North Carolina Office of Archives & History Department of Cultural Resources
Historical Publications Section The Colonial Records Project
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Historical Publications Section
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The Development of Domestic Architecture in the Albemarle Region


[Vol. 54 (1977), 17-48]

The purpose of this article is to present a systematic study of the development of vernacular domestic architecture in three counties in northeastern North Carolina.1 This study examines the planning and structural character of farmhouses in Gates, Perquimans, and Pasquotank counties dating before 1860 and describes changing material life in an agrarian society. Concentrated research in these three Albemarle counties made it possible to analyze rural domestic architecture over a 200-year period, from earliest settlement in North Carolina in the mid-seventeenth century to the advent of the Civil War in the nineteenth century.

In recent years the nature of social history has changed. Historians, once primarily occupied with the problems of the upper classes, are now asking questions about living conditions of different groups in society. It is difficult to rely upon anecdotal illustrations to support assumptions about “the planter’s house,” or “the house of the small farmer.” These hypotheses need the systematic checking that a comprehensive field survey can provide. Such surveys produce a social cross-section of house types which later scholars can compare and contrast with farmhouses in other areas. It also makes it possible to discern the prevalence of various house types and to suggest reasons for their popularity (see Fig. 1). One is not left with an impressionistic and static view of housing conditions but sees the implications of changing house types on living standards over an extended period of time.

House types at the lower level of traditional societies are virtually styleless. Historians of vernacular architecture, therefore, must turn to an analysis of construction details. By comparing the details in one region with those found in other regions, something may be learned of their distribution and date range, thereby augmenting knowledge about the development and spread of building practices. The importance of a comprehensive survey, then, is that it enables the field researcher to accumulate enough construction details to make generalizations about regional building techniques.

A traveler going from Virginia to the northern shores of the Albemarle Sound in the early eighteenth century would have observed the similarities between the farmhouses on the tobacco plantations he saw there and those he had seen along the banks of the James River in Virginia. These Albemarle houses had the familiar characteristics of the “Virginia house,” a house type that developed in the Chesapeake tobacco-growing region in the latter half of the seventeenth century.2 The Virginia house, a one-story dwelling with gable-end chimneys and either a one-room or a two-room, hall-and-parlor plan was the first distinctively native style of domestic architecture to emerge in the English colonies.

The antecedents of the Virginia house can be traced to the longhouse, the traditional farmhouse of southwestern England and Wales.3 The longhouse (Fig. 2), a three-unit dwelling, originally sheltered both men and animals under the same roof. A cross passage separated the human living quarters of the house from the byre or cowhouse. By the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, however, this dual purpose had been abandoned by many farmers in these West Country and highland regions. The animals had been removed from the byre to an outbuilding, and the byre was subsequently converted to either a kitchen or parlor. The principal room of the improved longhouse, serving a variety of functions, remained the hall, traditionally the only heated room in the old longhouse. The hall was flanked on one side by an inner room which served as either a parlor or service room and at the other end by the new kitchen or parlor. Chimneys were often inserted at the gable ends of the house, permitting all three principal rooms to be heated. The cross passage, dividing the hall from the new room, still provided the only access to the entire house.4

The cross-passage house was one of many vernacular architectural forms familiar to the first Chesapeake settlers in the seventeenth century. They were also acquainted with house types popular in southeastern England. In this lowland region of England, the cross-passage house had been superseded by the beginning of the seventeenth century by a house type organized around an interior fireplace (see Fig. 3). The fundamental feature of this lowland house type was the omission of the cross passage and the placing of the entrance on a long wall of the building opening onto a small lobby at the side of the axial fireplace. The elimination of the cross passage meant that the lobby-entrance house was not divided between an upper and lower end.5

Since Virginia’s early population was a mixture of people from several different regions in England, the early architecture held to no one particular building type. Houses of both the lowland and highland variety were erected by the first generation of colonists. By the second half of the seventeenth century a new climate, the seemingly unlimited supply of timber, and a scarcity of stone had transformed many of the traditional English building practices.

