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What is the history of the used to be New Bern Road, now Market Street?

John Peaspanen

Water Street at the foot of Market Street, sometime in the 1800s. In 1791, George Washington came down Market Street, then called New Bern Road, into Wilmington for a visit. From the Dr. Robert M. Fales Collection, courtesy of the New Hanover County Public Library.

Q. What is the history of what used to be Newbern Road running through Wilmington, down Market Street?

A.  We cannot tell a lie. Market Street in Wilmington used to be part of what was called New Bern Road, a roadway famously traveled by George Washington on his Southern Tour in 1791.

A 1769 map by acclaimed French cartographer C.J. Sauthier features the “Road to New Bern.” At the time, Wilmington was a relatively small community. The road led out of town, along present-day Market Street, toward the more populated New Bern.

Washington desired to visit every state during his term of office. Proceeding from Mount Vernon via Fredericksburg and Richmond in Virginia, he travelled into North Carolina.

Washington crossed the Roanoke River into Halifax in mid-April 1791. The president’s tour took him through Tarboro, Greenville, New Bern, Trenton and Wilmington before entering South Carolina. Washington then looped back into North Carolina near Charlotte and visited Salisbury, Salem, and Guilford Court House as he returned northward.

Upon arriving in Wilmington, Washington was met by a local welcoming party and stayed at the home of Mrs. John Quince. Washington’s two-day stay at the Quince home was necessitated by ongoing repairs to Dorsey’s Tavern. The Quince home stood at the corner of what are now Front and Dock Streets.

Today, a North Carolina Historical Marker at Third and Dock Streets reads, “President Washington was a guest April 24-25, 1791, at the Quince home which stood 2 blocks W.”

Washington recorded in his journal that Wilmington had approximately 1,000 residents. After two days, Washington left Wilmington to proceed southward through Brunswick County toward South Carolina.


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Ms. C. L. Nixon

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One Response to “ What is the history of the used to be New Bern Road, now Market Street?”

  1. On March 25, 2013 at 9:13 pm John wrote:

    First of all this is FALSE and inaccurate! Old New Bern Rd (then Newberne Rd) Was NOT Market st. Market street was called Old Topsail Plank Rd. Princess Place Dr., is the old (Newberne Rd)!! Get your facts straight first!

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