With a modest population of 465, the small town
of Hamilton, North Carolina makes up for its size by being an undeniably
historic community. Nestled along the Roanoke River, Hamilton has long
enjoyed the privilege of being situated in a prime location surrounded
by rich farm and wood lands as well as the diverse plant and animal life
that the river fosters.
Incorporated in 1804, this vibrant little settlement originally known as
Milton was renamed Hamilton in honor of former US Secretary of the
Treasury Alexander Hamilton. Like many other towns in North Carolina in
the early nineteenth century, Hamilton owes its early development to its
location on a major waterway. Shallow-draft steamboats, a cotton gin and
a burgeoning textile trade both at home and abroad brought river traffic
to its peak during the years preceding the Civil War.
Hamilton's nationally recognized historic district is the prized asset
of which the local community takes great pride. This district includes
some of the finest antebellum homes assembled in Martin County. Among
the noted sites featured within Hamilton's National Register of Historic
Places District are St. Martin's Episcopal Church (circa 1880) and the
Hamilton Colored (Rosenwald) School (circa 1918) as well as a host of
other historic houses and buildings.
St. Martin's Episcopal Church was originally established as a missionary
station in 1868. The founding of this church is attributed largely to
the Boyle family which moved to Hamilton amidst the Civil War. Today
this church stands as a remarkably unaltered and sophisticated example
of the Gothic Revival frame church from the early post Civil War period.
It is one of the most outstanding examples of frame Gothic architecture
in Eastern North Carolina.
The Hamilton Historic Commission oversees the preservation, maintenance
and meaningful use of St. Martin's in cooperation with the Episcopal
Diocese of East Carolina. The Commission sponsors an annual Christmas
service in the church and the building can also be open by appointment.
In November of 2006, two beautiful commissioned panels by artist David
Hewson were installed in St. Martin's. For more about Hamilton's
history, see link at right.
Another point of interest in town, the old Hamilton Colored School- is
one of the famed early Rosenwald Schools. Collectively, Rosenwald
Schools were historically black schools built from 1913 to 1932 as a
result of the fruitful collaboration that developed between
philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald, and Booker T. Washington, educator and
founder of the Tuskegee Institute.
The Rosenwald Fund provided supplemental funds for the construction of
over 5000 rural schools to educate black children across the
Southeastern United States. Only a precious few survive today. Those
that remain have been earmarked as "endangered historic sites" by the
National Trust for Historic Preservation. To read a blog about our
Hamilton Rosenwald project see link below.
Recently, the Hamilton community has been working in conjunction with
Roanoke River Partners, Inc. to renovate and preserve both this historic
site and its culturally rich legacy. Upon completion, the Rosenwald
River Center (the new name) will be repurposed as an interpretive site
to tell the "Rosenwald Story" as well as a visitor/community center for
gatherings and eco-tourism ventures. In its new life, this historic site
will contribute to both local and regional economies. For more about
this preservation project, see link below
Just outside of Hamilton is Fort Branch, an earthen Confederate fort
perched on the high bank of the Roanoke. This preserved fort hosts
reenactments and houses a treasure trove of Civil War history. To find
out more, see link below.
At the heart of Hamilton's early development, the Roanoke River remains
an economic generator for Hamilton and the larger region. Today, the
Hamilton waterfront is a prime recreational resource with a NC Wildlife
Boat Ramp, observation area, and parking facilities to accommodate
visiting fisherman, hunters and boaters. Community leaders continue to
develop cultural heritage and eco-tourism initiatives that build on the
area's natural resources.
Of course, like many small communities, Hamilton's most precious assets
are the warm, generous, industrious people that make up the fabric of
the community. It is these devoted community ambassadors that make
Hamilton an exceptional place to live, work and visit.