how historic homes are a lot like the Bible

Stanly House – 1780

Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.
 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. – Psalm 119:97-99


A couple of weeks ago, when we visited the Tryon Palace in New Bern, I limited my reporting to the main house and the spectacular gardens, focusing on the “entitlement of the rich.” I promised to share images of the other homes in a later post.

The palace may be spectacular, but the tours I enjoy the most tend to be of houses I could actually imagine living in myself. I especially liked the George Dixon home and the John Wright Stanly house.

Granted, both places are considerably above my pay grade, but there was a warmth and accessibility about these homes that I believe you will see from the photographs.


John Wright Stanly House

The Stanly story is a kind of segue from yesterday’s post about Blackbeard, and could fill this entire page. Stanly was a shipping entrepreneur who made his fortune as a privateer during the War of Independence. He pirated English vessels, then shared his “prize” with the fledgling US government. Blackbeard sought refuge in Bath; Stanly built his home in New Bern. The English got Blackbeard (1718); Stanly stayed safe.

Later, Stanly’s son became a lawyer, entered politics, and dispatched his main rival (former US Congressman and North Carolina governor Richard Dobbs Spaight) in an infamous 1802 duel.

Stanly’s house, built around 1780, was considered the finest in the region, featuring rich woods and exquisite workmanship. George Washington stayed there during his 1791 visit to New Bern.


George Dixon Home

The George Dixon home (1830) was my favorite. Dixon was a tailor and merchant who went bankrupt not long after building his house. The photograph of the entry hall clearly shows an archway that represents an interesting social cue from the times (you can also see one in Stanly’s house). The archway was a point of demarkation guests did not venture beyond unless specifically invited to by family. In a party, or a social visit, people stayed in the front rooms, and in the wide hallway between the arch and the front door. This provided a measure of inviolate family privacy that was understood and respected as a social norm.

The other buildings and views in the slideshow are labeled to the best of my recollection. Next time you visit New Bern, take the time to look inside, take some tours, and learn the history.

It’s about learning, and opening our eyes:


This history stuff is a lot like reading the scriptures: when we take the time to do some research, understand context, ask good questions, learn what the words actually meant at the time they were first used, and look at the big picture, then the pages (or in this case the house and its story) are opened up and take on new life.

So many of our experiences – with history, with travel, with Bible study… with life – are one-dimensional and flat. There is so much to learn and so much life to discover!

How about it? – DEREK



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