two old log homes with an old small barn behind a information sign out front with illegible writing
James Polk State Historic Site

James Polk State Historic Site Field Report

Today’s expedition found me exploring in the Charlotte/Rock Hill Area. I had three sites on the agenda, and expected all to be fairly short visits. Since they aren’t related, I’ll file each under a separate report.

The fort stop is the James K. Polk Presidential Birthplace in Pineville, North Carolina. The drive to the site goes through what is best described as a suburban nightmare. Full of housing developments, shopping centers, and big box stores, and traffic. The 22 acre site itself is like an island of green in a sea of suburban sprawl. Considering that it’s only 5 miles for Carowinds, the surrounding development isn’t unexpected.

The short drive from the entrance passes an old monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1904 at the presumed location of the Polk family Home and later moved to its current spot. Today the historic site sits on 22 acres of what was once a 150 acre family farm.

old monument - pyramid made of irregularly shaped stones
Monument erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1904 at the site where James Polk was born.

When I arrived the park wasn’t busy at all. The only other people I saw were bicyclists riding along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. In fact, while I was here, all the people I saw were either riding their bikes to the site or parking here and heading out to the greenway.

My first stop was the old monument I passed when entering the park. A path runs between the monument and the farm house and I decided to follow it to see if it would take me to the other side of the site. I quickly realized that I was on the Little Sugar Creek Greenway which runs for 19 miles from the Polk site to downtown Charlotte.

Two Story log farm house with long grass infront

After making my way back to the site after my diversion, I climbed the steps to the visitor center. I had been looking for a path to the buildings, but since there wasn’t one, I just crossed the grass.

The Polk family never lived in the farm house at the site. Their original homes have been lost to time, but the buildings on the site date to the 19th century and are from the surrounding area. They’ve been restored and rebuilt to fit an 1849 description of the Polk family farm.

The homes and barn were locked tight. Tours of the inside are only available on Saturdays. Right now, due to COVID, they’re taking appointments for tours and limiting numbers. There is a self guided tour you can access on your phone by scanning a QR Code on the Visitor Center door.

To the right of the buildings are a couple garden exhibits. Included is a kitchen garden where foods, herbs, and medicines would be grown for use by the family.

Past the gardens are picnic tables in a shaded area. The nature trail starts here as well, but at this time, the trail is closed. They hope to have a BSA troop come in and fix it up at some point. But since they have the 19 miles of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway now, the nature trail isn’t a priority.

Continuing around the perimeter, I stumbled across the Polk Family Cemetery. This isn’t the original spot of the cemetery, however. It was moved in 1988. Most of the headstones are laying flat against the ground to protect them, and presumably to make grounds keeping easier.

The visitor center located in the center of the park has more information about the farm, the area, and the Polks. They also have a short film about President Polk and his life.

Overall my visit was around an hour. During that time more bicyclists showed up and most of the cars were unloading bicycles for the Greenway Trail. It’s a small park with some nice old well kept buildings. Unless you’re visiting over the weekend for the house tours, during a demonstration, or having a picnic you’ll probably not spend a lot of time at the park, but it is a nice spot for a short visit.