Tourism for Elizabeth City, NC
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“Tar Heels in the Trenches” Elizabeth City’s WWI Exhibit »

“Tar Heels in the Trenches” Elizabeth City’s WWI Exhibit
The Museum of the Albemarle will be recognizing the 100th anniversary of America’s formal entrance into World War I with their exhibit, Tar Heels in the Trenches: The Albemarle and the Great War. When visiting the exhibit you will learn about the experiences of five North Carolinians who lived through the traumatic time of WWI. From left to right: Lieutenant Buxton White of Pasquotank County, Courtesy of the NC State Archives.  Private Joseph Bonner of Martin County, Courtesy of the NC State Archives.  Private John Richard Jordan of Hertford County, Courtesy of Ellen Jordan McCarren. Did you know that there was a submarine war along the North Carolina coast during World War I?  Experience interactive displays that feature period music and the U-boat war that took place off the shores of the Outer Banks.  View artifacts that have been retrieved from ships sunk by U-boats, which include the Diamond Shoal lightship.   You will also be able to see a large model of the lightship built for the Columbian Exposition in 1893. African-American draftees from Hyde County headed to military training.  Courtesy of the NC State Archives The exhibit runs through December 2018. To learn more about Museum of the Albemarle and other exhibits, click here.    ... READ MORE »

Soybean Oil Made in Elizabeth City »

Soybean Oil Made in Elizabeth City
These hairy, chubby little pods have come a long way since first arriving in America.  Whether you like them straight out of the field before they’ve turned brown, as tofu, edamame or in oil form, this versatile green bean has climbed in popularity. On December 13, 1915, the Elizabeth City Oil and Fertilizer Company, once located at the juncture of Ehringhaus and McMorrine Streets,  re-purposed equipment to generate the nation’s first commercially-processed soybean oil. The modified machine was originally designed to produce cottonseed oil and cotton by-products. Originally from China, soybeans first came to America as ballast in sailing ships. Around 1870, farmers in northeastern North Carolina began growing them as livestock food and fertilizer. After boll weevils—a type of beetle—infested the South’s cotton crops in the early 1900s, an increasing number of Tar Heel farmers turned to soybean production. By 1915, the state had become the nation’s top soybean producer. World War I sparked an interest in soybean oil for industrial products and, with cottonseed mills looking for ways to stay in business, soybean processing seemed to be a sensible solution. After the experiment in Elizabeth City proved successful, other cottonseed mills in North Carolina also began crushing soybeans. Today, North Carolina ranks 17th nationally in soybean production. Protein-rich soybeans have a multitude of uses. They are processed and used in both human and livestock food as nutritional enhancements. And soybean oil, while also found in foods, is an important ingredient in industrial products such as plastics, lubricants and biofuels. Original story credit – NC Culture and WFMY News 2 Digital, WFMY 10:21 AM. EST December 13, 2016 If you’d like to learn more about the history and production of soybeans, bring your lunch and join the History for Lunch event at Museum of the Albemarle on February 1, 2017 from 12:15 pm – 1:00pm. Liza Franco is a blogger and photographer, linking stories with photos to give the reader a complete vision. Her work includes, lifestyle, commercial, fine art, portraiture photography and photo restoration. See more of her work at Liza Franco Photography & Graphic... READ MORE »

Wright Brothers Ties with Elizabeth City »

Wright Brothers Ties with Elizabeth City
Wilbur and Orville Wright made many trips into Elizabeth City in their quest to make their dream of taking flight become reality.  In 1900, Wilbur Wright traveled from Dayton, Ohio by train and steamer as he made his way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The last train Wilbur boarded was the Norfolk-Southern into the Elizabeth City train depot which was located at 715 North Poindexter Street and is now the location of Mid-Atlantic Christian University.   In 1900, Elizabeth City was the end of the Norfolk-Southern rail head train line.  Elizabeth City served as the gateway into North Carolina and was the only urban center of action at that time. Finally arriving in Elizabeth City, Wilbur checked into the Arlington Hotel on Water Street.  Today this site is a residential apartment building.  Wilbur Wright spent several days at the Arlington Hotel while trying to procure a boat to carry him, and his supplies to Kitty Hawk.  After a period of four days, Wilbur made contact with Israel Perry at Mariners’ Wharf on Water Street, finally managing to secure his passage across the Albemarle Sound aboard Perry’s schooner, “Curlique”.  The “Curlique” with Israel Perry at the helm and Wilbur and his provisions on-board, departed the Elizabeth City Harbor on September 11, 1900.  It took three days to arrive in Kitty Hawk.  Wilbur later remarked that his three-day journey on-board the “Curlique” was a harrowing trip.  Wilbur wrote in his journal from Saturday, September 8 – Tuesday, September 11, 1900: “I engaged passage with Israel Perry on his flat-bottom schooner fishing boat. As it was anchored about three miles down the river we started in his skiff which was loaded almost to the gunwale with three men, my heavy trunk and lumber. The boat leaked very badly and frequently dipped water, but by constant bailing we managed to reach the schooner in safety. The weather was very fine with a light west wind blowing. When I mounted the deck of the larger boat I discovered at a glance that it was in worse condition if possible than the skiff. The sails were rotten, the ropes badly worn and the rudderpost half rotted off, and the cabin so dirty and vermin-infested that I kept out of it from first to last. The wind became very light making progress slow. Though we had started immediately after dinner it was almost dark when we passed out of the mouth of the Pasquotank and headed down the sound. The water was much rougher than the light wind would have led us to expect, and Israel spoke of it several times and seemed a little uneasy. After a time the breeze shifted to the south and east and gradually became stronger. The boat was quite unfitted for sailing against a head wind owing to the large size of the cabin, the lack of load, and its flat bottom. The waves which were now running quite high struck the boat from below with a heavy shock and threw it back about as fast as it went forward. The leeway was greater than the headway. The strain of rolling and pitching sprung a leak and this, together with what water came over the bow at times, made it necessary to bail frequently. At 11 o’clock the wind had increased to a gale and the boat was gradually being driven nearer and nearer the north shore, but as an attempt to turn round would probably have resulted in an upset there seemed nothing else to do but attempt to round the North River light and take refuge behind the point. In a severe gust the foresail was blown loose from the boom and fluttered to leeward with a terrible roar. The boy and I finally succeeded in taking it in though it was rather dangerous work in the dark with the boat rolling so badly. By the time we reached a position even with the end of the point it became doubtful whether we would be able to round the light, which lay at the end of the bar extended out a quarter of a mile from the shore. The suspense was ended by another roaring of the canvas as the mainsail also tore loose from the boom; and shook fiercely in the gale. The only chance was to make a straight run over the bar under nothing but a jib, so we took in the mainsail and let the boat swing round stern to the wind. This was a very dangerous maneuver in such a sea but was in some way accomplished without capsizing. The waves were very high on the bar and broke over the stern very badly. Israel had been so long a stranger to the touch of water upon his skin that it affected him very much.” (Marvin W. McFarland, “The Papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright” (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1953) (Papers, pg. 24-25) Wilbur finally arrived on the Outer Banks in the fishing village of Kitty Hawk on the morning of September 13th.  Orville Wright, Wilbur’s brother, joined him in Kitty Hawk 11 days later. According to the Wright Brothers, the steady winds and remote location were the biggest reasons that they chose Kitty Hawk to conduct their flying experiments. Later that Fall, the Wright brothers set up camp in the sand just south of Kitty Hawk and spent the next three years testing their gliders, and refining their initial hypotheses on the sand dunes of Kill Devil Hills. During this time, The Wright Brothers traveled back and forth between Ohio, stopping in Elizabeth City each trip, on their way back to the Outer Banks, as their flight experiments continued. The supplies and materials purchased over the next few years in Elizabeth City included a barrel of oil from the N.G. Grandy Company on Water Street, which was the first delivery point for Standard Oil Company in this area. The brothers  patronized the Kramer Mill Company at 306 North Road Street to purchase lumber and materials for their experiments, this general location is now where the old Elizabeth City Middle School still stands. On East Main Street the first stories of the Wright Brothers’ work and flying machine experiments were reported from the offices of the “North Carolinian” newspaper building.  In 1902, the “Tar Heel”, a local newspaper located on Water Street, right next to the Singer Sewing store, printed the first article that mentioned the Wright brothers by name. For the first three years, the brothers’ trials and tests consisted of flying gliders with local men assisting by running along on each of their flying machine to keep the wings level.  As they sprinted down Big Kill Devil Hill, eventually a speed which they would gain lift into the air was reached, and their flying apparatus would take flight.  At long last, on December 17, 1903, after years of refining, their perfected plane design and modified motor found success and achieved powered flight!  Elizabeth City even has ties to the announcement of the Wright brothers’ success.  After their successful heavier-than-air flight on December 17, 1903, the “Daily Economist”, another resident newspaper interviewed the Wright brothers at the Arlington Hotel and provided the... READ MORE »

Reviving the Much Debated Query – How did Elizabeth City Get Its Name? »

Reviving the Much Debated Query – How did Elizabeth City Get Its Name?
There has always been dispute amongst the residents of Elizabeth City with regard to how Elizabeth City was named.  Was Queen Elizabeth I of England or Mrs. Betsy Tooley the namesake? In the company of some Elizabeth City locals, even insinuating Betsy Tooley was the proprietress and barmaid of a local tavern located on Water Street – with propensities for Rum from the Caribbean Island Territories and thirsty sailors, can be cause for eyebrow raising – further uttering that folklore also alleges that Betsy Tooley ran a brothel is means for complete ostracization. The aforementioned faction of locals will insist that Betsy Tooley was a lady proper and that she not only owned the tavern but also owned the town they named after her as well.  They may begrudgingly concede that on occasion, she may have served intoxicating spirits at her saloon, however, they attribute this to the fact that she was a zealous woman who enjoyed seeing folks having a good time during the era when the thriving harbor of Elizabeth City served primarily as the Gateway to the Albemarle – where ships arrived regularly, transporting laths for the manufacture of barrels and shingles. According to local lore:  Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor Relfe Tooley, for whom the waterfront town was ostensibly named, was born to William and Mary Nash Taylor.  According to county marriage records, at age sixteen, in April of 1772, Elizabeth “Betsy” married, Nathan Relfe.  Relfe was purportedly a successful planter reared in the Flatty Creek section of Pasquotank County.  Betsy was widowed not even a year into her marriage, leaving her a very well-to-do, young widow.  Upon Relfe’s untimely demise, Betsy was bequeathed with several lucrative possessions such as:  One-half ownership in a sizable schooner already established in West India trade; several thousand feet of finished wedge-shaped planks of construction timber; a 206-acre plantation on Knobb’s Creek, 20 casks of molasses, numerous barrels of sugar, and several pounds of coffee, all of which were revered commodities, and enormously valuable.  Perhaps because of her newly acquired affluence, Betsy had no trouble marrying for the second time.  Betsy married Adam Tooley, a farmer from Princess Anne County in Virginia. Together, Betsy and Adam ran Betsy Tooley’s Tavern which was situated on the waterfront at the horse-shoe bend in the Pasquotank River and the adjacent village was called Betsy’s Town. According to Pasquotank County court records, very soon after her marriage to Adam Tooley, a grievance was recorded by a Mr. Enoch Relfe accusing Betsy and Adam of wasting her first husband’s fortune by “riotous living”.  In next to no time thereafter, Betsy Tooley sold the site of the tavern and the surrounding 55 acres of land to the first city founders.  The land was apportioned into acres and sold to sailors and farmers from the Caribbean who were attracted to the fertile soil and obliging climate in Betsy’s town.  When the town was incorporated in 1793, it was initially named “Reding”, after a prominent farming family.  Less than a year later, it was re-titled “Elizabeth Town”, however, due to confusion with proximate communities with the same name, in 1801, it was renamed “Elizabeth City”. The query of who Elizabeth City was named after has never been factually answered.  Aside from the few remaining court records, there are no other facts supporting the Betsy Tooley namesake theory.  In all probability the name came from Queen Elizabeth I of England or the Elizabeth River…. but the Betsy Tooley folktale is more amusing to convey.    If you are a history lover and would like to know more fun facts about the area, please visit our Museum of the Albemarle.  Explore the exhibits and enjoy the audio tour. Special thanks to Rick and Kirsten Durren, owners of The Sandwich Market for allowing us to share a photo of their sign.   Barbara Putnam is originally from Syracuse, NY, she now lives and works in Downtown Elizabeth City and her hobbies include freelance writing and amateur photography.  She shares community information, downtown activities and stories about local folks, as well as her unconventional photo pictorials – that connect the constant barrage of song lyrics playing in her head, to images she captures while out in about walking her dog, Xena, each day in Downtown Elizabeth City on her Facebook page.   Liza Franco is a blogger and photographer, linking stories with photos to give the reader a complete vision. Her work includes, lifestyle, commercial, fine art, portraiture photography and photo restoration. See more of her work at Liza Franco Photography & Graphic Design.  ... READ MORE »

Hiding in Plain Sight in Elizabeth City: The Grave Sites of Revolutionary War Veterans »

Hiding in Plain Sight in Elizabeth City: The Grave Sites of Revolutionary War Veterans
If you’re planning a trip to Elizabeth City, you’ll want to schedule an activity by one of the town’s best assets, the Pasquotank River—with lunch or dinner at a downtown restaurant that allows a spectacular view of it or by grabbing a front row seat on a bench in one of its three adjacent parks. And located a short distance from the banks of the river is a hidden gem that’s steeped in American history. Tucked behind Museum of the Albemarle and within the gates of the Episcopal Cemetery (520 Ehringhaus St., entrance on Shepard St.) are the tombstones of Selby and Jonathan Harney. Brothers who served in the Revolutionary War as a colonel and lieutenant, respectively, the Harneys were originally from Delaware. Selby fought in the Philadelphia Campaign and the Siege of Charleston and post-war, served in the North Carolina legislature. He and his wife, Luranah, made their home in Camden County and he died in 1799. Jonathan enlisted in Colonel Haslet’s 1st Delaware Regiment which was also known as the Blue Hen’s Chickens. He was wounded in the Battle of Long Island and was captured and imprisoned by the British. After Jonathan was released by his captors, he was granted a leave of absence from the army by General George Washington. Due to permanent injuries he sustained, he was in poor health for the remainder of his life and died in 1784. Learn more about our history by reading our historic markers around the downtown area or visiting Museum of the Albemarle. For additional information about the Episcopal Cemetery, you can download the Elizabeth City Historic Walking Tour Main Street Commercial District brochure and look for location #57.   To explore some of the fabulous restaurant options, enjoy our Downtown EC Eateries album on Facebook.     Simone Cooper is a publicist and branding specialist who is also a mid-century modern fanatic. When she’s not assisting clients with messaging, you can find her hunting for furniture and housewares from the 1960s.     Liza Franco captures the moments of life that will one day be someone’s memories and links for generations to come.  Her work includes, lifestyle, commercial, fine art and portrait photography.  ... READ MORE »

Everything You Need to Know About Ghost Walk in Elizabeth City »

Everything You Need to Know About Ghost Walk in Elizabeth City
It’s time, once again, for your annual dose of Elizabeth City, North Carolina history! The Elizabeth City Historic Neighborhood Association presents its 20th annual Historic Ghost Walk, October 14 and 15 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. For those of you who can’t attend the full ghost walk, a preview of the show and reception will be held on October 13 starting at 7:00 p.m. (reception) / 7:30 p.m. (show) at the Arts of the Albemarle; tickets are $5 at the door. This year’s combination house tour, history lesson, and live theater is a ghostly reunion of star characters from past walks. The ghosts’ performances will appear at eight different sites around the Elizabeth City downtown area, including a Vaudeville musical at the Arts of the Albemarle. Local otherworldly residents you will meet include: The beautiful 19-year-old Ella Cropsey, otherwise known as “Nell,” who is at the center of Elizabeth City’s most famous unsolved murder. On the night of November 20, 1901, Nell disappeared from her home and was found floating in the Pasquotank River thirty-seven days later. Some say her uneasy spirit still haunts her home. Moses Grandy, 1800s African-American author and slave turned abolitionist. Moses helped build the Great Dismal Swamp Canal and used that knowledge to become commander of several boats. This knowledge allowed him to earn enough money to buy his freedom not once but three times – having been cheated of it twice by his master. Before they taught the world to fly at Kitty Hawk, Wilbur and Orville Wright visited Elizabeth City, often purchasing supplies for their trips. Meet the brothers and Captain Israel Perry, who gave the famous passengers a ride on his fishing boat, Curlicue. Luther “Wimpy” Lassiter, international billiards champion and lifelong Elizabeth City resident. Lassiter is most well-known for his wizardry in the game of nine-ball at which he is widely considered one of the greatest players in history. Otherworldly visitors making appearances are Robert Frost, the famous American poet, and Tamsen Donner, who perished in the Sierra Nevada Mountains Donner tragedy. If you want to see all eight ghostly performances around the downtown area, it will take approximately two to three hours.  Spend the night in one of our hotels, motels or B&Bs, your Ghost Walk ticket is good for both nights!  Complimentary transportation is available for those who do not wish to walk from site to site. Ghost Walk Headquarters are located at the Arts of the Albemarle, 516 E. Main Street, where you can purchase tickets, as well as Ghost Walk souvenirs, 252-338-6455. Tickets are $12; $10 with military ID. Ghost Walk is the main fundraiser for the Elizabeth City Historic Neighborhood Association. All proceeds go toward historic preservation. While you are here, be sure to take one of our self-guided historic district tours. Guide books are available at the Visitors Center and Arts of the Albemarle.... READ MORE »

