Small farmers in the west, and the heavily Scottish population, weren’t keen on the taxes taken to build a grand English home. Fifteen thousand pounds at the time! (about fifteen million now). Many just weren’t happy to have English rule, and things culminated in The Regulators’ War in 1771.
By this time, Tryon had left to become Governor in New York, and Josiah Martin took residence. With revolution the talk of the colonies, Governor Martin asked for arms to equip his loyalist citizens. The arrival of cannon rankled the revolutionaries and Martin had to slip out of town under the cover of night.
During the war, North Carolina moved its capital to Raleigh and Tryon Palace fell to ruin in later decades. Parts of it were used by the locals, occasionally for dances, or as a hospital, but in 1798 a good portion of the building burned leaving only the stable intact. Torn down and forgotten, the grounds of the palace eventually became U.S. Rt 70.
Then the Colonial Dames stepped in. If you didn't know, The Colonial Dames is a national society with thousands of members. But I'm referring to some mighty fierce ladies on a mission.
Mrs. Reynolds of Winston-Salem, a president of the DAR began a fund for restoration. In 1935, the federal government created protection for such sites by declaring them National Historic Sites.
Another go-getter, journalist Gertrude Carraway, also in the DAR and a New Bern native fought to have Tryon Palace named a National Historic Site. The National Park Service agreed but offered no funding for the restoration. The Garden Club of North Carolina joined in with a heavy state-wide lobby to restore the palace and its gardens.
And another… Mrs. Maude Latham was a major financial supporter. Together with Mrs. Carraway and a Mr. and Mrs. Kellenberger, the Tryon Palace Commission was born. Mrs. Carraway hunted down the original plans of the palace used by the architect John Hawks. Mrs. Latham created a trust fund with $100,000 of her money.
Just as things were about to start, Pearl Harbor brought the country in to war. Mrs. Latham didn’t give up. She added another 150,000 to the pot and then bequeathed her entire estate worth one million dollars. In 1952, almost twenty years after the project began, work began. The comission stayed busy as well, purchasing back lots that were originally part of the property, and the Kellenbergers and Mrs. Carraway hunted down every piece of Tryon’s or Martin’s furniture they could find (Martin had made a detailed inventory of every piece of furniture and other belongings!). Rather than use reproductions, they traveled the country and Europe to purchase pieces matching the inventory—an estimated 3 million of them purchased entirely by private funding of nearly seventy thousand dollars.
Tryon Park was rebuilt as an exact reproduction of the original building and its grounds are fully restored. On the day in 1958, when it reopened, the Tryon Palace committee turned it over to the state of North Carolina. Mrs. Carraway personally trained all the staff. By then, she knew more about each piece of furniture, each brick and each person to live in or visit the mansion than anyone else. In 1962, she was declared her The North Carolinian of the Year — describing her as “a woman who refused to compromise with anything short of perfection.” Today the North Carolina History Museum is built next door, and Tryon Palace received 249,000 visitors in 2015. Volunteers are the bulk of the staff—a whopping 800 people who spend time caring for the collections, doing tours, and hosting events.
I recently visited this incredible place and was as much in awe of these women as of the palace and gardens. And New Bern is a lovely, small city. Have you visited? If not, I hope you get a chance to!
TRYON PALACE WEBSITE
|Mrs. Gertrude Carraway|
Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sisters in Crime, and serves on the board of Bridges Ministry in Seneca Falls, NY. In 2015, she released her first two novellas, “Alarmingly Charming” in Austen in Austen Vol 1 from WhiteFire Publishing, and “Desert Duet” from Forget Me Not Romances, after many unpublished contest successes including two finals for the Daphne DuMaurier award. Debra works as a program assistant at Cornell University, and enjoys her family and grandchildren, obsessively buying fabric, watching British programming and traveling with her childhood friends.
Coming soon - Starlight Serenade set in 1930, Flagstaff Arizona