By Joanna Grey Talbot
The road was calling and I had to answer! This week I headed about 40 minutes southeast of Charlotte to the beautiful little town of Kings Mountain. Incorporated in 1874, it is named for the Revolutionary War battle of the same name which took place five miles south in 1780. Yet, as with many towns during the 1870s it was founded because of the building of the railroad. The Charlotte-Atlanta Airline Railway came through in 1872 and the town grew from there. Today the railroad still goes through the heart of downtown.
I felt like I needed to start my day at the beginning, though, so I went first to the Kings Mountain National Military Park. The battle only lasted for about an hour on October 7, 1780, but it was the beginning of the end for Great Britain in the Revolutionary War. This battle came after the long, hard winter of Valley Forge and the loss at Camden, South Carolina, so it was a badly needed win for the colonial patriots. I hiked the 1.5 mile battlefield trail, which I highly recommend, and was able to get a tiny taste of what the patriots went through as they fought uphill. Next week’s post will go into more depth about this fascinating battle and excellent national park.
Leaving the visitor center I drove back through the beautiful countryside and north on Interstate 85 to the town. After a quick lunch I paid a visit to the Kings Mountain Historical Museum. Being a former employee of a mid-sized local history museum I always try to support other local museums and I wasn’t disappointed. Located in a beautiful old post office building built in 1939, the museum has thankfully retained many of the wonderful architectural features, including the terrazzo marble floor, the vault, mail slots, and a gorgeous mural of the Kings Mountain Battle painted by an artist of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). After the Great Depression the WPA was one of many federal agencies created to give Americans job and help them get back on their feet. One of the many great things that the WPA did was to employ artists to paint murals for federal buildings throughout the country.
Their current exhibit, which runs through October 15th is on the Battle of Kings Mountain. A museum volunteer gave me an excellent tour and I am grateful for the time she spent on my tour of one. I highly recommend that any time you visit a museum that you request a tour, if it’s possible. You can learn a lot by reading the information yourself but I feel like so much is lost that way. Having a tour is getting the opportunity to hear the story told and to have interactions with the storyteller. Totally worth your time.
On the property of the museum are two unique structures that are open on living-history days and by appointment. One is the Robert Barber House built between 1835 and 1845 in the hall & parlor plan with Federal interior styling. The other is the George Washington Cornwell House built in 1876 in the center hall plan in the late Greek Revival style. Both structures are still being restored and researched but you can walk around the exterior anytime. Hopefully during my next visit, I will have time for a tour of both houses.
I wish I had had more time to explore but I took so much time at the national park and the museum that I was afraid I would get stuck in rush hour traffic back in Charlotte. So many of these great towns really need a two-day visit.
Before I left town, though, I of course sniffed out the local coffee shop, Gateway Brew. Located on the main drag just across from the railroad tracks, it was recently opened this past April. With its inviting interior, great coffee (I give my small mocha frappe five coffee beans out of five!), and excellent service it is a great addition to downtown Kings Mountain. The owner, Sara, was the barista when I visited and she was very helpful in recommending other places to visit. You can tell that she loves the community and wants to be a part of the process that keeps the downtown thriving. I look forward to being a patron again in the near future!
Kings Mountain is well worth a visit and is a great blend of history, culture, and community. Next time you drive by it on Interstate 85 please take some time and explore!