Historic Stagville in Durham is home to one of the largest plantations in Antebellum North Carolina. But don't expect to find Tara, that columned plantation house from "Gone with the Wind," here.
The buildings at Stagville, from the 1780s, are more modest, but they still play an important role in the history of North Carolina. And, for fans of the American Girl series, researchers looked to Stagville as they built the story of Addy Walker, a girl who escapes slavery.
It's a great place to spend a morning or entire day, exploring the collection of historic buildings and 163 acres. Best of all, it's free.
"We have plenty to do and it's family friendly," Stagville site manager Alton Mitchell tells me.
Stagville stretches along Old Oxford Highway. To see the entire site, most folks opt to get in their cars and drive between the two sections, though it's possible to walk. Tours start from the Bennehan House side, which also includes a visitors center with restrooms and a small exhibit area and store, and eventually continue down Old Oxford Highway to the slave community, which includes the slave quarters and the Great Barn, which lives up to its name.
There are a couple of tour options here. You can take a one-hour guided tour of the Bennehan House, slave quarters and Great Barn. There's also a self-guided tour of the other buildings and sites on the property. Guided tours start at 10 a.m. The grounds are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
We were the only ones on our 10 a.m. guided tour when we visited late last month. Kimberly Puryear, the assistant site manager, showed us around. She did a great job including my six-year-old in the tour. She asked her questions, showed her things she could touch and talked to her specifically about the way of life at the time.
The grounds were just as much fun to roam. There's a lot of open space here for picnics and running around. Both my kids were excited to see the chickens that ran up to us as we sat down for a picnic at some tables right behind the Bennehan House.
We were there for about four hours and could have spent more time exploring the grounds and nature trails. We'll be back.
Historic Stagville offers a variety of special events and tours throughout the year. It's long-running and largest event of the year is Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters. It's scheduled for 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 3. The event lets guests take part in Christmas celebrations for both the planter family and the slave community. It's free and open to the public.
If you'd like to learn more about the Addy Walker connection, check in with the site, which has offered a special Addy-based themed tour in the past.
Historic Stagville is at 5828 Old Oxford Highway in Durham. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, check Historic Stagville's state historic site website and the Historic Stagville Foundation website and watch the video.