This one is long overdue.
To kick off our round-the-world trip, Oksana and I started by driving across the U.S. in our Jeep. Her brother and sister-in-law joined us from Russia for a good part of that road trip. While we were in North Carolina, visiting my family, we thought it would be a great idea to show them the Newbold-White House, an historically significant home that just happened to be a part of our family history, as well.
The Newbold-White House is the oldest brick house in North Carolina. It was built in 1730 by a Quaker family. It passed through many hands over the years until my great grandmother’s family bought it in 1903. My grandmother, Jean Newbold Griffin – the star of the video above – was born in that house in 1924. Almost fifty years later, in 1973, she sold the house and property to a preservation society. Now it’s open to the public.
I got to talking with my grandfather about taking a trip out to the farm. He set up an appointment with Glenda Maynard, the site manager at the Newbold-White House.
My plan was to sit down with my grandmother and interview her about the house. What she remembers about it, how she felt about it being restored and put on display, what it means to her now, those sorts of things. Unfortunately, at 85 years old, she had just been hit by a medical double-whammy. While in the hospital with a case of life-threatening pneumonia, she had also had a heart attack. She hadn’t yet fully recovered by the time we visited and it was obvious that she had slowed down both physically and mentally.
Oksana and I took Andrey and Natasha out to the house on July 31st (2010.) There, Glenda gave us a tour of the house and land. She was imparted a ton of historical information about the Newbold-White House, as well as details of its restoration, but unfortunately wouldn’t give me permission to record her. I was left with a lot of audio from her lecture, but half the time Oksana was translating Russian over the top of it (and the other half of it was about things that happened a couple centuries before my grandmother’s time.)
Later, once Oksana’s relatives had returned to Russia, we bided our time and waited for “a good day” to interview my grandmother. We didn’t get the opportunity until September 22nd. (We set up on the back porch of our cottage in Nags Head, on the Outer Banks. Believe it or not, even with the traffic and wind noise, that was the quietest place available to us.) We had a good talk and I heard a lot of great stories about what it was like to grow up in rural North Carolina in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.
(Watching the footage now, I’m amazed at how well she has recovered. Her short term memory has come back, she’s able to walk on her on again, and most importantly, she’s sped back up – she no longer speaks as slowly as she did in this video. She actually recovered so well that she was kicked off Hospice care! )
When I sat down to edit everything together, I realized I didn’t have enough of any one thing. None of the historical audio matched up with my grandmother’s stories. The house, too, had been restored to the condition it was in shortly after being built. The home my grandmother was born into had more “modern” amenities. On top of all that, I didn’t shoot near enough cover footage when we were out on the farm…
While I could listen to my grandmother’s stories all day, without context, I doubt anyone else would find them engaging. With the exception of an anecdote or two, I trimmed all that out and kept only her comments about the house itself. I then stretched what footage I had to illustrate what she was talking about. Despite all its technical shortcomings, the ending of this video never fails to bring a smile to my face.
Love you, Mema!
If you ever find yourself in Eastern North Carolina, do yourself a favor: Head on over to Hertford and check out the Newbold-White House. Give yourself an hour or two to explore the house, wander down to the river, or just sit under a big tree and watch the day go by. When you’re ready to move on, stop in at Capitan Bob’s (next to the stoplight, just after the big bridge – Can’t miss it!) and treat yourself to some of the best North Carolina-style BBQ you’ll ever have!
Read more about the Newbold-White House on the Perquimins County Restoration Association’s website.
The following is a transcript of the above video for Google’s benefit (ignore it, watch the video instead!)
The Newbold-White House was built in 1730. It’s the oldest brick house in North Carolina. They have proof of that. It’s the most beautiful house in the world.
Episode 19 – The Newbold-White House
Joshua… somebody built it himself and the only way you could get to his land was by boat. He was a Quaker, we think. Many, many, many, many families lived there. And it ended up with mama and daddy owning the house and the land. Mother was Nita White and she married John Henry Newbold and I was born in the Great Hall. That’s what they call it now; it was dining room then.
It was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And we had a wide open view of fields.
It was always cool because the brick wall was so thick. And the bricks were made at the Newbold House. Up on the hill, they found clay so they could make these large bricks. And they did the Fleming Bond – that’s the gray, half of a brick showing and then a whole… and when you go out there, you’ll recognize it. It’s a little bit different from all-red brick.
We had a bathroom put in. A real bathroom! When I was 10 years old, mother raised turkeys for a year to get $100 to have plumbing put in for her girls. A Delco pump – so we wouldn’t have to have an outhouse.
There were two bedrooms upstairs, with the fireplace from the living room going into the bedroom. I could fly up those steps! And Nita – my sister and I – shared a room. And we had a featherbed, but it was dormer windows all the way across the top.
And the closet was showing brick. When you opened the closet door – which is still there! – you see a part of a brick wall. That was my closet and when I went to the Naval Academy, to the Ring Dance, my evening dress smelled liked apple brandy because one of my grandfathers used to store apple brandy up there that he made and one keg exploded one time. So, all the evening dresses and clothes smelled like apple brandy – just a little bit!
I think they grew grain back in the olden days. My family grew cotton, peanuts, and soy beans. It was a very comfortable home and it was unique and it was charming. Oh, yes! I could have lived out there and raised pheasants. Edward would have been very happy, but it was… it was just too much country for me. I had been out in the Navy and in the world then and I didn’t want to live out in the country… even though I loved it.
It was home to me. It was mine. It was my home. It’ll always belong to me!
Postcard Valet: Episode 19
The Newbold-White House
Postcard Valet is a Travel Podcast by Arlo and Oksana Midgett
31 July 2011
Hertford, North Carolina
Special thanks to my grandparents:
Jean Newbold Griffin
W.E. Griffin Jr.
Perquimins County Restoration Association
© 2011 Arlo Midgett
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I have another question about the Newbold-White House. What did you call it before it was called the “Newbold-White House?”
Just home? It wasn’t called the “Newbold Farm” or anything like that?
What’s your favorite memory there?
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