Barker House, 2003
How I came to spend a lot of time in Edenton, North Carolina, is a long and convoluted story involving death, divorce, squandered fortunes, alcoholism and madness. It’s too long to tell here, and suffice it to say that fortunately I was not the victim of any of these misfortunes. But during the late 1990s I started visiting this little town on the Albemarle Sound on a regular basis. I was invited into the homes of many old families and introduced to family stories rich with drama and intrigue.
Prior to this, Edenton has played only a small role in my experience. When my maternal great-grandparents came to America from Germany, they settled in another small town not too far away on the opposite side of the Sound. But no family remained there by the time I came along. My mother remembered some elderly relatives from her youth who’d lived in Edenton, the kinds of tradition-laden, but otherwise dirt poor antique dealers you often find in towns like this, of whom it was said that they’d sell anything in their house if you were offering cash. They, too, were long gone by the time I came along.
Edenton has one of the finest collections of Colonial architecture on the East Coast. So the story goes, these structure exist because the town fathers made a deal with General Sherman when he was moving through the South during the Civil War, burning every village, town and city in his path.
Many of the surviving structures remain today and are still in use. Some have never left the hands of the families that built them.
The Barker House, shown above, dates from 1782 and has served for many years as a visitor center and headquarters of the local historical society. I made this photograph of it in 2003, just a few months before a hurricane swept through town and sent a surge wave over the breakwater and knocked The Barker House off its foundation. (It was subsequently repaired and re-settled atop a much higher brick foundation.)
Chowan County Courthouse, 2003
The Chowan County Courthouse, built in 1724, is considered one of the finest Georgian courthouses in the United States and one of the most important public buildings in Colonial America. It’s courtroom, of a design that would be unfamiliar to most today, reflects the link between the English sense of justice and courtroom design and justice as it would come to be known and practiced in America.
During the summer of 2003 I took a lot of pictures in Edenton. Each year since I’ve added a few more images to the collection. There was talk once of a regional publisher creating a coffee table book of these photographs. But for reasons never explained to me, that idea never went any further than talk.
Fishing on Edenton Bay, 2003