Arts, Attractions and Museums
A small town that is big on culture – that’s Tarboro! From historic landmarks and museums to art exhibits, concerts, stage productions and outdoor festivals, residents can enjoy a little savior faire right here in a town known for its uniqueness and hospitality.
Albemarle Avenue, Wilson Street, Panola Street, Park Avenue
Tarboro’s impressive Town Common is one of two remaining original town commons in the United States, the other one being in Boston. Its 15 acres of lush, oak-shaded lawn serve as a gateway to the 45-block Historic District. Lined with stately homes built between 1890 and 1910, the Common was established by Tarboro’s founding fathers in 1760 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally designed for the common grazing of livestock, community outings and military drills, the land is the crown jewel of Tarboro’s 45-block Historic District. Granite statues grace the grounds, as well as the beautiful Wyatt Fountain, named for Henry Wyatt, the first North Carolina casualty of the Civil War, the 1840 Cotton Press, which is the last of its kind, the beautiful Herb Gardens area, and the nature walk along McBryde Trail.
The 1860 Cotton Press
Town Common near Albemarle Avenue
Located at the west end of the Tarboro Town Common and the last of its kind in North Carolina, the Cotton Press employed mules and oxen to turn cotton into bales and crush fruit for cider and wine. The press was moved from an Edgecombe County farm to the Town Common before being restored.
North Carolina’s largest official historic district offers 45 blocks of proud heritage and architectural mastery. Created by the National Parks service in 1977, the Historic District boasts over 300 structures from the residential dwellings to historic churches to original 19th century storefronts along Tarboro’s Main Street. The district includes five 18th century homes with the oldest being the Archibald White house ca. 1785 located on the corner of Church and Trade St. There are over two dozen antebellum homes from 1800-1860 in the district. The largest section is late 19th and early 20th century and includes Victorian, Second Empire, Neo-classical revival, and arts and crafts style homes. The Colonial, Antebellum and Victorian period homes and historic churches reflect the architectural significance in their array of elegant columns, intricate trim, distinctive porches, charming bay windows, dramatic cupolas and other features…and that’s just on the outside. Visitors can stroll this scenic district as part of the Historic District National Recreation Trail. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Edgecombe County Cultural Arts Council
130 Bridgers Street // 252-823-4159
Promoting arts and cultural heritage since 1985, Edgecombe ARTS is the area cornerstone of arts-related activities for all ages. It operates and maintains the historic Blount-Bridgers House and its galleries, the Hobson Pittman Memorial Gallery, the Pender History Museum, the Blount-Bridgers Gardens, and architectural records of Tarboro’s Historic District. Edgecombe ARTS offers seasonal art exhibits, art classes, lectures, concerts, and outreach programs, and sponsors both the annual Happening on the Common community arts festival and the Edgecombe County History Days reenactment and crafts event. Membership is open to all citizens. For more information about Edgecombe ARTS visit www.edgecombearts.org.
130 Bridgers Street // 252-823-4159
Built in 1808 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this community centerpiece is home to over 200 years of Edgecombe County material culture. The Blount-Bridgers House was once known as “The Grove” and was the early 19th century home of Continental Army officer Thomas Blount. Today it houses the gallery named for artist Hobson Pittman, a Tarboro native known for his nostalgic oil paintings, pastels, drawings, prints and watercolors, a collection that consists of nearly 500 pieces. Visitors can enjoy rotating exhibitions showcasing contemporary artists as well as permanent collections including antique furniture, clothing, quilts and linens, 19th century paintings by Thomas Sully, Thomas Landseer and William Garle Brown, 19th century ceramic art, 20th century Jugtown pottery and utilitarian objects of silver and iron. The facility has a gift shop and on-site banquet facilities. The museum is open for tours Wednesday-Friday from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Saturday and Sundays from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Special tours by appointment.
