Living History

The best way to experience history for you, your children or grandchildren is to become engaged in the process of retracing the steps of historic leaders in their original homes and courtrooms, not reproductions.

Start by going to the Penelope Barker House Welcome Center, better known as Edenton’s Living Room, (505 South Broad Street at the waterfront) where staff and volunteers are available seven days a week, 10 am until 5 pm to tell you about the national and state leaders from Edenton and answer your questions about Edenton and Chowan County (named after the Chowanoc Indians).  They will even offer you tickets for the Trolley Tour as you check out the best history-focused book and gift shop in eastern North Carolina.

Or stop at the State’s Visitor’s Center (108 North Broad, Edenton, NC 27932) and watch their short video or take a walking tour, Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sunday, Monday, and state holidays.

When you put on that colonial costume and try to think and talk in character you are living history.
~ Sallie D

Living IN History has a big impact on your thinking.  You can’t help but recognize the hardships of life before the lightbulb, refrigerator, automobile, running water and the Internet.  Yet, as you learn more about the leaders in Edenton who played central roles in the design of the state and nation, you have enormous respect for their accomplishments.

They were tourist to this country who stuck around and built a nation.
~ Jerry C

Learn what it was like to live in Penelope Barker’s house when her third husband was working in London and she was plotting civil disobedience to have 51 local women tell the King NO!

When you stroll through the Iredell house know that its owner not only served on the very first US Supreme Court but also wrote court decisions that are still quoted in modern judicial decisions.  We live with the freedoms James Iredell fought to define and forget that he had to get to Washington not by an Interstate like I-95, but by boat, through swamps, and over rutted trails by horseback.  The burdens of travel are blamed for his early death.

Joseph Hewes house and Samuel Johnston’s home stand today, but are not open for tours because they are privately owned and used as residents daily.  But as you walk by Hewes’ you can imagine a merchant ship owner living there, only a few hundred yards from the waterfront.  From that point, he managed shipping up and down the coast and to the West Indies.  What courage did it take to risk a successful shipping business to supply Boston with food after the British embargoed that harbor following the uprising?

Samuel Johnston’s farm can barely be seen from town and the home his son finished, Hayes, can only be seen from the water.  The 1,800 volumes in Johnston’s library was one of the new nation’s most significant, in the same league as Jefferson’s and Washington’s.  It is now housed at UNC.

Wherever you look in Edenton, you’ll find immediate evidence of the history that was made by leaders from Chowan County.  Go see some of these places and feel what life was like then and how the actions and thoughts of those residents affect your life today.  Live a little history, as we all make history.

Edenton is a small, waterfront town where everyone is welcome and engaged in the community.  It is home to high tech boat building, peanut process, and a great little airport.  It is also a North Carolina Certified Retirement Community, one of only 18 such designated places in the state.

The North Carolina General Assembly established the N.C. Certified Retirement Community Program (S.B. 1627) as a vehicle to designate communities that offer unprecedented, quality of living that is sought by the mature community.  To gain certification, a local government must submit an application for consideration.  Initial evaluation of the community and technical assistance is provided by Visit North Carolina staff.

Edenton was one of the first towns in North Carolina to be certified.  To learn more about the criteria Edenton meets and exceeds, review the state’s criteria.

Edenton: As seen through the eyes of Our State magazine

Our State Magazine created this video about Edenton with an interview
of Frances Inglis, local historian and keeper of the Cupola House gardens:

If you do nothing else, visit these…

Courage to tell a King ‘NO’!

When Penelope (Barker) convinced 50  women from the region to sign a petition to the King, she did not do it because she saw someone else do it on TV.  She had never read about women doing such a thing because there is no record women had ever done such a thing.  She did it because she had courage.  The women also refused to hide behind costumes as the men in Boston had done.  Penelope Barker and her friends signed their names and sent the petition to London, kicking up a real storm of reactions (see the cartoon from the London papers at the Barker House).  As the picture  illustrates, she was no brawny battle-ax of a woman, she was petite and knew her husband was in England where word of her action could put him in danger.  (It actually did and he escaped from England via France before returning to Edenton.)

They Sold the Woodwork?

Take the Walking Tour of Edenton and see the interior of the Cupola House and the amazing woodwork, the authentic wall colors and period furniture.  That same tour visits the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse; where you can imagine listening to Hugh Williamson argue successfully for the ratification of the draft US Constitution.  Or listen, in your mind, to James Iredell arguing a case and making his statements about the role of the judiciary in our country. The Cupola House is found at the corner of West Water and South Broad Street, Edenton, NC 27932.

Let a Light Shine

The Roanoke River Lighthouse is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday 10-4. Guided Docent Tours: $2.50 for adults, $1.50 for children. What would it have been like to live alone on the water as a storm approached and you were responsible for ringing the bell and keeping the light lit all night long?  Took more than flipping a switch.  Because there were no switches.  To keep the light lit, you had to carry oil to the cupola, keep the lens cleaned and the wick shaped, all the while keeping that bell ringing.  Although usually against the rules, some lightkeepers were known to sneak their families aboard. Stories exist about children being born on the lighthouses and creative light keepers finding ways to keep a cow on the platform so they would have fresh milk for the baby. Colonial waterfront park, Edenton, NC 27932.

Cotton Tops

Take a stroll through the Cotton Mill Village and see how the old homes have been reconstructed and how the mill  transformed into modern condo lofts.

If visiting Edenton right away is not feasible, enjoy a digital visit to the Cotton Mill Village right here and now:

Not so many years ago this was a working cotton mill town with several mills producing for buyers around the country. The cotton dust and machinery are gone, but the super-solid mill stands and is now home to lucky residents in beautiful lofts.  They are surrounded by renovated homes that once housed workers, families and supervisors working at the Mill. Open every Saturday and Sunday, from 10–2. There is a small museum where you can learn the background of that cotton shirt you are wearing. Not long ago, the cotton could have been grown on the other side of Queen Anne Creek, milled here and sold downtown. Talk about shopping local!

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