North Carolina's Historic Homes

Reynolda House Museum of American ArtNorth Carolina's Historic Homes

Reynolda House in Winston-Salem

North Carolina has a host of historic homes listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can visit America’s largest home, an English-style estate, the mansion where our governor lives, a plantation that was active for 80 years, the “palace” that served as the state’s first permanent capitol and other inspiring homes.

Allison-Deaver House
The Allison-Deaver House, known as the oldest standing frame house in Western North Carolina, was never altered with modern conveniences like electric wiring, indoor plumbing, heating, insulation or closets. Now it’s a house-restoration museum open to summertime visitors, with working fireplaces and original paneling, surviving early paint finishes, hardware, intact original molding and trim, and a barn collection of early farm tools.

The six-year construction of Biltmore, home of 19th-century industrialist George Washington Vanderbilt, was completed in 1895. Its gardens were created by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York’s Central Park. Today you can explore Vanderbilt’s opulent 250-room French Renaissance chateau, ornately decorated with priceless antiques, conversation pieces such as Napoleon’s chess set, and artworks by Renoir and other masters, as well as its manicured gardens. Visiting this “largest home in America” can include seeing The Biltmore Legacy exhibition, going to the Outdoor Adventure Center, or enjoying activities and entertainment at Antler Hill Village & Winery.

Executive Mansion
Praised by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for having the most beautiful interior of any governor’s residence in America, North Carolina’s Executive Mansion is also known for being built by people who were serving time in prison. Colonel William J. Hicks, warden of the state penitentiary at the time, supervised the eight-year construction project using prison labor and native products such as clay, sandstone and timber. Prisoners’ names can still be found etched in the brick and sandstone.

Reynolda House
Tobacco tycoon R.J. Reynolds and his wife Katharine envisioned their agriculturally advanced Reynolds Farm as a self-sufficient community that served as a teaching facility for local farmers. It became a 1,067-acre estate encompassing a grand house with a four-story main section and residential pipe organ, villages, churches, formal gardens, a post office, smoke house, power plant, greenhouse, dairy and golf course. Today, officially named Reynolda House Museum of American Art, it is a showplace for portraits and landscapes by artists such as Georgia O’Keefe and Stuart Davis, as well as fashion and decorative arts.

Smith-McDowell House Museum
Known as Asheville’s first mansion, The Smith-McDowell House was built by wealthy businessman James McConnell Smith in 1840 and later landscaped by the Olmstead Brothers. It also served as home to mayors, a Civil War major, and friends of the Vanderbilts. In addition to touring the three-level English-style mansion and its gardens, you can see exhibits and take part in a variety of educational programs throughout the year.

Somerset Place
An active plantation near Edenton from 1785-1865, Somerset may once have encompassed 100,000 acres. It was eventually home to some 300 enslaved African-Americans, which made it a large plantation by North Carolina’s more modest standards. When you visit, you’ll see 31 of the original lakeside acres and seven original 19th-century buildings. You can take an interpretive tour that chronicles the lifestyles of plantation residents into one concise social history.

Tryon Palace
New Bern
Completed in 1770 for Royal Governor William Tryon and his family, Tryon Palace served as the first permanent capitol of North Carolina. Described as the grandest public building in all of the colonies, it became a controversial issue when “back country” residents listed its cost as one of the grievances in the 1764 rebellion of the “Regulators." You can join Tryon Palace’s long history of distinguished visitors, such as President George Washington, as you walk around more than 20 historical buildings and 14 acres of period gardens, watch living history programs, and enjoy craft and domestic skill demonstrations. You can also take time to see other historic buildings and visit the History Education Center on the Trent River.

Malia Kline

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