West Point on the Eno

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?

West Point on the Eno.

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.)

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The old farmhouse, built in Greek revival style, contains original heart-of-pine boards, mantels, and woodwork. The piano, side table, and sofa through this doorway are authentic to the house and can be seen in an old photo in the parlour.

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The old tobacco barn at West Point on the Eno: Tobacco, cotton and watermelons were the farm’s major crops in its heyday.

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.

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a glass negative

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photo from the glass negative

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Mangum established a darkroom in the packhouse to develop his photographs, mixing his chemicals and washing his prints in water from a nearby stream.

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The photos on display in the museum were printed from some 500 glass negatives found on the property in the 1970s.

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.

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West Point Mill operated from 1778-1942 and in its prime consisted of a general store, blacksmith shop, cotton gin, saw mill…and even a post office. Its name–West Point–was the result of being the most westerly point on the mail route.

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The mill collapsed after a severe storm in 1973, leaving only the foundation and some of the frame standing. The mill was reconstructed from photographs and furnished with machinery from former nearby mills. Today, West Point is a working example of days gone by, and the stone-ground meal and flour produced there are sold in the mill’s store.

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The attendant at the mill told me I’d find a “corn liquefier” on the second floor. I didn’t quite get the joke until I spotted this still, which was found in the woods of Durham County in the 1960s by Alcoholic Beverage Control and donated to the mill for display purposes.

The Grounds
Between the mill and the farmhouse, I spotted a quirky sight:

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The Festival on the Eno is held every 4th of July, at which time a sand sculpture is erected at West Point. This sculpture, still in great shape after a month in the elements, is entitled “Owlvis and the Owletts.”

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.

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The begonias in the flower boxes were lovely and the coneflowers along the front path invited pollinators.

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A perennial in the garden, the photography museum (packhouse) in the background.

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.

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a colorful perennial near the packhouse

Spruce Forest Artisan Village

Along the National Road, in an area once known as Little Crossings, Spruce Forest Artisan Village stands as a reminder of the Appalachian farming traditions established in the Allegheny (Maryland) region over two hundred years ago, and serves as a unique locale for artisans to create and display their works.

For years, my parents have attended Spruce Forest’s “Christmas in the Village,” an annual, two-day celebration in early December that showcases the region’s history and provides an opportunity for the six resident artists to interact with visitors who are curious about their various crafts.

This year, I was delighted to find that a visit to my parents’ house coincided with the event. We piled into the car and headed west—through the “cut in the mountain” near Cumberland, past Frostburg, and on to Grantsville, Maryland, the home of Spruce Forest Artisan Village.

It was a rainy evening; but as the locals were quick to say, it’s not uncommon for the event to be blanketed in snow. This blog post won’t do our visit justice, but hopefully it will serve as a glimpse into the careful preservation and extraordinary talent that make the Village a unique, year-round experience—made brighter still by the lights and luminarias of Christmas.

But first, a brief look at the town of Grantsville, Maryland, itself:

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The Casselman Inn, built in 1842, represents the many inns along the Old National Pike, which was a busy, westward passage across the Appalachian Mountains for stagecoaches, covered wagons and drovers (drivers of livestock). The Casselman, now a Western Maryland historic landmark, is still in service today and offers a quaint, country lodging and dining experience.

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An original stone mile marker from the National Road has been restored outside the Casselman Inn. (Grantsville, MD)

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The Casselman River Bridge is over 200 years old and is situated within a 4-acre state park next to Spruce Forest Artisan Village on the eastern side of Grantsville, MD. This bridge is a glimpse into Maryland’s early transportation days—when the National Road, a 620-mile stretch of federal highway that enabled settlers to head west, was in its heyday. During that period, the 80-foot bridge was the longest single span stone arch bridge in the world.

And now, on to the Village!

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Bear Hill School is the studio of resident wood turner Gene Gillespie. Among his works were pieces made from multi-colored, exotic woods. They were gorgeous! — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)

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The Markley House (rear) pre-dates 1775, making it older than the United States. The Hosteler house (front) was built in 1800 and reconstructed at Spruce Forest from parts of the original structure. (Most of the structures in the Village have been moved there, reconstructed and preserved.) — Granstville, MD

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At the time of our visit, the hearth of the Markley House was decorated with wooden figures carved by sculptor Gary Yoder. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village

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A hummingbird carving by resident sculptor Gary Yoder was a work in progress, but was already showing signs of the artist’s skill and attentiveness to detail. Mr. Yoder began learning his craft at age 10 or 11…right there in the Village! — Grantsville, MD

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Authentic elements of the Yoder family can be found inside the House of Yoder at Spruce Forest Artisan Village. Pictured here, near the entryway, is the family crest. The crest dates back to 1350 and contains a pelican, which in ancient times represented involvement in the religious crusades.

