Travel Back to the 1700s at the Historic Halifax State Historic Site

No trip to northeastern North Carolina is complete without a visit to the Birthplace of Independence at the Historic Halifax State Historic Site. Step back in time to April 12, 1776, when the Fourth Provincial Congress's adoption of the Halifax Resolves was the first official action for independence by any colony. And with 2026 marking the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Resolves, not to mention the Declaration of Independence, the state of North Carolina and the town of Halifax are planning a revolutionary celebration! 

North Carolina Cultural Resources will kick off the celebration in Halifax on April 12, 2024. Special tours, events and reenactments will be staged throughout the two years leading up to the grand celebration in July 2026 – so visiting during this special time offers a unique opportunity hundreds of years in the making. 

Interpreters shooting off cannon in field with trees in background
Reenactors at Historic Halifax State Historic Site

The Historic Halifax State Historic Site is based around a preserved portion of the once-bustling town of Halifax and offers an in-depth look into what life was like in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The visitors center offers an audiovisual presentation, exhibits and displays of the history of the town. Make this your first stop and take a guided tour to see how Halifax locals lived, worked and played. 

How They Lived 

Several houses depicting the lives of prominent locals are on display here. For example, see the residence of a prosperous Halifax merchant at the Owens House, plus where one of North Carolina's most distinguished and influential federal leaders lived at the William R. Davie House.  

Adjacent to the historic site is the Bradford-Denton House, once home to Col. Bradford, a delegate to the Fourth Provincial Congress where the Halifax Resolves were adopted. This restored 1760 home also has newly built replicas of a working kitchen and blacksmith's shop. In the 1700s, meals would have been prepared in a detached kitchen, and the blacksmith shop would have furnished metal objects and made repairs for the community.  

Other sites reflecting everyday life in Halifax include the magazine spring, a source of water for townspeople; the cemetery; Market Square, which served as the town park, pasture and marketplace; and the river outlook near an early ferry landing site.

How They Worked 

Examples of working life can be found here too. At the Sally-Billy House, explore the model of a tripartite house often produced by Halifax County planters in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Nearby, the Burgess Law Office invites you to visit the law office and townhouse of Thomas Burgess, an attorney and 19th-century Halifax politician. In the Clerk's Office, you can walk around a printer's office, complete with a working press. And the Montfort House, an archaeological exhibit over original foundations, portrays the lifestyle of this wealthy resident, the first and only Provincial Grand Master Mason of North America.

Antique printing press inside old clerk's office with demonstrator in background
The printer's press in the Clerk's Office

How They Played 

Don’t forget to see how the locals ate, drank and were merry. The Tap Room shows an example of a pub from the late 1700s when Halifax served as a river port, county seat, crossroads and social center. In its historical heyday, Halifax had more than a dozen pubs like these serving the town. The Eagle Tavern, now a museum displaying artifacts, was where travelers and provincial congress members would stay, and it later served as an overnight stop for the official traveling party during the Visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to the United States.  

Directly next to the Eagle Tavern is the Colonial Jail. Fun fact: It was designed to be fireproof in 1838 because its prisoners set the previous jail aflame.

Other Sites in Halifax 

The Historic Halifax State Historic Site also includes a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site designated by the US National Parks Service. This site is represented as a trail with markers that lead to the Roanoke River and tells the story of the "runaways" in the form of wanted ads. These ads ran in North Carolina papers in an attempt to recapture Freedom Seekers with a Halifax connection. As you walk toward the river, take the time to read the ads that bring the humanity of these Freedom Seekers to life. 

Continue your visit a couple of blocks away in the town of Halifax. If you enjoy farm-to-table dining, head to The Hen & The Hog, where locally sourced food and local flavors are the stars of the meals. The restaurant's founder, Glenn Patterson Wilson, was inspired by English pubs and wanted the space to reflect local history and tradition. The Hen & The Hog serves lunch Tuesday through Friday, a casual dinner menu Thursdays, and a fine dining menu Friday and Saturday evenings. The ambience is stylishly casual, and reservations are recommended.

As Halifax continues to grow, check out its cool new offerings that range from a multipurpose space hosting local creators (Halifax Studios) and a merchant shop (Bass House) to a bottle shop café (Two Doors Down) and a pub with a “wild” atmosphere (The Trophy Room). 

People sitting at bar enjoying drinks with smiling bartender exposed brick behind bar
The Trophy Room

This article was produced in partnership with, and all photos are courtesy of, Halifax County CVB.

Updated September 28, 2023
Top of Page