OCCONEECHEE FARM

OCCONEECHEE FARM


The property that became Julian Carr's Occoneechee Farm had been farming and hunting grounds for the Occaneechi for generations, and before them the Siouan, before an English land grant was given to William Churton in 1754.

The house and property was called "Banks of the Eno" first by James Hogg, who purchased the property in 1794. The 663-acre property was purchased by Julian Carr on April 25, 1891 from James Hogg Norwood and his sister, Margaret. Carr and his wife Nannie renamed the main house on the property "Poplar Hill." It was used as their "summer house" or "country house" or "country estate." Carr's "city house" at the time was the impressive Somerset Villa, located in Durham -- a structure that he had completed three years prior, in 1888.

The success of the Blackwell's Durham Tobacco Company and Durham Cotton Manufacturing Company had created a great deal of wealth for Carr; as with other wealthy industrialists of the late 19th century, he sought to reclaim the bucolic dream in the gentleman's farm. Farming was, of course, quite a bit easier if you had a great deal of wealth to fall back on.

Perhaps consistent with Carr's outscale ambition and personality, however, the farm developed into a full-scale operation, consisting of, at a minimum, a large sheep barn, a large piggery with several breeding pens, a concrete-floored dairy barn with 56 stanchions, five poultry houses (capable of housing 1,500 chickens), and a three-story barn with a slate roof, oak floors, stalls for 36 horses, and a basement for mules, in addition to Poplar Hall itself. Carr also built a half mile horse track on the (southern) bank of the Eno River, northeast of the farm operation.

Nannie Carr died in the house on August 18, 1915, and in 1919 the farm suffered significant damage due to a tornado, although Poplar Hill itself was relatively unscathed. The farm business never recovered, however, and Carr decided to sell the farm as his health declined in the early 1920s.

The farm was advertised for sale in the Durham Morning Herald on October 26, 1923 by Carver Real Estate. It was again advertised for sale by the Atlantic Coast Realty Company (of Winston-Salem) November 22, 1923. It was divided into several smaller farms, and was soon sold, shortly before Carr's death on April 29, 1924.

Sometime during the 1950s, the smaller farms resulting from the subdivision of Occoneechee Farm in 1923 were again subdivided, and suburban housing was built on the sites; the entry road to the former farm was named Tuscarora Drive.

Poplar Hill was moved to the other side of the Eno River (to the southern end of Cameron Street) by James Freeland in 1980. Freeland intended to turn it into a steak house/restaurant, but a group of Hillsborough residents were opposed to it (he ended up opening the Occoneechee Steak House on South Churton Street, across from Daniel Boone).

Postcard of the farm (courtesy Orange County Museum)

(Courtesy Durham County Library)

"Alfalfa and farm buildings -Gen. J. S. Carr's Occoneechee Farm 17 April 1903" (via the Albert Barden Collection)

"Man holds alfalfa on the farm of General J. S. Carr 17 April 1903" (via the Albert Barden Collection)

1898 advertisement

 

/sites/default/files/images/OO_July2016/occoneecheefarm_poplarhill.jpg/sites/default/files/images/OO_July2016/occoneecheefarm_pcard(1).jpg/sites/default/files/images/OO_July2016/occoneechee3.jpg

BANKS OF THE ENO / POPLAR HILL

209
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1790-1794
/ Modified in
1891
,
1980
Architectural style: 
,
Construction type: 
Type: 
Use: 

Originally the house of James Hogg, the house and farm were purchased by Industrialist Julian Carr in 1891

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

In tours

Last updated

  • Sun, 07/21/2024 - 1:44pm by sevy

Comments

209
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1790-1794
/ Modified in
1891
,
1980
Architectural style: 
,
Construction type: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

The property that became Julian Carr's Occoneechee Farm was part of an English land grant given to William Churton. Prior to Carr's purchase, the farm and house had been called "Banks of the Eno" by James Hogg, who owned the property from 1779 until 1803 or 1804; his daughter, Robina, renamed the house "Poplar Hill," due to the several large Poplar trees on the hill around the house. From her the property to her son, John Wall Norwood (1803-1885), and then to his (and his wife, Annabella's) children, James Hogg Norwood (1839-1912) and Margaret Yonge Norwood (1838-1925). James Hogg Norwood was famous for his fighting cocks, known as the "Norwood War Horses," that he developed, bred, and raised at Poplar Hill.

