Edenton – considered one of the South’s prettiest towns – celebrates the 300th anniversary of its founding this year, with special events, making it an even more attractive destination point. And while the town is three centuries old, Edenton nevertheless has something “new” to show visitors who have been here before.
From Charlotte, Edenton is about 280 miles. Plan on a five-hour drive, one way.
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Edenton, North Carolina’s fourth-oldest town, was incorporated in 1722 and renamed Edenton in honor of royal Gov. Charles Eden. The town served as the de facto seat of colonial government for nearly 20 years.
A two-hour guided walking tour encompasses several blocks. Included on it is St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street from the visitor center. St. John’s is the second-oldest surviving house of worship in the state, begun in 1736. Gov. Eden is interred in the church cemetery, as are fellow colonial governors Thomas Pollock and Henderson Walker. Also on the tour is the Cupola House, built circa 1758 for Francis Corbin, an agent for Lord Granville. The Jacobean-styled home, with its distinctive cupola, is open as a house museum and features impressive Georgian interior woodwork. The Barker House was the home of Penelope Barker, famous for her involvement in the so-called “Edenton Tea Party.” In October 1774, she invited 50 neighborhood ladies to a tea at a friend’s house and succeeded in having them pledge their support for a non-importation act passed by North Carolina’s First Provincial Congress. This action is considered to be the first effort of a strictly political nature taken by a body of women anywhere in the colonies. A teapot has been Edenton’s symbol ever since.
Facing the village green is the 1767 brick courthouse. Behind it is the old county jail (1825). Finishing up the tour is the house of James, one of North Carolina’s chief proponents of the federal constitution in 1788. The following year, President Washington chose Iredell to serve as one of the original justices of the U. S. Supreme Court. The Iredell House is a Federal-style building; the original home was built in 1800 and a substantial addition was made in 1827.
New to the Edenton waterfront is the circa-1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse, the last survivor of 15 such screw-pile light stations that once illuminated North Carolina’s inland waterways. Originally positioned in the Albemarle Sound to mark the entrance to the Roanoke River near Plymouth, the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1941, sold years later to a private individual, moved to dry land in Edenton, and used as a home. The station was purchased by the Edenton Historical Commission in 2007 and moved to the waterfront. In May, 2012, the station was moved again, this time to its permanent location over-the-water in Edenton Bay.