Ayr Mount is a Federal-era plantation house built in 1815 in Hillsborough, North Carolina by William Kirkland. Kirkland, named the house in honor of his birthplace, Ayr, Scotland. Unlike the other houses in the Classical American Homes Preservation Trust collection, Ayr Mount looks deceptively simple, even austere on the outside. There are no soaring columns proclaiming its classicism. On the other hand, Ayr Mount is far grander – especially in the interior – than one might expect from a first look at the exterior. The ceiling height of 14 feet is unusual for this period as is the elaborate Federal period woodwork and plasterwork found throughout the house. Ayr Mount also was the first major residence built of brick in this area of predominantly colonial era wood frame houses. At the time of its construction at the end of the War of 1812, Ayr Mount was considered one of the finest residential structure in Piedmont North Carolina. Visit this historic house.
Hillsborough itself is one of the oldest communities in North Carolina and was an important center of trade at the time of the American Revolution, serving briefly as the state capital when the then-capital of New Bern was held by the British. Hillsborough is full of charming old colonial houses, but Ayr Mount, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the crown jewel and well worth a visit.
In honor of Ayr Mount’s 200th Anniversary, Hillsborough poet, Elon G. Eidenier, wrote a piece to mark the occasion:
Like a Book of Illumination
Amiable, in present tense, the historic is not magic but work.
Practical gods granted architecture. Stitched signatures
of Kirkland mix with bright ink of Jenrette. The house stands
in a vast vista. Woodwork and plaster frame 14 foot ceilings.
Two-story central brick block; the flanking single story wings
lift as though just settling unto soil. Box woods guard the path
toward front door, dogwoods explode like milk buckets kicked
into splashes. Ayr Mount signifies journey,
just where the path begins or just where it ends, you hear
tin whistle of wind whispering ballads carried out to sea.
Wrens chorus seeped sweetness, daffodils strike melodies
played on a clàrsach. After a good rain, the Eno gurgles like
a bag pipe on a long march. Here are gardens,
woodlands, pasture, traces of the Old Indian Trading Path;
as you walk the circumstance of right place memory feathers
back to earth. Just beyond the river, long ago horse race track
holds the roar of start your engines; the stubborn & irreducible
presence of things we live among.
Like opening a book of illumination, morning walks full
of uncommon commotion, things attentive in shadow
& sun. Worms whisper the bliss of soil passing through
their bodies. Wood anemone dot the path toward water,
shagged barked hickory show age of where you are,
dog toothed violets bark gentle purples.
At short distance the Eno glistens, reflections copy laurel among
dark trunks of oak. We stand in center of ourselves singing.
note: clàrsach is a small harp
What’s Going On at Ayr Mount.
Join us at upcoming Bicentennial events!
Reserve your tickets early for Broadwood Ayr on Saturday, September 19th – a noteworthy concert featuring virtuoso talents of pianist Keiko Sekino and soprano Andrea Edith Moore. Seating is limited for this program and tickets must be purchased in advance.
Bring family and friends to Cèilidh at Ayr on Saturday, October 24th – an exciting day of music, dancing and family activities to celebrate Ayr Mount’s Scottish history!
Thank you for joining us in celebrating Ayr Mount’s Bicentennial. Click here to see photos from the 200th Anniversary Dinner and click here for the calendar of events for this year.
Read about the archaeological digs on Ayr Mount’s property that has uncovered new findings about native villages in the area.
To watch! UNC-TV featured Ayr Mount on Collecting Carolina. MESDA Associate Curator Daniel Ackermann joined Julia Carpenter to talk about the original home furnishings and special North Carolina collections to be seen on a tour of this 1815 house. Click here to view the full broadcast. And come experience this house for yourself – visit this NC jewel in person!
The Wrightsville Beach Magazine featured a special section about Hillsborough, NC – read “The Sweet Life: 36 Hours in Hillsborough” (see pp 70-71 about Ayr Mount). Explore what gems this town has to offer: great places for art, antiques, books, award-winning restaurants, and – of course a trip to this historic town would not be replete without – a visit to Ayr Mount’s Poet’s Walk and the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail.
Don’t miss P. Gaye Tapp’s in-depth conversation with Richard Jenrette published in WALTER Magazine. Click here to download a copy of this exclusive interview.
We are also delighted to present a new downloadable brochure about Ayr Mount. Click here to access the PDF.