broad Street, which impressively still supports an independent, first-run movie theater was desolate on Sunday morning – church is serious business in these parts:

broad street edenton

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:

camo recliner

I’ll let you know if I win.

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5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Weezie #

    First of all, you are welcome. Second of all, you still are a young man, young man.

    October 15, 2013
  2. Andre Fleuriel #

    Thanks for the posting. I just returned to Charlotte from a long weekend in Savannah. I need to see something old fairly frequently to compensate for the newness of Charlotte. Having grown up in small town New Hampshire in late 18th century houses I really appreciate architecture that has some age on it. While Savannah has been gentrified it still feels a bit more natural than Charleston. SCAD helps keep things real and vibrant at the same time. Many of the “modernist” buildings on Broughton have been rehabbed. Now it looks more like a living architecture museum showcasing all periods of design.

    I will have to add Edenton and Tarboro to my list of destinations.

    Andre

    October 21, 2013
    • jrh #

      Andre,

      I love Savannah too and agree that it feels less squeaky-clean than Charleston, in a good way. Definitely put Edenton and Tarboro on your list. Either one would be an easy long weekend trip from Charlotte. They’re both sleepy little towns, but the surroundings make up for that. If you go to Tarboro, don’t miss the chance to eat at On The Square (http://www.onthesquarenc.com/). Unbelievably good food. Thanks for reading.

      Reid

      October 21, 2013
  3. cuz #

    “This one, built in 1744, gives me hope that the Ordinary House can still look good a decade from now”

    Made me chuckle, jrh.

    October 23, 2013
    • jrh #

      Thanks, cuz! Knowing me as you do, you probably pick up on the more subtle humor I sprinkle throughout these posts.

      October 24, 2013

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