north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     The Eagle Tavern was once part of a cluster of buildings that served the town of Halifax as its premier hostelry by the early 1800s. Lot number fifty-one in the original town plan is the central lot from which the tavern emerged. A house constructed on the lot around 1760 was converted to a tavern by 1774. At that time, the tavern, known as the “Sign of the Thistle,” was deemed “the best place of public entertainment in Halifax” by an English traveler.

     During the Revolutionary War, Halifax hosted two provincial congresses, and records indicate that the representatives gathered at the local tavern. Following the Revolution the establishment, by then called Martin’s Tavern or William Martin’s Ordinary, was noted in advertisements as having a ballroom or “long-room” for performances and large parties. Research suggests that in the 1790s a separate facility would have been built or acquired for the same purpose.

     By 1824 the complex of buildings around the original lot (fifty-one) was known as the Eagle Hotel. In February 1825 the Marquis de Lafayette stayed at the Eagle Hotel during his notable tour of America. The banquet in his honor was celebrated at the allied Eagle Tavern. In 1838 local businessman Michael Ferrall purchased three-fourths interest in the Eagle Hotel property. He moved onto the premises and bought the remaining interest three years later.

     When the center of town started to shift southwestward toward the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad in the 1840s, Ferrall moved his shop to a storefront several blocks away. Consequently, about 1845, Ferrall moved one of the buildings of the Eagle complex, to be used as a home for his family, to that vicinity, as well. Residents of Halifax have long referred to the Gary house as the Eagle Tavern, and architectural historians agree that the building moved was a 1790s structure.

     Ferrall’s decendants continued to live in the house until Nannie M. Gary, his great-granddaughter, left the house, lot, and family graveyard to the Catholic Diocese in Raleigh upon her death in 1969. With respect for Gary’s interest in preserving historic Halifax, the church donated the house known as the Eagle Tavern to the State of North Carolina and it was moved to a suitable lot within the Historic Halifax State Historic Site in 1976.

Jerry L. Cross, “The Eagle Tavern Lot 51, Halifax, North Carolina” (research report, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1973)
Will of Nannie Marie Gary, Halifax County Wills, North Carolina State Archives
Halifax County Deeds, North Carolina State Archives
North Carolina Journal, various dates
Halifax Free Press, March 4, 1825
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Original Date Cast:




north carolina highway historical marker program

Eagle Tavern

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources