B.C.Forbes once said,
“History has demonstrated that the most notable winners usually encountered heartbreaking obstacles before they triumphed. They won because they refused to become discouraged by their defeats.”
Washington, NC is historically no stranger to defeat, but is also more familiar with triumphs.
Washington is rich with history. Many different kinds of history. “A storied and varied history,” Leesa Jones points out. Jones is the founder of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum. Among the types of history that belong to Washington: African-American, Architectural, Revolutionary war, Civil war, maritime, agricultural, cinema and theatrical, and religious history, just to name a few.
Speaking of religious history, Beebe Memorial CME Church on Respess Street was the very first Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in NC, founded by Dr. Joseph Beebe. Many deep-rooted churches call Washington home, including Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church (circa 1867), and the First United Methodist Church, the town’s oldest congregation, (1775-76) with the building dedicated in 1899.
Architecturally, Washington contains an abundance of striking structures. Although the town has been burned twice in the past, it is still home to buildings like the Hyatt House (constructed by English sea Captain Lockwood Hyatt) dating back as far as 1785. Washington has a self-paced, historic walking tour that rivals any on the Eastern seaboard. (Historic walking tour books are available for $2 a copy at the Washington Visitor Center located at 102 Stewart Parkway. Call 252-946-9168 for hours.)
Situated on the Pamlico River, Washington boasts a copious maritime history as well. Being prominently placed on the water, the town was protected diligently during the Revolutionary war. Having been a major port, “raw materials were shipped globally from here, such as tar, pitch, turpentine, lumber, and agricultural goods,” says local historian Blount Rumley. This makes Washington’s waterfront a ‘historical gem.’ The Historic Port of Washington project has an exhibit inside the Harbor District Market on Main Street. “There is much to be discovered here.” Rumley states. The waterfront here avows more waterfront access than any other community in the state of North Carolina. Indeed, Beaufort County has been tagged the ‘Waterfront Capital of NC.’
Also a part of transportation history is the Washington Civic Center, built in 1904 and formerly the Atlantic Coastline Freight Depot station. Civic Center Events Coordinator ReAnne Mayo explains, “We are one of the few Atlantic Coastline Depot’s that are functioning as a community event venue. For the last 40 years the WCC has been a community cornerstone hosting weddings, business retreats, and fundraisers.” A true ‘past meets present, and welcomes future scenario.
Washington also prides itself on an opulence of theatrical history. The Historic Turnage Theatre is a restored vaudeville theatre on Main Street. Originally built in 1913, the Vaudeville Theatre was a popular entertainment venue. During the 1920’s, silent movies were shown. When ‘talkies’ became popular around 1927, the advent of the car and subsequent traffic hindered audiences hearing the movies, so a palace theatre was built to help with the sound problem. So, two theatres actually exist within the same building. Today, the Turnage is a working, vibrant theatre that hosts plays, concerts, movies, and many other events. (Tours, tickets, and more information can be obtained by calling 252-946-2504.)
Many people have historical roots in Washington who may or may not have even been here. That’s where the Brown Library comes into play. Brown is a local media center that has an incredibly inclusive history room. Everything from genealogical research to town history can be found in the history room. Library historian Claudia Dahlen says that the room is a perfect place for people to start their research for their genealogical or Washington history journey.
(Brown Library hosts educational lectures ‘A Bite of History’ each month. Call 252-946-4300 for schedule and library hours.)
If your jam is haunted history, Washington has you covered, too. Ghost story aficionado and local historian Terry Rollins recommends the Historic Ghost Walk, guided haunted walks scheduled April-October each year. The tours consist of around a dozen locations. Rollins says a second tour is being considered because of all of the spectral locations in Washington. “The town is one of the most haunted in the state because of its past.”
The town is a utopia of antiquity. If you love history, or if you are just curious about Washington, you can experience it here.
Come to Washington and let it educate, transport, and inspire you.
“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” –Marcus Garvey