A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Locomotive No. 12 (Tweetsie) Blowing Rock • Built 1917 Editor’s Note: Tweetsie Railroad is closed for the season until April 6, 2024. Locomotive No. 12 — known affectionately as “Tweetsie”

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Locomotive No. 12 (Tweetsie) Blowing Rock • Built 1917 Editor’s Note: Tweetsie Railroad is closed for the season until April 6, 2024. Locomotive No. 12 — known affectionately as “Tweetsie”

34 Amazing Historic Places to See in North Carolina

Locomotive No. 12 (Tweetsie)

Blowing Rock • Built 1917

Editor’s Note: Tweetsie Railroad is closed for the season until April 6, 2024.

Locomotive No. 12 — known affectionately as “Tweetsie” for the sharp tweet tweet of its whistle — was manufactured in 1917 and is the only surviving steam locomotive of the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. Tweetsie is a narrow-gauge locomotive that runs on a 36-inch-wide track, which allows the train to better maneuver the sharp turns and steep grades of the mountainous terrain where it once ferried passengers and cargo between Boone and Johnson City, Tennessee. Narrow it may be, but diminutive it is not: With its tender, this engine weighs in at a whopping 165,000 pounds! Locomotive No. 12 is now the main attraction of the Tweetsie Railroad theme park, which brings a taste of the Wild West to Blowing Rock. — Rebecca Woltz

Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital

Elkin • Built 1931

Until its disassociation with the Methodist Church in 1967, Hugh Chatham Memorial never turned away a patient for inability to afford services. Designed by renowned Winston-Salem architect Harold Macklin, the building is Elkin’s oldest nondomestic structure built in the Colonial Revival style.

All Saints Episcopal Church is one of two remaining structures in Linville designed by architect Henry Bacon and displaying his signature chestnutbark shingles. photograph by Emily Chaplin and Chris Council

Linville Historic District

Linville • Established 1883

Much of the architecture in this community uses a localized style of chestnut-bark shingles that originated with New York architect Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial. Although Bacon’s work in Linville dates between 1895 and 1910, the use of chestnut-bark shingles remained prevalent in the area until World War II, by which time a widespread blight had destroyed mature chestnut trees throughout the United States. — Rebecca Woltz

Todd Historic District

Todd • Incorporated 1915

Once a thriving town roaring with the sound of logging trains, Todd is now a quiet mountain retreat where visitors enjoy fishing, paddle sports, and cycling. The town’s heyday came in the early 1900s alongside the timber boom. But by 1934, most of the surrounding mountains had been stripped of hardwoods, and the railroad company was losing money running the extra 20 miles of track to Todd. During the Great Depression, the tracks were removed, and commerce practically vanished in a few short years. The Todd General Store (formerly Cook Brothers Mercantile) was the only business to survive the bust before burning down in 2021. — Zach Skillings

Loray Mill opened in 1902 and propelled Gaston County to fame as an international textile hub. Photography courtesy of State Archives of North Carolina

Loray Mill Historic District

Gastonia • Built 1901

Between 1890 and the early 1920s, tens of thousands of families migrated to Gaston County to work in textile mills. The largest of these, Loray Mill, opened in 1902 and propelled the area to fame as an international textile hub. But declining profits in the late 1920s caused the mill to cut its labor force by more than a third without decreasing production rates. Meanwhile, wages were still low, hours were longer, and production picked up speed, all of which culminated in a strike in April 1929. The governor deployed the National Guard to evict the strikers from the mill village, and on June 7, 1929, police were called to the tent village where some of the strikers had taken up residence. Shots were exchanged, and Chief Orville Aderholt was killed. The resulting murder trial drew international attention. In 1935, the mill was sold, and in 1993, the plant closed its doors. — Rebecca Woltz

American Tobacco Company Manufacturing Plant

Durham • Built 1870s-1950s

This property embodies the power and success of the American Tobacco Company trust, which controlled 89 percent of the country’s cigarette market in the late 19th century. The brick warehouses and factories, with their slow-burn mill construction and medieval decorations, reflect an important landmark for Durham’s tobacco industry, the state’s primary industry and biggest financial driver in the 20th century. This monument to tobacco history includes the oldest tobacco factory in the city and shows the phases of growth of not only the company but also industrial architecture from the 1870s to the 1950s. Restaurants, event spaces, and other businesses now occupy the buildings. — Rylee Parsons

Old East

Chapel Hill • Opened 1795

The Old East dormitory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill holds the distinction of being the oldest state university building in the nation. Since the ceremonial cornerstone was laid in 1793, the dormitory has been in near-constant use for more than two centuries, housing not only dorm rooms but also classrooms, offices, and even the university library from 1853 to 1869. Thousands have resided in Old East throughout the years, including President James K. Polk. — Zach Skillings

Capt. John S. Pope Farm

Cedar Grove • Circa 1870

One of the best-preserved rural complexes in Orange County, this farm sits on part of what was once an even larger farm owned by John Alphonse McDade. The 73-acre property represents the history of tobacco farming and the economic role that its cultivation played in the area. The farm includes one of the largest collections of agricultural outbuildings in Orange County, including a corn crib, a log building, and woodsheds. The two-story house is one of the most intact examples of the rural style that was found in this part of North Carolina in the mid- to late 19th century. The farm remains in operation by the Pope family. — Rylee Parsons

Boyette Slave House

Kenly • Built 1800-1852

The most intact stick-and-mud chimney in the state stands among the remains of a structure in Johnston County that the Boyette family used to house enslaved people. This relic can be found, unaltered, in the middle of a cultivated field, visible from what was once the main farmhouse. The one-room log house was constructed using hewn planks in the mid-19th century. After the Civil War, the house is believed to have been used as a school. — Rylee Parsons

Horne Creek Farm

Pinnacle • Built 1846-1930

At the time of Thomas Hauser’s death in 1911, his family’s 450-acre farm was one of the largest and most prosperous in southeastern Surry County. The property was eventually divided, and the house and 20 surrounding acres were sold in 1970, becoming part of the Yadkin River section of Pilot Mountain State Park. In 1985, the North Carolina General Assembly sought to create an agriculture museum, and the Hauser farm was selected as a prime example of agrarian life from the late 19th through the early 20th centuries. Today, visitors can view the house, barn, smokehouse, fruit house, tobacco barn, corn crib, and family cemetery. — Rebecca Woltz

Salem Tavern

Winston-Salem • Built 1784

The story of Winston-Salem’s early history cannot be told without mentioning Salem Tavern, which was built in 1772 and rebuilt in 1784 following a fire. For the Moravians who founded Salem, the tavern was an integral part of their plan to establish the town as a commercial center for the North Carolina backcountry. The tavern served as a place of refreshment for visitors to Salem (including President George Washington during his Southern tour in 1791), who were treated to fine accommodations, quality food, and honest dealings. Over time, the tavern became a primary point of contact between Moravians and the outside world, undoubtedly contributing to fundamental transformations in the town of Salem, which would later merge with neighboring Winston. — Zach Skillings

J.S. Dorton Arena

Raleigh • Built 1952

The completion of the arena at the North Carolina State Fair complex was a successful experiment in concrete parabolic construction that inspired many imitations around the world.

Blandwood Mansion, Greensboro photograph by Jodie Brim

Blandwood Mansion

Greensboro • Completed 1846

Designed by Alexander Jackson Davis, one of the mid-19th century’s most popular architects, Blandwood is America’s earliest standing example of the Italian villa design style. The house served as an influential prototype for one of the most common early American house plans — a central front tower attached to a rectangular structure, a style that has been widely translated through the work of other architects over the years. The design of the building — which occupies an entire block in downtown Greensboro — is not the only thing that earned it a spot on the National Register of Historic Places: Blandwood was the home of Gov. John Motley Morehead from 1827 until his death in 1866. — Rylee Parsons

St. Joseph’s AME Church

Durham • Built 1891

St. Joseph’s African Methodist Episcopal Church symbolizes the resolve of Hayti, once one of the most prosperous African American communities in the nation. In 1868, Edian Markham, an African American missionary and formerly enslaved man, established a makeshift structure known as a “brush arbor,” where people sat on boxes and homemade stools to worship. Today, the brick building that eventually replaced the arbor is home to the Hayti Heritage Center. — Zach Skillings

Town Creek Indian Mound

Mount Gilead • 900-1400 A.D.

