Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day Trip of the Month: Edenton

Edenton, North Carolina: DEFINITELY my kind of town!

If you have never visited Edenton, it is an adorable, quaint historic village on the Albemarle Sound that today is a leader in small town preservation. Even though it is a North Carolina waterfront community, it is geographically located fairly far inland compared to some spots on the Outer Banks.

In its Colonial days Edenton prospered not only as an early port city, trading center, and fishing hub, but garnered a significant amount of wealth from the plantation economy so dominant in eastern North Carolina. Settled and established in the early eighteenth century, Edenton at one time was considered the "Capital" of North Carolina, and the by the time of the Revolutionary War the community's population had reached around one thousand. Much of the early street grid pattern in downtown Edenton has remained the same and many of its eighteenth century buildings still survive, a rarity for North Carolina.

 The Cupola House, built in 1758, is one of the centerpieces of the town's architectural legacy. It is certainly one of North Carolina's finest early homes, exceedingly rare and unique for its day. Formal gardens as well as a kitchen garden enhance visitor tours of this historic site.

check out that massive double-shouldered exterior chimney

The Edenton courthouse is one of the finest examples of classic Georgian architecture in the South and is still in use today. Unfortunately, I missed getting a photo opportunity for it. Below is St. Paul's Episcopal Church and cemetery, with massive old growth magnolia trees shading the brick walk.

Factors such as the construction of the Dismal Swamp Canal and the closing of the Roanoke Inlet in 1795 put a damper on Edenton's trade and industry, sending the city into a period of economic downturn. Additionally, the railroad bypassed Edenton during the mid-nineteenth century, limiting trade and business. Nevertheless, the plantation economy during sustained many families within the Edenton vicinity, with planters managing to amass great wealth from the cultivation of tobacco and cotton among other exports. Fisheries also provided a boost to the local economy. The Civil War had a devastating effect on Edenton, as it did for communities all over the South. However, Edenton would slowly recover with new industries such as steamship operation and manufacturing as well as the railroad's arrival to the town in 1881. These new industrial developments spawned residential development, extending the grid system to the north. Edenton's downtown also grew westward, with new housing needs for Edenton's working class and African American populations.

St. Paul's is a striking Georgian style church built beginning in
1736 but not completed until forty years later. 

St. Paul's cemetery, used by the community and not merely
church members starting in the mid 18th century,
 holds some 700 graves the majority of which are unmarked. 

The Edenton Cotton Mill reflects the community's later industrial heritage, and today the former mill and houses have been rehabilitated into a bustling housing community and an excellent example of adaptive reuse.

this early headstone features a "death's head" with angel wings

I can't go to a historic town without visiting its early cemeteries, can I? 

As you can see, I greatly enjoyed visiting Edenton for the day and I plan to go back sometime for a long weekend trip. What fun day trips have you taken lately?