(CIRCA Magazine – A travel column from the Wake Forest Historical Museum)
What would you say about a Sunday brunch of poached egg over a mixture of roasted potatoes, sausage, bell pepper, onions, and sweet potatoes, alongside a mixed green salad with a traditional Lebanese dressing? Follow that with fresh strawberries and ricotta on homemade bruschetta, and you have the meal we were lucky enough to recently devour at the Lynch Creek Farm Cabin, a beautifully restored tobacco barn now reinvented as a cozy—and delightfully eccentric— social dining venue.
Truthfully, it’s even more intriguing than it sounds. Located about half an hour north of Wake Forest on a remote farm in Kittrell, North Carolina, the cabin is probably the most original backwoods experience in the continental United States.
BreadWorks is a rare and imaginative hybrid, a social dining and entertainment venue founded to benefit a local nonprofit (more on that later). It’s the brainchild of Bob Radcliffe, a former computer whiz, and his partner Kerry Carter, an expert in architectural and historic preservation. It’s very much like a large and friendly dinner party, with Carter greeting at the door and Radliffe hard at work creating dishes that are basically unforgettable. You won’t get a menu. The food is a chef’s selection of gorgeous recipes prepared in the cabin kitchen from fresh ingredients, many of which are locally grown or come from the farm’s garden and greenhouse. (There’s even a herd of BreadWorks cattle.)
The cabin seats only 32 guests and events are advertised primarily through email and word of mouth. Meals are held two or three times per month—usually a Sunday brunch and a dinner with live musical entertainment—and the schedule is released online a few weeks in advance. Guests absolutely must call or email to reserve a table, and everyone’s required to join the Ben Franklin Society, the local nonprofit that Radcliffe and Carter founded to promote history, culture, and the humanities in Franklin County. In fact, the cabin’s entire purpose is to raise funds for this worthy cause. Memberships begin at just $7.50 and you can sign up as part of your meal. The Society currently has an estimated 750 members. If you want to know more, check out the excellent online newsletter at www.lynchcreek.com.
But finding yourself in Kittrell also presents a bit of a quandary. After all, this is a town that reported only 467 residents in the 2010 census. It covers the geographic equivalent of about six city blocks. So you might find yourself asking the very relevant question: What else is there to do here? Well, luckily for all involved, there is one more thing. (Really, just one—but it’s an interesting stop and well worth the additional ten or twenty minutes.)
It just so happens, Kittrell is home to one of North Carolina’s more fascinating Confederate cemeteries. As it’s fairly well-marked and easy to find, we went to the cemetery before brunching at BreadWorks. As you’ll be driving toward Kittrell on U.S. Route 1, just look for the historical marker that pops up along the right hand side as you approach the town’s East Main Street. Turning here will lead to smaller signs pointing the way through a rather dusty residential neighborhood to the tree-lined graveyard at the end of an old narrow road known as West Chavis.
Walking the neat rows of headstones marking the graves of 52 men, it’s impossible to ignore the difficult realities of Civil War medicine. In a firsthand recollection published in the September 13, 1927 Smithfield Herald, Dora Hood Kirkman vividly described the horrors endured by soldiers at the Battle of Bentonville. “Homes and outbuildings of all kinds were filled with the wounded, dead, and dying. Operations were performed without anesthetics. It seems I can almost hear the groans of the wounded even yet. It was stamped on my mind so forcibly as they went to my father’s wash shelter, and there, went through these terrible experiences of having their wounded limbs removed without anything to help them bear the pain.”
The cemetery in Kittrell sprang up beside a hastily assembled hospital in the last days of the Civil War. With battles still raging in nearby Virginia, the Confederate Army was looking to evacuate wounded soldiers to safer locations farther south. Kittrell had two big things going for it; its location on the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad line and the Kittrell Springs Hotel. No longer in existence, the hotel was once a luxury resort for wealthy planters visiting the town’s legendary mineral springs. But by June of 1864, it had been commandeered by the Confederacy and its 500 beds were filling up with injured men arriving from northern battlefields.
The hospital eventually treated more than 2,000 soldiers, including teenagers from the North Carolina Junior Reserves who were drafted at war’s end to fill the South’s depleted ranks. Initially assigned jobs away from the front lines, the boys were frequently found guarding bridges, railway stations, and other key military locations. But as defeat loomed, even they were sent into combat. Many rode the rails as casualties on the way home, and a significant number were hospitalized at Kittrell. This is where 16 of those teenaged soldiers died. While investigating the small cemetery, you’ll find interpretive panels posted for visitors to learn about its history.
As you see, Kittrell is a town of many wonders. Honestly, how often do you find a rural gourmet brunch paired with a Civil War lesson just half an hour from home? For families, couples, or groups—this Driveable Destination is highly recommended!
Kittrell is an easy drive; it’s situated just off U.S. Route 1 about 25 miles north of Wake Forest. To find BreadWorks at the Lynch Creek Farm Cabin, you’ll need to locate 1973 Rocky Ford Road. This will likely require GPS. Please visit www.lynchcreek.com or email Bob Radcliffe at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.