A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Lucky visitors to Halifax County’s circa-1760 Bradford-Denton House are greeted by Jeff Dickens, vice chairman of the Historical Halifax Restoration Association. Hard at work and mid-restoration, Dickens recounts the unique

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Lucky visitors to Halifax County’s circa-1760 Bradford-Denton House are greeted by Jeff Dickens, vice chairman of the Historical Halifax Restoration Association. Hard at work and mid-restoration, Dickens recounts the unique

One Day in Historic Halifax

Lucky visitors to Halifax County’s circa-1760 Bradford-Denton House are greeted by Jeff Dickens, vice chairman of the Historical Halifax Restoration Association. Hard at work and mid-restoration, Dickens recounts the unique artifacts he’s uncovered in the process — books, cannon balls, and historically significant documents. “One thrilling discovery was of a copy of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a songbook that once belonged to Col. John Bradford’s granddaughter,” he says. “It was sent to the family by Francis Scott Key.”

For North Carolina’s history buffs — especially those familiar with the role Halifax played in the Revolutionary War — Col. John Bradford is a pretty big deal. On April 12, 1776, Bradford, along with other delegates from North Carolina’s Fourth Provincial Congress, adopted the Halifax Resolves. “This step taken by North Carolinians that recommended independence from England was a first in unifying the colonies, giving birth to the United States,” Dickens says.

Looking for a history lesson? In Halifax, you’ll find one around every corner. “There are still lots of important stories to be told in Halifax,” Dickens says. “History is all around this town.” Read on for some of our favorite local destinations to add to your itinerary — and other can’t-miss Halifax stops along the way.



 

Halifax County — Portal to History

From April 12 to 14, 2024, the “Birthplace of American Independence” will launch a two-year-long celebration of the nation’s 250th year. Make plans now to walk the footpaths and visit centuries-old buildings that stand as a living testament to the courage of those who once gathered here.

From the moment you step onto the hollowed grounds of Historic Halifax, you’re transported back in time. The echoes of impassioned debates, whispers of freedom-seeking souls, and resounding voices of past leaders brought to life create a journey through history you won’t soon forget.

The celebration isn’t confined to Historic Halifax; it spills out into the entire county. From April 12, 2024, to July 4, 2026, Halifax County is alive with the spirit of America’s 250th birthday. Click here to learn more.

You can begin your history lesson at the Historic Halifax Visitor’s Center. Their short video, Halifax: Hub of the Roanoke, offers a compelling look into the town’s prominence as a political and commercial center in the 1700s, thanks to its location on the Roanoke River.

From here, you can take a self-guided tour through eight restored buildings and a variety of exhibits managed by the Historic Halifax State Historic Site. During your walk around the site, stop to explore the 1790 Eagle Tavern and 1838 jail. You can also join a guided tour that offers exclusive behind-the-scenes access to protected antiques.

The Bradford-Denton House boasts original floors from the 18th century. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

The restoration of the Bradford-Denton House is a passion project for Dickens, who is on a mission to put the home back together precisely how it would have been when John Bradford lived there in the 1700s — no insulation, no plumbing, and no electricity. The home boasts original floors from the 1700s, three original mantels, and many doors are swinging on original HL hinges.

An 18th-century blacksmith shop and a working Revolutionary War-era kitchen are under construction behind the house. “We are recreating a home in Halifax where visitors can enjoy history with no ropes; nothing will be off limits,” Dickens says. “Families can explore, have fun, and learn about history.” Email history@bradforddenton.com to arrange a visit.

View replicas of the Halifax Resolves, Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution, and Bill of Rights at the courthouse as part of the Charters of Freedom monument.

 

Explore the Halifax Underground Railroad Trail, which features historic markers along the way. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

Discover Underground Railroad Designations

Formerly enslaved people on a quest for liberty found shelter along the banks of the Roanoke River, which winds through Halifax County. To follow in these freedom seekers’ footsteps, start your journey in Historic Halifax and walk along the trail that skirts the riverbank.

Along the way, historic markers share newspaper wanted ads that spotlight the freedom seekers’ stories.

Halifax, Weldon, and Roanoke Rapids are home to three stops on the Halifax Underground Railroad Trail. In Halifax, don’t miss “Seeking Liberty,” an exhibit at the visitor’s center that ties together the interconnected stories of the Halifax Resolves with that of the African Americans seeking freedom.

 

Try delicious and creative international cuisine at Two Doors Down. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

Stroll to Main Street for Lunch & Shopping

After visiting historic sites, head down the street to the heart of Halifax. King Street, which the locals call Main Street, is a quaint downtown area full of historic architecture.

Patterson Wilson, owner of The Hen & the Hog restaurant, loves to stroll from the river to the other side of town. “You’ll see a visual history of North Carolina architecture, 1700s to the present day,” she says. “In the spring, wisteria’s fragrant violet flowers are dripping from the trees, and daffodils and dogwoods bloom.”

Stop for lunch at Two Doors Down, and choose from a selection of paninis, pizzas, and chef specialties. “There’s always something different and delicious waiting,” Wilson says. “Chef Elena, who has traveled the world, brings creativity to all her meals — a bowl of curry or a plate of Thai food. You never know what to expect.”

Later, consider an afternoon pick-me-up (or a nightcap!) at The Trophy Room, where you’ll find games and a large selection of beers on tap.

Among the restored buildings that line King Street, duck into The Bass House, a multi-merchant shop with unique gifts, candles, jewelry, and local crafts. Next door, historic Halifax Studios brings local creators together in its gallery space highlighting the works of local artists. Plan ahead to take a watercolor class, learn to knit, or take a pottery class from one of the master potters.

 

Try the shrimp and grits at The Hen & The Hog. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

Enjoy a Farm-to-Table Dinner

The Hen & The Hog is a cozy gathering place. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

End your day at The Hen & the Hog, Wilson’s farm-to-table restaurant that highlights regional ingredients and recipes. “Dinner is the time that this historic building shines,” she says. “It looks almost magical.”

The menu changes seasonally but always showcases pimento cheese fritters and shrimp and grits. If it’s on the menu, be sure to try their house-made bourbon ice cream, made with local Weldon Mills bourbon.

Wilson created The Hen & the Hog as a warm and cozy destination where locals and visitors can gather to share a meal and bond over Halifax’s rich history. “I see us as a tourist destination for people who love history,” Patterson says. “A lot of people want to come here for our history, but there are others who will travel for a really great restaurant. I love that the two bring people together.”

This story was published on Feb 20, 2024

Lane Russell

Lane Russell is a writer based in Raleigh.