CHARLOTTE – The cool air and natural beauty attracts many to the mountains of Western North Carolina, while the sandy beaches and ocean waters lure others to the coastal regions of the state.
North Carolina is also rich in history. Sometimes when planning a trip, one should think of yesterday instead of thinking about tomorrow.
The list of historical spots across the state is extensive, spanning from the first settlers to the battlefields of Revolutionary and Civil wars to the state’s contributions in two World Wars and in the years that followed.
A good place to start is North Carolina Historic Sites, which consists of 27 historical spots.
The Reed Gold Mine and the President James K. Polk State Historical Site are perfect for short day trips from the Charlotte-metro area. Both are free. The gold mine is in Midland, about 13 miles southeast of Concord, while the Polk site is in Pineville. Both sites have visitor centers with historical artifacts and multimedia presentations.
Reed Gold Mine
The site of the first documented gold find in the country is a great place to stop and tour any time of the year. The first nugget, or rock, of gold was found in 1799. It weighed 17 pounds and was worth $3,600 at the time, or $310,000 today.
The first stop is the visitors center. There is a museum that features the history of the mine, its owner and gold mining in general. There is also a 20-minute video. On the day I visited this past spring, there was a temporary exhibit of the state’s contributions in World War I.
The mine takes you down 50 feet, and there is almost 500 feet of mine to explore. The different tunnels are all lighted and some of the original equipment still stands deep in the mine. There are a few stairs to climb. After returning to the surface, there are several other exhibits along several short trails, including the Stamp Mill.
For a small fee, visitors can also pan for gold on the site from April 1 to Oct. 31. The soil comes from a creek on the mine property.
Go to www.nchistoricsites.
org/reed/reed.htm for more information.
President James K Polk State Site
This is the only site that North Carolina owns that interprets the life and legacy of an American president.
This site is located on land once owned by the parents of James K. Polk, who was the 11th President of the United States. The state historic site commemorates significant events in the Polk administration, including the Mexican-American War, the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute and the annexation of California. The site also includes reconstructions of homestead buildings of the period – a log house, separate kitchen, and barn. They are authentically furnished. The visitor center features a film on Polk’s life and exhibits on his family and his historic presidency.
If one wants to learn how to weave a basket, then the Polk site is for you. It has a class July 14 from 2 to 4 p.m. Starting off with a simple pattern and shape, Susan Worchester will guide you through the basics of how to weave a basket. Participants will be supplied with the required reeds of varying sizes and colors to complete their project during the class. The cost is $15 plus tax per person. Registration is required.
Go to www.nchistoricsites.org/polk/polk.html for more information.