When most Southern African-Americans were slaves, the leading furniture maker in the region was a free black man who produced beautiful, high-quality pieces with a unique style. Gaining new acclaim in the 21st century, Thomas Day's works have been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., and the North Carolina Museum of History . Some of his best pieces are in Halifax County, and his shop and home in nearby Milton, N.C.
From 1820s to 1850s, Day, his employees and slaves produced large volumes; at one point becoming the biggest furniture manufacturer in North Carolina. He was famous for designs that included undulating shapes and spiraling forms with S-curves. The North Carolina governor bought many of his pieces for the statehouse.
Start with the Halifax County Visitor Center, South Boston.
Stay at Oak Grove Plantation Bed and Breakfast, South Boston. The 1820s architectural details, mantels and stair railings were of the era in which Day operated.
Breezy Oaks Farm, Alton, a true southern country residence.According to family tradition the house features double-leaf doors by Thomas Day and a living room mantel which displays many of Day's techniques.
Villa Cathedral Country Home Bed and Breakfast, Alton, is a 1920s farmhouse with a modern wing, five miles from Day's shop. In the innkeeper's family since it was built, the Villa Cathedral has two Thomas Day doors.
That evening, visit Virginia International Raceway, dine at the Oak Tree Tavern and admire the two mantels and staircase built by Day. The entrance features Day's double-leaf-with-panels doors, surrounded by a large transom and sidelights, within ornate fluted pilasters. The staircase has Day's curved step brackets. A Day-built mantel is in the ladies' room.
The South Boston-Halifax County Museum has a Thomas Day sofa and other interesting exhibits, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday .Both Bistro 1888 and Molasses Grill are nearby for a great meal. The Molasses Grill has a Thomas Day sideboard on display. Enjoy your trip and come back soon!