Tobacco figures prominently in the heritage of North Carolina. Tobacco farming has been at the economic and cultural center of the area dating back at least two centuries. Several well known cigarette brands share their names with prominent cities in North Carolina, Winston, Salem, Raleigh and Durham. A road trip route between Winston-Salem and Raleigh features historic civil rights locations, four major universities and ample places to view tobacco farming.
Here are some of the highlights to look out for along the way:
Winston-Salem (Starting Point)
The home of Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem was formerly two separate cities that joined forces back in 1913. Of interest in the downtown area is the Reynolds Building, which was constructed in 1929 to serve as the headquarters of R.J Reynolds Tobacco Company. It was a tall skyscraper for its time, but it was the prototype of the much taller Empire State Building built two years later. You'll certainly want to spend a little time in Old Salem, a historically restored part of town with several buildings of historical significance and costumed interpreters to make the experience more interesting and informative. The Moravian church played an important role in settling and developing the city in the early days, and you can see a great deal of their heritage on display at Old Salem and elsewhere, including Bethabara Park, the site of the first Moravian settlement in the state. There's still a Moravian church here, along with a museum and 183 acres of wooded park.
Greensboro (Mile 30)
Greensboro was the location of the famous 1960 civil rights sit-in at a Woolworth's counter. That building now houses the International Civil Rights Museum, which chronicles the struggle for racial equality through photos, films, artifacts and guided tours. Also in Greensboro is a monument to another struggle for freedom: the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park, site of a key battle of the Revolutionary War.
Chapel Hill (Mile 80)
Chapel Hill is the home of the University of North Carolina (that's The Tarheels to basketball fans), and accordingly is known for its progressive and bohemian culture, and in particular its vibrant musical club scene. Morehead Planetarium and Science Center is one of the oldest and most respected planetariums in the country, having opened in 1949. For over 25 years, the planetarium was a training center for astronauts, including those from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs.
Durham (Mile 91)
Durham is the home of Duke University (that's the Blue Devils to basketball fans), which was founded in part with money donated by the sons of prosperous landowner Washington Duke with profits they made from their American Tobacco Company, the largest tobacco company in the world. The Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum recreates life on the tobacco plantation in the days of Washington Duke. Durham is also the home of the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team, who suddenly were thrust into the limelight in 1988 with the hit film 'Bull Durham'. As a result of the spike in attendance, the team finally moved into a newer and larger stadium across town. But its original home, Durham Athletic Park, where scenes from the film were shot, still stands, and is still used for college athletics and other functions.
Raleigh (Mile 116)
The route ends in the capital city of Raleigh, home of North Carolina State University. The city boasts one of the most splendid capitol buildings in the nation with its distinctive Greek Revival architecture. It's also said to be one of the most haunted capitol buildings, with persistent rumors of sightings of specters in Civil War garb. The struggle for African-American freedom is highlighted at the African-American Cultural Complex, which pays tribute in photos and exhibits to the contributions African-Americans have made in shaping the nation.
The Durham Athletic Park, where
the popular movie 'Bull Durham' was shot
Photo by Dennis Goza