Take a History Tour of the Triangle
7 Places Steeped in History
Photo of Duke Homestead courtesy of Virginia Reel/NCDN&CR
The Triangle is steeped in history, from the Revolutionary War to the Civil War. A trip back in time is no farther away than a visit to one of the area’s local historic sites, where docents, re-enactors and historians offer an authentic look into the past.
1. Duke Homestead
Washington Duke, the patriarch of the family that created American Tobacco Company and endowed Duke University, started his empire in the earth of Duke Homestead in Durham. Visit this historic site to see his restored home (pictured above), a reconstructed tobacco factory, a tobacco-curing barn and a pack house. Step into the Tobacco Museum to examine tobacco history from the time of the Native Americans to the present. www.nchistoricsites.org/duke.
Photo of re-enactors near Duke Homestead courtesy of North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
2. Joel Lane Museum House
Joel Lane was a Revolutionary War patriot who served as a delegate to the 1789 convention in Fayetteville where the U.S. Constitution was ratified. He sponsored legislation creating Wake County and, in 1792, sold 1,000 acres of his estate to establish Raleigh as the state capital. His plantation manor, built in 1769, is now known as the Joel Lane Museum House and provides unique insight into Colonial living. joellane.org.
Courtesy of Joel Lane Museum House
3. Historic Stagville
The Bennehan-Cameron family once lived at what is now Historic Stagville, the site of North Carolina’s largest antebellum plantation. By 1860, the family owned about 900 slaves and 30,000 acres. Today, you can still see the late 18th-century Bennehan House, four rare slave houses, a pre-Revolutionary War farmer’s house, a barn built by skilled slave craftsmen and the Bennehan family cemetery. Visit the 71-acre site north of Durham and tour its grounds to discover what life was like back then for the African-American community. stagville.org.
Photo at Historic Stagville courtesy of North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
4. North Carolina State Capitol
Get a feel for North Carolina’s political past at the North Carolina State Capitol, which dates to 1840. A National Historic Landmark, the building is one of the best-preserved examples of a major civic building in the Greek Revival style. The State Capitol housed all of North Carolina’s state government until 1888, and the governor and his staff still work on the first floor. Visitors can take self-guided tours or guided tours on Saturdays. www.nchistoricsites.org/capitol.
Photo courtesy of North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
5. Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site
In the waning days of the Civil War, the Battle of Bentonville was the last full-scale battle where Confederate troops mounted a tactical offensive against Union troops. More than 4,000 men were killed or wounded during the March 19-21, 1865, battle in Johnston County, which temporarily stopped Union Gen. William T. Sherman’s destructive march through the Carolinas. Check out the visitor’s center to see battle exhibits and watch an audiovisual program, then tour the home of John and Amy Harper, which served as a field hospital. You can also follow a trail leading to a section of Union trenches. Highway historical markers highlight events of the battle. www.nchistoricsites.org/bentonvi.
Photo at Bentonville Battlefield courtesy of North Carolina Department of Natural Cultural Resources
6. Bennett Place State Historic Site
The largest troop surrender of the Civil War occurred at the Bennett Place State Historic Site in Durham. In April 1865, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Gen. Sherman met in the Bennett home to sign surrender papers for the Southern armies in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida. Today, the Bennett farm has been reconstructed and restored as it would have been back then. Look in the kitchen house for a glimpse into the daily life of the Bennetts and let the scents of the smokehouse and gardens take you back. Learn about the family and view Civil War artifacts in the museum gallery of the visitor’s center. www.nchistoricsites.org/bennett.
Photo of cooking at Bennett Place Historic Site courtesy of North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
7. The Mordecai House
The Mordecai Historic Park, once the site of the largest plantation in Wake County, is home to The Mordecai House, the oldest house in Raleigh on its original location. The park also houses a log cabin that was the birthplace of President Andrew Johnson. raleighnc.gov (search for “Mordecai Historic Park”).
Photo of Mordecai House courtesy of Mordecai Historic Park
Odile Fredericks is the web editor for Carolina Parent and Where Traveler-Raleigh Durham.
This article was first published May 22, 2014, and updated May 20, 2016