The Early Carolina Room is one of three historic rooms in the North Carolina Collection Gallery. The room features furniture from the late colonial and early federal periods and has walls lined with paneling that was crafted in the mid-1700s from a house in Pasquotank County, N.C. Many years ago this wide, yellow-pine paneling was removed from that location, stored for a time, and then transported to Chapel Hill for installation in Wilson Library in the early 1950s.
Most of the Early Carolina Room’s furniture dates from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and represents styles imported either from England, produced by American manufacturers in the north, or fashioned by local craftsmen in the Albemarle region of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. Overall, the main room’s decor does not intend to represent a typical settler’s home of this period. Few citizens in the 1700s and the early 1800s could afford such finely crafted interiors. At that time it would have been far more common to find a Carolinian or Virginian living in a small clapboard structure or in a log cabin with mud-chinked walls, dirt floors, and with few, if any, windows.
Furnishings in the Early Carolina Room include pieces ranging from a refined Hepplewhite card table (ca. 1810) and a cellarette to a walnut tavern table and more roughly finished chairs. On display, too, are framed ornithological prints and maps from the period. Adjacent to a large fireplace are old cooking utensils, devices for spinning and measuring home-spun yarns, and other implements that were commonly found in homes two centuries ago. These items are often used in discussions about home industry in guided tours for visiting elementary and middle-school students.