Historic Homes in the Carolinas

The Carolinas are home to some amazing historical homes, many of which are open to the public. Some date back to colonial times. Some are small and some are large and lavish rivaling the finest European estates. For our list, we looked for homes that not only offer a look into the past but also help tell the story of the Carolinas as a whole and the personalities that help build the states.

Historic Carson House

Two story home with ground level porch and a second level porch stone foundation and three brick chimneys
The Historic Carson House gives visitors a unique opportunity to trace the history of Western North Carolina through one of the area’s most influential families.

Marion , North Carolina – With a story dating back to the early days of settlement in Western North Carolina, a visit to the Historic Carson House gives you a glimpse of those past times. The current house was initially built by John Carson in 1783. By this time Carson was a very wealthy man owing to his multiple land grants in the area since his immigration from Ireland in 1752.

Over the coarse of time, the Carson House became the center of the community. The dining room was where the paperwork creating McDowell County and the home served as the County Courthouse for a number of years afterward.

Dining Room Room inside Carson House - fireplace on the right side - china hutch in the corner of the room - 2 windows - table in center of room with place settings on top and chairs
The papers creating McDowell County were signed in the Carson House dining room in 1842.

After a road between Morganton and Asheville was built, the Carson’s took in borders and expanded the home with a second house built next to the original and connected by a breezeway. Notable guests in the home during this time are said to include Andrew Jackson, Davy Crockett, Sam Houston, and John C. Calhoun.

wood walled room with a number of beds
Travelers along the Morganton to Asheville would often times bunk in the same room on the across from the family home. When arriving after dark, they would speak to the person manning the door who would then lock the guest in the room for the night.

One of John Carson’s most well known children, Samuel Price Carson, was born in the current Historic Carson House. After serving in the US Congress representing his home district, Samuel Carson moved to Texas where he helped create the Republic of Texas not only signing the Texas Deceleration of Independence but the Texas Constitution as well. One of his final political offices was serving as the Secretary of State for the Texas Republic.

corner in room - displays featuring photographs and documents no text is legible
The stories of enslaved people from North Carolina are preserved at the Carson House – most are first person accounts by former slaves that were recorded as part of the New Deal. https://www.loc.gov/collections/voices-remembering-slavery/about-this-collection/

The house is open from Wednesday to Sunday and tours cost $10. Your tour guide will be able to tell you stories of John Carson, his immigration to the US, stories of Carson in the Revolutionary War (Predating the current home), and a story of Stoneman’s Raiders at the home during the Civil War. Every room is furnished with pieces original to the time period and the story being told, including a large area on one of the upper floors dedicated to the slaves held at the Carson House as well as other plantations in Western North Carolina.

Carl Sandburg House

white house on top of hill looks smaller than it is pond in foreground with ice on top and a National Park Service interpretive sign with a picture of Carl Sandburg and the words "An American Classic" the rest of the writing is too small to read
The Sandburg home in Flat Rock at the top of a hill during late winter. The pond at the base of the hill is still frozen over.

Flat Rock, North Carolina = The Carl Sandburg Home Historic Site has one of the more interesting histories in Western North Carolina. The home was originally built by Christopher Memminger in the 1830’s who would go on to be the first Confederate Secretary of the Treasury and the architect of the Confederacy’s monetary policy. But a later resident of the home would become the first white to be awarded the NAACP’s Silver Plaque Award. That resident was Pulitzer Prize winning poet and historian Carl Sandburg.

two bat garage with french doors between bays
Stately Homes in the early 19th Century were built with detached kitchens in case of fire. When the Sandburgs moves into their new home in the North Carolina Mountains, they added a kitchen to the interior of the house and converted the original kitchen into a garage.

Sandburg and his wife Lilian, moved into the home in 1945 and lived there until Carl’s death in 1967. During their time in the North Carolina mountains Carl continued writing and Lilian raised her prize winning “Chikaming Goats”.

Carl Sandburg Home close up - large white house from front with porch featuring 4 columns and a "T" style staircase. Large shrubs on the left of the house obscure just how large the home is.
Carl Sandburg Home From the top of the hill.

