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Kinston, North Carolina
Queen Street United Methodist Church (left) and the Hotel Kinston (center) in Kinston
Queen Street United Methodist Church (left) and the Hotel Kinston (center) in Kinston
Location of Kinston within North Carolina
Location of Kinston within North Carolina
Country United States
State North Carolina
County Lenoir
 • Total 18.56 sq mi (48.08 km2)
 • Land 18.39 sq mi (47.62 km2)
 • Water 0.18 sq mi (0.46 km2)
43 ft (13 m)
 • Total 21,677
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,089.95/sq mi (420.83/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 252
FIPS code 37-35920
GNIS feature ID 0988015

Kinston is a city in Lenoir County, North Carolina, United States, with a population of 21,677 as of the 2010 census. It has been the county seat of Lenoir County since its formation in 1791. Kinston is located in the coastal plains region of eastern North Carolina.

In 2009, Kinston won the All-America City Award. This marks the second time in 21 years the city has won the title.


Early history

Peebles House
Harmony Hall, the oldest building in Kinston, was owned by North Carolina's first governor, Richard Caswell.

At the time of English settlement, the area was inhabited by the Neusiok Indians. Preceding the historic tribe, indigenous peoples of a variety of cultures had lived in the area for thousands of years. Before the English colonists established the city, they called the area Atkins Bank, referring to a bluff once owned by Robert Atkins just above the Neuse River. Atkins Bank was the site of farms, a tobacco warehouse, and a Church of England mission.

Kinston was created by an act of the North Carolina General Assembly in December 1762 as Kingston, in honor of King George III who had just recently ascended to the throne. The bill to incorporate it was introduced by Richard Caswell, who made his home there and later served as the first Governor of the State of North Carolina from 1776 to 1780. After victory in the American Revolution, the citizens renamed the city Kinston in 1784 to show the population's disavowal of royalty. In 1833, Kinston briefly became Caswell, in honor of governor Richard Caswell, but the name was reverted to Kinston the following year.

Commissioners appointed to design the town began to accept "subscriptions" for numbered lots. To keep a lot, subscribers were required to build brick homes of specific dimensions within three years or lose their rights to the property. The town was laid out with border streets named East, North, and South, with the western border the Neuse River. The two principal roads within these borders were named for King George and Queen Charlotte. They remain King and Queen Street to this day. Other streets were named in honor of Governor Dobbs (later renamed Independent Street) and the commissioners.

In December 1791, an act was passed in the General Assembly to abolish Dobbs County and form Lenoir and Glasgow counties. At that time, Kinston was designated the county seat for Lenoir County.

Throughout this period, Kinston was an unincorporated town. It finally became incorporated through an act of the legislature in January 1849. Following incorporation, the population grew rapidly. In 1850, the population was estimated at 455 people, and just ten years later, it had more than doubled to over one thousand.

Civil War

During the onset of the American Civil War, Camp Campbell and Camp Johnston were established near the city as training camps, and a bakery on Queen Street was converted to produce hardtack in large quantities. There was also a factory for the production of shoes for the military located in Kinston. The Battle of Kinston took place in and around the city on December 14, 1862.

The Battle of Wyse Fork aka 'Battle of Southwest Creek' (March 7–10, 1865) also occurred very near the city. It was at this later battle that the Confederate Ram Neuse was scuttled to avoid capture by Union troops. Remnants of the ship have been salvaged, and are on display at Richard Caswell Park on West Vernon Ave. A climate-controlled museum has been built on downtown Queen Street, and has moved the hulk there to prevent further deterioration of the original ship's remains. A full-scale replica vessel (Ram Neuse II) has been constructed near the original's resting place (known as the "Cat's Hole") beside the bank of the Neuse River on Heritage St. in Kinston. Union Army forces occupied the city following the battle.

United States troops were assigned to the area through the Reconstruction Era.


Despite the hardships of war and Reconstruction, the population of the city continued to grow. By 1870, the population had increased to eleven hundred people and grew to more than seventeen hundred within a decade.

During the late nineteenth century, there was expansion into new areas of industry, most notably the production of horse-drawn carriages. Kinston also became a major tobacco and cotton trading center. By the start of the twentieth century, more than five million pounds of tobacco were being sold annually in Kinston's warehouses. Along with the growth in population and industry was a growth in property values. Some parcels increased in value more than fivefold within a twenty-year period.

20th Century

New industries were founded, including lumber and cotton mills, as North Carolina businessmen invested in processing their own crops. Professional sports was introduced in the form of a minor league baseball team. Later growth would come in the form of a DuPont plant for the manufacture of polyester fibers, and manufacturing plants for pharmaceuticals. Growth finally slowed following the 1960s, with the shift in textile production overseas. Efforts to reinvigorate the economy through various means have had limited success.