Robina's brother Galvin Alves' eight-year-old daughter, Mary, was accidentally killed in the house on April 11th or 14th (newspaper accounts differ), 1806, when she and her siblings were playing with a pistol, and one of her brothers or cousins accidentally shot her in the chest with it.

The 663-acre property was purchased by Julian S. Carr on April 25, 1891 from James and Margaret Norwood, for ,000.

Julian's Carr's wife, Nannie, died in the house August 18, 1915. The farm suffered significant damage due to a tornado in 1919, although Poplar Hill itself was relatively unscathed.

When the property was subdivided in the 1920s, John Graham Webb purchased the section with Poplar Hill on it and the racetrack. The Webbs lived in the (Poplar Hill) house until the mid-1930s, when they rented it to various families (Olander P. Cole rented the house in the late 1930s). The Rittenhouse family purchased the circa 1948, and they renovated the house and clubhouse (the racetrack property was sold to Bill France in 1947 by Marion E. Holloway). Their daughter, Peach Rittenhouse, married Harold Culbreth in 1951, they moved into the house with her parents, and purchased the house from them in 1954. The Culbreths lived in the house until 1965, when they had a new house built behind the Poplar Hill house (which still stands). James Freeland obtained Poplar Hill from the Culbreths.

Poplar Hill was moved to the other side of the Eno River (to the southern end of Cameron Street) by Freeland in 1980. He intended to turn it into a steak house/restaurant, but a group of Hillsborough residents were opposed to it (instead, he ended up opening the Occoneechee Steak House on South Churton Street, across from Daniel Boone).

"Banks of the Eno," circa 1880s (courtesy OC Museum)

From the Weekly Raleigh Register, April 21, 1806


Poplar Hill, at right, circa 1900 (courtesy Durham County Library)


Circa 1910 postcard of the farm, with house at left (courtesy Orange County Museum)


Relaxing on the front porch, circa 1900 (courtesy Durham County Library)

"Man holds alfalfa on the farm of General J. S. Carr 17 April 1903" with house at left (via the Albert Barden Collection)

1945 ad for Poplar Hill (from the July 26, 1945 News of Orange)

News of Orange article excerpt from April 24, 1980, showing Poplar Hill being moved south to its current location (courtesy of Rich Shaw)

The former Poplar Hill on Burnside Drive, just north of the Eno from its former site, 05.25.14 (G. Kueber)
 

From the NRHP Hillsborough Historic District Additional Documentation, OR0077, listed 2014 (not verified for accuracy by this author):

