Old houses tell a story. They have a history. How many, over the course of the last two and a half centuries, have walked these floors before you? Soldiers, artists, men and women in elegant finery contradancing across the ballroom floor. In an old house we have sense of place, of time, a perspective on where we fit in the grander story.
Moorefields is just such a house. Built in the 18th century, it stands among the remains of an oak grove as old as the house itself. Its builder, Justice Alfred Moore, was a founder and trustee of the University of North Carolina.
The year Moorefields was built,1785, people and goods got around on land by horse drawn wagons, coaches, and carriages. Oxen and mules pulled wagons and carts full of goods, horses for the folks traveling on their own back and forth to town. Alfred Moore Waddell, a direct descendant of Justice Alfred Moore, has given us a glimpse of how the old place looked in its earlier days. In his book entitled Some Memories of My Life, we learn that the house itself was surrounded by huge oaks, part of the fifty planted when the house was built. Now only four of these oaks survive.
On the west side of the house were large flower beds full of roses, dahlias, lilacs and peonies, while in the corner stood tall sunflowers. In spring, the beds were colorful with jonquils, narcissus, hyacinths, and anti-lilies of the valley. Box bushes and a large mimosa tree, together with dogwood along the edges of the woods, added their charm to the garden.
At the bottom of the hill, under the shady oaks, was a spring-branch, and a little farther downstream was a rock-built dairy.
From the west side of the house it was nearly a mile to the woods encircling all sides. On the way lay fields of grain and Indian corn, cherry trees and plum thickets. No surprise, then, that Moorefields is now a wildlife refuge.
South of the house, and at some little distance towards the woods, lies the family graveyard, resting place of Moores, Waddell’s, and Cameron’s, and “Mammy Sue,” beloved nurse of the Moore and Waddell families. Miss Sallie Moore, daughter of Justice Alfred Moore, and called “Aunt” took charge of the little graveyard and is said to have kept it like a little park, beautifully cared for.
Over the course of the next 65 years, Moorefields had three other owners: Thomas and Louise Webb, Ada and June Ray, and, finally, Edward Thayer Draper-Savage, a UNC French professor and noted artist, who bought the house in 1949. Only after purchasing Moorefields did Draper-Savage discover he was related by marriage to the Moores. Draper-Savage died on February 15, 1978 and is buried west of the house with his cats. Upon his death the house and remaining 84 acres were conveyed to the Effie Draper Savage-Nellie Draper Dick Foundation for the Preservation of Moorefields. Named after Draper-Savage’s mother and her sister, the foundation is administered by the trust department of SunTrust Bank and is dedicated to maintaining the house and grounds in perpetuity. The Friends of Mooreftelds serve as an advisory board to the foundation.
Walking into a historic house is like traveling in a time machine: the past and the present meet in a single moment. Today the friends of Moorefields invite you to take that trip.
Upcoming Events at Moorefields
Moorefields is now offering Guided Tours from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm on the Last Sunday afternoon of each month through September.
The annual Bluegrass Festival at Historic Moorefields will take place on the lawn on Saturday, September 18, 2021. The festival lasts from 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm and helps to fund the educational, environmental, artistic and historic preservation goals of the Friends of Moorefields, the nonprofit administrator of the Moorefields Foundation.
Parking remains free. Lawn seating is $15 per person. Tickets for teens 13-17 are $10. Children 12 and under attend without charge. Bring your own chair but not your dog. Beer and wine and other drinks are available,
The rain date is Sunday, Sept. 19.
www.visitmoorefields.org For information on how to get involved with upcoming events, call Barry Jacobs, (919) 732-4384.