The Site

The Site


The Buildings:


The hewn and pit-sawn timbers that frame the two-story side-gable dwelling indicate that the house was built between 1845 and 1850. Restoration, which began in 2000, has removed the later “Victorian” additions and replaced missing earlier elements.


This kitchen was reconstructed in the style that architectural historians like Peter Sandbeck tell us were common to a Roanoke Island farmstead like this one. Kitchens were often separated from the main house because of the heat of summer cooking and because of the risk of fire. Here, where we know the Etheridge family had several slaves, it is likely that the cook slept in loft upstairs.


The smokehouse was an important building on the farm. Although fish could be caught fresh throughout the year, the only way to keep meat was by salting and smoking. A family’s hams were depended upon to get them through the winter and were a valued commodity. For that reason, this building provided not only an enclosed space to smoke the pork, but also a secure place to store it. See how the upright supports of the building as spaced closely enough so that even if a thief pulled off the outside boards, he could still not get inside. Unlike the other buildings that are raised off the ground, the smokehouse has a continuous brick foundation and a fireproof brick floor that keeps other animals out.


This small structure is called a dairy because it was used to keep milk and butter cool and fresh under the shade of a tree. On Roanoke Island there are no running brooks to help refrigerate dairy products.


This privy or outhouse features three different size holes for different size bottoms! It is likely that chamber pots were used inside the house when the weather was cold, and especially at night.


We know that the Etheridge family had five enslaved people in 1860 and a building like this one would have been their home. Whether or not the slaves were related or not we do not know, but it seems likely since one was a four-year-old boy. This building was reconstructed similar to others in eastern North Carolina where men and women, or a family and field hands could have separate quarters divided by a typical central fireplace. Its massive masonry structure provided heat, light and a cooking hearth. Perhaps the young boy slept upstairs in the warm loft during winter.

We do not know the original location of the slave house because, like this one, it probably had cedar foundations. If the foundation had been built of brick, the piers might have been found by archeologists who searched the site in 2002, but wooden foundation piers, even decay-resistant cedar ones, have long since rotten away. One day, we hope to have craftsmen like Dean Ruedrich recreate the beds and tables that probably would have been used by the enslaved in this house.


This barn was the general storage facility for the farm. It may have housed everything from fishing nets and tools to extra grain and harnesses. Over the years, we know there were horses, oxen, cows, pigs and sheep living on the farm. The Etheridges grew corn, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, pecans, figs, grapes, peas and other vegetables.


This log barn was used to shelter livestock. We know that this farm had an ox for example, which probably stayed in a barn like this when it wasn’t pulling a cart or plowing a field. This particular barn was moved here from the piedmont but the designs were similar in both locations.


This corn crib is built of local juniper logs. The open design would allow the corn to dry and not mold or rot before it was fed to the livestock. Because mice could easily crawl in between the logs and eat the corn, a black snake with a fondness for catching mice might not be an unwelcome guest.


Islanders added variety to their diets by growing vegetables in small garden plots such as this one. Additional acreage was devoted to important field crops such as corn, peas, and potatoes. In 1850, Mr. Etheridge grew 200 bushels of corn, 50 bushels of peas, 20 bushels of Irish (white) potatoes, and 100 bushels of sweet potatoes on 15 acres. The heirloom varieties grown at Island Farm today best represent the vegetables available in the 1850s.


This newly constructed building serves as an orientation point for your visit. Exhibits depict life on Roanoke Island in the mid-1800s. Topics such as island culture, fishing, farming, boatbuilding, windmills, and African Americans and the Freedmen’s Colony provide context for understanding daily life at Island Farm. Visitors will appreciate modern-day restrooms as improvement over the farm’s outhouse. Your admission goes to support of livestock, operations, and maintenance of the farm’s 11 buildings and the windmill.


As early as 1584, explorers Phillip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe, noted the lush growth of native scuppernong grapes on Roanoke Island. This cedar arbor is typical of the ones used by islanders to cultivate the grape and scuppernongs still grows profusely in the wild. At one time the largest winery in America, used scuppernong grapes for its winemaking.


Roanoke Island, and the Outer Banks in general, was festooned with windmills in the 19th century. There were windmills on Ocracoke, Hatteras, and Bodie Island. Two mills were built on Roanoke Island, one near this farm and one near town. By mid-century, there were some 150 mills dotting the eastern seaboard of North Carolina; all used wind power rather than water power to grind meal and do other work.


Adam Etheridge, his immediate family, and some of his descendants are buried in the family graveyard, facing east, ready to rise up to meet their maker, according to Christian and Masonic tradition. His tombstone includes a line from William Cullen Bryant’s poem “Thanatopsis.” Today, family members lovingly tend the graves and sometimes embellish them with island mementos.