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“I had first encountered [Dorton Arena] in an architecture class, where my professor waxed poetic about this dramatic modern building, noting that had its designer, Matthew Nowicki, not been killed in a plane crash, he would have become one of the outstanding avant-garde architects of the 20th century….

“Nowicki’s Raleigh pavilion bears positive comparison with some of the magnificent grand spaces of history — the Pantheon in Rome, France’s Amiens Cathedral, and the original Pennsylvania Station in New York….

“Although pretty much taken for granted in a capital city that has choked itself with unbridled and hideous suburban development…this architectural wonder also stands as a testament to North Carolina’s golden age, when it was emerging from depression and world war to become the symbol of a progressive New South — a leader in education and modern architecture.”

— From “One of the Best Examples of Modern Architecture Is a Former Livestock Pavilion in North Carolina” by William Morgan at Slate (July 14)

 

“Although racial prejudice existed in the upper Midwest before the Civil War, it was compensated for to a degree by the availability of new land or recently partitioned and inexpensive land. Interestingly, many of western Wisconsin’s earliest black settlers came as extended free family units that had been encouraged to leave North Carolina, and these groups came with moderate capital and purchased farmland near the towns of Pleasant Hill and Hillsboro. These were free-born farmers, and they came with some education, agriculture-based objectives and close-knit family values….

“Rosser Howard Taylor [in “The Free Negro in North Carolina,” 1920] wrote that many free blacks had never been slaves and that some had free ancestors who had fought in the Revolutionary War. The terms ‘Waldens’ and ‘old issue’ were applied to this group. Many owned farms that could be converted into cash. In North Carolina a clear distinction was drawn between old issue and manumitted blacks. Waldron was a common surname among black settlers in Hillsboro, Wisconsin….”

— From “For Labor, Race, and Liberty: George Edwin Taylor, His Historic Run for the White House, and the Making of Independent Black Politics by Bruce L. Mouser (2011)

 

“After Durham the sun came out and shone heavily down upon the worst roads in the world….If you can imagine an endless rocky gully, rising frequently in the form of unnavigable mounds to a slope of sixty degrees,  a gully covered with from an inch to a foot of grey water mixed with solemn soggy clay of about the consistency of cold cream and the adhesiveness of triple glue; if you drove an ambulance over shelled roads in France and can conceive of all the imperfections of all those roads placed with forty miles — then you have a faint conception of the roads of upper North Carolina….”

— From “The Cruise of the Rolling Junk” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a somewhat fictionalized account of a road trip the Fitzgeralds took from Westport, Conn., to Montgomery, Ala., in 1920.  Serialized in Motor magazine (March-May 1924)

Although the Good Roads Association began pushing for improvements early in the century, it was the 1920s before the state wrested control of highway construction from the counties and began authorizing unprecedentedly large bond issues and gasoline tax increases to finance its ambitions.

By the end of the decade Scott Fitzgerald would have encountered considerably fewer challenges motoring through the “Good Roads State.”

 

Ideas about what constitutes portability have changed dramatically over the past 150 years. One piece of evidence for this (extremely non-controversial) claim is our July Artifact of the Month, a 19th-century lap desk.

lap_desk_closed500

Lap desks, popular in the 19th-century, enabled their owners to do their writing on the go. A lap desk provided an expansive flat writing surface that folded up neatly into a (relatively) compact box, as well as storage for ink wells, sand wells, pens, and quills.

Lap desk, open

Lap desk, open

This particular example belonged to Caroline Lee Hentz, an author and anti-abolitionist from Massachusetts. A prolific writer, Hentz produced a long list of poems, plays, romantic novels, and short stories — some of them, perhaps, written on this desk.

Image from the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives' Portrait Collection.

Caroline Lee Hentz. Image from the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives’ Portrait Collection.

Hentz moved to North Carolina with her husband when he began a position as a language professor at UNC. In Chapel Hill, Hentz met the enslaved poet George Moses Horton and became a great supporter of his work. Hentz’s 1833 novel Lovell’s Folly included an enslaved poet named George, who was openly based on Horton. She served as a benefactress to Horton, helping to edit, promote, and support the publication of his work.

Historical marker commemorating the life of George Moses Horton.

Historical marker commemorating the life of George Moses Horton.

Oddly, Hentz was also one of the era’s most influential defenders of slavery. Her widely-read novel The Planter’s Northern Bride is a direct reply to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist work Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In Lovell’s Folly, George, admired for his poetry, is granted his freedom. However, as a plot device that reinforced Hentz’s belief that benevolent masters offer slaves a good life, the character George chooses to stay on the plantation.

The real Horton worked tirelessly in an effort to buy his own freedom.

Works by Hentz and Horton, including one of Horton’s poem manuscripts, can be seen in the North Carolina Collection Gallery’s current exhibition. Set in the Southern Part of Heaven: Chapel Hill Through Authors’ Eyes features 35 books by both professional and amateur writers. Included are historical accounts, short stories, mysteries, and even a fantasy-tinged romance with scenes that take place in Gimghoul Castle. Full details can be found on the Library’s blog.

“Through the ’50s and well into the ’60s, African-Americans bought the Green Book [The Negro Motorist Green Book: An International Travel Guide] and other guides. But just being on the highway could be a frightening experience.

