Historic Must-Dos of Hillsborough

Historic Must-Dos of Hillsborough
Photograph by: Postcarddelivering
Hillsborough is known for many things, from its breathtaking natural landscapes to its bustling arts scene, quaint cafes, and exquisite dining spots. Yet, perhaps its most captivating allure lies in its rich tapestry of history. Wander through the charming streets of downtown and West Hillsborough, and you’ll encounter a wealth of meticulously preserved homes and timeless architectural marvels dating back centuries. Simply being in Hillsborough is like stepping back in time. We invite you to explore our unique town with these Historic Must-dos.


Alexander Dickson House

Our first destination is the Alexander Dickson House, now the Hillsborough Visitor Center. This historic Quaker-built residence from the 1970s once served as a pivotal Confederate headquarters during the final stages of the Civil War. Step inside and explore the very rooms where Generals Hampton and Johnston convened before their journey to Bennet Place, marking the significant surrender that ended the war. Visitors to the Dickson House can delve into its preservation story and discover more about Hillsborough’s captivating history.

Hours: Monday through Saturday 10-4, Sundays 12-4

Address: 150 E King Street


Ayr Mount

Dating back to the early 1800s, the Kirkland family homestead welcomes visitors for guided tours of its charming house and picturesque grounds. Take a leisurely stroll along the scenic Poet’s Walk, meandering beside the tranquil Eno River, or gather the family for a delightful picnic by the pond. This historic setting offers a serene escape into the past, perfect for a relaxing outing or exploration of nature’s beauty.Tours of the iconic house are $10 and run from April through November, Thursday through Saturday. Reservations are required.

Grounds are open Monday through Sunday, 9-7

Address: 376 St Mary’s Rd


Montrose Garden

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Montrose Gardens are a perfect blend of history and beauty. Originally owned by Governor William Alexander Graham, his wife Sarah first established the gardens during their residency. Upon selling the property in 1977, the gardens have since been expanded and tended to by the Goodwin family, who established the Montrose Foundation. “The grounds include several 19th century buildings, a rock garden, scree garden, extensive woodland plantings, and large areas of sunny gardens with unique color and planting schemes. Unusual trees and trellises, fences, and arbors, designed and constructed by local artists, enhance the gardens. Winter gardens are a special feature of Montrose.”

Montrose Gardens is open this May by appointment. Tickets are $20, and reservations are required.

Address: 320 St. Mary’s Rd


Colonial Inn Historic Tours

Since 1838, the iconic Colonial Inn has graced the heart of downtown Hillsborough. Rescued from demolition after a closure of over 20 years, this historic landmark now invites visitors to book a weekend getaway for an immersive historical experience. Embracing its storied past, the Inn provides guided historic tours of its charming premises for both visitors and guests, allowing everyone to delve into its rich legacy. Booking ahead of time, you can walk through the hallowed halls and learn about its history and restoration for only $10. Reservations are required.

Address: 153 E King


The Burwell School Historic Site

The Burwell School Historic Site is a gem of historic Hillsborough, NC, located at the northern edge of the town’s famed Historic District. Restored and open to the public, the early 19th-century house and outbuildings bring history alive for visitors of ALL ages! Visit this site to explore the complex, multi-layered stories of freedom-seeking and oppression through the lives of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly, Mary-Ann, Anna Burwell, and more.

Admission is Free

Hours are Monday through Saturday, 11-4, Sunday, 1-4

Address: 319 N Churton


Orange County Historical Museum

In Hillsborough, you’ll discover the Orange County Historical Museum, a captivating space dedicated to showcasing the stories of our local community through artifacts and engaging exhibits. Among these is their latest showcase, “Working for a Living,” highlighting the tradespeople and their craft over the decades. Additionally, this May, the museum will unveil a special feature exhibit spotlighting artifacts from the renowned 1969 Orange County High School basketball team. It’s a fascinating journey through time, and local heritage is waiting to be explored.

Admission to the museum is free.

Hours are Thursday through Tuesday, 11-4, closed Wednesdays

Address: 201 N Churton


Saltire Art Gallerie

Nestled within the newly restored James Hogg House, the Saltire Art Gallerie is a hidden gem blending history and art. Explore the Scottish Fine Arts collection to uncover rare treasures or soak in the scenic views of the historic home and surrounding outbuildings. Originally constructed for the Hogg family in 1974, this charming house has been lovingly restored by Sydney and Laurel Kilgore. Beyond the main house, visitors can discover a 19th-century rustic cabin and schoolhouse, recently relocated to the property for preservation purposes, adding to the site’s rich historical tapestry.

Admission to the gallery is free.

Hours are Thursday 2-6 pm and during Last Friday Art Walk

Address: 209 Burnside Drive


Occaneechi Replica Village

An unforgettable historical stop in Hillsborough is the Occaneechi Replica Village. Here, visitors can not only learn about the local Indigenous heritage but can also step inside the replication of the original Occaneechi Town. From the huts and lean-tos to the palisade and vegetable garden, we invite you to experience this sacred space respectfully.

Admission is free – Note: This is a sacred space, not a playground. Please move through this space with respect.

Hours: Monday through Sunday, dawn to dusk. No tresspassing after dark

Address: Located off E Magaret Lane near the River Walk. Parking is available at 140 E Margaret Lane



“Set in 70 acres of gardens, trails, woodlands, and pastures, Moorfields is a 1785 house on the National Register of Historic Places just outside Hillsborough, NC. Rich in history, Moorefields is a popular venue for concerts, interpreting our heritage, and enjoying the outdoors.” While known for its annual Bluegrass festival, visitors can experience Moorefields offers a variety of guided walks, bird-watching events, and house tours from spring through fall.

To plan your visit, view their calendar of events.


Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area

Yes, Hillsborough has a mountain! With beautiful trails and breathtaking vistas, visitors can climb to the highest peak of Orange County right outside of the historic downtown. While this may appeal to all nature lovers, the mountain is etched with local history. What once housed an abundance of mill houses now sports three miles of hiking, fishing, and picnicking.

Admission is Free – Hours may vary.

Learn more about the Mountain’s history


Upcoming Historic Tours You Won’t Want to Miss


Join the Past Meets Present Preservation Tour for an exclusive glimpse into the hidden facets of Hillsborough’s notable landmarks. This tour offers access to five stops, unveiling rarely-seen spaces and providing unique insights into the preservation efforts of these iconic sites.

The Preservation Tour is self-paced, with docents stationed at each location. Participants must check-in and receive the appropriate wristbands for entry. The tour consists of five locations: Hogg House, Dickson House, Masonic Lodge, Dickerson Chapel, and the Coachman’s Quarters. Ticket holders will also have the opportunity to purchase a limited-access pass to the Eno Cotton Mill.

Tickets are $35 and can be purchased online or at the door on May 18th.


Experience American history through the unique perspective of one of North Carolina’s oldest and most historically significant towns with a guided walking tour of downtown Hillsborough. Established in 1754 as the seat of government for Orange County, Hillsborough’s colonial legacy and signs of its importance in North Carolina and American history can be seen everywhere. Tours are offered first through third Saturdays of each month, weather dependent. Check the events calendar for up-to-date listings and tickets.


As part of our Black Literature & Arts Celebration, The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough provides a 90-minute, guided walking tour of Hillsborough’s Black and Indigenous History led by Judge Beverly Scarlett. The tour will begin at the library and follow a route through downtown. Registration is required. This event is free and open to the public. Funding from the Friends of the Library used to pay for this tour was donated by Alliance for Historic Hillsborough to support the preservation of historic Dickerson Chapel AME Church. – Tickets are Free. Reservation Required