"The core of this impressive, two-story, side-gabled house was built around 1794 on the south bank of the Eno River, within the historic district. However, the current design of the house was achieved in 1891-1923 by Julian S. Carr, the second owner, and the move almost due north to its current location in 1981 entailed further alteration. The house is four bays wide and single-pile with a wide, two-story gabled wing at the right rear (northeast). It has a brick foundation, beaded weatherboards, an interior brick chimney in the left (west) gable and an exterior brick chimney in the right (east) gable, and boxed eaves with partial gable returns. Two front doors are centered on the façade, each a nine-light-over-two-panel door accessed by a common brick stair.
A pair of four-light French doors with a small wooden balcony is located on each end of the first-floor façade and flanks the chimney on the left elevation. Other first- and second-story windows are six-over-six, nine-over-nine, or four-over-four double-hung wood sash. A full-width, monumental, two-story, shed-roofed porch dates from 1981 when the house was moved; it is supported by fluted square columns on brick piers with a brick porch floor at grade level rather than at the first-floor level of the house. The porch it replaced was flat-roofed with a prominent turned balustrade and behind it there was a wide attic gable that was removed when the house was moved. At the second story, a deep wooden balcony extends across the middle three-quarters of the façade
and is accessed by three pairs of French doors identical to those below; it is supported by large chamfered knee brackets and has a railing with square posts and balusters. The balcony, along with fluted corner boards, dentil moldings in the gables, Victorian-era windows in the gables (two single short-eight-over-tall-one windows flanking the chimney in the east gable and a Palladian window in the west gable with flankers identical to those in the east and the taller round-arched center window framing the exposed face of the interior end chimney), and French doors were part of Carr’s remodeling. There is an enclosed porch that extends the depth of the wide rear gable on its left elevation. An entrance on the left elevation of the rear wing is sheltered by a gabled roof on square posts and one on the right elevation is sheltered by a shed-roofed porch on slender columns. There is a stone retaining wall across the front of the house with stone steps accessing the porch. Another low stone retaining wall extends along the driveway behind the house. Only the wide pine floors and some wall sheathing dating from the original 1794 finish now remain on the interior. The Federal mantels, the attic stair, flush wainscots and molded chair rail, and some woodwork were probably installed in an early refurbishing. The main stair appears to have been added circa 1900 as suggested by its Victoria style newel post. Beaded sheathing covers the stair hall walls."

 

For an interesting (albeit somewhat embellished) story about Poplar Hill, see bittersoutherner.com/we-salted-nannie-southern-ghost-story

Add new comment

/sites/default/files/images/OO_July2016/occoneecheefarm_poplarhill.jpg/sites/default/files/images/OO_July2016/occoneecheefarm_pcard(1).jpg

THE CLUB HOUSE (OCCONEECHEE FARM)

,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1891-1895
/ Demolished in
1955-1975
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
,
Type: 
Use: 

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

In tours

Last updated

  • Mon, 03/25/2024 - 12:27pm by SteveR

Comments

,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1891-1895
/ Demolished in
1955-1975
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
,
Type: 
Use: 

 

Built sometime between 1891 and 1895, the "club house" was where private and public dances, dinners, and other such indoor activites occurred on Occoneechee Farm.

In a May 1895 newspaper article, it was described as "a handsome new high-raftered building in the rustic style, with a large stone fire-place and cosy nooks in its corners; it is equipped with pool table, piano, desks, all the latest periodicals, and in one corner stands a massive clock that on the striking of the hour plays 'Carolina'."


The clubhouse, at left, circa 1900 (courtesy Durham County Library)


Circa 1910 postcard of the farm, with the clubhouse at far left (courtesy Orange County Museum)

1945 ad for Poplar Hill (from the July 26, 1945 News of Orange)

Add new comment

NORWOOD MINERAL SPRING / OCCONEECHEE MINERAL SPRING

street: ,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1792-1861
/ Modified in
1891
/ Demolished in
1966-1980
Construction type: 

 

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
7 + 2 =

In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 04/10/2024 - 11:54am by SteveR

Comments

street: ,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1792-1861
/ Modified in
1891
/ Demolished in
1966-1980
Object Type: 
Object Subtype: 
Construction type: 

 

A local and state-wide known (people would take the train to the Occoneechee train "station" and disembark there for picnics and etc. at the farm) and popular mineral spring, located on Julian Carr's Occoneechee Farm south of Hillsborough. It was apparently first improved by one or more of the former owners of the property, James Norwood and/or James Hogg. The "mineral spring in Hogg's land" is mentioned in a 1792 road order by the Orange County court. It was no doubt utilized even earlier by local Native American groups and individuals.

In 1929 water from the spring was being bottled and sold by S. C. Hughes. The last mention I can find of it in a local newspaper is from May 1966.