Blount-Bridgers Historical Gardens
130 Bridgers Street // 252-823-4159
Surrounding the Blount-Bridgers House are its attractive gardens comprised of mostly native plants, shrubbery, flowers and trees that were prevalent in the early 1800's. A perennial garden, two shade gardens, a kitchen garden and evergreens are maintained by the Blount-Bridgers Garden Committee, a 14-member governing body that sponsors an annual Garden Symposium with noted speakers and vendors, and hosts plant and flower sales fundraisers to support beautification efforts for the gardens. Most notable is the gardens’ Quercus stellata, an 87-foot tall Post Oak that shares the NC Co-Champion State Tree with two other trees in the western part of the state.
Pender History Museum
130 Bridgers Street // 252-823-4159
Situated on the grounds of the Blount-Bridgers House, this small parlor house was built in 1810 and is representative of the modest coastal plain housing typical of 19th century North Carolina farmers. Its architectural distinctions include a broken pitch gable roof, tapered porch posts with molded caps, intricate dentil cornices and decoratively painted interior paneling and mantels. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Pender History Museum is open by appointment. To schedule a visit, call 252-823-4159.
Historic Tarboro Walking Trail & Tour
The National Recreational Trail begins at the Blount-Bridgers House and leads visitors through North Carolina's largest historic district. Take a leisurely stroll or drive past beautiful historic homes and churches. Or take a guided tour. The Edgecombe County Cultural Arts Council provides guided walking tours April - September on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and Sundays at 3:00 p.m., and at other times by special appointment for groups. The two-hour tours begin at the Blount Bridgers house and cover about two miles of walking through part of the historic district. The tour includes the interior of Blount-Bridgers house (ca. 1808), the Everette House/Pender Museum (ca. 1800), the Cotton Press (ca. 1840) on the Town Common, and Calvary Church (1867) and the churchyard. The tour guide tells about the architecture of the structures, some family history of who lived in some of the homes along with a history of how Tarboro grew from a small river port to a major trading center in the 19th century. Cost is $5 per person and is free to students. Brochures containing highlights of the historic homes are available with for those not wanting to take the entire tour. Special tours can be arranged through the Arts Council for family reunions or for special topics - architectural styles, cemetery or ethnic tours featuring information about African Americans or Jewish residents of the area. These tours are specifically tailored to meet the interests of the group. Driving tours by historic homes in the county can also be arranged. For more information, contact the Blount-Bridgers House at 252-823-4159.
Tarboro Historic District National Recreation Trail
Designated by the U.S. Department of the Interior, the National Recreation Trail begins at the Blount-Bridgers House and provides a leisurely stroll or drive through one of North Carolina's largest and most diverse historic districts. Numerous public and private restorations are found along the two-mile trail with structures representing Colonial, Antebellum and Victorian architectural periods. Significant historic sites are the Pender Museum, the Town Common, the Cotton Press Complex, Calvary Church and churchyard, and the National Main Street Program facade improvements in historic Downtown Tarboro.
African American Historic Sites Trail
African Americans have played central roles in the history of Tarboro and Edgecombe County from their beginnings. The African American Historic Sites Trail recognizes outstanding African American citizens in our community by highlighting their lives, the houses in which they lived, and some of the buildings and structures associated with their lives in East Tarboro, the all African American 20th century neighborhood. The trail provides glimpses of local African Americans who have contributed to the cultural, social, economic, political, and religious development of our community over the years. Fourteen sites, some of which are over 100 years old, are featured, including residences, church buildings, a hospital, a pharmacy, and an ante-bellum plantation house.
Guided tours are available for individuals and groups, on request, by calling (252) 823-0275. The tours are sponsored by the Perry-Weston Educational and Cultural Institute, Inc.
Old Town Cemetery
Howard Memorial Presbyterian Church
303 E. St. James Street
Old Town Cemetery was created as a public burying ground in 1790 and contains the marked and unmarked graves of Confederate soldiers who died in Confederate hospitals once located on the Tarboro Town Common. It served as a temporary resting place for Union soldiers who were killed at the Daniel’s School engagement in 1863 until their families claimed their remains after the Civil War. The cemetery is a site on the National Civil War Trails program, through the NC Division of Tourism and the National Civil War Trails system.
