Where to Go to Experience the History of Pinehurst NC

It’s always interesting to visit a place and learn about its history through experiences and the locations where it all happened. We wanted to learn about the history of Pinehurst NC this way, in Moore County.

The “Home of American Golf,” as it’s known, neighbors Southern Pines, Carthage and Aberdeen. The area is a wonderful destination for a weekend getaway from points within and surrounding North Carolina.

Explore Pinehurst Resort to Understand the Foundation of the History of Pinehurst NC

Take a Walking Tour of the Village of Pinehurst with the Historic Walking Tour Guidebook

The Village of Pinehurst was designated a US National Historic Landmark in 1996. This was due to the significant role it played in establishing American golf, as well as its landscape architecture plan.

Needless to say, the village is a great place to walk around and explore through a historical lens, especially if the weather is nice. (Which, odds are, it is! North Carolina has great weather.)

A statue of Donald Ross and a man visiting the Village of Pinehurst, NC.
Dan with a bronze statue of famed golf course architect, Donald Ross, in the Village of Pinehurst. New friends.

You must pick up the book, Village of Pinehurst: An Historic Walking Tour. It’s like the bible of history of Pinehurst, NC. It’s also wonderful souvenir to keep from your trip.

You can purchase one for $18 at one of three locations in the Village of Pinehurst. The following locations are all walking distance from one other:

  1. The Convention and Visitors Bureau, at 65 Community Road
  2. Tufts Archives, at 150 Cherokee Road
  3. Theatre Building, at 90 Cherokee Road

The great thing about the book is its small enough and light enough to walk around with. Its pages reveal the history of many of the buildings you’ll see in the Village of Pinehurst.

A photo of the building from the past is on the left page and the right facing page has a more present-day photo. It’s fun to see the side-by-side imagery – then and now – and learn about the city’s architecture and history in the text.

The book "Village of Pinehurst, An Historic Walking Tour"
Photo with a brick and white building on the left in the Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina.
A side street in the Village of Pinehurst

While the book goes through dozens and dozens of buildings, you probably have limited time to see a few highlights. We share which ones you shouldn’t miss for a glimpse into the history of Pinehurst, below.

Visit the Given Memorial Library & Tufts Archives for One of the Most Complete Looks Back at the History of Pinehurst NC

James Walker Tufts was a businessman who found fame and fortune through various ventures, notably the American Soda Fountain Company. The patented soda fountains and machines that were sold by the company greatly helped him amass the money to purchase over 500 acres of land in Moore County, North Carolina. (Keep reading for some info about the history of Aberdeen to find out more details about his land purchase.)

He didn’t necessarily intend to create the community that stands today. But slowly and surely it began to take shape after it was established in 1895. Only five years later he enlisted the help of Donald Ross to help create golf courses on the property.

Luckily for everyone who lives there and visits Pinehurst, the town that was meant to be found a way.

And that brings us to the Tufts Archives.

We didn’t realize the significance of the archives and the role it plays in preserving the history of Pinehurst NC, until we visited Pinehurst. It was only then that we started to have conversations with some locals about why the archives mattered to the city, and for preserving the history of American golf.

The non-profit organization was founded the same year as Pinehurst, in 1895. The building you can visit today was created in 1975. Within its walls are decades of history found in thousands of photographs, documents and assorted artifacts. One of the coolest things may be the original drawings for Pinehurst created by Frederick Law Olmstead.

Everything was preserved and donated through members of the community over the years, employees of the resort and the Village of Pinehurst founders, the Tufts family.

The archives are open to the public and free to explore six days a week. They’re open Monday through Friday, 9:30am to 5:00pm and Saturday from 9:30am to 12:00pm.

Building with white columns and a sign on the front lawn.

Walk the Halls of the Carolina Hotel

The Carolina Hotel at Pinehurst Resort is iconic. (Not to be confused with The Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, NC, less than two hours north of Pinehurst.)

This is the place to get a photo with their perfectly manicured boxwood plants out front that read “PINEHURST.” We couldn’t resist! (If you don’t get this photo, were you even there? Just kidding.)

Hotel with "PINEHURST" boxwood plants out front in Pinehurst, NC.