Built by Native Americans of the Pee Dee culture, this earthen mound served as the setting for religious ceremonies, important discussions, and feasts. Many high-ranking members of the Pee Dee were buried at the mound.

Livingstone College Historic District

Salisbury • Founded 1882

Founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Livingstone College (then Zion Wesley Institute) played a key early role in the education of Black teachers, tradespeople, and clergy. Noteworthy individuals associated with the college include founder and first president Joseph Charles Price, called “The World’s Orator” and selected by The Freeman, during his lifetime, as one of the “Ten Greatest Negroes Living or Dead”; educator and church leader William Harvey Goler; and educator and missionary James E.K. Aggrey. Places of interest include the campus lawn, where the first intercollegiate Black football game was played in 1892; the home of President Price; Moore’s Chapel; and Carnegie Library. — Rebecca Woltz

Michael Braun Stone House

Granite Quarry • Built 1766

Michael Braun was a German-born merchant, wheelwright, and farmer who also operated a printshop in Salisbury in the late 18th century. In 1760, he purchased 274 acres in Rowan County, and by 1766, he had built a large stone house, impressive in both size and appearance, with carefully shaped and matched stonework. The structure has now been restored and operates as a museum. Considered to be the oldest house in the county, the “Old Stone House” is also a symbol of German influence on North Carolina’s history.

— Rebecca Woltz

Scallop shell-shaped fuel stations were built in the Winston-Salem area during the 1930s as part of a campaign to bring awareness to Shell Oil. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Shell Service Station

Winston-Salem • Circa 1930s

Located in the Waughtown-Belview Historic District, this giant concrete seashell is the last of its kind. Eight of the scallop shell-shaped fuel stations were built in the Winston-Salem area during the 1930s as part of a campaign to bring awareness to Shell Oil. The Shell Station at Sprague and Peachtree streets served motorists in the Waughtown area until the 1950s, later housing a lawn mower repair business and then a regional office for Preservation North Carolina. Along with reflecting the growing importance of the automobile as a symbol of freedom in America, the scallop-shell station is significant as a surviving example of the literalism that defined early 20th-century advertising. — Zach Skillings

Hand-cut soapstone grave markers at Abbott’s Creek Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery date back as far as 1795. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Abbott’s Creek Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery

High Point • Circa 1795

With almost 450 decorative soapstone grave markers, this cemetery has the largest and finest collection of pierced-style headstones in Davidson County. Gravestones made by local stonecutters in the late 18th and early 19th centuries display symbols of resurrection and eternity, and reflect the height of folk art in the community of Scots- Irish and Anglo-German farmers. Formed by the “Separatist” or “New Light” evangelical sect, Abbott’s Creek is one of the oldest Baptist congregations in the Piedmont. The site includes the county’s only example of a signed pierced-style stone. — Rylee Parsons

Matsumoto House

Raleigh • Completed 1954

From the 1940s to the 1960s, modernist architects — recruited by Dean Henry Kamphoefner to teach at the new School of Design at North Carolina State College (now University) — built a series of houses on what was then the outskirts of Raleigh. Faculty member George Matsumoto, whose designs are recognizable by their terrazzo floors, natural-wood walls and ceilings, and mahogany cabinetry, began construction on his own home in 1952. The residence overlooks a wooded hillside and a small stream; a wide, glazed window allows for plenty of natural light and integration with nature. — Rebecca Woltz

Reynolds Building

Winston-Salem • Built 1929

Once the tallest building in North Carolina, the 22-story Reynolds Building opened in 1929. For more than 80 years, it served as the home office for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, which brought international recognition to the city. The skyscraper’s Art Deco style inspired the design of the Empire State Building, which opened in 1931. The Reynolds Building now houses a luxury hotel, a restaurant, and apartments. — Zach Skillings

George Black House and Brickyard

Winston-Salem • Established 1934

The son of a formerly enslaved man, George Black rose to international acclaim for his traditional technique of molding bricks by hand, long after the advent of machine molding. Black’s bricks were used in Colonial Williamsburg and Old Salem restorations, and in the early 1970s, he was featured in TV’s On the Road with Charles Kuralt series. As a result, the United States Agency for International Development asked Black to travel to Guyana to teach villagers how to make bricks, earning him special recognition from the governor and a visit to the White House. The George Black House and Brickyard was Black’s home from 1934 until his death at the age of 101. — Rebecca Woltz