Edgecombe County Veteran’s Museum
106 West Church Street // 252-823-0891
Patriotism and service to country is revered in a comprehensive collection of military artifacts and uniforms from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War – all donated by Edgecombe veterans or their families. A Research Room houses over 600 photographs, books, CDs, and DVDs for military history buffs, scholars and students to explore. A small gift shop is on the premises. The 14th Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Henry Hugh Shelton, is the museum’s honorary chair.
Calvary Episcopal Church & Churchyard
411 East Church Street // 252-823-8192
Designed by William Percival between 1859 and 1868, this Gothic Revival masterpiece is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Calvary Episcopal Church’s architecture is unique to the region. The church has some of the most elaborate stained glass windows in the region, including one designed by Tiffany. Amidst the churchyard’s elaborate Victorian memorials are the graves of William Dorsey Pender, the youngest general in the Confederate Army who was killed in action at age 29 and other Civil War soldiers. The Victorian designed churchyard’s enchanting arboretum is credited to the Reverend Joseph Blount Cheshire, who planted a host of native and exotic trees and shrubs, including English yews, live oaks, Japanese magnolia, American holly, Chinese fir trees, a gnarly old cork tree grown by Dr. Cheshire from an acorn sent from Spain, Camellias, azaleas, sweet holly and boxwood.
99 Main Street // 252-824-8301 or 252-823-5104
Built in 1946 by Dr. Milton Douglas Quigless, the Quigless Clinic was the first hospital in Edgecombe County to serve African-Americans. The original 26-bed hospital had men's, women's and pediatric wards, as well as a drug dispensary, an operating room and an OB/GYN ward. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now houses the Quigless Natural Health Center, an alternative medicine clinic run by Dr. Quigless’ daughter, Carol M. Quigless. Visitors to the Clinic watch a video about Dr. Quigless and tour areas of the facility.
Tar River Players
The Tar River Players are a not-for-profit theater troupe whose mission is to provide the highest quality theatrical productions to Tarboro and its surrounding communities. Currently, completing their third season, the Players produce four shows throughout the year and sponsor a teen and children's theater workshop for two weeks during the summer. Classes are held for the following age groups: 3-6 years, 7-10 years, 11-15 years. Themes for the last two summers have been The Stories of Beatrix Potter and Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass. In general, productions run for two weekends in October, February, April and June; the summer workshop occurs in late July or early August. The Players perform in two venues, depending on the size and needs of each production. The 300-seat McIntyre Auditorium at Edgecombe Community College provides the performing space for most productions, while Clark Hall at Calvary Episcopal Church offers a more intimate alternative for other plays. Plays previously produced by the Tar River Players include The Education of Miss Ida, You Can’t Take It With You, Mornings at Seven, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Real Thing, Plaza Suite, Spoon River Anthology, Inherit the Wind, and Ann of Green Gables. The Players welcome all community involvement, both in front of and behind the footlights.
Edgecombe Performance Series
Keihin Auditorium, Edgecombe Community College
2009 W. Wilson Street // 252-823-5166, ext. 187
The spacious Keihin Auditorium is an acoustically pleasing venue for this highly successful performance series which features stellar performances in music and dance. The most recent season offered bigger named celebrities with VIP parking for season patrons, a barbecue meal, a program designed for children, five meet-the-entertainer receptions and two free shows. Past performers include legendary screen and stage star Mickey Rooney, the incomparable Percy Sledge, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, the Regina Carter Quintet, country music artist Taylor Swift, the Footworks Percussive Dance Ensemble, Blues Night, The Cat’s Pajamas and more. Tickets may be purchased at the ECC Box Office located in Mobley Atrium or online at www.etix.com.
Edgecombe County Memorial Library
909 Main Street // 252- 823-1141
Located on Main Street in the heart of the Tarboro Historic District, the Edgecombe County Memorial Library houses numerous collections of historic documents and photographs as well as the Janie F. Allsbrook Local History Room. Many are digitally archived for preservation and easier access to researchers and the public. Among the archives is the Bridgers Bible, which contains information about the John Luther and Rebecca Louise Bridgers family, including records of births, marriages and deaths of family members as well as their slaves; the Dr. Moses Ray Collection; the George Howard Collection; the Lena Martin Photograph Collection, and more. The library provides research assistance for any indexed resources.