The resort was built in 1900, five years after Pinehurst was established in 1895. A fun historical fact about the Carolina Hotel is that it used to have an equestrian riding ring. It was replaced with a swimming pool in the 1960s.

One of the highlights of our trip to Pinehurst was walking the halls of this hotel. It’s filled with photos and memorabilia, like old posters, showcasing some of the area’s history.

An interior hallway of the Carolina Hotel in Pinehurst, NC with white columns and historic photos on the walls.

Pinehurst Resort: History in the Making

What St. Andrews is to Scotland and the birth of golf, Pinehurst is to the American sport.

Even if you don’t play golf you have to stop at the golf courses at Pinehurst Resort. They’re the most famous in the area and the most historic. You have to stop there even if just to glance at the hills and take in the lay of the land.

You’ll be the envy of any golfer you ever encounter – hobbyist, amateur or pro – if you tell them you were at Pinehurst Resort by course No. 2. USGA (United States Golf Association) coincidentally announced they are opening their second headquarters in Pinehurst the morning we arrived there. (Coincidence? Maybe not.)

This was major news for the sport, for Pinehurst Resort, the city and its surrounding areas – as well as for North Carolina’s overall economic development.

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There we were, interested in the history of Pinehurst NC, experiencing history in the making.

A man and a woman standing on a golf course in Pinehurst, NC.
A sign and purple flowers in the foreground at Pinehurst Resort, NC.

Play the First Miniature Golf Course at Thistle Dhu, at Pinehurst Resort

There’s good news at Pinehurst for non-golfers. Thistle Dhu (like, “This’ll Do”) is here, whose claim to fame is it’s the first miniature golf course. It was created in 1916 by James Barber.

You can play putt putt golf for amusement or practice. There’s no pressure for a 9 or 18-hole commitment for a half or full day of the sport like on the courses.

A man swinging a putter at Pinehurst, NC.

It was fun to feel like a part of the culture as we tried to aim the golf ball towards the holes and soak up the energy of the amateur golfers around us.

We were happy to be on the greens for a little while. Then we walked around and read the signs about the resort’s golf course history and visited their pro shop. We even posed for photos with notable figures Donald Ross (golf course architect) and Robert S. Tufts, forever commemorated in bronze. It was like we were old pals. Talking sport. (You’re not seeing double in our photos – there is another bronze sculpture of Donald Ross in the Village of Pinehurst that we referenced earlier in the post.)

The best remedy for an exhausting game of golf is a great meal. We headed over to the Pinehurst Club to grab lunch with a view at their restaurant, The Deuce, overlooking the courses.

A woman with two bronze golfer statues at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.
Photo of a historic building in the distance and grass in the foreground in Pinehurst, NC.

Their food was as delicious as it looks.

Photo of a grilled Buffalo chicken salad at The Deuce restaurant in Pinehurst, NC.

Stay at The Magnolia Inn

It feels like you’re home at The Magnolia Inn. It’s a quaint corner house, nestled between two picturesque streets in the village of Pinehurst. 

We liked feeling like we were simply visiting friends in the neighborhood as guests. It’s family owned by Julie and Ron, who restored Magnolia to her glory in a recent refurbishment.

We loved learning about the history of the Inn in our Historic Walking Tour book. It was originally five stories when it was built in 1896. But the top two floors were chopped off when the Carolina Hotel opened its doors four years later.

James Walker Tufts didn’t like that The Magnolia Inn blocked his view of the town from the hotel! (We’re guessing a view that could only be seen from the top floors of the Carolina Hotel, which is said to be situated on the highest point in the city.) There’s still a “staircase to nowhere” on the third floor of the Inn that previously lead to the fourth floor.

The Magnolia Inn is essentially a bed and breakfast, whose main level is a restaurant (named Villaggio, serving Italian cuisine) and two floors above it are guest rooms. They have 10 rooms total; we stayed in the Page room. (Read on for how Allison F. Page plays into the city’s history.)

We suppose it’s the new bed and breakfast – bed, breakfast…and the option to have a lovely upscale dinner at your temporary home.

A multi-story hotel painted white in Pinehurst Village in North Carolina.
A woman sitting on the porch of a historic hotel, The Magnolia Inn, in Pinehurst, NC.

