History

The Town of Edenton

The exact year of the settlement of what is now Edenton will probably never be known. In the mid 1500’s, Amadas and Barlow, explorers from one of the initial Raleigh expeditions, entered the waters of the Chowan River. They reported finding an established colony of Indians, numbering 800 and known as the Chowanokes.

As far back as 1658, fearless adventurers from the Jamestown, Virginia area drifted down the eastern streams and wilderness, discovering a location on the bank of a natural harbor of exquisite beauty. The site would become Edenton.

“So here in this region was established the first permanent settlement in North Carolina, the “mothertown” of the State. Edenton at once became the focal point of civilization in the Province, the capital of the Colony and the home of the Royal Governors. Supposedly incorporated in 1715 as “The Towne on Queen Anne’s Creek,” and running through a subsequent diversity of titles such as “Ye Towne on Mattercommack Creek” and “The Port of Roanoke,” in 1722 the spot was named Edenton in honor of Governor Charles Eden.”

For additional information, visit www.visitedenton.com.

Text taken from statelibrary.dcr.state.nc.us

 

The Edenton Tea Party

“North Carolinians vigorously protested unfair British taxation policies of the 1770s, and the Tea Act of 1770 aroused particular ire. Delegates from throughout the colony met in New Bern in August 1774 independent of the royal governor in the First Provincial Congress. This meeting, which “fully launched North Carolina into the revolutionary movement,” passed a series of non-importation and exportation agreements that include refraining from wearing British cloth and drinking British tea. Despite the realization that these measures were ominous signs for Edenton’s mercantile and shipping interests, the local citizenry supported the actions. Later that Fall, fifty-one ladies from five counties signed a resolution, dated October 25, 1774, and vowed “… it is a duty which we owe, not only to our near and dear connections, but to ourselves…, to do everything as far as lies in our power to testify our sincere adherence” to the provincial agreements. The Edenton Tea Party has been backed as the earliest known instance of political activity on the part of women in the American colonies.” The resolution was never, as far as is known, published in a contemporary North Carolina newspaper, but was printed several weeks later in the Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg. The event is best known by a caricature printed in March 1775 by a London print-seller. The reputed leader was Penelope Barker, a prominent Edenton native and the wife of lawyer, merchant, and colonial agent Thomas Barker.”

The teapot is a familiar and beloved icon of Edenton, and a memorial stands in the side yard of the Homestead on the town’s Courthouse Green.

Text taken from Edenton: An Architectural Portrait by Tom Butchko

 

Historic Edenton Visitors Center

Built in 1892 for Louis and Ella Ziegler, this home is one of Edenton’s most elaborate Victorian residences. The Edenton Historical Commission acquired the property from the Zeigler heirs in 1981, and sold the it to the State of North Carolina the following year. The house provides a short audio-visual presentation on Edenton’s history, and reception, gift shop and display areas. Guided walking and trolley tours originate here. The facility is open 7 days a week, year round.

April - October
Monday - Saturday, 9 am - 5 pm
Sunday, 1 - 4 pm

November - March
Monday - Saturday, 10 am - 4 pm
Sunday, 1-4 pm

Admission: Free to Visitor Center. Call for tour times: 252-482-2637
Walking tour admission: $10/adult, $3.50/student, free for preschool children, $20 per family.
Trolley Tours: Tuesday - Saturday: $10 per adult, Students $2.

 

1767 Chowan County Courthouse - National Historic Landmark

“In November of 1712, the Colonial Assembly passed an act “to promote the building of a courthouse to hold the assembly in, at the fork of Queen Anne’s Creek”, essentially establishing the town to be the seat of the provincial government. By 1718, the first courthouse was completed, apparently unsatisfactorily, and a second building was constructed in 1724. The location of the 1724 building was on the north side of East King Street”, the same location of the courthouse to be built in 1767.

“One of the most important surviving buildings of the colonial period in North Carolina, the Chowan County Courthouse has stood at the head of the Courthouse Green since 1767. Now a National Historic Landmark, the venerable brick structure has an illustrious past, being the scene of meetings among Edenton citizens who assumed leading roles in the struggle for independence. Just as importantly, it was the county’s seat of government for over two hundred years and the town’s major public meeting place. In this role the building was the scene of innumerable events and activities, some of regional and statewide importance but many more of purely local interest, that shaped Edenton through nearly three centuries of growth and development.”

“In April of 1819, President James Monroe, our nation’s fifth President, received a twenty-one gun salute when he arrived in Edenton and accepted an invitation to a dinner in his honor in the large Assembly Room upstairs in the courthouse.”

“Although most official functions were moved in 1979 to a new structure on South Broad Street, the building remains the oldest courthouse in North Carolina still in active use.”

