Enormous museum tells story of ‘Cradle of North Carolina’

The Museum of the Albemarle occupies a massive, 50,000-square-foot structure across the street from Elizabeth City’s scenic waterfront on the Pasquotank River. The facility opened in 2006, and its galleries and exhibits have developed over the years. The result is a welcoming facility that does a splendid job of giving an overview of the environment, culture and development of the Albemarle region – an area rightly regarded as “The Cradle of North Carolina.”


Elizabeth City is 306 miles from Charlotte, about a six-hour drive.

To see and do

The items displayed are both plentiful and impressive, starting with the century-old shad boat suspended over the lobby, a craft well-chosen to represent the boatbuilding heritage of the Albemarle region. A descendant of the periauger, a carved-hull boat that originated with Albemarle settlers in the late 1600s, the shad boat – named for the type of fish it was used to catch – is known for its maneuverability. It is particularly adept at navigating the North Carolina coastal waters. George Washington Creef, a Roanoke Island native, is credited with the design of it. The one on display in the museum was built in 1904 and has been completely restored.

Two paintings displayed along the stairway leading to the second-floor galleries are by Francis Vandeveer Kughler. One depicts North Carolina troops at the Battle of Gettysburg. The other, the fourth in a series of 14 that spotlights key moments in state history, depicts a meeting between King Charles II and the eight Lord Proprietors who received from him the Carolina Charter of 1663. Among these gentlemen is George Monck, the Duke of Albemarle, for whom the northeast region of North Carolina is named.

The large second-floor gallery whisks you through four centuries, with numerous artifacts pleasingly displayed within the context of their time periods: the maritime era (1792 and before), the canal era (1793-1880), the railroad era (1881-1910); the automobile era (1911-present) and the tourism era (present). Furniture and farm implements share space with such diverse items as the replicated Jackson House (a Pasquotank County home dating to 1755); the smokestack from the famed – and feared – Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle; an 1882 steam-powered fire engine; an early 1900s printing press; Wright Brothers memorabilia; and a 1950s-era lunch counter. The museum also hosts temporary exhibits.