Walnut Cove Colored School

Walnut Cove • Built 1921

The Walnut Cove Colored School operated until 1952 as one of many that were funded in part by Sears, Roebuck and Co. President Julius Rosenwald, who was approached by Booker T. Washington with the idea of building schools for Black children. Rosenwald established a fund that — together with significant community contributions — led to the construction of almost 5,000 schools throughout the South. Today, this five-classroom building is one of the few Rosenwald schools still standing. — Zach Skillings

At Fort Macon State Park, visitors can watch cannon and musket demonstrations, see restored living quarters, and explore in and around the fort. Photography courtesy of VisitNC.com

Fort Macon

Atlantic Beach • Completed 1834

Constructed by the United States military following the War of 1812, Fort Macon was part of a series of fortifications built to defend our country’s harbors and ports from foreign invasion. Beginning in 1861, the fort was occupied by Confederate forces in preparation for a Union attack. On March 23, 1862, Col. Moses J. White, the fort’s commander, refused to surrender to Brig. Gen. John G. Parke. A month later, Parke’s and Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside’s forces laid siege to the fort, and in only a few hours, the masonry walls were cracked. By the following day, the Union army controlled the fort, and they continued to hold it for the remainder of the war. The fort was used as a prison during Reconstruction. It was manned once again during the Spanish-American War, then abandoned in 1903. In 1924, the site was deeded to the state and became the second state park. Fort Macon experienced one last military hurrah during World War II, when the Coast Artillery Corps occupied the park for defense against German U-boats. — Rebecca Woltz

Somerset Place State Historic Site

Creswell • Active 1785-1865

Located in Washington County, Somerset Place originally consisted of more than 100,000 acres, making it one of the largest plantations in the upper South. After being purchased by three Edenton businessmen, the land’s densely wooded, swampy terrain was converted into high-yielding fields of rice, corn, oats, wheat, beans, peas, and flax. During its 80 years as an active plantation, Somerset Place profited from the labor of more than 850 enslaved men, women, and children, who made it one of the state’s most prosperous plantations until the abolition of slavery in 1865. These days, guided tours offer visitors an honest view of life on the former plantation during its operating years. — Zach Skillings

In 1842, more than two-thirds of the state’s exported goods passed through Ocracoke Inlet by way of Portsmouth Village. photograph by Natalia Weedy

Portsmouth Village

Portsmouth Island • Established 1753

Although now a ghost town, Portsmouth Village was once the Outer Banks’ most prosperous settlement and one of the busiest ports on the East Coast. The town was established in 1753 and quickly became the largest European settlement on the Outer Banks, benefiting from North Carolina’s booming shipping industry in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1842, more than two-thirds of the state’s exported goods passed through Ocracoke Inlet by way of Portsmouth. Following the Civil War, however, the shipping industry abandoned Portsmouth for deeper inlets, and the town’s population slowly dwindled from nearly 700 in 1860 to a mere two residents, who left the village in 1971. Since then, it has been maintained by the National Park Service and currently serves as an attraction for visitors who arrive by boat. — Zach Skillings

Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

Winnabow • Established 1725

Maurice Moore, the first in his family to live in North Carolina, founded Brunswick Town in 1725. He designated plots of land for a church, courthouse, graveyard, marketplace, and several other public buildings. Some of the permanent settlers were sons or daughters of Barbadian planters. The town grew slowly, and residents formed a plantation community based on land and trade. In 1861, construction of a fort was planned to protect the Lower Cape Fear from attack by sea. After the fall of Fort Fisher, Fort Anderson was the area’s sole means of defense. The historic site now functions as a museum and park. — Rylee Parsons

Saints Peter and Paul Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church

Saint Helena • Built 1932

When it was built in 1932, Saints Peter and Paul was the only Russian Orthodox church in North Carolina. Today, the chapel’s Byzantine-style gold dome, topped with a traditional Orthodox triple-barred cross, immediately sets it apart from the many Baptist and Methodist churches in Pender County. Located in the Village of Saint Helena, Saints Peter and Paul’s few remaining congregants are direct descendants of Elias Debaylo, one of the many Ukrainian immigrants who were among the church’s first members.

