Penelope Barker House & Welcome Center
National Register of Historic Places
Penelope Barker is credited with organizing the earliest women’s political actions in what is now the United States. Born in 1728, she was widowed three times and outlived all five of her children. Penelope built the home with her third husband, Thomas Barker, in 1782, two blocks north of its current location.
While Thomas was in England acting as the North Carolina agent, Penelope was heavily involved in opposing British rule and taxation at home. She was adamant in her support for the American Colonists stating, “Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now. That only means we women have taken too long to let our voice be heard.” She led a group of Edenton Women to protest the British king’s taxation by staging their own Edenton Tea Party. In other words, Penelope had the courage to tell a King “NO”.
On October 25, 1774, Mrs. Barker organized fifty-one Edenton-area women and all signed a petition n open protest to the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773 saying that as women they were “determined to give memorable proof of their patriotism” and could not be “indifferent on any occasion that appears nearly to affect the peace and happiness of our country . . . it is a duty that we owe, not only to our near and dear connections . . . but to ourselves . . .” The petition was sent to King George. Almost 60 years later, the event was recognized as the “Edenton Tea Party” but it was no party, it was a visible act of protest.
It is forgotten by most, but North Carolina was the first colony to call for independence.
The original Barker House located two blocks north of its current location, consisted of a parlor wing and a half hall built in the Federal Style.
Thomas, an attorney and member of the Assembly, in 1761 sailed to London to serve as agent for the North Carolina Colony. As a result of the American Revolution, and the blockade of American ports he was forced to remain in England until 1778 when he was able to escape via France. He had been away for seventeen years.
Thomas returned from England and died in 1789. The house was sold in 1830 to Augustus Moore who added onto it three times. It
now consists of three floors with eight fireplaces. The second front parlor was constructed in Georgian style, the dining room and kitchen in Greek Revival style.
The Moore family and descendants lived in the Barker House until 1952 when it was sold to Haywood Phthisic who bought it with intentions of donating it to an organization for renovation and preservation.
That same year, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, Business and Professional Women’s Club, and Edenton Woman’s Club raised monies to purchase the home, move it to its present site, and restore it for public use. The Edenton Historical Commission maintains and operates the Penelope Barker House, which serves as Edenton’s Visitor Center.
Open daily to the public from 10 am to 4 pm, the Barker House is beautifully furnished with period furniture and historical artifacts. It sponsors numerous exhibits and programs such as; the annual “Christmas Candlelight Tour” and the “Taste of Edenton”, as well as home for its very interesting book and gift shop. For more information, please call 252-482-7800 or visit the Historical Commission’s website.
Visit and learn more about other sites on the Edenton Museum Trail:
(1) Barker House
(2) Old Colonial Wharf
(3) Joseph Hewes & 1778 Cannons
(4) Hugh Williamson Monument
(5) 1905 Edenton Teapot
(6) 1767 Chowan County Courthouse (no QR code on pedestal sign)
(7) Old Jail
(8) Oldest House in North Carolina
(9) Cotton Mill Village
(10) 1800/1827 James Iredell House (no QR code on pedestal sign)
(11) Kadesh Church
(12) 1736 St. Paul’s Church
(13) 1758 Cupola House
(14) Josephine Leary Building
(15) 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse (no QR code on pedestal sign)