Circa 1900

From the July 25, 1891 Orange County Observer

From the July 25, 1891 Orange County Observer

From the September 12, 1891 Orange County Observer

From the October 24, 1901 Morning Star (Wilmington, N.C.)

Ad from the May 10, 1929 Chapel Hill Weekly

 

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
2 + 0 =

OCCONEECHEE FARM GATE

street: ,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1891
Construction type: 

 

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
2 + 1 =

In tours

Last updated

  • Sat, 04/06/2024 - 4:42pm by SteveR

Comments

street: ,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1891
Object Type: 
Object Subtype: 
Construction type: 

 

Built in 1891 as the entrance to Julian Carr's Occoneechee Farm. Listed as Orange County cultural resource OR0996.

Entrance to Occoneechee Farm from the Hillsborough to Durham Road, circa 1900, view north

Entrance to Occoneechee Farm from the Hillsborough to Durham Road (later US 70), circa 1910 postcard

Gate to the former Oconeechee Farm, 03.07.09

Excerpt from the December 12, 1891 Durham Daily Globe

 

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
8 + 12 =

/sites/default/files/images/OO_July2016/1938_aerial_Carr.jpg/sites/default/files/images/OO_July2016/bleachersocconeed_052514.jpg

OCCONEECHEE SPEEDWAY / ORANGE COUNTY SPEEDWAY

,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1947
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Type: 
Use: 

On the site of Julian Carr's horse track, Bill France built one of NASCAR's earliest venues.

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 03/26/2024 - 9:07am by sevy

Comments

,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1947
Construction type: 
,
National Register: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

The property that the track site is on was purchased by Julian S. Carr on April 25, 1891, and named Occoneechee Farm. Carr purchased the farm after he donated his former farm, "Blackwood's Park" (the site of present-day Duke East Campus in Durham; its most popular feature was perhaps the horse racetrack, which has become the East Campus Loop), to Trinity College. One of the features of Carr's Occoneechee Farm was a dirt horse racing track; this track later became the basic for the dirt automobile race track.

Carr decided to sell the farm as his health declined in the early 1920s. The farm was advertised for sale in the 1920s, and was soon sold, shortly before Carr's death on April 29, 1924.

Below, an aerial view of the then-subdivided farm in 1938. US-70 is the alternating black-and-white line at the bottom of the picture; the former horse track is located at the upper right. The second photo is of the track is in 1955, after it was enlarged (note the outline of the original horse track) for automobile racing.

While piloting his airplane over the area, NASCAR founder William France noticed the former horse racing track and expanse of open land to the southwest. On the site of the earlier horse track, he built a 0.9 dirt mile track in September, 1947, two months before NASCAR was organized. France launched NASCAR in December of 1947, and in January of 1948 he purchased the track and some surrounding acreage with help from Enoch Stanley and three other investors. By June of 1948, the track was in full use. In its earliest days, drivers Fonty Flock and his brothers Bob and Tim dominated the track. Louise Smith became NASCAR's first female driver at the track in the fall of 1949.

View north west, 1949 (via News of Orange)

The Occoneechee Speedway also hosted stock car racing legends such as Fireball Roberts, Richard Petty, Ned Jarrett, and Junior Johnson, who competed in the Strictly Stock (which began in 1949 and later became the Winston Cup) and Grand National series. The one mile distance allowed drivers to go faster on the Occoneechee track than they could on earlier, shorter tracks; however, they often careened out of control, landing their cars on the riverbank. Non-paying spectators often climbed trees along the riverbank to watch the races.

The track was renamed Orange Speedway in 1954.

In part due the resistance of the local religious authorities to Sunday racing, France finally shut down the Speedway. On September 15, 1968 the track closed after a win by Richard Petty. France moved the track to Alabama, where he had bought an 1,800-acre (7 km2) site forty miles east of Birmingham on which he built the Talladega Superspeedway.