There are two outdoor areas to enjoy – a beautiful porch with rocking chairs and a back patio with ample seating. (Both the front porch and back patio are used for the restaurant in the evenings.)

I laid in bed at The Magnolia Inn the first night we stayed, recalling days I would go to bed around 9:00pm in my childhood home. I’d hear my parents and any guests they had visiting moving around the kitchen and dining room as I tried to fall asleep.

The Magnolia Inn was never a residence for just one family like many of the homes and cottages in the neighborhood. But it is liken to an old home, meaning the walls are thin (as perhaps the floors are too), even if metaphorically speaking. This meant we audibly heard everything going on in the evenings.

I thought it was soothing. But I could see how it could keep a light sleeper awake at night.

We only stayed a couple nights but it seemed the noise was generally not an issue – the voices we heard were soft and distant. If you’re like me then background noise soothes to you.

What was significant, however, was hearing the restaurant staff dragging tables on the front porch to clean up at the end of the night; we could also hear the clambering of dishes and doors abruptly opening and closing on the first floor. Hopefully that improves over time.

We really enjoyed our stay and wouldn’t hesitate to stay again. We only bring this up in case you’re a light sleeper: request a room on the third floor, not the second, if it’s available. Know that you’ll have to walk up an extra set of stairs to get there but they’re beautiful stairs to traverse!

Photo of a bedroom at the historic hotel, The Magnolia Inn, in Pinehurst, NC.

For practical information about the hotel, there’s free parking on the premises. The wifi was ample on our computers but not strong on our cell phones. Cell service was weak as well for our AT&T and Verizon phones (which had nothing to do with The Magnolia Inn, simply the area) but it was enough to be able to accomplish what we needed to do. 

There’s a lovely living room area on the first floor for guests. It’s the perfect place to enjoy morning coffee if you like a light and airy, cozy sun-drenched nook. 

They put out a pretty self-serve breakfast each morning with cereals, muffins, yogurts, juice, coffee and tea. We opted to explore the town instead but it was nice their breakfast option was available. 

The living room area of The Magnolia Inn B&B in Pinehurst, NC.

Visit the Holly Inn

Just because you’re staying at one hotel doesn’t mean you can’t visit another.

Holly Inn was the first hotel in Pinehurst Village. It was built in 1895 with 45 guest rooms but has undergone many renovations in its lifetime. This includes:

  • 1896: Capacity was doubled with the addition of more guest rooms.
  • 1925: A bathroom was added to every room. The front port-cochère was created as well.
  • 1984: The Inn was added to the registry of National Historic Places in 1973, but closed shortly after in 1975. It reopened nearly a decade later in 1984, after a $4 million renovation.
  • 1999: Pinehurst Resort hosted the US Open of golf. They purchased Holly Inn and invested millions more dollars in renovating it to get ready for the big event.
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The historic hotel, The Holly Inn, in Pinehurst, NC. It is a three story white building.

Walk the Historic Neighborhood Town Paths in Pinehurst Village

One of the nicest things we did all weekend was simply stroll around the Pinehurst neighborhoods. The houses are all so well kept and attractive.

Don’t forget that the city is a US National Historic Landmark in part due to its landscape architecture, designed by the “Father of Landscape Architecture,” Frederick Law Olmstead. (The same person who designed Central Park in Manhattan, Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and the Biltmore in Asheville.)

The sidewalks were paved in some places and sandy in others. The, “Old Town Paths,” were an original vision Olmstead had for the community.

He wanted Pinehurst to be a “…village in the trees,” as the town sign pictured below indicates. Sand and clay were used for the paths because it was a native and natural material that would harmoniously blend with the design.

Sign that says, "Old Town Paths" in the historic village of Pinehurst, NC.

Our Historic Walking Tour guidebook allowed us to easily educate ourselves about the historic cottages we passed on our walk and their place in the history of Pinehurst, NC.

The image below was one of our favorite cottages. A plaque on the front of the home denotes it was the Cottage Colony School, in 1917. It was built in the Colonial Revival style during that time period. It was purchased by Miss May (Mary) Chapman, who wanted it to be a prestigious school. And that it was.

A historic cottage in the Village of Pinehurst, NC.

