New Bern Post Revolutionary War

After the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783, Tryon Palace was the first peacetime capital of North Carolina. The Governor’s Palace was not the only place where the state legislature met, however, and not every state governor was inaugurated here during this time. We do know that our 5th, 7th, and 8th state governors were inaugurated here after the Revolutionary War. Since the Palace was oftentimes empty and had a large ballroom, it was rented out for all sorts of uses including Masonic Lodge meetings, dance lessons, and school rooms.

In April of 1791, George Washington stayed two nights in New Bern as part of his southern tour in the second year of his presidency. The Palace was used for a fancy ball in the same room that Governor Tryon had once ruled the colony from. Washington remarked that the Palace was “… a good brick building but now hastening to ruins.” He also noted that there were about seventy ladies at the ball. 

Richard Dobbs Spaight, the 8th governor of North Carolina and the last to be inaugurated at Tryon Palace, had the capital moved to Raleigh in 1794. The Palace continued to be rented out for various uses, and as part of that practice in 1798 the cellar was being used to store hay. We do not know what first sparked the fire that began there, but it destroyed the main building of the Palace. The colonnades were quickly pulled down to save the connected Kitchen Office and Stable Office. The ruins of the Palace were now both an eyesore and an unwelcome reminder of British rule. The building was torn apart and the surrounding land was used as residential housing, and eventually paved over to make highway 70. It would be over a century and a half before the reconstruction began.