EDENTON, NC – one of the prettiest small towns in the USA.
Edenton, North Carolina has been described by Forbes Magazine as one of the prettiest small towns in the USA.
March 11th, 2015
If one could open a travel magazine, have the pages come to life and then imagine driving through the pages – this gives an idea of the perfection of this small town, with a living, breathing community going about their lives in an historic setting. The historic homes, dating from the early 1700’s have been beautifully preserved and maintained, incorporating several different styles, including Georgian, Queen Anne, Federal , Greek Revival, Victorian, a home that is Italianate Architecture with Tuscan Turrets, Colonial, West Indian style cottages and Arts and Crafts bungalows. It is an architectural archive and students from all over come to this “laboratory of architecture” to study the different styles. Built around the Edenton Bay, it was once a busy port with a seafaring history and tales of pirates. Many of the historic homes have long pedigrees. Among several houses dating from the 18th Century are the Cupola House 1758, with a fully restored interior notable for its wood paneling, The Courthouse, which is the oldest “in use” Courthouse in the Country dating from 1767 and the Penelope Barker House, from 1782, a waterfront historic home that was actually moved by road from two blocks north of its present location and was then added onto three times. It is now a a combination Federal, Georgian and Greek Revival and is used as a Welcome Center and to give tours. Everything is preserved to perfection, with several homes identified by the name of the house and the date it was built. It is charm personified against a tapestry of history.
Much history has been written here, including the American rejection of the ruling British Monarchy under George 111 that in turn led to the founding of the United States, with Josef Hewes a citizen of Edenton signing the Declaration of Independence on behalf of North Carolina in 1776 , the Civil War 1861 – 1865, with Battles of the Federals against the Confederates causing terrible loss of life, as well as the pain and degradation of slavery that existed from the early 1700’s until Abolition.
Why Edenton and why was I here ? My friend Eleanor and her Family had moved to Edenton from The Desert a couple of years ago and had invited me to visit – or had I invited myself !! When she was thinking of moving she started looking for homes on the Internet in this place called Edenton which is where she intended to live. When asked how well she knew this small town, population 5,000, she said she had spent about three weeks there in the 1980’s and liked it !! This hardly sounds like real research when one is thinking of moving from one side of the country to another, knowing no one in this small town, several States away from California. It sounded about as prudent as “Mail Order Brides” and hoping for long distance love. Fortunately she had found a reliable Sotheby’s Agent, Ann Perry, who must have been equally concerned about her approach to buying a house sight unseen. Anne photographed and measured every little detail of the proposed purchase, sending numerous measurements, photographs and minute details to avoid any comebacks.
The “White House” Circa 1893 was the house Eleanor chose. As she is not allowed to fly for medical reasons, when the time came to move, Vi, Eleanor’s Mom who was ninety four at the time, her Sister Jean Ann, Eleanor and the rescue dog Taffy got in the Mercedes SUV and for six days in comfortable increments they drove across the country to Edenton, stopping at interesting Bed and Breakfasts to sleep each night. Miraculously, the story has a happy ending because they did find long distance love and have all entered into being active members of their new community, who have also embraced them.
Taking a leisurely drive from Raleigh I arrived at Eleanor’s Home at Noon – this was the house she had bought on the Internet and it was gorgeous, exactly like the photographs that Anne had sent. Built in 1893, it had been vacant for a few years before a builder bought and restored it to its original footprint. Being an interior designer with very original taste, Eleanor has furnished and brought it back to its former glory with beautiful paint colors and charming furnishings. She had prepared a delicious chicken salad lunch at home, in her gracious dining room at a table set with beautiful china and appointments. We were five people, Vi, Jean Ann, Eleanor, myself plus one other guest, Anne Perry, the Sotheby’s Agent who had seen Eleanor through the purchase of her new home. Before arriving, I had asked Eleanor if we could visit a Cotton Mill Loft Conversion I had read about and found that Anne and her Company, Sotheby’s, had been involved in the Cotton Mill Conversion since the idea was born and knew every intimate detail and Eleanor had arranged for Anne to take us on a personalized tour. What an opportunity that Anne would be showing us around the property that I had asked to see. (More about this in the next letter).
For the next couple of days, we had the best time ever, being shown around Edenton, trying different restaurants , visiting the restored Bed and Breakfasts, taking the historic Trolley Tour and a tour of the Barker House where Eleanor volunteers as a docent, driving around admiring the historic homes and points of interest. There are many historic markers and the town has an active main street, with interesting shops and good restaurants. Noticeable is the absence of any “chains”, either clothing or food as the Historic Society has made sure to keep them out. We walked the brick sidewalks and went into some of the shops, talking to the shopkeepers. Where ever we went, people already knew Eleanor and Jean Ann. The citizens of this small town are the most friendly, welcoming people anywhere and I was told when one drives in Edenton, it is with one hand on the steering wheel and the other free to wave and greet – this is absolutely true. There is a strong sense of community, and a pride in valuing their town and its heritage. What a special experience this turned out to be.
This home is known as “The Ice House”. It was where Ice was made and sold. More recently it was converted into a private residence.
These trees grow in the Albemarle sound. Although it looks like the ocean, it is fresh water which explains why they can survive. This and the Edenton Bay are popular for sailing.
The 1886 Roanake Lighthouse is one of only fifteen screw pile lighthouses ever made. It began its life in the Albemarle Sound, and after falling into disrepair, was moved across the water, to Edenton Bay where it went through a restoration before being re-installed using the scew piles to secure it in the Bay. It has the original Fresnel lens, made in Paris dating from 1888, that was used to light up the skies at night to protect the ships and the sailors. This is believed to be the last surviving screw pile lighthouse, which is a miracle as it has had a turbulent history, including being damaged by the Hurricane in 2003.
Harriet Jacobs, an African American Woman, who was cruelly enslaved and bore two children to her white “Slave Master” before managing to escape. For seven years she was concealed between the floor boards of her Gransmother’s house, leading to permanent physical damage. Eventually boarding a boat and fleeing to New York, she found work with an Abolitionist as a Nanny and was able to write and self publish the story of her life, an amazing achievement for a slave and a woman of that era.