Kinston was heavily impacted by flooding in 1996 and 1999. Hurricane Fran struck the North Carolina coast on September 5, 1996 and brought 16 inches (406 mm) of rain to the area.,

The National Register of Historic Places lists the American Tobacco Company Prizery, Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad Freight Depot, Baptist Parsonage, Robert L. Blalock House, B. W. Canady House, CSS Neuse, Hill-Grainger Historic District, Hotel Kinston, Jesse Jackson House, Kennedy Memorial Home Historic District, Kinston Apartments, Kinston Baptist-White Rock Presbyterian Church, Kinston Battlefield, Kinston Commercial Historic District, Kinston Fire Station-City Hall, Lenoir County Courthouse, Mitchelltown Historic District, Peebles House, Peoples Bank Building, Queen-Gordon Streets Historic District, Standard Drug No. 2, Sumrell and McCoy Building, Trianon Historic District, Tull-Worth-Holland Farm, and Dempsey Wood House.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 455
1860 1,333 193.0%
1870 1,103 −17.3%
1880 1,216 10.2%
1890 1,726 41.9%
1900 4,106 137.9%
1910 6,995 70.4%
1920 9,771 39.7%
1930 11,362 16.3%
1940 15,388 35.4%
1950 18,336 19.2%
1960 24,819 35.4%
1970 23,020 −7.2%
1980 25,234 9.6%
1990 25,295 0.2%
2000 23,688 −6.4%
2010 21,677 −8.5%
2019 (est.) 20,041 −7.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

2020 census

Kinston racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 4,854 24.39%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 13,615 68.42%
Native American 33 0.17%
Asian 208 1.05%
Pacific Islander 10 0.05%
Other/Mixed 577 2.9%
Hispanic or Latino 603 3.03%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 19,900 people, 8,901 households, and 5,050 families residing in the city.

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, 21,677 people were living in the city. The racial makeup of the city was 67.7% Black, 27.8% White, 0.2% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% from some other race, and 1.1% from two or more races. About 2.4% were Hispanics or Latinos of any race.


As with most of North Carolina, Kinston is predominately Protestant with large concentrations of Baptists, Methodists, and various other evangelical groups. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and Disciples of Christ also constitute a significant portion of the population.

The Roman Catholic community in Kinston has seen steady growth over the years with the migration of Hispanic workers to the area. Also, Catholic migrants have also come from the northeastern United States who work for the North Carolina Global TransPark and in nearby Greenville, North Carolina.

Kinston at one time had a sizeable Jewish community. As with most Jewish communities in the rural South, it has seen a steady decline. Temple Israel, Kinston's only synagogue, has only 20 members (families) and does not have a rabbi.


Heritage Place, a regional access for The NC Department of Archives, is located in the rear of Lenoir Community College's Library. It houses a large collection of local and regional family histories, numerous books on local, state, and US history, newspapers, etc. Plans are currently underway change operating hours to include Saturdays and some evenings. This is a wonderful repository for your family's genealogical records. The Neuse Regional Library system is headquartered in Kinston and operates branches in Kinston, LaGrange, Pink Hill, as well as locations in Greene and Jones Counties.

The CSS Neuse, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and Caswell Memorial house the remains of the hull of the Confederate ironclad. A video detailing the history of the CSS Neuse is available for viewing at the Caswell Memorial. The Lenoir County Confederate Memorial, the Caswell family cemetery, and the Lenoir County Korean and Vietnam War Memorial are located at the site. There is also a Civil War Trails marker.

The Cultural Heritage Museum (CHM) was organized in the winter of 2000 on South Queen Street as a new economic development catalyst for Kinston, Lenoir County and eastern North Carolina. The heritage tourism project was created to recognize the contributions of African Americans in numerous fields. It pays tribute to the more than 200,000 black soldiers and 7,000 white officers of the United States Colored Troops who fought with the Union forces in the American Civil War. It also honors black military veterans from all wars, Carl Long and the Negro Baseball League players, local heroes, and Africa and Black History in general. The CHM intends to generate jobs and promote economic expansion opportunities.

One of Kinston's most notable and beautiful facilities is Grainger Hill Performing Arts Center or GPAC. This historic edifice has been restored and is host to national and local theater groups and performances. It is available for bookings.

Kinston is also home to notable restaurants and Mother Earth Brewing & Spirits. Kings BBQ is located on Highway 70 East near Lenoir Community College and has been a popular stop among locals and for people traveling to the beach for decades. The James Beard Award Winning Restaurant Chef & the Farmer started by Vivian Howard and Ben Knight is located in downtown Kinston. The PBS reality cooking show, A Chef's Life, focuses on the restaurant, owners, and local farmers like Brothers Farm. The Barn steakhouse and The Baron and the Beef are both fine dining establishments featuring locally sourced produce and meats on their menus and supporting sustainable agriculture. Also a proponent of sustainable practices and local ingredients, Mother Earth Brewing was founded in Kinston in the summer of 2008. Other businesses include Buy Local Gallery, The Overland Gallery, Ginger 108, Olvera Street Tacos, Boiler Room Oysters and Burgers, O'Neil Bed and Breakfast, The Bentley B&B, and Lenoir County Farmers Market.

