The Story of Thomas Day

  Thomas Day Illustration from book, Craftsmanship, A Tradition in Black America

   A free black born circa 1801 near Emporia, Virginia, Thomas Day came to Milton in Caswell County, North Carolina in 1823. He opened a cabinet shop and built furniture according to the popular designs of the time. He made furniture for NC Governor David S. Reid and for other leading citizens of the state. A collection of his furniture, including many of the Reid pieces, is on permanent display at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh. At the height of his career, he was said to be one of the top four furniture makers in the state.

   Day's architectural interiors can be seen in many early 19th century houses in Caswell County, NC. Classical mantels, S-shaped and totem-like newel posts, intricate arches and unusual door frames reveal the individual style of the master artisan. He was also commissioned to furnish the interior woodwork for the first major extant building at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

   In 1848, Day bought the Union Tavern of Milton's Main Street which became his workshop and residence until 1859. Architecturally, the c. 1810 building is one of the finest of the few known taverns still in existence in North Carolina. An imposing commercial structure of Federal design, the site once served as a regular stagecoach stop between Hillsborough, NC and Richmond, VA.