Ayr Mount History
Ayr Mount Historic Site:
A land grant from Earl Granville to Thomas Wiley (Wylie) for 560 acres lying along the Eno River and traversed by the Old Indian Trading Path is documented in 1760. Wiley sold much of the acreage to William Few to “keep tavern at his dwelling”. In 1771 William Few had already made plans to move to Georgia before his son James’s involvement with the Regulators led to James’s execution and the ravaging of the Few plantation by Governor William Tryon’s militia following the Regulators’ defeat at the Battle of Alamance. These events merely hastened the family’s departure to Georgia. The Few family continued their allegiance to the American Revolution with William Few, Jr. appointed as a Georgia delegate to the Constitutional Convention.
Following the Few family departure, the land and tavern transferred ownership several times. In 1799 William Kirkland purchased 503 acres between the Old Indian Trading Path (by then a wagon road from Petersburg, Virginia), and the Eno River on land that included the former Few’s Tavern. It is here that Kirkland, a merchant in town, along with his wife Margaret Scott Kirkland, and their 3 young daughters set up housekeeping at the tavern, and dreamed of a large brick home that would become Ayr Mount. It is unknown if any enslaved individuals lived in the tavern or on the property at that time as documentation is sparse. In the 1800 census Kirkland is listed as owning twelve slaves; in the 1810 census nineteen slaves are documented.
By the time Ayr Mount was completed in 1815, all fourteen of William and Margaret’s children had been born. The impressive brick house was home to four generations of the Kirkland family and many enslaved individuals until the end of the Civil War. In 1985 Raleigh native Richard H Jenrette purchased the house and 50 of the original acres. The house and grounds were meticulously restored to its original splendor and used as a private home. In 1993 Jenrette gifted the house and grounds to Classical American Homes Preservation Trust along with the period furnishings that include examples by Duncan Phyfe, Charles-Honoré Lannuier, and John and Thomas Seymour. Also of special interest are portraits of William Kirkland, Thomas Jefferson, William Gaston and a complete set of 51 etchings of North Carolina by Louis Orr.
Today, Ayr Mount is a house museum with guided tours that delve into family history, the enslaved community, plantation life, fine architecture, and museum quality furniture and decorative arts. A special exhibit will run from Sept. 18 through October 20 that features Scottish artifacts, 18th century engravings of Scotland, Scottish immigration patterns, interactions with Native Americans and African Americans, and Scottish curiosities. The Exhibit can be viewed during regularly scheduled tours. Located at 376 St. Mary’s Rd, Hillsborough, NC 27278. https://classicalamericanhomes.org/ayr-mount/
And a river runs through it . . .
While you are in town be sure to visit the Riverwalk, an urban greenway that meanders along the Eno River. At the eastern end of Hillsborough’s Riverwalk you will enter property owned by Classical American Homes Preservation Trust. This pathway crosses several Native American archaeological sites and continues on to the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail.