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Sunday, June 04, 2017


Tryon Palace, the capital of the colony of North Carolina
the first capital of the state of North Carolina
Walking through New Bern, North Carolina is akin to stepping into United States history.  Or stepping into pre-United States history when New Bern was the capital of the colony of North Carolina, and the Governor made his home in Tryon Palace.

Tryon Palace, the Governor’s home and the seat of colonial government, comes as total shock if visitors expect something similar to a European palace.  It is anything but.  It was actually designed to be like the fashionable homes in London, but in the distant colonies it was known for its grandeur. 

Governor William Tryon brought an architect from England to design the very grand and expensive Georgian building. Tryon, often despotic in his manner of ruling, then taxed the colonists to pay for it.  Needless to say, he was not loved.

The building is beautiful. Each room is done with exquisite craftsmanship.  This the staircase, cantilevered so there are no visible signs of support.    Notice the scrollwork at the base of each step and the intricacy of the ballusters.  All of these done by artisans.

Here the crown molding is incredibly impressive as it is in every room.  Again, the signs of expert workmanship.  The details in the fireplace and the tiled hearth make for a beautiful toom.

The Palace was built between 1767 and 1770.  Ironically, Tryon and his family lived there for only about one year before he was transferred to be the new Royal Governor of the colony of New York

The second Royal Governor, Josiah Martin, lived in the Palace until 1775, when, as a Loyalist and fearing for his life, he fled North Carolina. The Palace became the headquarters of the revolutionaries who auctioned off Martin’s belongings.  After the Revolution, New Bern became the first capital of North Carolina with its seat of government in Tryon Palace. Quite an impressive history.

The governor may have fled, but the coat of arms still graces the entryway to the Palace

One very famous visitor to North Carolina’s first capital city and to Tryon Palace was George Washington who visited in 1791 for a dinner and dance held in his honor. 

In 1798, however, a fire, starting in the cellar, destroyed the Palace.  As time passed and the community grew around the ashes, Tryon Palace became little more than local history, its acreage covered by homes.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that volunteers uncovered the original architectural plans, raising the hope of rebuilding Tryon Palace.  It would be an expensive and monumental task but persistence and dedication paid off, and in 1959 the re-built Tryon Palace opened to the public; furnishings were chosen from the extensive list William Tryon kept from his second home in Ft. George, NY which burned down and for which he hoped to be reimbursed by the king. In reconstructing the Palace, that list enabled the new Palace to reflect the Tryon family’s tastes as closely as possible.  A visit gives us a glimpse of our past and enables us to envision life in the latter part of the 18th century.

This little girl's bedroom exists as it would in Tryon Palace's heyday.
We learned that blinds had already been invented.
It is, to say the least, an interesting feeling to walk into rooms here in the United States adorned with portraits of King George.

In this room business was conducted.  Notice the portraits of the King and his wife.
How beautiful are the ceiling moldings, the details around the fireplace, and the
furniture.  Impressive, most impressive.

Touring the palace is quite a rewarding and enjoyable experience.  They are conducted by guides in period dress who talk about the daily routines of the household both the official residents and their help.  They answer questions and try very hard to describe the life, private and public, that existed at the time.  It’s quite impressive. 

Included on the property is the original stable building which escaped the fire and where, presumably, they point out, George Washington stabled his horse.

Around the Palace are seasonally shaped gardens with hedges that offer meandering brick or gravel paths, and as we walk under brick archways or through doorways in the brick walls, we experience real garden “rooms,” offering peace and privacy, birds and flowers.  These are “revival gardens” reflecting, as much as possible, the flowers and arrangements of the time. They help to complete the experience. 

Pass through one doorway through a tall brick wall, and find yourself walking under a long, arched arbor that would be bursting with flowers a little later in the season.  As you walk, you can see enough in the distance to imagine the pathway leading right down to the river.  It is all quite beautiful  

I thought you might be interested in this information about the gardens and the hedges.  It’s one more way such attention to detail is taken to make a visitor really understand the Palace and the care taken in bringing it back to life.

Here's something I found interesting, to say the least. As we enter the gardens, we find a rather incredible birdhouse.  It’s an entire building, and looks so special with the big entry at the top and all the little doorways beckoning to birds.  But you don’t want to look through that screened door.  Imagine what lies on what looked like hay at the bottom and along the walls.  It’s not such a pretty sight when you think that it was someone’s job to keep that birdhouse clean.  It really is something to see!

Take your time visiting Tryon Palace, and use your fertile imagination to see the times as well as the place.  Then walk the historic streets and see homes of that time.  Visit the North Carolina Museum right next door to learn more, and take the trolley tour for more insight.  It will be a wonderful trip.

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