Beaufort, North Carolina, (population 4,000) was established in 1709 and is the third oldest town in North Carolina. Located on the site of the former Coree Indian village of Cwarioc, Beaufort was designed in 1713 with street plans that still exist today. Beaufort features dozens of historic homes; the oldest is the Hammock House of 1698, which is believed to have once been an inn that regularly served Blackbeard.
In late 18th century, Beaufort was an active seaport inhabited by sailors, pirates, fishermen, and soldiers. By 1810, commercial fishing and shipbuilding dominated the economy. However, this town surrounded by water was slow to grow. The first train didn’t arrive until 1906, followed by the opening of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway five years later. Following two devastating hurricanes in 1954 and 1960, Beaufort began preserving its historic assets, built the Beaufort boardwalk, and provided a facelift for the popular Front Street business area. All of this helped to establish the basis for tourism that the town enjoys today. Beaufort celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2009.
Thanks to many preservation efforts, visitors and locals can learn about this charming town’s past. From 1969-1970, 100 structures were surveyed and nominated to the National Register. Since then, hundreds of additional historic buildings have been added to an inventory list kept up-to-date by the Beaufort Historic Preservation Commission (BHPC) and available to the public. BHPC also oversees applications for restoration and destruction of older properties and regulates changes to the exterior appearance of buildings in the historic district. Design guidelines for the Beaufort Historic District and landmarks were developed and have recently been updated to include more on architectural styles of historic buildings and provide guidance for signage, storefronts, relocation of buildings, and treatment options.
The North Carolina Maritime Museum is a huge asset for Beaufort. The complex includes an 18,000 square foot main exhibit hall and 5,400 square feet for the construction and restoration of wooden boats. The museum maintains the Charles R. McNeill Library featuring books, journals, photos, and manuscripts about maritime history and offers events such as boat building classes, Pirate Month, Blackbeard Week, art workshops, and clamming workshops. In addition, 10,000 school children visit for tours, programs, and summer science school.
In July of 2006, the town partnered with the museum and its friends organization, investing thousands of dollars and countless staff hours to bring Pepsi Americas’ Sail to the coast. More than 150,000 visitors attended this event, which welcomed 15 majestic tall ships from around the world. The five-day festival featured ship tours, re-enactments, and concerts.
The Beaufort Historic Site, owned and operated by the Beaufort Historical Association, depicts life in the seaport village through house tours, an old burying ground, Carteret County Jail, the courthouse, and an apothecary shop.
Designated a Preserve America Community in December 2008.