By Nancy J. Figiel and Lindy Cummings, Tryon Palace

On December 5, 1770, the building that Royal Governor William Tryon proudly boasted to be of “great elegance both in taste and workmanship” opened for business with a celebration marked with cannon volleys, bonfires, a ball, plenty of alcohol and a “very grand and surprising Exhibition of Fireworks.”

Guardhouses flank the front gate to Tryon Palace.

It was so grand a building for the Colony, that it was soon referred to as Tryon’s Palace.  Remarkably, in just a little over three years, Governor Tryon had been able to accomplish something his predecessors had not: establish and build a permanent capital for the Province of North Carolina.

Though Tryon certainly accomplished his goal in building “a Palace that is a public ornament and credit to the Colony, as well as an honor to British America,” not all appreciated its grandeur. 

North Carolina’s colonists balked at the taxes the General Assembly imposed on them for the building of the Palace:

  • For more information about Tryon Palace’s tours and exhibits, visit the website at tryonpalace.org

“We want no such House, nor will we pay for It.” 

Less than a year after occupying the Palace with his family, Tryon left for the governor’s position in New York. 

Josiah Martin became the next Royal Governor to live in Tryon Palace, but fled as the American Revolution gained momentum, leaving it for Patriots to occupy. 

After the Revolution, the Palace became the new state government’s first capitol and first Assemblies were held there. Four of North Carolina’s first Governors were inaugurated at the Palace.

In 1794, the capital of North Carolina was officially moved to Raleigh. Without funds for its upkeep, the Palace started to deteriorate, and the neglected Palace fell to ruin. 

On the night of Feb. 27, 1798, a fire of unknown origins spread quickly through the building. 

“Every piece of timber, and all the woodwork of that edifice, both within and without, were consumed.”

Original plans for Tryon Palace were used in the reconstruction project in the mid-20th century.

In 1959, the Palace was resurrected on its remaining brick foundation.  The story behind the rebuilding of the Palace is just as relevant to our past as the first. The dream to rebuild began in the 1920s and was fueled by a dynamic and determined group of “Dreamers” led by five prominent women. 

Their determination fueled the movement to revive the Palace for more than three decades, and with a generous gift from Maude Moore Latham and the support of the state and New Bern community, they succeeded.

Tryon Palace will celebrate the 250th anniversary of its first opening in 1770 this year.  A new exhibit, “A Lasting Monument; Creating North Carolina’s First Permanent Capitol,” is planned to open in early 2021.  

Tryon Palace, with its elegance and beauty, has become a symbol of pride in and appreciation of the past, especially to New Bernians and North Carolinians. It is a must-visit destination for all who view the past as the key to the present and the future.

The Tryon Palace Fife and Drum Corps. See more photos, below.

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