— Zach Skillings

Built in 1782, the Penelope Barker House now serves as Edenton’s welcome center. It was moved to its current location on the bay in 1952. photograph by Emily Chaplin and Chris Council

Edenton Historic District

Edenton • Incorporated 1722

As North Carolina’s second-oldest incorporated town and its first colonial capital, Edenton encompasses 250 years of architectural styles, including Colonial, Victorian, and Jacobean. The 1767 Chowan County Courthouse is still in use today — for special occasions and some court sessions — and is open for touring. Other historic sites that offer tours include the Iredell House, home of James Iredell, attorney general during the American Revolution, and the birthplace of Gov. James Iredell Jr.; the relocated 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse, in use from 1887 until 1941; and the home of Penelope Barker, who led the charge in the Edenton Tea Party, in which 51 women protested the British tax on tea and cloth. — Rebecca Woltz

Greenville Post Office

Greenville • Built 1914

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Greenville enjoyed a period of economic prosperity brought on by the extension of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad’s Kinston Branch, which reached the city in 1889, and the development of the tobacco market that followed. The city’s Florentine Renaissance Revival-style post office — completed in 1914 and in use until 1969 — reflects the economic climate during this time. The front of this two-story, stucco-over-brick building features a three-bay loggia formed by expansive arches and Tuscan columns. It’s no wonder that the application for its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places describes the post office as being “far more flamboyant than those contemporary post offices in neighboring towns.” — Rebecca Woltz

Church of the Immaculate Conception

Halifax • Built 1889

A demonstration of the close relationships between family and church during the 19th century, this estate was first home to merchant and church benefactor Michael Ferrall. Roman Catholic services were held in Ferrall’s parlor for nearly 60 years before part of the land was sold to the Rt. Rev. Leo Haid, Vicar-Apostolic of North Carolina, in 1889. Bishop Haid hired prominent Catholic church architect Edwin Durang to design what is now the only surviving Gothic Revival-style frame church. The church closed in 1969 when the last member of the Ferrall family associated with it died. The estate is also home to the Michael Ferrall Family Cemetery, which includes the family vault where several generations were interred. — Rylee Parsons

Temple of Israel

Wilmington • Completed 1876

Wilmington is home to the state’s oldest Jewish community and its first synagogue, the Temple of Israel. The house of worship dates back to 1876, when it was built in the Moorish Revival style that was then popular for synagogues in both Europe and the United States. As Wilmington developed rapidly in the late 20th century with the founding of the University of North Carolina Wilmington and what is now the New Hanover Regional Medical Center, the city’s Jewish community also grew, and the temple’s congregation expanded. Today, the historic temple is attended by a diverse congregation comprising college students, military personnel, retirees, and young families, and is a contributing building in the Wilmington Historic District, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. — Zach Skillings

Oak Island Lighthouse

Caswell Beach • Completed 1958

When first activated in 1958, the beacons at the top of Oak Island Lighthouse were the brightest in the United States, second brightest in the world, and visible from 23 miles out at sea. North Carolina’s youngest lighthouse has a color scheme that sets it apart from its coastal neighbors. It’s marked by three horizontal stripes that result from the varying materials used to build the tower: natural gray cement at the bottom, Portland cement and white quartz aggregate in the middle, and cement and black paint at the top. The main tower is 128 feet tall, an impressive structure that took a full week of continuous concrete pouring to complete. — Zach Skillings

The Dismal Swamp Canal is one of the first in the nation Photography courtesy of THE MISCELLANEOUS SUBJECTS IMAGE COLLECTION (P0003), NORTH CAROLINA COLLECTION, WILSON LIBRARY, UNC-CHAPEL HILL

Dismal Swamp Canal

South Mills • Opened 1805

This canal created a link between northeast North Carolina and southeast Virginia that spawned cultural changes and contributed to the development of the Intracoastal Waterway in the late 19th century. The canal became a popular transportation route between the two states from 1805 until a larger rival canal opened in 1859. The Dismal Swamp Canal is one of the first in the nation, and a major engineering accomplishment of hand-labor construction (much of it enslaved) in early America. After the canal was widened and deepened, schooners, barges, passenger vessels, and military crafts were able to use the passageway to their advantage. — Rylee Parsons

This story was published on Jul 26, 2021

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