Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Day at the Palace

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What?  You didn't know there was a palace in North Carolina?  Well, lots of hidden surprises await you here.  Tryon Palace is just one of our many state gems.  The term palace was the standard term used to describe a public or government building.  Unlike a mansion or an estate, Tryon Palace was built as a residence and central government building for the Royal Governor of the North Carolina Province by Governor William Tryon.  Governor Tryon served as the Provincial Governor of the province from 1765 to 1771.  He designed the building in typical colonial style, and the North Carolina legislature authorized the use of 5,000 pounds for the construction project, but Governor Tryon convinced them to increase taxes to pay for the building at a cost of 10,000 pounds.  Do you think this made the people happy?  Of course not.  Governor Tryon moved into his opulent palace in 1770, and the citizens revolted in the War of Regulation culminating in the Battle of Alamance on May 16, 1771.  Although North Carolina's citizens did not win this war, their rebellion was just the beginning of what would become the American Revolutionary War.  After the Battle of Alamance, Governor Tryon was "rewarded" with a promotion to become the Governor of the New York Province on June 30, 1771.  How funny that I write this post just one day after the 244th anniversary of Governor Tryon's leaving the state and the building that he built.  So Governor Tryon had only lived in his royal palace for a little over a year.  Governor Josiah Martin followed Governor Tryon as the new Provincial Governor, but he fled the palace in May 1775 when the American Revolution commenced. The palace was seized by the Patriots to become North Carolina's first state capitol building.  The Patriots auctioned off many of Tryon's furnishings.  Richard Caswell, Abner Nash, Alexander Martin, and Richard Dobbs Spaight all lived in the palace as governors of the state.  Sadly, the original palace structure would have a short life.  After the state capital moved to Raleigh in 1792, the building was used as a school, a boarding house, and a Masonic lodge until it was destroyed by a fire that started in the cellar.  The only structure that survived the fire and still stands today is the stable office.  However, in the 1930s, a movement began to restore much of Colonial New Bern.  The original plans for the palace were discovered, and Mrs. James Edwin Latham led the way to reconstructing the palace on its exact original foundations which still existed.  I guess I am technically kind of her namesake because my husband's name is also James Edwin so I too am Mrs. James Edwin.  I just thought that was funny.  The work of preserving and restoring Colonial New Bern was pretty extensive, including moving 50 or more buildings, rerouting a major highway, and building a new bridge over the Trent River.  Although photographs cannot be taken of the inside of the palace, I can attest to the careful work that was done to preserve everything from its original colonial plans.  They even invested much care and money to furnishing the house with exact period furnishings matching the descriptions in Governor Tryon's own written records, including almost all of his original library publications.  It is pretty amazing!

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Evan took our picture in front of the house.  It is nice to have a child who is now old enough to operate the camera semi-professionally so that I can be in some pictures.  

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Of course, as a provincial governmental building, it would have to be defended.  Evan loves any chance to play with large guns and artillery.  Ha! 

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The boys and I enjoyed exploring the gardens and grounds on this very hot June day. At least most of the grounds were shaded. 
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The gardens are a treasure in and of themselves. 

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I am not a great horticulturalist or botanist, but I do enjoy some pretty and colorful flowers. 

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The boys just enjoyed cooling off running through the sprinklers that were watering the gardens. 

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The boys did enjoy exploring together.  The tunnel in the right side pictures is one of the most popular features of the garden.  You can imagine this is a popular site for weddings in the area.  I might also mention that if you are a Nicholas Sparks fan, you may have heard of many of New Bern's attractions like this one.  He and his now ex-wife have made New Bern their home for many years and are very active in the community.  They built a beautiful large house on the river several years ago which I think is in his wife's possession.  Tryon Palace was the site of the wedding in his novel, The Wedding.  New Bern was also the setting for A Walk to Remember, A Bend in the Road, and The Notebook.  Stay tuned because we will visit some more Nicholas Sparks' treasures soon. 

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I love the beautifully sculptured Italian/Greek style gardens with their neatly manicured shrub mazes and statuary.  Watching the boys run through the mazes just reminded me of my childhood imagination of getting lost and exploring in such a place. 

The North Carolina History Center

The adjacent museum to the palace was added by the state in recent years as part of the commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the town.  It features an interactive exhibit where you are "magically" transported back in time to a river village in North Carolina's Central Coastal Region in 1835.  The boys were able to sail a ship, distill turpentine and produce naval stores, piece an electronic quilt, and help the shopkeeper find merchandise for customers in the dry goods store.
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In the first two pictures, the boys work aboard a ship to pilot it, navigate it, and even defend its food supply from the rats.  Brody is playing an amusing game of rat bashing.  Ha!  Then, we leave the ship and enter the town to explore a printing press and help write some news stories.  
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I talked the boys into helping me do some quilting.  The boys created some beautiful quilt square patterns.   Sitting at the little table pretending to quilt reminds me of quilting parties at my Granny's house.  Yes, I know that makes me sound pretty old, but I loved sitting around the big quilting loom with the women of my family and learning to quilt.  My Granny was the best quilter! 
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Brody's favorite part was helping cook in the old kitchen.  It was all very interactive, and we had to go around the room finding the ingredients for the recipe.  We made homemade ice cream!  We watched the preparations being made on the little table in the middle.

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After the interactive part of the museum, we explored the more historical side where we learned more history of the area.  I loved the painting of the young girl from New Bern and the old Victorian lace Christening gown. 

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Of course, a visit to the coastal areas of North Carolina is not complete without learning a little about the pirates who were so feared by all.  Apparently, English mercenary privateers were also to be feared as European governments sanctioned them to protect their interests in the colonies and interrupt their enemies' operations.  The museum also gave us a great history of forestry in the area.  One of the areas main economic resources was the production of naval stores for shipbuilding.  The abundance of forests in the area made it a great place to harvest the timber, tar, and turpentine used in shipbuilding.  Trees and forests continue to be our most valuable natural resource and manufacturing industry to this day.  

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One of the historical treasures of the museum is this letter from George Washington to North Carolina governor Richard Dobbs Spaight. Spaight was a signer of the U.S. Constitution, and Washington wrote to thank him after finally convincing our state to ratify it.  Our state wanted to hold out for a Bill of Rights which was very important to our citizens.  We led the way in eventually getting those first 10 amendments to the Constitution that are so fundamental in protecting our individual rights. 

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I just love old maps.  I think these maps of the North Carolina coast and Eastern U.S. are amazingly accurate for having been made prior to any modern technologies like aerial photography or GPS.  

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The boys and I had fun playing with this interactive photo booth.  The boys took roles in the famous Stanly-Spaight duel (Brody was the dog and Evan was a physician on call).  We all became circus performers.  I love that Evan was the Punch doll from the Punch and Judy show.  Ha!  Then we took parts in an old Southern family.  We were missing Daddy for that one. 


  1. I want to explore those gardens, as you probably could have guessed! And that museum looks amazing. I definitely want to get to New Bern at some point.

    Also, thank you for sharing all that North Carolina history. It was interesting to read and I didn't know any of it.

  2. A very cool place. You know, my mom has been making these delicious cookies for years called Tyron Palace Ginger cookies. Now it makes me wonder if she wrote it down wrong the very first time and it's supposed to be Tryon Palace Ginger cookies. I googled both of them and only Tryon showed up with a recipe. Or maybe it's just been in my head wrong all these years. I will have to check her recipe box the next time we go to Tucson. I'm really curious now.

    Lovely pictures of the flowers BTW. I photographed a lot of flowers in Vermont. It's fun, huh?


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