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Destinations: Bennett Place historic site

The simple farmhouse played a major role in the end of the Civil War. And it's in Durham. Check out this local historic site, which offers a family-friendly Christmas event Dec. 11 and Dec. 12.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
On most Fridays, I've try to feature a park, playground or other spot in the region. It's mostly been park and playground reviews. But there have been other places that I've featured that aren't either a park or a playground.

So I'm launching a new series that I'm calling "Destinations." These will run on Fridays too from time to time, especially as the weather gets colder and we're all looking for indoor places to play and explore.

First up is Bennett Place in Durham. The state historic site on Bennett Memorial Road was the site of the largest troop surrender in the Civil War and played a profound impact in helping to end the war. In April 1865, Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Union Gen. William T. Sherman met and signed surrender papers for Southern armies in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida.

It also was home to the Bennett family, who represented the average family in North Carolina at the time. The farming family wasn't wealthy. And it was touched by the war. Both a son and son-in-law died during the war years.

The site, which covers about 30 acres, includes a reproduction of the house, kitchen and smokehouse. There's also a visitors center with a short movie and exhibits on what happened during the surrender and life during the time. Outside, there are some places for kids to run and a handful of short nature trails.

Site interpreter Jeremiah DeGennaro showed me around Bennett Place the other week. The site is especially popular for field trips for fourth graders, who study the Civil War during school.

The visitor center's exhibits aren't especially hands-on for young kids. DeGennaro said there are plans to make them more interactive within the next couple of years.

DeGennaro also tells me that they hope to launch a Tarheel Junior Historians program at Bennett  Place. The program encourages the study of state and local history among kids. Contact Bennett Place at 919-383-4345 for more information.

If you go with a fourth to eighth grader, be sure to check out the scavenger hunt. Get 20 of the 25 questions correct and your child will take home a Bennett Place patch.

Bennett Place will celebrate Christmas from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 11 and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 12 during its Civil War Christmas in the Carolinas event.

Learn all about how the family would have celebrated Christmas with pine cone and ribbon decorations, smoked ham and other treats. Costumed living historians will demonstrate how packages and letters were sent to soldiers at war. There will be a roasting of a hog's head, an apple pressing and an encampment of Confederate soldier re-enactors. Fried apples, pumpkin pie, biscuits and more will be cooking in the kitchen. There will be hot apple cider and holiday cookies for visitors.

Admission (as it always is at Bennett Place) is free, though donations are happily accepted.

Learn more about Bennett Place in the video.

Bennett Place is at 4409 Bennett Memorial Rd in Durham. It's open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.


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