In 1996, when the County government realized that the cost of needed restoration was beyond the resources of the county government, ownership was transferred to the State of North Carolina. Closed in 1996 for major restoration, the state celebrated the re-opening of it’s oldest government building in 2004. The courthouse is used for court sessions, tours, and programs, and the second floor Assembly room is available for both public and private use.

Text taken from www.chowancountync.gov and Edenton: An Architectural Portrait by Tom Butchko

 

The Barker House

“Moved to a waterfront location in 1952 and renovated for the Edenton Visitor Center, the Barker-Moore House, or just the Barker House as it is commonly known, is a landmark in the town’s architectural landscape. It is best known as the home of Penelope Barker (1728-1796), the reputed leader of the famed Edenton Tea Party in 1774, and her husband, Thomas Barker (1713-1789), a successful lawyer, planter, and colonial agent. It was also, for over 120 years, the home of Augustus Moore (1803-1851) and his descendants, a family of attorneys and jurists during the nineteenth century.

Originally situated on five lots, the house was located at what is now 209 South Broad Street. The house has undergone several changes, perhaps in as many as three eras.”

The house, and a bookshop within, are owned and maintained by the Edenton Historical Commission. The Commission has made the Barker House, often referred to as Edenton’s Living Room, available for the enjoyment of residents and visitors 364 days a year.

Text taken from Edenton: An Architectural Portrait by Tom Butchko

 

Cupola House - National Historic Landmark

The Cupola House was built in 1758 for Francis Corbin, land agent for the last of the English Lords Proprietors, Robert Carteret, Earl of Granville. It has been called the finest Jacobean house south of Connecticut, as well as “North Carolina’s most significant early dwelling.”

In 1777, Corbin’s heirs sold the property to Dr. Samuel Dickinson. A Connecticut native, he married Elizabeth Penelope Eelbeck Ormond, Penelope Barker’s niece, and one of the women who signed the Edenton Tea Party resolutions. The Dickinson family and their descendants occupied the house for 141 years.

In 1918, in financial straits, Miss Tillie Bond, the last of a long line of heirs, sold the elaborate Georgian woodwork from the Cupola House to a representative of The Brooklyn Museum. Edenton residents, alarmed that a piece of their history was being lost to them, hastily organized the Cupola House Association on March 10, and on the very next day, purchased the upstairs woodwork back from the dealers. The downstairs woodwork was installed in the Brooklyn Museum’s American Rooms exhibit, where it remains on display today.

Tillie Bond sold the house to the Cupola House Association shortly after the woodwork’s removal. The Cupola House Association was the first organization in the state established to save and preserve a specific building in North Carolina.

Following the purchase, the first floor of the house was used as a county library for 45 years. The upstairs, with original woodwork intact, served as a local museum and was gradually filled with objects associated with the house and its occupants.

In the 1960’s, the library relocated to their new building next door, and the rehabilitation and restoration of the house began in earnest. With full cooperation of the Brooklyn Museum, the Association reproduced the lost woodwork. The restored interior was opened in August 1966. It has been furnished with period pieces, and is on the town tour of historic properties.

The Association acquired land to the north and south of the house, and installed flower and herb gardens in the 1970’s, using eighteenth century planting materials. A group of dedicated volunteers maintain the exquisite gardens today.

In 1971 the Cupola House was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark. It is owned and operated by the Cupola House Association, and remains one of the Architectural treasures of Edenton and North Carolina.

 

James Iredell, Sr. House

Construction began on this dwelling in 1773 for silversmith James Whedbee. James Iredell, Sr. purchased part of the property in 1778. Iredell’s contributions to “Edenton, the state, and the country are well documented. The son of a merchant in Bristol, England, Iredell came to Edenton at age seventeen as a comptroller of customs at the Port of Roanoke. In Edenton he studied law under Samuel Johnston, the future governor and U.S. Senator, and in 1773 Iredell married his mentor’s sister, Hannah. An articulate and well-read person, Iredell emerged as the most influential political essayist in Revolutionary North Carolina.

For a brief time in 1777-1778, he was a Justice in the state’s Superior Court (Supreme Court) system. From 1779 until 1781 he served as Attorney General for North Carolina, and although he returned to private law practice in 1781, he maintained an active interest in political matters.

On February 10, 1790, President George Washington appointed Iredell as an Associate Justice to the first U.S. Supreme Court. He remained on the Court until his death in 1799 in Edenton.” Both James and Hannah are buried at Hayes Plantation.

In 1949, the property was purchased by the Edenton Tea Party Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Three years later, title was transferred to the State, who undertook restoration of the home to be made available to the public.

