Monday, July 25, 2011

Day Trip of the Month: Hillsborough, NC

This past weekend we took a little day trip to one of my most favorite places in all of North Carolina: the charming, historic town of Hillsborough (formerly spelled Hillsboro). If you are a history buff, enjoy North Carolina Colonial architecture, or love quaint beautiful southern towns, then you will adore  the town of Hillsborough. I must admit I am a little biased since I used to work in Hillsborough both for the Burwell School Historic Site and at the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough.....can you tell I miss this town and its people dearly?

Founded in 1754, Hillsborough was an early political and cultural center in the state of North Carolina. The town has served as home for several royal governors, an original signer of the Declaration of Independence, a former enslaved seamstress who became a successful businesswoman and the personal dressmaker and close confidante of Mary Todd Lincoln, and countless elected officials and educational leaders. Key events of both the Revolutionary War and the Civil War occurred in Hillsborough.  Named one of the "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2007, today Hillsborough is home to a number of artists, famous writers, and a variety of other townfolk who appreciate the charm of a small town with a vibrant and healthy downtown with lots to offer. For more on the town's history, click here.

On our walk through Hillsborough's historic district, we visited the Old Town Cemetery, containing the graves of some of the town's most noted individuals and families. The cemetery sits behind the Presbyterian Church, which is believed to be the oldest Presbyterian building in continuous use in the state of North Carolina. 
Old Town Cemetery behind the Presbyterian Church

Old Town Cemetery

First United Methodist Church of Hillsborough

Hillsborough contains fabulous Colonial and Antebellum architecture, which, is sometimes rare to find intact North Carolina, especially for a small town. Most of these early homes have been lovingly restored and cared for, many with early gardens and heirloom English boxwoods still flourishing.

"Twin Chimneys" (notice the lovely blue color of the porch ceiling)

The Colonial Inn (formerly a restaurant and inn, it is undergoing rehabilitation work)

The Masonic Lodge, a stunning example of Greek Revival architecture in Hillsborough

The Burwell School Historic Site, (c. 1821, 1846) home to Margaret Anna Burwell and Robert Burwell, their twelve children and the enslaved members of their household. They operated a school for girls at their home in the two-room brick building behind the main house. Elizabeth Hobbes Keckly lived as a young enslaved woman at the Burwell household who later went on to purchase her freedom and became a successful businesswoman, talented seamstress, and personal dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln. 

I encourage you to make the day trip to visit Hillsborough, NC. Visit here for more information and a calendar of events. If you don't live close enough to visit Hillsborough, then get out and discover a historic town near you!


  1. Looks like a wonderful adventure. I am going to add it to my bucket list. Richard from My Old Historic House.

  2. I just happened upon this town while driving from Charlotte to DC. Very charming. Love your photos. Thanks.

    1. Hi Dan, glad to hear that you enjoyed Hillsborough!

  3. I lived in Hillsborough from 1977-1998 and still consider it home. I raised my daughters in this wonderful town!!

  4. My hometown for over 20 years..... Wonderful place to raise a family!