Today the home and 264 surrounding acres are open to the public. The home acts as a Carl Sandburg Museum with intact furnishings, decor, knickknacks, and keepsakes from the Sandburg’s time here. Many of the original outbuildings still exist, although some like the kitchen were modernized and repurposed by the Sandburg’s.

goat at Connemara goat farm eating grass with red barn in background
A descendant of one of Lilian Sandburg’s goats enjoys a late afternoon snack at Connemara Goat Farm

A special treat for any visitor is the Goat Barn where the descendants of Lillian Sandburg’s goats are still cared for today. Baby goats are still welcomed every spring and as soon as is safe can be found frolicking in the fields along with their parents and siblings.

Rose Hill Plantation Historic Site

stucco plantation house seen from the front and side magnolia tree growing infront
Rose Hill Mansion near Union South Carolina

Union, South Carolina – The home of the SC secessionist governor William Henry Gist, Rose Hill Plantation once spanned over 7,000 acres. The home was originally a brick Georgian style house, but it was later stuccoed over and two story porches were built on the front and the back. That’s how the home appears today.

Rose Hill Plantation- blue room with fireplace in center of room sofa and chairs paintings above fireplace two tables in center of room with parts of chandelier
Formal sitting room on the first floor of Rose Hill

Called Rose Hill because of the many rose bushes planted in the formal gardens, many of the elements of the 18th Century ornamental gardens have been preserved. You can still see roses blooming in the Spring but now the Magnolia Trees tower over the front gardens.

rose hill plantation house front door with semicircle window over door - columns for porch and hedge
Front door of Rose Hill from the formal garden

Home tours are available, but walking through the gardens is free. There’s also a picnic shelter and a short nature trail.

Historic Johnson Farm

Brick 19th century farm house made of red bricks with front porch and rocking chairs wooden kitchen attached to rear of house
Historic Johnson Farm House. He wooden Kitchen at the rear of the house was once separate, but it was later moved and connected to the main house.

Hendersonville, North Carolina – The Historic Johnson Farm illustrates the transition of Western North Carolina from a largely agricultural economy based on subsistence farming and small rural communities to it’s modern tourist based economy. Built as working farm, Historic Johnson Farm adapted to those changing times to flourish.

simple wooden two story house pained white with proch running around 1 and a half sides
Boarding House built by teh Johnson Brothers in the 1920’s now the home of the Heritage Weavers & Fiber Artists.

Initially though, that adaptation was merely to make ends meet. The family was forced out of necessity to take in borders, but they soon realized that they could make more money by renting out rooms than by working the farm. They were so successful that a separate boarding house was built next to the family home in 1920.

goat walking on plank between 2 barrels with donkeys in the field behind
Donkeys and goats live in the barn and can be seen grazing in the attached pasture.

The farm today is owned by the Henderson County School system and operated as way for school children to learn about the areas past, but all are welcome. There are 10 historic buildings on site including the Farm House and the Barn. Farm animals like donkeys and goats live in the barn and can be seen in the pastures. The boarding house is occupied by Heritage Weavers and Fiber Artists of Hendersonville who work to keep traditional weaving and fiber arts alive in the Carolinas.

James Polk Birthplace

Two Story log farm house with long grass infront

Pineville, North Carolina – Just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, you’ll find the birthplace of America’s 11th president James K. Polk. Unfortunately the homes aren’t original to the site. Polk’s family moved to Tennessee when he was about 11, and by the time people knew someone of importance had been born here, the home was lost to time.

two old log homes with an old small barn behind a information sign out front with illegible writing
Area buildings moved to the James Polk State Historic Site and rebuilt.

But other historic homes still stood in the Charlotte area, and as the population exploded and with the demand for modern homes increasing, these historic homes faced an uncertain future. Some, however, did receive a new lease on life. They were moved to the site of Sames Polk’s birth and rebuilt to look like the original Polk homestead.

Log Cabin with chimney on right side and door in center of building

The area stands today not just a testament to one of the few American presidents born in the Carolinas, but also to the countless subsistence farmers who once inhabited this fast growing region. Gardens have been planted on the homestead to approximate what the Polk family would have had. The Polk family cemetery was moved to this site as well as development threatened it’s previous location.

Tours of the interior of the homes are available, but limited. Best to call ahead of time if you want to get inside, however, there is a visitor center that is open most days with artifacts and a film on the life of James Polk.