Text taken from Edenton: An Architectural Portrait by Tom Butchko

 

War Cannons

“The picturesque cast-iron Revolutionary War-era cannons mounted throughout Edenton were shipped in 1778 on board Captain John Borritz’s vessel Sacre Coeur de Jesus. Commissioned by the provisional governments of Virginia and North Carolina, Captain Borritz loaded the cannons in Marseilles, France, and crossed the Atlantic dodging storms and the British Navy.

Arriving in Edenton the captain discovered that North Carolina could not pay for the cannons. Borritz had them dumped overboard in Edenton Bay, but the pieces were later recovered. In 1861, the NC militia mounted the cannons at the foot of the Courthouse green for the Town’s defense against Union invaders. On February 12, 1862, Federal warships arrived at the Edenton waterfront and began off-loading occupation troops. Upon seeing the abandoned battery, Federal officers ordered the cannons spiked and remarked that there appeared to be “more danger behind them than in front of them.”

During the late 19th century, some of the cannons were placed as memorials on the courthouse green. In 1928 three were mounted in their current location on East Water Street pointing toward Edenton Bay. In the 1960s, another was mounted at Broad Street’s Monument Square.”

Text taken from Metro Magazine May 2004

 

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church - National Historic Landmark

St. Paul’s is North Carolina’s oldest incorporated church. “The parish was organized in 1701 as the first parish in the colony under the provisions of the Vestry Act of 1701. A post-in-ground church building was erected the next year on an undetermined plot of land just east of Queen Anne’s Creek on what is now known as the Hayes farm; Edenton would not be founded for another eleven years. By 1736, perhaps when the post-in-ground chapel had outlived its usefulness, it was decided to build a new church in the bustling town of Edenton, which was also the colony’s capital. Here, the church occupied the lots set aside for church and churchyard (cemetery) before 1722 and construction began on a brick building that followed a form popular in Virginia.

On October 15, 1736, the Williamsburg Virginia Gazette reported that “a large, handsome Brick Church, with Steeple, is shortly to be built” in Edenton, with “many of the Bricks being already burnt.” By the summer of 1740 work had come to a halt for lack of funds. Aided in part by a tithe of two shillings per poll levied by the colonial Assembly, work resumed and by July 1746, the roof had been raised; however, it was left uncovered for another two years. The church was completed enough for the Vestry to meet in the building for the first time on April 10, 1760. Even then, the windows were unglazed until 1767 and the interior woodwork not finished until 1774.

“St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the second oldest church building in North Carolina and the oldest in regular use, is a landmark in the development of religious architecture in the state. Described by architectural historian Thomas T. Waterman as “an ideal in village churches,” the handsome Flemish bond brick edifice is one of the most important colonial period buildings in Edenton; indeed, in 1856, David Hunter Strother, writing under the name “Porte Crayon,” referred to the church as the “pet” of the town.

The exterior stands today much as it was first built, except for the spire, which was not added until 1809.

In 1947, examination of the building revealed termite damage, loose plaster, and roof deterioration. After detailed architectural studies and drawings, everything that could be removed from the interior, including the flooring, was taken out for storage. Archaeological investigation located all nine graves known to be under the church, and enough of the original floor tiles to provide for their reproduction. The farsighted removal and documentation of the woodwork was fortunate, for on June 1, 1949, the building burned - galleries, roof, and spire. Because the brick walls were not harmed (there apparently not being sufficient woodwork left inside to generate high enough temperatures), the building could be rebuilt” with many of the original interior components.”

Text taken from Edenton: An Architectural Portrait by Tom Butchko

 

1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse

May 23, 2007, will go down in history as being the day that the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse found its new home on the shore of Edenton Bay in Colonial Park. Under local leadership, and with the assistance of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, this exceptional feat was accomplished - placing it where it will be restored and become an attraction for visitors and residents.

This, one of the few screw-pile lights left in the world, and the only screw-pile lighthouse left in the US, had marked the entrance to the Roanoke River near Plymouth on the Albemarle Sound until abandoned in 1940. It was vacant for about 15 years and then bought by Mr. Elijah Tate along with two other lighthouses, but the other two were accidentally demolished in an attempt to be removed.

Mr. Emmett Wiggins, a World War II Navy Engineer Captain and Underwater Salvager, bought the lighthouse from Mr. Tate. He performed a supposed engineering feat by recovering the lighthouse and transporting it to Edenton placing it on land at the mouth of Filbert’s Creek. Mr. Wiggins lived in the lighthouse until 1995 and it remained in his family after his death.

In May 2007, the structure officially became the property of the Edenton Historical Commission and was moved to its new home where it will become part of the Heritage Tourism efforts for many years to come.

Text taken from visitedenton.com.

 

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