A couple years ago I was reading an article in a local magazine regarding a very intriguing historic site in my home state of North Carolina that I had never heard of. It referred to it as Hart Square and boasted that it was home to "the largest collection of original, historical log structures in the United States." How in the world had I never heard of this place?! Well, as it turns out, accessibility is the main roadblock to a visit to the site which in turn means the site doesn't get the publicity it might otherwise attract. You see, Hart Square is privately owned. Through the efforts of one man (which we'll get to in a second) over 100 historic structures from Catawba and neighboring counties in North Carolina have been collected and restored at this unique site. Unfortunately, getting back to the accessibility challenge, this invaluable private collection is only opened to the public on ONE DAY each year, typically the third Saturday in October. Due to this once a year restriction I had missed the opening, dubbed the Hart Festival, two years running. With a bit of luck though, this year it turned out I could pay a visit.
Hart Square was not what Doctor Robert Hart envisioned when he bought the 200-acre parcel south of Hickory in 1967. His intent for the property was to create a wildlife sanctuary, particularly for waterfowl which is why he immediately set about creating five small lakes within it. According to all the literature I read on the history of the property it wasn't long after these lakes were made that a visitor of Dr. Hart's suggested that a log cabin might look good alongside one of them. Agreeable to the suggestion, Dr. Hart soon thereafter found an old 19th Century Cabin (the Hunsucker House, seen later in the album) and moved it to the property. After this a slow snowball effect took place as Hart began to purchase other old log structures (mostly outbuildings at first) to compliment the cabin. Before he knew it he had the beginnings of a small historic village on his hands and his passion began to shift from natural preservation to historic preservation. Hart Square was born. As I mentioned earlier the 100+ log structures which now call Hart Square home come primarily from Catawba County and the counties immediately adjacent. Some were moved here in one piece, some had to be dismantled and reconstructed. Regardless, they all are eventually restored to pristine historical condition and most of them are fully furnished and decorated. I have no hesitation in saying that Hart Square rivals many State and National Historic Sites I've visited in the extent and quality of its preservation. It is a true historic treasure.
As I stated earlier Hart Square is only open to the public on one day a year. On this day, the day of the Hart Festival, literally hundreds of costumed reencators populate the village. Cooking, crafting, farming...it's all taking place as it would have 100+ years ago when you arrive at the site. In case you are interested in going tickets are available through the Catawba County Museum of History and go on sale the beginning of October. I am told they tend to sell out fast. The price, you may say, seems steep but trust me a visit to Hart Square is worth every penny and more!
What follows is a tour of Hart Square as I saw it on my visit in 2016. Due to the shear number of buildings I figured the best way to order the album was to simply follow the numbering used by the guide map I was given upon entering. I have included the map and each photo that follows first displays a number to reference its location on said map. Along with each photo I've also included some information about the history of each structure (which, sadly, is a bit lacking with most of them), when they arrived at Hart Square, and a general idea of where each came from originally. As I think you'll agree if you take the time to look around here Hart Square is a place that can only be described as a historic treasure. I cannot recommend a visit enough, hopefully the photos here will convince you to visit. If you do, I can promise, it won't be a day you will soon forget!
So, without further adieu, I present to you the amazing, the beautiful, the fascinating...Hart Square...