The North Carolina History Center at Tryon Palace opened in October 2010 as one of the state's first history education buildings designed for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.
Tryon Palace was North Carolina's first permanent Colonial Capitol building constructed in 1770 and later named after Governor William Tryon in New Bern. Tryon Palace became North Carolina's first State Capitol during the Revolutionary War in 1775. Tryon Palace burned in 1798 and the landmark was rebuilt in 1950 from the original Palace plans.
The Palace's Executive Director Kay Williams, Assistant Director Philippe Lafargue, and their leadership team decided to build the history center as an additional learning experience. Striving to be good stewards of our environment, they envisioned an eco-friendly, sustainable, and state-of-the-art educational experience.
In the late 1990s, they determined that the former industrial Brownfield site next to Tryon Palace was a prime location. The site was previously occupied by an old shipyard that contaminated the area with asbestos, coal tar, metals and numerous toxic chemicals. This locale was a major pollutant to the Neuse River Basin and required extensive remediation.
Green construction begins
Jennifer Amster, BJAC's Principal and LEED Certified Architect noted, "Tryon Palace and the community sought to revitalize
this blighted waterfront that neighbored the city's historic district. The site was a state designated Brownfield and part of the cleanup program mandated by NCDENR
. S&ME designed the plan for isolation and monitoring of hazardous materials."
Once the clean-up was accomplished, Amster credited S&EC for designing the storm water and wetlands plans. She explained, "The storm water for the surrounding neighborhood drains to the wetlands. A series of pools that water runs into to remove sediment and filter out other pollutants."
Another interesting fact about the green design — almost a third of the history center was constructed of recycled materials. Amster noted, "In addition to the use of recycled materials, construction waste was recycled."
Amster highlighted additional elements included in the LEED certification process, "A cistern to capture rainwater and reuse; use of day-lighting in Mattocks Hall; views to the surroundings to improve occupants' daily experience; parking lot designed to minimize impervious surfaces and reduce storm water runoff; parking lot rain gardens that treat storm water before it reaches the river; and the use of regional materials to minimize the environmental impact of transportation."
Tryon Palace's focus on environmental sustainability through indoor air quality, energy efficiency and water efficiency is only part of the North Carolina History Center's story.
Merging old fashioned exhibits with modern technology
The goal of the history center is to provide a unique learning experience by using interactive virtual exhibits to engage visitors. Sightseers can experience the best of both worlds at Tryon Palace and the North Carolina History Center.
People can visit the Governor's Palace and enjoy historic interpreters portray what life was like 300 years ago. Visitors can admire historic artwork, furnishings and documents; watch servants cook and see other domestic skills being performed; listen to the North Carolina Symphony perform; enjoy the Palace's spectacular gardens; and experience much more.
North Carolina History Center
The history center was created to shed a different light into the history of one of our nation's founding states. The virtual and interactive exhibits entice younger generations as they discover the history of North Carolina at their own pace by using handheld electronic devices.
When I first heard about the virtual technology, my first thought was this is a good way to decrease man hours, ensure accuracy of information and decrease paper handouts. It didn't occur to me how much it would engage today's youth since I'm still struggling with my so-called smart phone. I was wrong: after polling a number of families with children, I realized the state-of–the-art technology is a smashing success with today's youth and adults alike!
Tryon Palace is a vital resource in preserving our state's history and offers a magnificent opportunity for people of all ages to learn about our nation's history.
How to get involved
Become a volunteer or join Tryon Palace Council of Friends! Learn more by visiting the North Carolina History Center, 529 South Front Street in New Bern, N.C. Call 252-639-3500, or check out their website: http://www.tryonpalace.org
Special thanks to Kay Williams, Philippe Lafargue, Jennifer Amster and Rebecca Edmunds for taking the time to share your insight about this extensive project.
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Photo: Wendy Card