In 1997, Preservation North Carolina bought the NASCAR site from the estates of William France and Enoch Stanley with funding from the James M. Johnston Trust and Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. The latter organization took title to the land and placed it under conservation easements that will protect it from future development.

The Occoneechee Speedway site is now heavily forested with pines and sycamores. The grandstands are still visible, as is much of the mile–long oval track. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 (one of three racecar tracks on the National Register) and now comprises 44 acres (180,000 m2) with over three miles (4.8 km) of trails. The Historic Orange Speedway Trail (HOST), which crisscrosses the track, was built in 2003. This trail is part of the planned/under construction Mountains to the Sea Trail (MST), which crosses the state from... well, it's self-explanatory.

The old bleachers, 05.25.14 (G. Kueber)

The old bleachers and the former track, 05.25.14 (G. Kueber)

From the July 31, 1958 News of Orange

Add new comment

Russells Steak House

RUSSELL'S STEAKHOUSE/OCCONEECHEE STEAK HOUSE

378
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1981
/ Demolished in
2019
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Type: 
Use: 

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 04/09/2024 - 8:49am by SteveR

Comments

378
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1981
/ Demolished in
2019
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Type: 
Use: 

 

This structure was built for/by James Freeland in 1980 or 1981. Freeland intended to turn the relocated Poplar Hill house in downtown Hillsborough into a steak house/restaurant, but a group of Hillsborough residents opposed it and he ended up opening the "Occoneechee Steak House" at this location instead.

The Occoneechee Steak House (which later became Russell's Steak House) was built partially from structures that were torn down or removed from Occoneechee Farm (particularly the "club house"). Some of these salvaged architectural features can be seen from the exterior of the building.

Russells Steak House

View south west (photo by S. Rankin 11.02.2017)

1985 aerial photo, view west

1985 aerial photo, view north west

View south, March 2017 (HMW Preservation)

Looking southeast, March 2017 (HMW Preservation)

 

From the Hillsborough Architectural Survey, August 2017:

Located across South Churton Street from Daniel Boone Village (OR3040), along Old Dogwood Street, is a steakhouse and motel built and owned by the Freeland family who developed Daniel Boone Village and Boone Square (OR3041). The Occoneechee Steakhouse (most recently Russell’s Steakhouse) stands on a slight hill overlooking South Churton Street and Daniel Boone Village. It is a two-story, side-gabled building with faux log veneer constructed of rounded weatherboards, a 5V roof, and a large stone chimney in the right (north) gable end with stone veneer on the first floor of that elevation. The building has sixteen-light fixed windows on the first floor and six-light casement windows on the second floor. The entrance, centered on the façade, is sheltered by a full-width, shed-roofed porch supported by grouped square posts. The building has a series of additions including a one-story, gabled addition at the right rear (northwest) with faux log veneer on the north elevation, consisting of stucco between flat boards to resemble logs with chinking, and rounded weatherboards on the west elevation. A one-story gabled wing extends from the south elevation of the rear ell, extending beyond the south elevation of the main building with the same flat-board and stucco faux log treatment. To its south is another gabled wing with rounded weatherboards. Both wings have 5V roofs and multi-light fixed windows. A two-story, front-gabled “barn” at the south end of the building has an exaggerated Mansard roof with 5V roofing. It has vertical plywood sheathing, oversized knee brackets in the gable, a raised brick foundation, and wood casement windows.

Located just west of the Occoneechee Steakhouse is a one-story, side-gabled motel with five units each on the north and south elevations. The building has horizontal metal sheathing on the gable ends and deep overhangs which shelter the entrances on the façade and rear elevation. Each unit features aluminum-framed fixed windows with solid panels below, blind transoms, and solid doors with transoms. Weatherboards are located at each end of the façade and between the individual units.

