Laurie and I like riding our Gold Wing motorcycle. But it is easy to get into a rut and just ride the same roads. So to force ourselves to ride to places we would not normally visit we have a goal to visit and photograph all 100 North Carolina courthouses within 1 year. This blog is about one of those visits.
Many NC courthouses were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The nomination form has some interesting facts about the various courthouse styles over the years.
Wikipedia says the following about the courthouse:
The Chowan County Courthouse is a historic courthouse located at East King and Court Streets in Edenton, the county seat of Chowan County, North Carolina. Built in 1767, it is one of the finest examples of public Georgian architecture in the American South. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.
The old Chowan County Courthouse is located in downtown Edenton, at the northwest corner of East King and Court Streets. It is separated from the city waterfront by a one-block park. It is a two-story, "T"-shaped Georgian style building. It has a one-story semicircular apse at its center rear and features a two-stage wooden cupola with ogival roof surmounted by a tall-weathervane. The interior has a large courtroom on the ground floor, and a ballroom on the second. The building has seen only relatively modest alterations.
Edenton was settled in 1658 and incorporated in 1727, and is counted as the first permanent European settlement in North Carolina. Its first courthouse, built in 1719, was also the seat of the colonial assembly, and was located on the land of the park. This courthouse was built in 1767, and its design has been attributed to Gilbert Leigh, who was living in Edenton at the time of its construction. It has also been attributed to John Hawks, who was also active in North Carolina at the time.
The North Carolina History Project lists the following information for this county:
The first natives in the region were the Weapemeoc, and their central trading town, also called Weapemeoc, was located near the present site of Edenton. The Weapemeoc were a confederation of tribes (the Pasquotank, Perquimans, Poteskeet, and Yeopim) whose territory stretched across the southern edge of the Chesapeake Bay region to land north of the Albermarle Sound. Chief Okisco led the Weapemeoc, whose numbers had reached 1,500, during European settlement of the colonies in the 1600s. The Weapemeoc were eventually driven away by the surging amount of white settlers, and by 1679 only approximately 200 native Weapemeocs remained in present-day Edenton. Frequent battles with neighboring tribes, European diseases, and absorption into other cultures led to the demise of the Weapemeoc tribe.
Established in 1668 as the Shaftesbury Precinct of Albermarle County by incoming English settlers, the Chowan Precinct eventually formed in 1681, and it was named after the Chowan River. Both the river and the precinct were named in honor of the Chowanoac who lived in the area with the Weapemeoc before the mass of English settlers swarmed the area. The seat of government, Edenton (named in honor of Charles Eden, a royal governor of North Carolina), was originally known as the Town on Queen Anne’s Creek. It became known as Edenton after its incorporation in 1722. Edenton, a historic city linked to the colonial and revolutionary era, was the capital of the colony for over twenty years from 1722 to 1743, and it served as the site of the illustrious Edenton Tea Party.
The historical value of Chowan is evident through the structures and buildings that continue to stand in the county. Known by many architect connoisseurs as an “architectural treasure house,” Chowan County holds numerous structures that were constructed over 200 years ago. Most of these historic sites exhibit Georgian architecture, a popular style in colonial times that stressed simplistic symmetry.
The Chowan County Courthouse, the oldest courthouse in North Carolina, was constructed in the late 1760s. Joseph Hewes and Jacob Blount, both county assembly members, developed a plan to construct a new courthouse in Edenton in 1766. Throughout the Colonial and Revolutionary Era, the likes of Samuel Johnston, James Iredell, and other North Carolinian Patriots assembled in the Chowan County Courthouse to discuss independence from Great Britain. Although historians disagree over the building’s architect, the courthouse displays simplistic Georgian architecture: a vast rectangular outside frame of Flemish-bond brick, an English ballast stone floor, and whitewashed walls. The courthouse has gone through many renovations, and in October 2004, the site was opened for public use.
Harriet Jacobs, born as a slave girl in Edenton around the year 1813, wrote Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861) in which Jacobs detailed much of her childhood in Chowan County. After the death of her owner Margaret Horniblow in 1825, Harriet was taken in by Dr. James Norcom, who Harriet asserted beat her during the time she stayed in his household. Eventually Harriet was able to escape from Norcom, and she hid for seven years in a small attic at her grandmother’s, Molly Horniblow, house. After years separated from her children, Jacobs sailed to New York in 1842 to gain her freedom. She succeeded in 1852 and her children were reconciled to Jacobs when she lived in New York. Harriet would pen a memoir of her experiences as a slave, and the book, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, was published in 1861. Although some literary critics question the writing style and abolitionist tone throughout the memoir, the book remains a testament of a slave who lived in North Carolina and experienced a journey to freedom through difficult circumstances.
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You may be interested in the next article, Clay County Courthouse in Hayesville, North Carolina.
The previous article is Cherokee County Courthouse in Murphy, North Carolina.
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