Established as the Pitt County seat in 1774, Greenville, North Carolina, (population 68,977) remained a quiet agricultural post for much of its early existence. In the 1820s, a wooden bridge was erected over the Tar River and by 1834 steamships began to arrive.
The town enjoyed modest prosperity after the 1840s, thanks to improved farming methods and higher commodity prices, especially for cotton. After the railroad came to Greenville in 1890, the town became a mercantile hub and regional center for the tobacco trade, linked to other major processing centers like Durham and Winston-Salem. Today the city has a Tobacco Warehouse Historic District listed on the National Register, which includes a variety of early 20th century tobacco-related resources.
A major turning point in Greenville’s history was the establishment of the East Carolina Teachers Training School in 1907. The teachers college evolved into East Carolina University, which now has more than 19,000 students and an important medical campus. Greenville flourished in the decades following World War II, and between 1960 and 2000, the population more than doubled.
Greenville is home to the East Carolina Village of Yesteryear, which depicts life in Pitt County from 1840 to 1940. It has a country store, train depot, traditional schoolhouse, log cabin, log church, and many artifacts from the period. Prehistoric and Tuscarora Indian artifacts, tobacco and farming tools, fossils, natural history, and Civil War artifacts are housed at the Grifton Historical Museum of Area Culture.
Since 2000, the Pitt County Historical Society has been restoring the Red Banks Primitive Baptist Church, which it uses for society meetings and rents out for weddings, concerts, and other special events. Throughout its almost 80-year history, the society has preserved many important local landmarks.
The Historic Preservation Commission and local volunteers host events such as open houses, walking tours, and socials during Historic Preservation Week that showcase Greenville’s local and regional history and preservation accomplishments. The commission also presents awards every two years to honor leaders in the community who are dedicated to preserving and promoting Greenville’s heritage resources.
Designated a Preserve America Community in November 2006.