Get Coffee at the Old Post Office of Pinehurst

The Roast Office, as it’s named, is in the old Post Office building in the neighborhood. It was heart-warming to see people who were clearly regulars and neighborhood pals smile and greet one another there as we waited in line for coffee our last morning in town.

They serve all sorts of non-alcoholic drinks and pastries. It shares the space with a small town library. The same owner of The Roast Office, chef Mark Elliott, owns Elliotts on Linden a short drive away, which is a fantastic place to enjoy a nice dinner with farm-to-table ingredients.

There are open from morning until 4:00pm, daily.

Brick facade of a building with white trim in Pinehurst, NC.
Image of the inside of a small coffee shop called The Roast Office in Pinehurst, NC.

Stop at The Drum & Quill to see Some History of Pinehurst NC on its Walls

There’s a great little restaurant and bar in the Village of Pinehurst you must stop at. Even if it’s to grab cocktails before or after dinner, like we did.

It’s owned by Kevin Drum, whose father was the famous writer and Emmy nominated broadcaster, Bob Drum. You may not be familiar with the name but you’re probably familiar with Arnold Palmer, the pro golfer. (Whether you know him for the sport or for his famous tea/lemonade drink.)

Bob Drum gave credence to Arnold Palmer’s golfing talent when he started to write about him while Palmer was still in high school. The two developed an everlasting friendship.

There’s a table with Bob’s typewriter and a framed photo at one of the booths in the Drum & Quill. We appreciated that Kevin commemorates his father this way in the restaurant. There’s also a lot of great memorabilia on the walls.

They have a lovely outdoor seating area if you prefer to sit outside.

They are closed Mondays and Thursdays, and open from 11:00am to 10:00pm Tuesdays/Wednesdays/Sundays and until 10:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays. And it’s just a block away from The Magnolia Inn.

Flashback to the History of Pinehurst NC through the Resort’s Old Power Plant at Pinehurst Brewing Co.

The resort’s steam power plant opened in 1895. It supplied electricity to the cottages, hotels and trolleys in town beginning on December 31st that year, kicked off with a New Year’s Eve party (as any good kick off should begin). It remained in use until the 1970’s.

The building was restored and repurposed by Pinehurst Resort in 2018, as Pinehurst Brewing Co. And it’s glorious!

Guests can enjoy the beautiful historic building, craft beer and Texas-style smokehouse BBQ when they visit. (Of course we dream about barbecue ever since our BBQ food binge in Goldsboro).

Here’s a few details and parts of the building to note when you are there:

  • The brick facade is original.
  • The archways and windows have been restored.
  • There’s a trellis above the outdoor seating area that mimics the train tracks, where trains used to stop to deliver coal to the power plant.
  • The legs of the chairs and tables in the dining area are old pipes and valves from the plant. The pipe-wall in the lobby area is repurposed from the same materials.
  • The ceiling is original.
  • Any black smoke or color you see on bricks inside the restaurant are real, from the plant. It’s not themed paint like at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!
  • Anything above the black line on the smoke stack is restored but anything below it is original.

The Food and Drinks at Pinehurst Brewing Co.

The food and beers are not from 1895. Whew. It’s all fresh and delicious and hits the spot if you’re hungry. We loved sitting in the side room of the dining area, filled with a ton of natural light.

If you’re there you may as well stay to grab a pint and a meal. Dan had a pint and I had a flight of beer – because I can never make up my mind to try just one beer when so many great options are on the menu. (And we love a good beer and brewery tour, like in Winston-Salem, NC.)

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We highly recommend trying their southern inspired Cheerwine BBQ wings, anything served with their cornbread and mac ‘n cheese, and, of course, their BBQ.

Walk Around Sandhills Horticultural Gardens and Get to Know the Native Plants that are Part of the Pinehurst Area History and Ecosystem

A short distance from Pinehurst Resort is Sandhills Community College. The horticultural garden on campus is a hands-on teaching garden for students. Its history in Pinehurst NC dates back over 50 years.

Students can enroll in a two-year program to earn an Associate Landscape Gardening degree here. (Which I loved learning, since I majored in Landscape Architecture in college.)

Graduates of the program have gone on to secure prestigious positions, including as the head of gardens at Monticello (Thomas Jefferson’s residence in Charlottesville, Virginia) and The White House.

