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Carolina Welcome

For an insightful look into the history and culture of the Carolinas, take a peak inside some of the states’ famous homes.

From the opulence of the Biltmore Estate to the relative modernity of Billy Graham’s boyhood home, houses in the region tell a variety of tales. Interesting tour stops include riverside plantations, tobacco farmhouses, Federal-style mansions and more.

Biltmore Estate
Asheville, N.C.

With 250 rooms, the Biltmore Estate is not only the largest private home ever built in North Carolina, but also the largest in the United States.

“They started construction in 1889, and the family moved in in 1895,” said group sales coordinator Holly Clark. “The grand hall is seven stories tall, and there are three stone fireplaces in that one room. There are 43 bathrooms in the house, but you can’t use any of them now.”

Courtesy Biltmore Estate

Today, the Biltmore Estate is one of the chief tourism attractions in North Carolina, often keeping visitors busy for a day or more. Groups can choose from a number of tours that focus on different facets of the house, such as its roof, its basements or the estate’s 1,200-piece art collection.

The estate also includes extensive gardens, a farm, a winery and a variety of accommodations and dining options for visitors.

Duke Homestead
Durham, N.C.

North Carolina native son James Buchanan Duke became one of the wealthiest men in the state and the namesake of Duke University. But at Duke Homestead, visitors can see the house where he lived as a child.

“This is the 1862 home of Washington Duke,” said Jennifer Farley, site manager at the Duke Homestead. “When he built this house, he was a farmer, so it’s a modest house. It’s not a plantation house.”

Furnishings in the house are period specific, and some were owned by the Duke family. In addition to the main farmhouse, the attraction includes a tobacco-curing barn and a pack house, where the interpretive staff talks about antebellum tobacco planting.

Several special events take place at the homestead every year, among them an arts and crafts festival in the spring, a harvest festival in the fall, and candlelight tours at Christmas.

Billy Graham Library
Charlotte, N.C.

The boyhood home of America’s most famous minister is part of the grounds of the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, N.C.

The Graham Homeplace at the Billy Graham Library Courtesy Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc.

“We have the Graham family homeplace on our property,” said Debra Cordial, director of the Billy Graham Library. “Billy lived in the home from the age of 9 until he went off to college at age 17. It has the original hardwood floors and bricks and a lot of original furnishings. It looks much the same way that it did until Billy’s mother passed away.”

Graham’s father built the house in 1927 for about $9,000. Today, volunteers point out interesting aspects of the house during a self-guided tour.

In the main library building, visitors can learn more about Graham’s early life, including the Graham Brothers Dairy Bar, the dairy farm that his father and uncle owned.

Magnolia Plantation
Charleston, S.C.

Originally built as a summer home for the wealthy Drayton family, Magnolia Plantation has become noted as one of Charleston’s most beautiful old homes and gardens.

“Magnolia dates back over 300 years to the 1670s,” said Judy Hammill, tourism and public relations representative for the plantation. “It’s one of the oldest plantations on the Ashley River, and it’s still privately owned and operated by members of the Drayton family.”

The famous gardens of Magnolia Plantation Courtesy Magnolia Plantation

The plantation house is the third to be built on the site: the first was destroyed by fire and the second by Sherman’s troops during the Civil War. Today, the house is filled with a collection of early American antiques, such as porcelain and quilts.

Many groups spend time admiring Magnolia’s extensive gardens, which have been rated among the most beautiful in the world. A tram tour and pontoon boat ride offer other ways to explore the plantation’s 500 acres.

Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site
Union, S.C.

Built between 1828 and 1832, Rose Hill Plantation was the home of William Henry Gist, a cotton planter and South Carolina statesman. The 1860 census showed Gist living at the site with 158 slaves.

“Gist was governor of the state from 1858 to 1860,” said site manager Casey Connell. “He’s called the secession governor, because he was the governor right before the order of secession was signed.”

Courtesy Rose Hill Plantation

A tour of the home showcases the lifestyle of an antebellum plantation owner. Along the way, visitors will see a ballroom, a parlor, a dining room and several bedrooms. The house has large front and back porches, along with an 1860 kitchen and several other outbuildings.



Next in the Carolina Special Section >>“Carolina Country”


Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.