Middle Street: New Bern, North Carolina
From a scenic waterfront to historic architecture, Middle Street encapsulates everything that makes New Bern special. The town's rich history — including colonial, Civil War, and early 20th century — is embodied in the street's beautifully restored homes, five churches, the early 20th century Blades Mansion, and vibrant commercial district. Access to the Trent River is just steps away. At the same time, the street is a cornerstone for the city as it works to reinvigorate its economy by capitalizing on its two greatest assets: its history and waterfront.
Six blocks between Craven Street to the north and the Trent River waterfront to the south.
After a downturn in the mid–20th century, spurred by the harsh effects of urban renewal and business movement out to the malls and suburbia, New Bern adopted the Central Business District Plan in 1977 as the first step to revitalize the downtown area. Because of its central location, historical landmarks, and proximity to the waterfront, Middle Street was at the forefront of the plan to restructure the city's economic mainstays from lumber and agriculture to tourism and recreation. Since the plan's adoption, more than $100 million has been invested in downtown revitalization in the form of storefront restoration, construction infill projects, and pocket parks. The city implemented its 1990 Urban Design Plan, which called for new street amenities including street pavers, benches, pedestrian amenities, and street lighting.
The RiverWalk, a continuous 1.5-mile pedestrian promenade along the Trent and Neuse riverfronts, makes Middle Street more accessible and appealing to visitors and residents. Connecting with the street's southern terminus, the RiverWalk is nearing completion with the aid of a new waterfront and beach access grant from the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management. Eventually, the new Riverstation neighborhood will be connected to Leander Morgan Park.
Middle Street has it all: 19th and early 20th century homes; five landmark churches; a robust traditional downtown with stores, restaurants, art galleries, and coffee shops; the birthplace of Pepsi-Cola; and magnificent views of the Trent and Neuse rivers. Easily accessible by foot, auto and boat, Middle Street is a charming right-of-way and a perfect getaway.
Defining Characteristics, Features
- Integral part of the New Bern Historic District that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973
- Street was part of Swiss colonists' original town layout in shape of a crucifix. While the street system has changed most of the original grid layout still survives
- St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church, 510 Middle St., oldest Catholic Church in North Carolina; cornerstone laid in 1840 for Greek Revival style church; added to National Register of Historic Places in 1992
- First Baptist Church, 239 Middle St., Gothic Revival structure dates back to 1847; added to National Register of Historic Places in 1972
- Christ Church, 320 Pollock at the corner of Middle, was first established in 1715 by an act of the Colonial Assembly as "Craven Parish of the Church of England" and later in 1741 as one of the colony's 16 parishes in a subsequent act of the assembly. The first small brick church was built in 1751 on a site facing Middle Street. The current structure dates back to 1821-1824 and was rebuilt in 1871-1885
- Herbert Woodley Simpson, famous local architect, designed many structures in city including two along Middle Street: Classical Revival First Church of Christ Scientist (1907), 406 Middle St., added to National Register of Historic Places in 1973; and the W.B. Blades House (1907), 602 Middle St., an elegant mansion that combines Greek Revival and Queen Anne, added to National Register of Historic Places in 1972
Commitment to Planning and Revitalization
- Ordinance creating Historic Preservation Committee to oversee and approve all exterior alterations in the Downtown Historic District approved 1980
- Municipal Tax District created in 1979; property owners on the street agreed to pay an additional services district tax to fund public improvement projects including sidewalk treatments, benches, shade trees, and street lighting
- 1990 Urban Design Plan was the blueprint for many streetscape improvements beginning with the 200 and 300 blocks of Middle Street
- Street connects to 1.5-mile RiverWalk, a continuous pedestrian promenade along the Trent River and Neuse River waterfronts of downtown New Bern; connects to scenic Union Point Park and historic Tryon Palace
- Bear Plaza, a mid-block pocket park, connects pedestrians to interior Federal Alley parking lot; enhanced with benches, lighting, and bear sculptures; built in a renovated alley after a fire in 1970
- Southern terminus of street is New Bern Grand Marina which includes boat slips and hotel accommodations
- Birthplace of Pepsi Museum, 256 Middle St., celebrates the origin of Pepsi-Cola by Caleb Bradham in 1898 at his pharmacy on the same site
- Fiberglass bear sculptures painted by local artists dot the street; put on by Bear Town Bears, a nonprofit organization; two located at Bear Plaza, another in front of 202 Middle St.
- New Bern volunteers have helped paint fire hydrants around town to resemble historical characters that helped shape the town; eight are located along Middle Street; project celebrates city's 300th anniversary
- Winning sculptures of the Outdoor Annual Sculpture Exhibition and Competition, put on by Craven Arts Council and Gallery, 317 Middle St., are displayed for a year at the sculpture garden at the corner of Middle Street and Broad Street. The park is replenished with new art each year
- Federal courthouse is landmark built in 1932 during the Great Depression; recently restored and again in use as a Federal Eastern District court