Since 1882, The Kinston Free Press has been published in Kinston.

Local attractions include CSS Neuse Museum, Neuseway Nature Center, Kinston Dog Park, Kinston Country Club Est 1924, Annual BBQ Festival on the River in May, Kinston Center for the Arts, New Arts District Neighborhood, Grainger Hill Performing Arts Center, Global Transit Park (GTP), a combined airport and industrial complex developed by the state in Lenoir County; Grainger Stadium; Caswell Center, and Lenoir Memorial Hospital. Kinstons' Bill Fay Park is home to the Annual Allen Pearson Foundation Softball Tournament held each year annually during the first weekend in October. Annual festivities in Kinston include the Sand in the Streets concert series held at Pearson Park, the popular train rides, nature center, and planetarium located at Neuseway Park, and the Festival on the Neuse.


Kinston's Grainger Stadium is home to the Down East Wood Ducks, a Class A Minor League Baseball team in the Central Division of the Carolina League that began play in 2017.

Grainger Stadium - Kinston, NC
Grainger Stadium parking lot & exterior

It was previously home to the Kinston Indians minor league baseball team, as well as youth and college level baseball tournaments. The town first hosted professional baseball in 1908 and among the many alumni is Rick Ferrell, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Manny Ramirez, and Lonnie Chisenhall.

The Kinston Drag Strip hosts a variety of motor-sports events throughout the year. Kinston also has three golf courses: Kinston Country Club, Falling Creek Country Club, and Bill Fay Park Par 3 Golf Course. Barnet Park is home to a disc golf course. The Galaxy of Sports is a recreational facility including a bowling alley, skating rink, and health club.

In 2012, Woodmen of the World constructed the Woodmen of the World Community Center and Lions Water Adventure Park, a 53,000 sq ft (4,900 m2) facility that offers a cardio and strength training center, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, several corporate reception areas and conference rooms, as well as a quarter-mile elevated track and several sporting courts. The center is now owned by the city of Kinston and is called the Kinston Community Center.

In 1956, Kinston was the site of a rare, perfect game of billiards, as Willie Mosconi sank 150 balls in a row in one inning against Jimmy Moore.

In 2018, ESPN called Kinston "America's Basketball Heaven". According to the ESPN article, one in 52.7 players on Kinston High School's varsity team makes the NBA.

Parks and recreation

The city contains these parks:

  • Neuseway Nature Park, Campground, and Meeting Facility
  • Pearson Park
  • Bill Fay Memorial Park
  • Emma Webb Park
  • Fairfield Park
  • Holloway Park
  • Lovit Hines Park
  • Southeast Park
  • Barnet Park
  • Lions Adventure Water Park


UNC Lenoir Healthcare Exterior
UNC Lenoir Health Care



Kinston is not served directly by passenger trains. The closest Amtrak station is 40 miles (64 km) to the northwest in Wilson.


Kinston is served by the Kinston Regional Jetport (IATA: ISOICAO: KISO). From here, Bill Harrelson of Fredericksburg, Virginia, left and returned returned on his Guinness world record-setting "around-the-globe-over-the-poles" flight in his custom-built Lancair N6ZQ, between December 2014 and January 2015.

Raleigh–Durham International Airport is the closest major airport, 96 miles (154 km) northwest of Kinston, with service to more than 45 domestic and international destinations.


  • The main highway in Kinston is US 70, an east–west highway that provides access to the North Carolina coast and major cities to the west, such as Raleigh and Greensboro and I-95.
  • I-795 is the closest interstate highway to Kinston, crossing US-70 in Goldsboro.
  • Other highways that serve Kinston include US 258, NC 11, NC 58, NC 55, and NC 148.

Intercity bus service to Kinston is provided by Greyhound.


LCC - Library & Student Center Exterior
Lenoir Community College's library and student center

Public college

  • Lenoir Community College

Private college

  • United American Free Will Baptist Bible College

Public schools

  • Kinston High School
  • Lenoir County Early College
  • North Lenoir High School
  • South Lenoir High School
  • Contentnea-Savannah School
  • Children's Village Academy
  • Rochelle Middle School
  • Woodington Middle School
  • Banks Elementary School
  • Northwest Elementary School
  • Moss Hill Elementary School
  • Southeast Elementary School
  • Southwood Elementary School
  • Northeast Elementary School

Private schools

  • Arendell Parrott Academy, a nonsectarian private school (kindergarten-grade 12)
  • Bethel Christian Academy, a Christian private school (kindergarten-grade 12)

Notable people

Images for kids

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