A place of beauty and history
Open to the public Wednesday - Sunday
The Burwell School Historic Site brings important 19th century history alive for over 5000 visitors a year. The three buildings (house, classroom building and "necessary") stand on Churton Street in Hillsborough's Historic District. From 1835 - 1857 this was the home of the Rev. Robert Armistead Burwell, his wife, Margaret Anna Robertson Burwell, and their twelve children. For twenty of those years they operated a landmark girl's academy for both day and boarding students, Mr and Mrs. Burwell's Academy for Young Ladies. Over 200 girls from NC and other states pursued a "classical English education" through a four-year course of study, with an emphasis on composition, literature, grammar, mathematics and science, French, art, music, philosophy and more. Mrs. Burwell's goal was to create "thorough scholars and useful members of society." At least seven students later ran their own schools. The Burwell family later operated the Charlotte (NC) Female Academy (now Queens University) and Peace Institute in Raleigh, NC (now William Peace University).
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly
As an antebellum academy, the Burwell School admitted only white girls. However, for seven years the site was also the home and workplace of a literate, talented and determined young African-American Burwell family slave, Lizzie Hobbs. She endured harsh treatment and hard work during her seven years in the household. Later, in the household of a Burwell relative, she purchased freedom for herself and her son. Under her married name of Elizabeth Keckly she established herself as a successful dressmaker in Washington, DC, and became "modiste" (designer/dressmaker) and confidante to First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Her autobiography, "Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House," is both a slave narrative and the first published account of private life in the White House. In 2018 we will honor the bicentennial of her birth with several events through the year.
Last fall Shanna Clayton and Bartow Culp tidied up a garden bed and planted new bulbs, which bloomed beautifully in March. We had a very successful spring garden work session on Saturday April 15, 8:30 - 11:30 to prepare the garden and exterior for the upcoming auction and the May 20 Garden Tour.