Henderson NC - 2014 Best Guide

Henderson NC
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A post-card picture showing downtown Henderson NC during the 1950s or 1960s.

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The coordinates for Henderson NC is:

3619′29″N 7824′31″W

Henderson NC 2014 Visitor's Guide

August 6, 2014 by Rick Morris

Henderson NC is a small town situated within rolling hills about 35 miles north of Raleigh near the Virginia/North Carolina state line.  Wake Forest and Kerr Lake are within a few minutes drive.  And, the main interstate 85 runs past town.   Today Henderson is known as the "Gateway City" or "Triangle North". 

Perhaps known as the town where 20th century soul singer Ben E. King hails, Henderson was built upon a farm first owned by a man named Samuel Reavis, Sr.  Reavis fondly referred to his late 1700s homestead as the Lonesome Valley.  By the early 1800s, Lewis Reavis (son) ran a small store near the stagecoach road.

Incorporation of Henderson happened in 1841.  The name for the town was chosen in honor of Lewis's friend and Judge Leonard Henderson.

An African American secondary school was built in 1887 by Presbyterian church members.  The school remained open until the 1970s, when integration of America's students became law.  Today, the school houses the Henderson Institute Historical Museum.

The seat of Vance County in North Carolina, Henderson really stated growing in the late 1830s after the Gaston/Raleigh railroad line was completed in 1835 near the town.  A passenger station was built in 1837 and businesses flocked to the area.  Much of the land was given to the railroad as an enticement for economic growth.  One such item that spurred tremendous growth was tobacco, ultimately seeing the small town of Henderson become a tobacco hub in the 1870s.

A remodeled Garnett Street Station building, now used by businesses, in Henderson NC.  Photo 2014.

A booming town in the 19th century, Henderson had grown to include several cotton gins, warehouses, tobacco houses and numerous general product stores by the 1880s.  Fires destroyed the wooden structures twice but that didn't dissuade Henderson's determined populace from quickly rebuilding.

John D. Cooper and brother David opened the first cotton mill in Henderson in 1895 on the north side of town.  Business was booming in the cotton industry, leading to the opening of a second one, the Harriet Mill, in south Henderson in 1901, spinning coarse yarns.  Two more cotton mills were opened by the Cooper brothers, one in 1909 and the other in 1913.  After modernizing the mills just prior to WWII, employees rebelled and joined the Textile Workers Union of America.  After the company refused to arbitrate concerns of the union workers in 1958, they went on strike.  The mills were closed for four months until the company decided to open with willing nonunion workers. This led to physical fights, shootings, and bombings which further resulted in police protection for the new workers. A preemptive agreement was reached but fell through after it was discovered the first-shift jobs were given mainly to the non-union employees.  The National Guard was brought in and dozens of  union members were convicted of different acts of violence. 

The first fire station was built in Henderson in 1882, housing two hand-operated fire trucks capable of shooting a stream of water about 100 feet.  It later became known as the "Nelson Hose Company", in honor of the man who developed Henderson's water supply network.  By the early 1900s the fire department had expanded to include a number of volunteer firefighters and a horse-drawn fire truck.  And, in 1908 a more significant fire station was built on North Garnett Street - a clock tower building that held mounted hooks for drying the fire hoses. 

A close-up photograph of the fire station's three bays.  Henderson NC.  2014

A photograph showing the fire station in Henderson NC.  2014.

Another photograph of the fire station in Henderson NC, showing the red building and clock tower.

The fire station and clock tower in Henderson NC.  Photo taken in July 2014.


The Henry A. Dennis County Office Building in Henderson NC.  Photo taken in July 2014.

After taking on a $10,000 investment in 1915 the fire department purchased a new fire truck.  Today, Henderson features a second fire station, built in 1974.

Here is a picture of Henderson NC in 1918 (from the City of Henderson website)...

An old photograph from 1918 showing downtown Henderson NC, with Ford Model T cars lining the streets, telephone poles with wires stringing the skyway, old buildings, shops, etc. and people walking the sidewalks.

In 1924, the H. Leslie Perry Memorial Library opened doors, following a generous $40,000 grant from the family of Henry Leslie Perry, a Henderson NC lawyer, and wife Janie Hall Perry.

The population of Henderson NC is about 15,000 (as of 2012), with 55% being females and 45% males.  This is a 5% drop since 2000.  Much of the population entails retirees taking it easy.  Elevation at Henderson is around 500 feet.  Total land area of the town of Henderson is about 8 square miles.

The North Carolina National Guard Armory in Henderson NC.

The zip codes for Henderson NC are 27536 and 27537.

Recent efforts for the town involve upgrading the downtown area, especially the historic district.  During the summer months, you can enjoy "Music on Main", a street festival that takes place each Friday, featuring oldies rock music.  The local farmer's market is not to be missed. 

A photograph of downtown Henderson NC during early July 2014.

Another photograph of Henderson NC taken during July 2014.

Yet another snapshot of Henderson NC taken in July 2014.

A image of a "Bull Durham Cigarettes" mural on the wall of a building in downtown Henderson NC.  Photo taken in July 2014.

Home sales have dropped significantly since the 2008 housing bust, and perhaps because of the high crime in the area (including the nearly 100 registered sex offenders who call Henderson NC home - as of June 20, 2014).  Speaking of homes, here is the home the author of this website lived for the first two years of his life back in the late 1960s.  It's located out on Height Street near one of the cotton mills....

An old single-story house located on Height Street in Henderson NC, near the cotton mill.  These homes were rented to the cotton mill workers for $6 per week during the 1960s.

About 30% of the population does not have a high school diploma, while 15% have earned a Bachelor's degree, and 5% with a professional degree.  There is a 14% unemployment rate in Henderson NC (as of July 2014).  As for crime, the town sees about five or 6 murders per year, with 8 coming in 2012.  There are about 75 robberies annually.  Assaults come in at around 100 per year.  Car thefts happen about 75 times per year.  In 2012, there were a total of approximately 900 serious crimes in Henderson NC, as compared to the national average of 250.  Violent crimes were 662, with the national average being 214.  Property crimes in Henderson were 987 in 2012, with the national average of 266.  Robberies, burglaries, thefts, and assaults also far outnumber the national average.

The nearest large cities to Henderson include Durham (36 miles to the southeast), and Raleigh (47 miles south).  Other towns near Henderson are...


Henderson is located at 3619′29″N 7824′31″W and within an area of 8 square miles.

Demographically speaking, Henderson NC has a population density of 1,950 people per square mile.  About 58% of the population is black while 31% is white.  The average age is 36 years old.  There are about 6,300 households, of which the average income is $23,000.  About 1/4th of Henderson falls below the poverty line.

Recommend Henderson NC?

Have you ever been to Henderson NC?  What did you think? Would you recommend this town to others?

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