Elizabeth City’s NC Potato Festival History »

Elizabeth City’s NC Potato Festival History
Elizabeth City’s largest event, the North Carolina Potato Festival, is almost here. But did you know this three-day, finger-licking, ride-rollicking, music-loving tribute to the Albemarle area’s potato farmers started on a scale as small as a potato sprout? According to the book Legendary Locals of Elizabeth City, by Margie Berry, the Albemarle Potato Festival was first held in 1940 with a festival parade along Main Street and a beauty pageant that drew women from the 11-county area with hopes to wear the Potato Queen crown. The festival enjoyed a long run, continuing through the 1960s, but by 1970 it had played itself out. In 2008, the festival made a dramatic comeback when N.C. General Assembly passed legislation designating the event the North Carolina Potato Festival—— and it’s been held every year since. For this year’s event, May 20-22, festival organizers have embraced an outdoor theme in celebration of the 100th anniversary of North Carolina’s state parks. In addition to park-focused exhibits, festival-goers will nibble on home-cooked fries, cheer on the “Mister and Miss Tater Tot” contestants and eat their way through the mashed potato-eating contest. Mark your calendars and bring your appetite! It will soon be all things potato—— all weekend long in Elizabeth City.... READ MORE »

Elizabeth City State University’s 125th Anniversary Exhibit »

Elizabeth City State University’s 125th Anniversary Exhibit
For an inside look at one of America’s top-ranked  Historically Black College and Universities, plan now to experience ECSU: A Legacy of Excellence and Resilience, opening May 7 at the Museum of the Albemarle. In celebration of the 125th anniversary of Elizabeth City State University, the exhibit follows a chronological path of the school’s successes and struggles. Visitors will “meet” Hugh Cale, the legislator who introduced the bill to establish the school; travel both the high and low roads as the University and its students endured, embraced and made history through the years; honor the marches for freedom and equal rights through the decades of segregation; and see the paths alumni walked to pave the route for future generations. Featuring school yearbooks, diplomas, student textbooks, gradebooks, athletic uniforms and more, the exhibit pays homage to the roots and fruition of over a century of history. Admission to the museum is free, and the exhibit will be open through February 2017. Check the museum website for hours and more... READ MORE »

History of Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program »