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When I entered the Yoder House, I spotted a gentleman tending the fire. In the adjoining room, children were making rustic ornaments as part of the village experience. Upstairs were authentic tools and utensils of times past.  — Spruce Forest Artisan Village

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From the front porch of the Glotfelty House, (where resident weaver Ann Jones works), the Miller House (circa 1835) stands as a symbol of peace (right), while the 1820 Winterberg House (left) serves as a studio for potter Lynn Lais. In the center, in the distance, is the Fernwood Soap shop. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village

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Resident artisan Lynn Lais’ studio was filled with beautiful pottery…and a wooden nativity. I purchased a sturdy mug from him that has been put to good use already. My sister picked out a lovely tray, which Mr. Lais told us is a piece often commissioned by local churches for use as a communion serving tray. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village; Grantsville, MD

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Here’s a flashback to “Christmas in the Village” 2012 (taken by my father): Artisan Lynn Lais works at his potter’s wheel in his studio at Spruce Forest Artisan Village. (Grantsville, MD)

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Amish Bishop Benedict Miller constructed the Miller House in 1835 with his son Joel. Today, the house (which was moved to Spruce Forest in 1986) serves as an Anabaptist Peace Center, with a focus on the early Millers’ walk of faith. Pictured here by the hearth is Miller’s great-great granddaughter, Barbara, who graciously and perfectly posed for this picture. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)

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Inside the Miller House, an original lantern from an inn along the Old Pike is on display. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)

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The Compton School (left) is the last and only preserved log school house in Western Maryland. The Village Church (center) is used for music and special events. While visiting the Village, I heard carols coming from inside the 80-year-old structure. The 19th century Eli Miller Shed (right) is the studio of metal sculptor Mike Edelman. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village

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Part of Penn Alps Restaurant, adjacent to Spruce Forest Artisan Village, consists of the original log inn and stagecoach stop along the Old National Road. — Grantsville, MD

Spruce Artisan Village is supported by grants from the Maryland State and Garrett County Arts Councils, as well as by agencies funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Note: Unfortunately, I somehow overlooked photographing the log cabin of metal smith Doug Salmon.

Durham Aglow: The “Lucky” Edition

Over the last ten years, Durham, North Carolina (a.k.a. “the Bull City”) has undergone a transformation referred to as “the Durham Renaissance.” One particular area of development is the American Tobacco Historic District. Once a thriving center for the manufacture of such products as Lucky Strike cigarettes and Bull Durham tobacco, the American Tobacco District has been repurposed into a thriving hub for businesses, entertainment, housing and cuisine.

Each year, the Lucky Strike water tower on the America Tobacco campus is lit for Christmas. This year’s lighting (which occurred on December 5th) marked the 10th year of this tradition. From various points in the city—from the DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center) to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park—the tower (lit and unlit) stands as a reminder of the Bull City’s past and its unfolding future.

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Durham, North Carolina

A Few Moments at Murray’s Mill

Murrays_MillTucked away along a winding byway in Catawba County, North Carolina, is a National Register Historic Site known as Murray’s Mill.

On a recent trip to the western part of North Carolina, I spent a few moments snapping pictures of the historic property, which in addition to the Mill (built in 1913 to replace the original), consists of Murray & Minges General Store (circa 1890s), a Wheathouse from the 1880s, and the John Murray House (built in 1912). Three generations of Murray family members ran the mill from 1883 until 1967, when operation ceased.

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Murray’s Mill has been carefully restored and preserved by the Catawba County Historical Association since 1980. — Catawba, North Carolina

Visitors can tour the Mill and Wheathouse—the last of their kind in the county—or step into the General Store for a quaint step back in time.

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Parking is available by the Murray & Minges General Store, where an old pump and a rusty Pepsi cooler greet visitors. (The name Minges was added through marriage.)

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Behind the mill is the John Murray House (left) and (to the right in the distance) other historic structures that are part of the Murray’s Mill Historic Site in Catawba, North Carolina.

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Inside Murray’s Mill, artifacts have been well-maintained for viewing, such as millstones used to grind corn, roller mills for grinding wheat into flour, as well as storage bins used to contain the finished product.

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The dam and 28-foot waterwheel at Murray’s Mill were constructed in 1938 and replaced the former wooden dam and 22-foot waterwheel.

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Although not part of the Murray’s Mill Historic Site per se, trail enthusiasts and casual walkers alike can pick up the David L. Stewart Trail, which is part of a regional network of greenways and trails known as the Carolina Thread Trail that “threads” its way through 15 counties in North Carolina and South Carolina.

For more photos of Murray’s Mill, both past and present, visit NC State University Library’s rare and unique digital collections.