WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Cape Fear area is chock full of history with dozens of historical markers across the region. This week we head to 3rd and Dock St in downtown Wilmington where the tale of Washington’s Southern Tour is told.
In 1791 the United States was a young country, and George Washington was busy guiding the country together as its first president. One of his goals was to see every state in the union — and so he set off on a "southern tour" that would take him down the coast and into the Carolinas.
He left Mount Vernon and passed through Richmond, Greenville, & New Bern. From there he took a route that roughly followed where US-17 is today, taking him through Hampstead and into the port city of Wilmington. He arrived downtown to a hero’s welcome with a federal salute, and settled into the home of the Quinces, which is described as the “most pretentious home in the city”. It was located at this corner on Front and Dock streets, very near the river.
While Wilmington was a very different place at the time, Washington noted in his diary that the city had "some good houses pretty compactly built" — something that still holds in the historic district today. After two days of parties, parades, and dances Washington set off on a barge that would take him across the cape fear and into modern day Leland, where he would continue his travels through Brunswick County and toward Charleston, SC.