History of Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program
We were so glad to learn that Elizabeth City resident, historian and retired educator Wanda McLean has received a special Coast Host award for her efforts to obtain federal designations that mark six northeastern North Carolina sites as part of the National Park Service’s (NPS) Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. The award is presented annually to an individual who has benefited tourism, but is not directly employed in the industry. If you have met, or know, Wanda, it’s easy to understand why the honor is so well deserved. Her drive, determination and hours of volunteer work were instrumental in our region obtaining six of North Carolina’s 15 designated Network to Freedom sites. Today, visitors who explore these landmarks – including one here at Waterfront Park in Elizabeth City – have a deeper understanding of the lives of these African American freedom seekers. We caught up with Wanda to ask her a few questions about her involvement with this program, how she developed an interest in history and what she’s researching now. What is the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program?  The Network to Freedom program integrates on a national level historical places, museums and interactive programs associated with the Underground Railroad. Communities are invited to submit applications to the NPS for designation consideration, and the ones that are selected have markers on their sites that, collectively, make up a national network of Underground Railroad sites. How is it that you became involved?  When I moved to Elizabeth City in 1978, I was just surrounded by the history of the Underground Railroad. I became very curious about the Great Dismal Swamp and began reading and researching as much as I could. Years later, I found out that the NPS developed a program specifically for the research of the Underground Railroad. I met with officials in Manteo, and that’s how I got started. Which sites did you research and assist in writing the applications?  The Pasquotank River, Great Dismal Swamp, Old Town Halifax, Washington, N.C. Waterfront, and the Roanoke and Neuse Rivers.   When did you first become interested in this chapter of American history?  I believe my interest in history was kind of natural. Growing up in Atlanta during the Civil Rights movement, I had a front row seat to many historic events as they were happening. My great-grandmother was a former slave (Mary Arnold Parks, see above with Wanda as an infant), and my great-grandfather was the principal of the Fort Valley Industrial School, supported by the philanthropist Julius Rosenwald who built thousands of schools for African American children across the rural South. When I was eight years old, I moved with my mother to Detroit, which was rich with African American history. I went to Girl Scout meetings at Second Baptist Church, one of the last stops on the Underground Railroad. And from our house in Lafayette Park, I could see the William Webb House that was once a meeting place for John Brown and Frederick Douglas. What brought you to Elizabeth City?  After earning my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, I was working as a student recruiter at Hampton University in Virginia when I was offered at job teaching the incoming freshman “college survival” class at Elizabeth City State University. I continued to live in Hampton and commuted at first. I would go down Route 17, driving by the Dismal Swamp Canal. I was intrigued that the swamp was actually a refuge for a lot of runaway slaves and hundreds of them lived there for years. What are you working on presently?  Right now, I’m working with a non-profit group, the Northeastern North Carolina Underground Railroad Foundation, to encourage others to preserve the freedom seekers’ stories. What was the most surprising thing that you learned from your research of the Underground Railroad?  Probably about how the waterways and how slaves actually manned a lot of the vessels that were used for commerce in North Carolina – and they were very highly trained. They worked on these boats loading and unloading, and then I discovered they were instrumental in building and caulking the boats. There is now evidence that a lot of these vessels were manned 100 percent by slaves and not supervised by white owners. Why is preserving and interpreting this chapter in American history so important to you? The stories of these freedom seekers are part of American history, and I think it’s so important for young children, especially of African descent, to really understand why they fled,” said McLean. “It’s just inborn to be... READ MORE »

Permission to Come Aboard? Yes! Tour the Elizabeth II this Weekend »

Permission to Come Aboard? Yes! Tour the Elizabeth II this Weekend
On the Elizabeth City waterfront, I spy something brown, red, white, blue and reminiscent of a seafaring era gone by. Do you see it too? The Elizabeth II, a 16th-century representative ship, sails into Elizabeth City today, with school and public tours planned through the weekend at Waterfront Park. First launched in 1984 in Manteo, N.C., to celebrate America’s 400th anniversary, the Elizabeth II is representative of ships that brought English explorers and colonists to America in the Elizabethan era. On board you can get a glimpse of life above and below deck, relayed by costumed re-enactors spinning centuries-old tales. Powered by three sails and adorned with red, white and blue accents, the wooden ship is a sight to behold whether it’s underway or docked, as it will be this weekend in Elizabeth City. Pasquotank County fourth graders will tour the ship on Friday, Oct. 23. Then on Saturday, Oct. 24, the vessel will be open to the public for free tours from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. daily. The voyage is sponsored by the Friends of Elizabeth II, a 501c3 non-profit organization supporting history, education and arts programs, with support from the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and the City of Elizabeth City. So come to Elizabeth City, make your way to our beautiful waterfront and step back in time with a tour of the Elizabeth II. But don’t delay! Catch her while you can. The ship will begin her return to Roanoke Island Festival Park, it’s home port, in Manteo on Sunday, Oct.... READ MORE »