The drawback of our country’s interstate road system is that we miss out on so many wonderful towns and sites. Instead of being waymarkers along the route they are relegated to a name on a green or brown sign as we fly past on the way to our destination. My husband and I were given the chance to finally explore an area off Interstate 85 between Greensboro and Raleigh when he had to travel there for work.
We stayed in Burlington but while Cecil was working I explored downtown and the surrounding area and I am so glad that I did! My day began in downtown Burlington in pursuit of a good cup of coffee. My nose and GPS guided me to The Blend & co. My medium mocha was excellent but my favorite part was how friendly and helpful the baristas were. While I was waiting on my drink they asked how my day was going and I told them it was my first visit to Burlington. I asked them for dinner recommendations and they made me a list! Anytime I am in the area I will always stop by for a pick-me-up.
From there I walked across the street to the Burlington/Alamance County Visitors Bureau housed in the historic 1892 train depot. Renovated in 1993 it was built by the North Carolina Railroad Company in the Victorian Tudor style. I loaded up on brochures (I’ve always been a sucker for them!) and explored the outside of the depot and the Norfolk & Western caboose located behind it.
I hopped back in the car and drove just north of town to do one of my favorite things: hike in the beautiful great outdoors. The Haw River Trail is part of the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail and follows the course of the Haw River from the Haw River State Park to Jordan Lake State Park near Raleigh. There are a few access points along the trail complete with parking. I chose to hike the portion from Great Bend Park to the village of Glencoe.
This portion started out in the woods and then began following the Haw River. An offshoot of the trail took me by the mill race and low, concrete dam installed by the former Glencoe Mill. There is nothing like the sound of a river rushing over rocks.
I was the only person on the trail until I reached the village and it was absolutely wonderful. Me, the birds, and the roar of the river. The second half of this trail portion follows a loop through the beautiful village of Glencoe. The Glencoe Cotton Mill and village were built between 1880 and 1882. Founded by brothers William and James Holt the mill manufactured a high quality cotton fabric. At its height the mill employed 500 people and about half lived in the village. The mill closed in 1954.
In 1997 the village was purchased by Preservation North Carolina and the homes were sold to homeowners willing to painstakingly restore them. The mill buildings have been bought by a developer to be turned into apartments and small businesses. There looks to be a wonderful museum in the former company store but it is only open on the weekends and I was there during the week. Looking forward to a return visit!
I would have loved to stay in Glencoe longer but I had other places to visit and only one full day to do it in. This time I headed south of town, just across interstate 85, to the Alamance County Historical Museum. It is housed in the 1790 home built by Michael Holt, III, another area textile mill owner, which began its life as part of the Oak Grove plantation on over 1,600 acres. Enslaved laborers farmed grain and at the outbreak of the Civil War there were 51 living on the plantation.
The museum features six period rooms filled with artifacts plus four outlying buildings and the family cemetery. Some of the unique artifacts that can be seen are hand-painted Limoges porcelain and furniture created by the free black craftsman Thomas Day. I thoroughly enjoyed my free tour.
My day had already been full but I had one last stop to make. I am a complete sucker for historical sites and especially ones that have animals! The Cedarock Historical Farm is located in 500-acre Cedarock Park. It displays 19th century life on a farm and includes the original cabin (1830), two story house (1835), smokehouse, corn crib, carriage shed, barn, outhouse, and post office. Visitors are welcome to walk around the farm anytime the park is open but the buildings are opened by appointment only. A few weekends a year the Friends of Cedarock Farm host living history events. My favorite part of the visit, though, was the sheep, goats and horses!
What a wonderful day it was spent exploring Burlington and the surrounding areas. I hope to make a return visit soon. The next day before heading home my husband and I made one last stop in nearby Mebane to partake in one of our favorite pastimes – wandering through a used bookstore. Fifth Street Books is a warehouse filled with books and all for 99 cents! The day we were there they were running a 49 cent sale so we walked out with a bag full for only a few dollars. A perfect ending to a wonderful trip!