We set out on our weekly Saturday day trip on the coldest day so far of the season along with gray skies and a persistent drizzle. Since our trip was just taking us an hour down the road to Hillsborough, we also had to plan our route to bypass Mebane (for those of you who are not from around here, Mebane is pronounced MEB∙un, not ME∙bane, please) where a humongous outlet mall had just opened Friday with traffic backed up both on Interstates 40-85 and US Route 70 which is our normal way to go. It meant that I had to program the GPS to take us via back roads I had never been on before. But doing so meant I found some really cool places I will have to go back to in order to take some more snapshots of rural North Carolina.
Hillsborough is a little town of around 5,000. But it contains more than 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. Our destination for Saturday was the homeplace of the Kirklands, Ayr Mount which just recently opened for tours.
Since we got to Hillsborough ahead of the time for the first tour, I pulled into the parking lot of Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church to take some photos. The weather hadn’t improved at all, in fact had gotten a lot colder and a lot wetter. My apologies for the quality of the pictures. Light does matter.
A little history of Saint Matthew’s from their website:
The present church building was begun in 1825, following a reorganization of St. Matthews Parish the year before, and completed in 1826.
Letters of the period indicate that William Nichols, principal architect of the old state capital which was burned in 1831, designed the present structure. As far as we are able to learn, St. Matthew's is the oldest Gothic Revival church building still standing in North Carolina. Nichols worked mainly in the Greek Revival idiom, but he knew Gothic work from both his native England as well as from visits to the northern United States. Nichols also designated Hillsborough's Masonic Hall (1823). He left North Carolina in 1827 to work throughout the South, and died in Mississippi in 1853. Nichols is being increasingly recognized as one of the South's finest antebellum architects.
St. Matthew's Church has had many alterations throughout the years; the tower was added c. 1829 and from 1856 to 1872, extensive remodeling of the church was carried out. The east end was enlarged for a recessed chancel with triplet window, sacristy and organ room, and the exposed beam roof was raised c. 1868; the spire was added and the wainscoting was replaced c. 1875. A marble plaque in the narthex records the installation of the bell in 1878 as a Confederate Memorial.
And of course, it’s now becoming obligatory for me to post pictures of the cemetery. I promise this won’t become a trend.