Russells Steak House

View north west (photo by S. Rankin 11.02.2017)

Russells Steak House

View south west (photo by S. Rankin 11.02.2017)

View west (photo by S. Rankin 11.02.2017)

View north west (photo by S. Rankin 11.02.2017)

View north east (photo by S. Rankin 11.02.2017)

View east (photo by S. Rankin 11.02.2017)

Old Motel, March 2017 (HMW Preservation)

The two story structure was destroyed by Hillsborough's fire department in a "controlled burn" in 2019.

Add new comment

OCCONEECHEE STATION / OCCONEECHEE SIDING

street:
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1891

 

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
6 + 9 =

In tours

Last updated

  • Tue, 04/02/2024 - 8:16pm by SteveR

Comments

street:
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1891
Object Type: 

 

Likely just a side track and not a standing building, "Occoneechee station" was where one could depart the train in order to go to Occoneechee Farm; it was also used for offloading shipped items to the farm. The train stop had to be scheduled ahead of time.

The siding tracks may have been later used and/or extended for use by the Bivins Basket Factory circa 1930. The siding tracks are still exttant, but are no longer connected to the main track. The observable rails date to 1909 and 1910.

1943 Sanborn map excerpt; see the "RY SPUR" (railway spur) at approximate center of map

View east (photo by S. Rankin 04.02.2024)

View west (photo by S. Rankin 04.02.2024)

Close up of one of the dated tracks (photo by S. Rankin 04.02.2024)

 

SOURCES:
The Morning Herald, September 4, 1919
The News & Observer, May 26, 1895
The News and Observer, September 26, 1909

 

Add new comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
14 + 4 =

OUTBUILDING (OCCONEECHEE FARM)

,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1891-1895
/ Modified in
1979-1981
/ Demolished in
2020-2023
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Use: 

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 03/27/2024 - 12:12pm by SteveR

Comments

,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1891-1895
/ Modified in
1979-1981
/ Demolished in
2020-2023
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Use: 

 

Built circa 1891 as an outbuilding near the main house (Poplar Hill) at Occoneechee Farm. May have been one of the servant's quarters or one of the farm offices. The building was moved to Daniel Boone Village by James Freeland circa 1980. It was either moved or demolished circa 2021.

At its later site at Daniel Boone Village (photo by S. Rankin, 2012)

Add new comment

BARNS (OCCONEECHEE FARM)

,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1891-1895
/ Modified in
1979-1981
/ Demolished in
2020-2023
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
,
,
Use: 
,

Comments

No comments yet.

Add new comment

In tours

Last updated

  • Wed, 03/27/2024 - 1:17pm by SteveR

Comments

,
Hillsborough
NC
Built in
1891-1895
/ Modified in
1979-1981
/ Demolished in
2020-2023
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
,
,
Use: 
,

 

All the barns on Occoneechee Farm were built circa 1891. The main barns were: A three-story horse barn with a slate roof, oak floors, stalls for 36 horses, and a basement for mules; a two-story dairy barn (built first) with a concrete floor and 56 milking stanchions (designed by a Professor Benjamin Irby of North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts); and a large sheep barn. The main barn was also used for larger social functions.

In 1919 there was a tornado that damaged or destroyed several of the barns. The dairy barn was the hardest hit, with the roof collapsing, killing ten cows. Other livestock and horses were killed; they were said to have been buried in a mass grave in one of the large fields.

One of the barns was moved to Florida in the late 1940s or early 1950s. By 1955, none of the barns were standing, and the areas they were once located on were developed by then.

View south east, April 17, 1903 (from the Albert Barden Collection)

View north, April 17, 1903 (from the Albert Barden Collection)

Circa 1915 postcard, view north (courtesy Orange County Museum)

 
SOURCES:
Mena Webb. Jule Carr: General Without an Army. University of North Carolina Press, 1987.
The Durham Daily Globe, November 27, 1891
The News of Orange, July 1, 1980
The Orange County Observer, February 9, 1895

 

Add new comment