What do you get when you mix an old mill with a 19th century homestead, then toss in a photography museum and a sand sculpture for good measure?
Located along the Eno River in Durham, North Carolina—in an area once inhabited by Shocco and Eno Indians—this city park is an eclectic mix of past and present, of nature and culture.
I paid a visit earlier this month. A sign in the parking lot warned (1) there are snakes, (2) only the copperhead is poisonous, and (3) harming snakes in the park is strictly prohibited. …Good to know.
While I pondered a snake population significant enough to warrant a sign, I made my way (gingerly) toward the park’s historic buildings.
The McCown-Mangum House
My first stop was the McCown-Mangum House, which was built around 1850 and served as the homestead for two early Durhamite families. (Mangum Street in downtown Durham is named after the Mangums.)
Hugh Mangum Photography Museum
The property’s 19th century packhouse, where tobacco was stored before going to market, is now home to the Hugh Mangum Photography Museum.
Hugh Mangum was born in 1877, the eldest son of Presley and Sally Mangum. The family moved to the farm, previously owned by the McCowns, in 1893.
Hugh Mangum was both a musician and an artist. He played mandolin, accordion, and piano and created the many paintings and photographs currently on display in the farmhouse.
After studying art at Salem College and earning a degree in hypnotism, of all things, Mangum traveled around the countryside immortalizing young and old on glass negatives which he then turned into photographs.
West Point Mill
West Point Mill was one of thirty-two grist mills operating along the Eno River. It was accessible by roads in every direction and situated in an area that was thriving.
Between the mill and the farmhouse, I spotted a quirky sight:
Sally Mangum was reportedly a gifted cook and gardener. One of my favorite aspects of the park was the subtle nod to her abilities as seen in both the enclosed herb and flower garden as well as the plantings around the homestead.
It was an enjoyable afternoon at West Point on the Eno—and I didn’t see a single snake. A part of me was disappointed. A very sssmall part.
For a more complete view of the park and its unique history, (it’s also a stop on the North Carolina Civil War Trails tour), consider a visit. Free guided tours are available. Hiking trails and access to the Eno River are also perks of the park.