Looking towards Water Street (Edenton, North Carolina)
Just over a year ago, I was driving south on Highway 17 from Portsmouth, Virginia and stopped for the first time in Edenton, North Carolina. It was late evening, and I drove down to the waterfront along Edenton Bay – and watched the sun go down. I made a mental note that I needed to come back to this small town again – and although I’ve yet to make it, I was fortunate to have a local Edenton photographer, Ginny P. Gillam, start posting links to her photographs (via her Flickr page) on the US 17 Coastal Highway Facebook page. I so enjoyed her photographs – and invited her to share her thoughts and her images here at US 17 Coastal Highway. After seeing her photographs for this piece, it has only made me want to return to Edenton sooner rather that later – Ginny is quite the ambassador for this lovely town and the ‘inner banks’ region of North Carolina. My guess is that she will make you want to visit as well.
US 17: First, thank you for sharing links to your photographs (via Flickr) on the US 17 Coastal Highway Facebook page – I loved Edenton, North Carolina during my short visit there and would appreciate an ‘insiders’ view of this historic town. Why don’t you start by telling us about yourself – and how you are connected to Edenton?
Ginny P. Gillam: I have lived in Edenton most of my life, in fact twice. I was probably about eight years old when I first came to Edenton. My father was in textiles and he came here in the mid 1960’s to manage the now closed elastic plant, George C. Moore. As with many southern towns, all of the textile plants are now closed in our county of Chowan. We left Edenton in 1977 to relocate to Georgia for my father’s new job. In 1978 I got married and moved to Williamston, NC. In 1983, we moved to Edenton when my husband started a new career! I never thought I would live in Edenton again. My husband and I now have two grown children along with two dogs, a Boston terrier and a hybrid called a Frenchton which is a cross between a Boston and a French bulldog plus a little 10 year old kitty cat we adopted from a no kill foster program as a kitten.
US 17: I’m from Virginia – was born and raised there – and found it interesting when I read that the Edenton area was first settled in 1658 when adventurers from Jamestown wandered south and decided to stay along the ‘Inner Banks’. I also read that Edenton Colony was the first permanent settlement in North Carolina. That is a lot of history in this small town – is there much evidence remaining of the original settlement in present day Edenton?
Ginny P. Gillam: There is nothing here like one would find in Jamestown, Va but there are many lovingly preserved older homes, including the historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse to point out a few. I know recently they discovered the oldest known house in North Carolina right here in Edenton. They believe it was built in 1719. Edenton was the first capital of North Carolina and this year we continue to celebrate our 300th year! There are many different styles of architecture to see in Edenton and several of the homes are outside the city limits. Certainly, the waterfront has changed for the better as far as aesthetics go since it was once a thriving seaport many years back.
US 17: When did you first start taking photographs of Edenton and the surrounding area?
Ginny P. Gillam: I have taken photos on and off for years of Edenton but not until I purchased my newest camera last year, a digital Canon Rebel T3i, did I become a lot more serious. Between the new Canon, my computer and software I am allowed the freedom to edit my own photos instead of depending on a developer. I was never very impressed by the quality of those until I was in the editing control seat! The winter sunsets are grand at the water front with the low humidity so I had fun with that this past winter. I focus a lot of my photo interest on landscapes and wildlife.
US 17: If someone was to visit Edenton for the first time – what are the ‘must see’ places?
Ginny P. Gillam: Well, I would make sure to go to the Visitor Center as they can direct you where to go and even set you up with a tour guide. There you can watch an informative movie that will fill you in on the history of the area. I have taken the tour several times both as a child and as an adult with my children’s class several times. Every time I go, I see something that I have never noticed before. The waterfront, Edenton Bay, is so beautiful so that is a must see! When my kids were little we use to have this joke that we had to go look at the water to make sure a troll had not taken it away. The view is always changing with the seasons and the weather. The addition of the Roanoke Lighthouse has added a lot of charm too! I love the Cupola House with the volunteer-tended gardens in front and the little herb garden in the back.
US 17: If someone returned for a second visit, and had more time – where are the secret places that you might not know about unless you live there?
Ginny P. Gillam: If you enjoy kayaking and nature there are plenty of places to take a nice quiet paddle. Queen Anne Creek that runs behind the Edenton Cotton Mill is easy enough as there is a boat ramp right at the mouth of the creek. And if you are a bit braver there are some overnight platforms on John’s Island for camping. I would recommend one visit to Edenton during the bi-annual pilgrimage when some of the historic private homes are opened to the public. Everything is just so pretty then as it is in April and the azaleas and other spring flowers are blooming. The annual Christmas tour might appeal to some as well. The homes on the Christmas tour are not always the same as they mix it up every year and change neighborhoods as well. Plus there are a lot of others things to do that weekend that tie in with the Christmas season.
US 17: So I have to ask – how much of Highway 17 have you driven down? If you had a chance to do a road trip on a section of Highway 17 that you haven’t been on, where would you go and why?
Ginny P. Gillam: I think I have been on a lot of Highway 17 with my parents during family vacations growing up but just don’t remember. As an adult I have been on a good deal of it as well. I was born in South Carolina so I am very partial to the Low Country area but would like to visit St. Petersburg, Florida and some of the little beach towns in North Carolina above Wilmington. We recently rented the Nickolas Sparks’ movie “Safe Haven” which is filmed in South Port and that really looks like a pretty town. With my own family we have been camping as far south Beaufort, SC (Hunting Island), taking a day trip to Savannah when the kids were young. Plus up into Virginia. I would like to go back to Savannah. I hear they have a good St. Patrick Day celebration. Before going there I had read the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” which peaked my interest in visiting there even more!