Historic Oak View County Park

A few weeks ago, I visited Historic Oak View County Park here in Raleigh. Despite living just a few miles from the park for over six years, I’d never been! I took advantage of the nice weather to explore.

Beginning in the 1830s, Oak View was a working farm for around 150 years, growing Southern staples like cotton and tobacco. During that time, it belonged to several high-profile families in Wake County, with the county acquiring it in 1984, decades after it ceased being a working farm. By 1984, it was made up of 72 acres of land, a fraction of its former size. Wake County planned an office park on part of the land, used the historic house for storage, and slated 17 acres of the orchard and several historic farm buildings for demolition. The Wake County Historical Society organized a citizens committee to raise funds and several county commissioners became involved with the project to save the park. In 1991, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and in 1995, it became the first historic park in the Wake County park system.

Today, the park is comprised of several historic buildings, a museum, visitor’s center, a Farm History Center, a pecan grove, fruit orchard, and small cemetery.

This is the main house, built around 1855. In the 1940s, a Colonial Revival-style addition was added (to the right of the main structure). Now it’s a small museum!

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Inside the library of the main house. Behind me was a fireplace and shelves of old books reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast (on a much smaller scale!)

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This is the plank kitchen behind the main house. In the south, kitchens were detached from the main house to eliminate extra heat in the living space. This is the oldest building on the property, having been built in 1825 and served as the house’s kitchen until the 1940s!

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One of the barns on the property. You’d never know that the interstate is visible from the park. It feels like you’re away from modern life for a minute.

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A bale of cotton beside the cotton gin house. I didn’t take pictures inside the house because it was so dark. You’re able to walk upstairs and downstairs in the house, which I thought was so cool! The cotton gin house was built around 1900 and processed the cotton from Oak View Farm as well as surrounding farms.

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And they have livestock! On the day I went, I only saw the chickens but they have goats as well. I was a little sad that I missed the goats but since I live so close (and I really didn’t explore much of the park), I’ll have to go back!

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For more information about Historic Oak View County Park, click here!

13 Vintage Halloween Pictures to get you in the Holiday Spirit

It’s mid-October, which means Halloween is right around the corner. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t really feel like Halloween to me. It might have something to do with the temperatures outside or maybe it’s because I haven’t had any apple cider. To get both you and I into the holiday spirit, I combed the archives (lots of archives, actually) to bring you thirteen vintage Halloween photos!

Wait wait, lets set the mood with some music. Try this song, or maybe this one.

Alright, now let’s see what we’ve got here…

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“Trick photo” of a decapitated man, ca. 1875. Image via George Eastman Museum.

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Costumed passengers at the Tallahassee Municipal Airport, 1984. Image via Florida Memory. (Can you imagine showing up to the airport like this today?!)

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The Nereidian Club, a synchronized swimming club, swim with a skeleton at Duke University, date unknown. Image via Duke University Archives.

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Halloween party flyer from Duke University, 1976. Image via Duke University Archives.

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Halloween party flyer from the Duke Graduate Student Association, date unknown. Image via Duke University Archives

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Monster College graduation at Knott’s Berry Farm, 1990. Image via Orange County Archives.

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Ghostly image created via double exposure, 1899. Image via National Archives UK.

 

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Underwater witch in Rainbow Springs, FL, 1950s. Image via Florida Memory.

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Agar Adamson in a very impressive Napoleon Bonaparte costume at a ball in Toronto, 1898. Image via Library and Archives Canada. (It appears that Canadians do Halloween right.)

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Elvira and friends at Knott’s Berry Farm’s Halloween Haunt, 1986. Image via Orange County Archives.

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Halloween party at the Methodist Orphanage in Raleigh, NC, 1950. Image via State Archives of North Carolina.

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Press photo for The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, 1969. Image via Mousetalgia.

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NC State students dressed as Paul Stanley and a scarecrow, 1991. Image via NCSU Libraries.


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Vintage Halloween Pictures

 

A Visit to Biltmore

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took a short trip to Asheville to visit Biltmore Estate. He had been before but I never had. I was really excited to visit the house and grounds…it’s so much bigger than I expected! I knew it was the biggest private residence in the US but I still wasn’t quite prepared. Some of these pictures were taken on my DSLR but it was so dark in the house (and so crowded!) that I used my phone for most pictures.

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Biltmore is George Vanderbilt’s palatial estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The house covers over four acres of floor space, has 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces for those chilly mountain nights. The entire estate, as it is today, covers 8,000 acres.

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One of the many John Singer Sargent portraits in the house. I got excited every time we found a new one!

Vanderbilt opened Biltmore to friends and family in 1895. The house wasn’t yet finished and parts of it remain unfinished to this day. Three years after opening his estate, he married Edith Stuyvesant Dresser.

The Vanderbilts loved entertaining and George built Vanderbilt with entertaining in mind. The house has 20 dressing rooms for both men and women so they could enjoy the indoor pool without being indecent. There is also a billiards room, two-lane bowling alley, and gun room for guests to choose their weapon for on-site hunting.

George Vanderbilt passed away at the age of 51 in 1914. He got to enjoy his estate for less than 20 years. Upon his death, Edith sold approximately 87,000 acres of the estate to the US Forest Service for less than $5 an acre.

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There is also a rose garden on the estate. Ok, there are quite a few gardens at Biltmore. There is also a bass pond, miles of trails, and massive greenhouses. It’s all very beautiful but we went during a heat wave and the greenhouses were almost unbearable.

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Something else I was very excited about is the fact that Frederick Law Olmstead designed the grounds. He was the landscape architect in the late 19th century and designed spaces like Central Park, Prospect Park, and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair (AKA “The White City”).

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But let’s rewind for a second. In 1900, work began on the construction of a dairy farm on the estate. George wanted the dairy to provide dairy products for his family and those that worked on his estate and, of course, the dairy farm provided another source of income. When his dairy produced more than they could consume or sell, he donated it to local hospitals. In the 1980s, though, dairy was out at Biltmore. Wine was in. Where the dairy farm once stood, there is now the Biltmore Winery. I had purchased Biltmore Wine before and was pleasantly surprised at how good it is. I know how weird that sounds given that it bears the Biltmore name but I have to be honest, North Carolina does not always produce the best wine. A free tasting is included with your admission, which is really nice.

In Antler Hill Village, a separate part of the estate with the winery, shops, hotels, and restaurants, there is an exhibit space where there was an exhibit about weddings in the Biltmore family. The highlight was this veil. It is known as the Lee Family Veil and was worn by Mary Lee Ryan at her marriage to George Vanderbilt’s grandson, William A.V. Cecil. Oh, it was also worn by Jacqueline Bouvier at her marriage to John F. Kennedy. Small detail there.

There are still animals in Antler Hill Village, some of which you can pet! These goats just wanted me to admire them from afar, though.

I barely scratched the surface of the history of the estate and its impact on the economy of Asheville (which is absolutely fascinating). For more information, visit the Biltmore site, read this article from Our State magazine, and listen to this episode of Stuff You Missed in History Class!