Guide to Historic Sites in North Carolina

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Colonial Settlement and Historic Homes

1. Historic Halifax

This 1760 town, perched on the southern bank of the Roanoke River, became a transportation hub and crossroads of politics and culture before the American Revolution. The 1776 "Halifax Resolves," drafted here on April 12, became the first official action by an American colony to call for independence from Britain. Five different guided tours of the 40-acre historic district enable visitors to travel through nine 18th- and 19th-century buildings, including taverns, plantation homes, law offices, a jail, and a springhouse. The visitor center features displays on slavery, transportation, and colonial clothing. (252) 583-7191 or www.nchistoricsites.org/halifax

2. Historic Hope Plantation

The circa-1803 Federal-and-Georgian style mansion, once owned by Gov. David Stone, and the modest 1763 colonial King-Bazemore house, built by local planter William King, are the main features of this 45-acre historic site. Ninety-minute guided tours of both homes pass through 16 period-furnished rooms, such as the library, bedrooms, and ballroom. (252) 794-3140 or www.hopeplantation.org

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3. Historic Edenton

North Carolina's second oldest town served as the colony's first capital from 1722 until 1743, later becoming an important stop on the Maritime Underground Railroad during the Civil War. Guided walking tours of the historic district leave from the visitor center and highlight Edenton's famous 18th- and 19th-century buildings, which include the 1767 Chowan County courthouse, the 1736 St. Paul's church, and the 1827 home of James Iredell, a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. (252) 482-2637 or www.nchistoricsites.org/iredell

4. Somerset Place

The densely forested 100-acre swamp purchased by Josiah Collins in 1774 grew over three generations into one of the largest plantations in the upper South, producing lumber, wheat, corn, and rice. Ninety-minute guided tours of the modern, 31-acre historic property begin in the visitor center, the site of a former boarding school, and pass through eight original 19th-century buildings, including the slave hospital, dairy, kitchen, laundry, and the 14-room Collins mansion. (252) 797-4560 or www.nchistoricsites.org/somerset

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5. Wright Brothers National Memorial

On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright famously took off from Kill Devil Hills in the Wright Flyer I, marking the world's first powered and manned aircraft flight. A 10,000-square-foot visitor center features a full-scale replica of the Flyer along with a block from the original engine and a reproduction wind tunnel. Visitors can also see the reconstructed Wright brothers' living quarters and hangar. (252) 441-7430 or www.nps.gov/wrbr

6. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site

England's first American colony at Roanoke ended in disaster in 1587 when its 117 settlers mysteriously disappeared. This 512-acre site features a 6,000-square-foot visitor center with exhibits that explore life in the colony, why the colonists' disappeared, and the area's participation in the Civil War. Within walking distance lie the restored earthworks that surrounded the colony and the Elizabethan Gardens, a 10-acre park with elaborate formal gardens. (252) 473-5772 or www.nps.gov/fora

7. Roanoke Island Festival Park

This 27-acre park contains four exhibit areas: the reproduction 16th-century square-rigged sailing ship, Elizabeth H; the recreated Roanoke settlement site in which costumed interpreters demonstrate early-16th-century woodworking, blacksmithing, and other activities; the Adventure Museum, which gives visitors the opportunity to don 16th-century clothing, experiment with an early navigational tool known as an astrolabe, and listen to "Stumpy the Pirate;" and the American Indian Town, which features a Coastal Algonquian community of longhouses, work shelters, and a ceremonial dance circle. …