The gardens have roots (pun intended) that reach back to the 1980s. It’s free to visit; the money to support the garden mostly comes from donations. The majority of it is wheelchair accessible but they are trying to make it 100% so with renovation plans already in motion.

Not all 32 acres of the property are developed. They have room to grow with various gardens already established, including a succulent garden and fruit and vegetable garden. We appreciated the WWII Memorial Garden, honoring the veterans of Moore County.

We also immensely enjoyed the Sir Walter Raleigh Garden, pictured below. The English style garden was created in 1984 as a tribute to the attempted 16th century colonization at Roanoke Island. (Roanoke Island is in the Outer Banks, far east of Pinehurst, in North Carolina.)

A man walking through a garden in Southern Pines, NC.

It was wonderful to learn more about the native plants in the area, including Longleaf Pines, on their Desmond Native Wetland Trail. The plants there are a vital part of the history of Pinehurst, NC’s ecosystem.

Walking sand-filled trails shortly after in Fayetteville, North Carolina’s Carver Creek State Park was all the more significant supplied with the knowledge we learned at Sandhill Horticultural gardens.

Visit Pinehurst’s Neighbor, Aberdeen, to Understand a Vital Piece of the Puzzle of the History of Pinehurst NC

Where did the land that Tufts purchased to create his resort community come from? The answer is Aberdeen.

Allison F. Page, who named the city of Cary just 15 minutes southeast of Raleigh, cleared forests in Aberdeen to create a railroad through the town. (And, purely by coincidence, the name of the room we stayed in at The Magnolia Inn was the “Page” room.)

The unused land he cleared for the railroad was no longer useful to him after he built what he wanted to. It was void of any pines trees to sell for lumber or use for tar, turpentine or resin. The best he could do was sell it.

He sold it to James Walker Tufts, the Boston man who found wealth in soda machines, for about $1 an acre in 1895. Let’s say it was the Louisiana purchase of the south. What a steal!

The railroad in Aberdeen helped centralized the citizens of a sprawled out community, towards a city center back in the late 1880s. (As most railroads did back then, like in Luray, Virginia.) This railroad line still exists.

Grey building train station in Aberdeen, NC.

Have Breakfast or Lunch at Mason’s Grocery Across the Street from Aberdeen’s Union {Train} Station

When trains would stop at a station at the turn of the century, passengers would often briefly get off to purchase for small goods. Shops had to be located next to, or very close to, the tracks for a quick turnaround before passengers had to board again. That’s why there’s a row of shops and restaurants in front of Union Station and the train tracks in Aberdeen.

A man coming outside a restaurant with a black and white striped awning.

One such restaurant is Mason’s Grocery, which occupies suite 111A on N. Sycamore Street. Brian and Alison Hainley, a husband and wife team and parents of two children, own and operate the restaurant.

The restaurant is named after their son, Mason. A dish on the menu is named after their daughter, who they call Birdie, who was born after the restaurant opened. (I ordered this dish, called “Birdie’s Hot Mess,” pictured below, and I still dream about it.)

They are closed Monday, and open Tuesday through Friday from 8:00am to 2:00pm. They offer weekend brunch Saturday and Sunday from 8:00am to 3:00pm.

A plate of food: eggs with white gravy on it and a biscuit on the side.

Head right after you walk out the front door of Mason’s Grocery to check out the plaque on the corner of the building. (You’d walk left if you were looking at the front of Mason’s Grocery from the street.) It indicates the building has been there since the early 1900s.

Visit High Octane in Aberdeen, a Historic Gas Station

Just down the road from Mason’s Grocery is a cool female-owned coffee shop. It serves “high octane” java now…but years ago, in the 1930s, served up gasoline for vehicles passing through town. It was Styers Pure Oil service station back then.

We love that they’ve honored the history of the building in a cheeky way, in name and product. They also play music from the 1930s inside.

Head to the Pinehurst Area for a Wonderful, Historic Vacation

We know you won’t be disappointed and you’ll want to return again and again, like us!

Please note: We thank the Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen Area CVB for generously hosting us. We also may make a small commission from affiliate links in this post but all opinions are ours and we bring you genuine content with real facts, photos, thoughts and recommendations. Always.

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