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Stagville preservation center
Drive to a quiet place
where history lives on
By SUSAN MAUNEY
As summer simmers down and term papers
loom in the distance, cabin fever hits the
average college student like a lead pipe.
Getting away for even an hour becomes a
There are several all-purpose getaway
spots within a short distance of Chapel Hill
that often can serve as a buffer between
school and sanity. One, for history buffs in
particular is Stagville Preservation Center
north of Durham.
Stagville Preservation Center, a state
owned historic site, is located on a former
tobacco plantation that was one of the lar
gest in the Old South.
Stagville Plantation, begun by Richard
Bennehan in 1768, once'covered parts of
Granville, Person, Wake and Durham coun
ties. The center is the Bennehan-Cameron
House, a IVi -story Georgian-style home,
built in 1799. Unlike many houses in the era,
it has few flourishes, such as ornate ceiling
moulding, because, Bennehan, a tough old
Scot, said he did not approve of such frivoli
ty. The tobacco plantation reached its height
before the Civil War under the supervision of
Bennehan's grandnephew Raul Cameron who
was known as the richest man in North Caro
lina and owned almost 500 slaves.
Three two-story slave houses remain on
the plantation, built in Scottish half-timber
style around 1860. The houses still are struc
turally sound and were built with brick and
timber by slave labor.
The Great Barn, near the Horton Grove
houses, also reflects the Scottish background
of the Cameron family.
Horton Cottage, also a part of the ce'nter,
was built in 1776 by the recipients of the
original land grant from the King of England.
It is located on an old heavily traveled Indian
trading path from Edenton to Salisbury.
Even though the house is well-preserved
for its age, some restoration has bet . neces
sary. New hardwood floors have oeen in
stalled and each brick in the structure's
foundation has been remortared to match
the original appearance as closely as pos
sible. Except for the recessed electric lights in
the house's ceilings, the house will one day
look very much like it did when its builder
The plantation's land is owned by Ligget
and Myers Tobacco" Co., but the center's 71
acres is maintained by the state.
A trip to Stagville offers an interesting day
out of academia offering fresh air, exercise"
and a chance to touch the past
Plantations often are pictured as Tara in .
Cone With the Wind, of stately mansions :
glimpsed through moss-hung oaks. Stagville
is different, yet still as magical and as easy
to touch as a 35-minute drive.
If you're going. . . . Stagville is located
north of Durham on Old Oxford Road. Take.
U.S. 15-501 to 1-85 in Durham. Stay on 1-85
North until the Old Oxford Road exit There
will be signs directing you to Stagville Pre
servation Center. Approximate mileage: 25
miles. Approximate time: 35 minutes. HQ
Susan Mauney is managing editor of The Daily
American Cancer Society
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Bennehan House was completed in 1799
. . .now serves as preservation center
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Spotlight, September 10. 1981