History of New Bern
History of New Bern
Nestled at the confluence of two of the South’s loveliest rivers, the namesake of Berne, Switzerland, surely qualifies as one of the most pleasant “surprises” in the South, if not the nation! New Bern was the colonial capital of North Carolina, the first State capital, and the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola!
Today, New Bern is host to nationally syndicated boat races, the home of more than a dozen public and private golf courses, the choice for a retirement home of thousands of people from throughout the U.S., and was officially designated All-America City in 1989. Because “Bern” is German for “bear”, the animal is the traditional symbol for both Bern, Switzerland and New Bern, North Carolina, named in honor of New Bern founder, Baron Christopher DeGraffenried. First settled in 1710, New Bern is rich in history. Pirates roamed the coast, and Blackbeard used to stay at Hammock House in Beaufort, some 40 miles east on the coast. The wreckage of his ship Queen Anne’s Revenge was recently discovered (March 1997) in waters offshore. The town was a political hotbed during the Revolution and later became the first capital of the state. In the heart of New Bern is Tryon Palace, once the residence of 18th century English royal governors. The redbrick Georgian palace, set on 14 acres of lush gardens and rounds, is among the town’s more than 150 landmark buildings, listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The town was captured and occupied by Union forces early in the Civil War (1862). Many of the soldiers called New Bern “home” for the duration of the war, and consequently, the homes and fine mansions were spared much of the devastation that took place in other Southern cities. In June of 1973, the Downtown Historic District was entered into the National Register of Historic Places. In January 1981, the City of New Bern locally designated the Historic District, along with several additional blocks on its northern periphery, as an “overlay zoning district” in which all exterior changes to buildings and sites would be monitored to ensure the beauty, character and history of this lovely city. As part of the on going restoration in the downtown historic area, many of these homes are open for year-round tours as part of the Tryon Palace Complex, and even private homes are periodically open to the public for special tours. Among the many restored homes, the New Bern visitor can enjoy a restful stay at one of the Bed & Breakfast Inns. New Bern has a myriad of homes dating back to the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries which have been lovingly restored to their previous grandeur.
The moderate climate of New Bern, draws retirees and families alike! The average temperature of 62.2° is a boon to gardeners; something is in bloom all year round! From the “Olde” to the New! Discover three centuries of history and architectural beauty in a 90-minute Trolley Car Tour of downtown New Bern, and admire the beautiful crape myrtle’s in their summer bloom! Relax on a bench at the new Union Point Park, overlooking the Neuse River . . . or take a 40 minute drive to Oriental, the “sailing capital” of North Carolina located on the ICW (Intra Coastal Waterway).
The New Bern Riverfront Convention Center is a state-of-the-art meeting facility, accommodating groups of over 1,300. In addition to conventions and company meetings, the New Bern Convention Center is host to several Arts & Crafts shows which are open to the public, and numerous other trade shows. Without a doubt, the Convention Center has enabled New Bern to enter the new millennium as a meeting destination that can't be beat!
The new bridge over the Neuse River, connecting New Bern (U.S. 70) with Pamlico County, is one of the largest single public works projects undertaken by the state of North Carolina. At an estimated cost of over $119 million dollars, contractors erected 49,000,000 pounds of steel, placed 110,000 cubic yards of concrete, and installed 221,000 feet (40 miles) of pilings or drilled shafts. Numerous environmental, historical, geo-technical and traffic problems were overcome during the construction. The massive project was “on-time”, and the bridge opened late September 1999.
Shopping and “Antiquing” are favorite pastimes in New Bern and surrounding areas. Although New Bern has only one enclosed mall featuring a couple of large anchor stores, the main attraction of the city’s shopping is the quaint, restored downtown area, with it’s boutiques, galleries, shops and restaurants. There, you’ll find a warm and friendly welcome from the “local folk”, many of whom have relocated here from various places around the country, discovered New Bern’s “Southern Surprise”, and made it their home!