Our Thursday morning saw us leaving the Outer Banks westbound, with our first stop in Edenton, North Carolina, a quaint town from the Cotton is King Era.
The original cotton mill is now a condominium building. The town also had well-kept majestic old homes of the pre-Civil War period.
Edenton’s waterfront of the Albemarle Sound was picturesque with tall leafy trees growing from the water with roots visible above and below the surface. The roots seemed to wrap around the tree trunk and support it in the water. The lighthouse at the edge of the pier was not a tall columnar structure as most lighthouses but a unique lighthouse constructed as a two story home with a widow’s walk and a large lantern placed on its roof.
Edenton’s Chowan County Courthouse is one of the oldest courthouses in the country. Built in 1767, it is one of the finest examples of public Georgian architecture in the American South. Edenton was settled in 1658 and incorporated in 1727, and is counted as the first permanent European settlement in North Carolina.
In addition, to the courthouse and the Confederate Soldier memorial in the square, Edenton has the famous Historic Hicks Field, a baseball stadium that is now home to the John A. Holmes High School Aces as well as the Edenton Steamers of the Coastal Plain League. So, we as baseball fans wanted to see it.
Hicks Field was built in 1939 as a Works Progress Administration project at the corner of East Freemason and Woodward, adjacent to the high school. The main structure is a wooden grandstand with a roof that was built to accommodate slightly more than 500 people. The main grandstand is the oldest remaining wooden grandstand of its type in the state of North Carolina.
Hicks Field was home to minor league baseball and semipro teams up until 1952, including the Edenton Colonials of the original Coastal Plain League, the Albemarle League, and the Virginia League. Players such as Bob Feller and other major league all-stars have stepped foot inside this historic stadium.
A stop in Zebulon brought us to see the Carolina Mudcats high A baseball stadium. The Mudcats are affiliated with the Milwaukee Brewers and play at Five County Stadium. The friendly office workers there allowed us to enter the stadium to take photos and they even opened the gift shop for us so that I could buy a t-shirt for my collection. A perfect photo op from the top of the stands captured a shot of the field with the water tower outside the stadium painted as a baseball in the background.
Since we used to live in Raleigh, I tried testing my memory with names of the roads. I remembered the main roads although the area has developed a great deal. One thing that had not changed was the Char-Grill. The Char-Grill has a company motto, “Simpler Times, Simpler Choices.” This place cooks up classic hamburger patties cooked over charcoal flames and serves red hot dogs. The hot dogs are in a casing that looks very red unlike any other hot dog that I have ever seen. There is a protocol to ordering, you need to check off your options of your order slip and drop the paper order into a slot. The place was very busy but after a short wait we heard our name called for our order for pick up at the other window. The burgers are great but not the best we ever had.
We drove into downtown Raleigh and parked the car across from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
We walked to the North Carolina State Capitol for a self-guided tour of the building’s three floors. The Greek revival Capitol building, completed in 1840, currently houses the offices of the Governor of North Carolina, located on Union Square at East Edenton Street.
During much of the Colonial period, North Carolina was without a fixed capital. Governors lived in their own homes and the Assembly moved from place to place, meeting in private homes, and in courthouses when available. In 1722 the Assembly selected Edenton as the capital, but years passed by as the center of the population had shifted westward. in 1788 a State Convention voted to set a capital plan for Raleigh, based on the then nation’s capital of Philadelphia.
Construction of a State House began on the town’s central square in 1792. First occupied in 1794, the building served as the capitol until it burned in 1831. The cornerstone of the present State Capitol, constructed on the site of the former State House, was laid in 1833 and the building was completed in 1840. The Capitol remains largely unaltered from its completion of 1840.
The Capitol building also housed the original state law library and the geology department. The geology room had cases lining the walls shelved with rocks labeled by type and specific name. The next room that we viewed was the House of Representatives chamber which follows the semi-circular plan of a Greek theater in an architectural Corinthian style. The Senate chamber was decorated in the Ionic style of an ancient Greek temple.
The Capitol is a cross shape, centering on a domed rotunda where the wings join. The rotunda stands 97-1/2 feet from the floor to the crown atop the dome. Centered on the interior ground floor of the rotunda is a statue of George Washington depicting him in a Roman general’s uniform with tunic, body armor, and a short cape fastened at the shoulder.
The North Carolina Museum of History is where we began our tour of the museum with the early history of the settlers along the coast, then into the tobacco and industry era where we learned that the Portuguese brought the first African slaves to America before the English arrived.
On February 1, 1960, four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their resistance in the act of a sit-down helped to ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South; a small section of that lunch counter is in the museum.
In addition an authentic slave’s cabin plucked from a southern plantation and reassembled in the museum was also on display, showing how harsh their life was.
An athletic prominence of North Carolina section honored those athletes associated with the state in their professional sport with large banners of the athlete and some memorabilia. Most surprising to me was a tribute to the golfer, Arnold Palmer, a Latrobe boy, has a connection to North Carolina from his college days at Wake Forest University. Motorsports hailed Richard Petty and showcased his race car. The football section highlighted Carl Ellis who played for the Minnesota Vikings, and Buck Leonard for baseball. Many more professional and college athletes were also admired.
Since we still had a bit of time before the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences closed, we headed over there for a speed tour.
The museum had exhibits of local wildlife past and present. Models of dinosaurs stood stories high and skeletons of a sixty-foot sperm whale and a blue whale hung from the ceiling. Preserved and embalmed fish, birds, and insects were displayed in recreated environments.
We had a quick dinner at Panera’s before venturing to the PNC Arena to watch the Carolina Hurricanes play ice hockey against the Anaheim Ducks. Because nearby Durham was hosting a UNC-Duke football game, the ‘crowd’ was sparse, announced at at 4000 allowed us to move around seats throughout the game for various angles of shots. The Carolina “Canes” lost the game 4-2 to the Ducks.
A short drive later we arrived at our hotel in Durham, a Hampton Inn, that was packed with the aforementioned football game fans.