Can you imagine buying 85 acres for $135 in North Carolina? That’s right! Back in 1829 Benton Williams purchased the land now known as the Historic Oak View County Park for farming for only $135. Visiting the Historic Oak View County Park can help anyone understand more about the sharecropping and tenant farming history of North Carolina. The land expanded to about 900 acres just before the civil war.
During his life, Benton Williams owned slaves that worked the land, but Benton did not want North Carolina to secede from the North, the “Union.” Benton represented Wake County at the Convention of 1868 after the Civil War. His name is listed on the document as B.S.D. Williams. This convention ended slavery in North Carolina and allowed North Carolina to re-enter the United States.
The Wake County website for Historic Oak View has a whole series of videos on Youtube. Why, you can learn all about it and be an expert before you even arrive. The video series has several on artifacts you can find at the park. If you really want to get your kids interested in the visit, I suggest learning about the artifacts and then have a “treasure” hunt while you are there to find them. Oh, that’s what I’d like to do if I return with a family for photos again. (This is me making a mental note to try it out.) The younger kids might enjoy the Oak View Funnies series about the animals. I challenge you to find out who are Leroy and Elliot!
Inside the Historic Center you’ll find facilities, maps, brochures, and displays set up to engage the very young. When I visited the Historic Center I found a timeline of North Carolina along one wall. The timeline was just right for my interest… and just at my eye level, too, to keep my interest. LOL
Did you know BATH was the first incorporated town in North Carolina? Made me wonder if the people who named the town had a fondness for resort life of Bath, England. Now there’s a question to ponder and if your kids enjoy inquiry learning your might learn more about Bath, North Carolina here.
The park has a livestock barn where you’ll find goats and chickens. When I visited the goats were enjoying the gated field just beside the tenant house and I got to watch them being called home to the barn. They actually ran home to the barn without needing to be led or leashed. I was impressed. They knew where to go.
While in the gated field or “Goat Corral” they come to the fence and enjoyed being fed. I think they stay there until 4:30 because the office closes at 5:00. (The Historic Oak View videos on Youtube have lots of great Goat jokes!). The goats have names. I don’t know who lives there now, but I read that they had a couple of baby goats in 2021 named Henry and Oscar.
The chicken coop sits on the right side of the tenant house.
When I visited I only walked the main sidewalks around the big house and by the barns, but I saw signs for trails! If it’s a great weather day I’d go back just for that. Okay they even have a pond for catch and release fishing. Jones Cut Trail goes for about half a mile, but a longer walk can take you around Jones Creek Trail which is .7 miles. Short walks in my opinion.
Part of the park that makes it pleasant to walk around are the gardens and orchards. Beside the plank kitchen sits a kitchen garden. Supposedly the plants and flowers there have some culinary and medicinal purposes. Makes sense, since it is by the kitchen. The park has two demonstration cotton fields. One lies beside the tenant house and the other near the back by the cotton gin house.
At the western side of the park is the tall cotton gin house. I started the session here because I knew it would be too dark to wait later. It sits so close to the trees. At the front of the cotton gin house which looks like a barn is a stone framed porch. We used this for a sitting family portrait. Before we came up to the house, we saw a bride having her photo taken framed by the doorway. If you walk around to the back you can see a wagon loaded with cotton. We used the left side of the cotton gin house / barn for more portraits. I felt like there was just enough sunlight peering around the roof to help us out.
The oldest building, the plank kitchen, provides a very light and airy backdrop for photos. Better still it gives any photo that iconic historic feel with its woodwork, front porch, A shaped roof, and rocking chairs. The front of the house faces east, so you have soft lit portraits with a bit of glow when the sun starts setting. I suggest taking a towel or rag to wipe down the outdoor dust on the chairs if you plan to sit in them. We also tried getting photos on the side of the house, but suggest waiting for the sun to get lower or you’ll be squinting in the light.
We ended this portrait session at the plank kitchen because we found other photographers having sessions and it was a popular spot. We had to wait our turn. Just as the sun finally went down behind the trees we turned and put the tenant house behind us for a very “touristy” type of portrait to capture the tenant house, demonstration cotton field, a glimpse fo the pecan grove, the chicken coop, and the goat corral all in one shot. The sunlight was soft and glowy and turned out well without the squinting. I would not have taken the below portrait if the sun was still high.
I started the photo session in the garden by the kitchen. I thought this location provided great foliage and filtered light about 5:00 when we began with a 6:15 sunset waiting for us. The white wooden fence and the white painted cotton gin house in the background add to the lightness and keep it open. I think the garden shrubs might even have more blooms if we had waited to come later in the spring. It would be worth returning just to see how the blooms could add to this type of portrait. (If I do this again, I want my 85mm.)
As the sun goes down, venture to the front of the main house and try portraits by the gazebo. The trees behind will filter the sunlight and give you some nice bokeh in the background. I was happy to find the daffodils blooming around it to add some spring to our gazebo portraits.
From the gazebo you can venture out into the pegan grove and read about the different kinds of pecan trees that might be found there. I never knew about pecans grown in North Carolina until I came to the park. Always good to learn something new!
Wake County requires photographers to register for a permit for photo sessions at Historic Oak View Park. The permit is free but only 6 a day are allowed. You must carry the permit with you while you are there. I signed up just in the nick of time for there were already five others registered. It was a Saturday with beautiful weather so that’s no surprise. If you want to shoot a photo session at a park in Raleigh and not have to worry about a permit try Fred Fletcher Park downtown Raleigh.
If you would like a family photography session, I’d be excited to plan one with you. Contact me here. Read more about planning your family photo session.
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