“In the summer of 1960, Irene Staple’s parents drove her to Anniston, Ala., to give her a look at their roots and to teach her a lesson in present-day life in the Deep South.

” ‘By the time we got to Raleigh-Durham there was a tension in the air,’ Staples remembered. ‘By the time we got to Alabama I was hysterical.’

“Shell Oil had provided the family with detailed road maps and a list of all the Shell stations along the route. When the family returned to New York, Staple’s father returned his credit card to the company. Shell stations in the South had refused to serve him because he was black.”

— From Divided Highways: Building the Interstate Highways, Transforming American Life” by Tom Lewis (2013)

 

The Fayetteville Observer makes smart use of the oft-mocked listicle to lay out “Top 10 game changers in Fayetteville’s history” (June 20), from the town’s failed attempt to secure the state capital in 1788 to the still-disputatious “Big Bang” annexation of 2005.

Here’s Matt Leclercq’s entry on the birth of Fort Bragg:

“Fayetteville was a sleepy town post-Civil War, with a population hovering around 5,000. Then came a ‘dusty June day in 1918’ when two government men from Washington were scouting sites for an artillery range and camp. There were few maps, and few roads, historian Roy Parker Jr. wrote, and they traveled by compass and ‘dead-reckoning.’ On the fourth day of their drive, they came across a rise north of Fayetteville and saw undulating, pine-covered sand ridges, Parker recounts. The War Department soon established Camp Bragg, which would become one of the largest military bases in the world.”

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The Natural History of North Carolina, by John Brickell, 1743.

The Natural History of North Carolina, by John Brickell, 1743.

On January 30, 1919 the French Broad Hustler reported the shipment of “six head of buffalo –three males and three females –to Hominy, Buncombe County” by the American Bison Society. Their arrival in North Carolina marked the reintroduction of America’s largest big game animal to the state. The experiment was short-lived. Despite the birth of two calves and the addition of bred heifers and a bull, only two members of the herd remained a decade later. The reestablishment of bison into the wild in North Carolina was a failure.

Two centuries earlier, North Carolina was home to a robust number of bison. In 1709, English naturalist and explorer John Lawson described North Carolina as having “Plenty of Buffalos” in his A New Voyage to Carolina. A few decades later, Irish-born explorer John Brickell included an illustration of a “Buffello” in his Natural History of North Carolina. Brickell describes Native Americans’ many uses for the buffalo, including for food, bedding, clothing and housewares. Writing in 1748, German explorer and botanist Pehr Kalm noted, “The wild Oxen have their abode principally in the woods of Carolina, which are far up in the country. The inhabitants frequently hunt them, and salt their flesh like common beef, which is eaten by servants and the lower classes of people.”

Bison disappeared from North Carolina almost a century before they were wiped out in the American West. Joseph Rice, an early settler of the Swannanoa Valley around Bull Creek, is known for shooting that area’s last buffalo in 1799. A plaque at milepost 373 of the Blue Ridge Parkway marks the location.

Bull Creek Valley, Milepost 373 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Bull Creek Valley, Milepost 373 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The second edition of the North Carolina Gazetteer includes more than 40 entries for places that bear witness to the once ubiquitous presence of buffalo in North Carolina. They include Buffalo (a community in Cherokee County), Buffalo Creek (a waterway in Ashe County, one of many in the state named after buffalo), Big Lick (a place so named in Stanly County for the salt that attracted deer and buffalo in droves), Buffalo Cove (a place in which many buffalo were killed), and Buffalo Ford (a buffalo crossing along the Deep River in Randolph County).

An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina With Their Indian Frontiers...

An Accurate Map of North and South Carolina With Their Indian Frontiers…

In May, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act, which designates the bison as the country’s national mammal. The next time you picture a wild buffalo, think of it here in North Carolina, grazing in the state’s woods and grasslands and drinking from its streams.

On this day in 1917: Gen. Leonard Wood visits Charlotte to inspect possible sites for a World War I training camp.
The result will be Camp Greene, built on 2,500 acres and named for Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene. The camp trains soldiers for less than two years, but rouses Charlotte’s economy and hastens its rise from small-town obscurity.

 

On this day in 1935: The first ABC store in North Carolina  opens in Wilson, with a line of customers waiting — so many that more than 100 had to be turned away at the 6 p.m. closing time.

— From “ABCs of N.C. liquor sales” by Ben Steelman, part of a fact-packed and entertaining Wilmington Star News project on “What We Drink in North Carolina.”

 

Celebrate with…

A picnic

Fourth of July Picnic - Given to Hospitality

Fourth of July Picnic from Given to hospitality : a cook book.

Some ice cream

Fourth of July Ice Cream-Our Own Kitchen Survival Kit

Fourth of July Ice Cream from Our own kitchen survival kit.

…don’t forget the toppings

Fourth of July Ice Cream Toppings-Our Own Kitchen Survival Kit

Ice Cream Toppings from Our own kitchen survival kit.

A former president

President Reagan's Favorite Macaroni and Cheese - Capitol Cook Books

President Reagan’s Favorite Macaroni and Cheese from Capitol cook book : with best wishes from Congressman James T. Broyhill.

Liver Deluxe (Ford) - Congressional Cook Book

Liver Deluxe from Congressional cook book.

The first First Lady

Martha Washington's-Out of Our League

Martha Washington’s from Out of our league.

 

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