When planters began growing tobacco they needed a large labor force. Indentured servants from England and Ireland and, later, slaves provided that labor. The laborers who worked for the small planter no doubt often lived in the same cramped quarters as their masters. The large planters, seeking to segregate their laborers from their family, found that, architecturally, West Country and highland cross-passage houses, rather than the lowland lobby-entrance house, best suited this purpose. The living quarters of the servants and slaves could be placed beyond the cross passage to the loft over the kitchen. The domestic activities of nonfamily members of the household would then be confined mainly to one end of the house. In this manner the two rooms at the upper end of the cross passage became upgraded at the expense of the lower, kitchen end. Shortly after this social segregation was adopted in the South, the kitchen was detached altogether from the house. An open yard rather than the small space of a cross passage then separated the kitchen and its functions from the hall and parlor.6

By the fourth quarter of the seventeenth century the new farmhouse that had developed in the Chesapeake area was so different in constructional techniques from any English type that it became known as the Virginia house. Tobacco farmers universally accepted this house type. In 1687 Huguenot visitor to Virginia wrote that:

Whatever their rank ... they build only two rooms with some closets on the ground floor, & only two rooms in the attic above; but they build several like this according to their means. They build a separate kitchen, a separate house for their Christian slaves, one for the negro slaves, & several to dry the tobacco, so that when you come to the home of a person of some means, you think you are entering a fairly large village.7

On the eastern shore of Virginia, in Northampton County, stands what should be regarded as the simplest form of the Virginia house, Pear Valley, a one-story frame house. The exact date of its construction is unknown, but it is usually placed between 1660 and 1700.8 Characteristic seventeenth-century features of this one-room house are the massive end chimney, chamfered tie beams exposed outside along the eaves and indoors across the ceiling, and the diagonally set false plates. The glazed header pattern in the chimney-end brick wall and a common rafter roof are features in this cottage which are associated with the development of the Virginia house. Although many one-room houses did not have brick gables or even brick chimneys, Pear Valley is a rare surviving example of the simple early house type.

Perhaps one of the earliest extant houses which has all the attributes of the larger two-room Virginia house is located in Charles County, Maryland. Sarum, before alterations, was a one-story frame dwelling which was covered entirely with riven clapboards. Originally, there were two main rooms on the ground floor, a hall and parlor, with a small porch tower projecting forward from the center of the building. Each room was probably warmed by a large gable-end fireplace. The attic chambers were lighted by narrow dormers and were, perhaps, also heated with a fireplace at the gable ends. Sarum, like Pear Valley, has a common rafter roof, a characteristic feature of these house types.9 These two seventeenth-century houses show the early and notable departure from English building precedents.

As the first substantial number of settlers were establishing themselves in the Albemarle region after 1660, the Virginia-style farmhouse was reaching full maturity in the Chesapeake area. It is unfortunate that no houses have survived from the first half century of settlement in the Albemarle. Because the majority of seventeenth-century emigrants to the area came from Virginia, however, it is likely that they brought this new style with them, building dwellings similar to Pear Valley and Sarum. The early North Carolina written records offer only a tenuous guide to the housing standards and house types of this period.

The earliest Albemarle houses must have been of very modest proportions, seldom larger than two rooms and a loft. In the 1650s Nathaniel Batts built a house “20 foote square wth a lodging chamber, and a Buttery, and a chimney....”10 Considering the size of this frame dwelling, the buttery, or storage room, was most likely partitioned off from the main room, the lodging chamber. Batts probably not only slept in the chamber but carried out his trading activities and did his cooking in the same room. There is too little evidence to tell whether the chimney was built of bricks or of wood daubed with clay. Peter Carteret found on his arrival at Colleton Island in February, 1665, “a 20 foot dwelling howse.”11 The plan of this house may have been like that of Batts’s house, or it might have had only one room below and a loft overhead. Weatherboarding probably protected the frame and filling of the early houses on this storm-tossed island, for Carteret noted two years later that “a greate storme or reather haricane ...caned away the frame & boards of two howses....”12

Probated inventories of estates provide an invaluable source of information for determining the structure of early houses. Estate appraisers enumerated the material goods owned by a resident at his death. On a few occasions the names of the rooms are listed along with the items found in them. A careful study of the contents in each room not only makes it possible to reconstruct the composition of the house but also to determine the functions of the various rooms. An examination of probated inventories recorded from 1680 to 1719 reveals a wide range in the relative wealth of individual Albemarle inhabitants. The estate of Valentine Bird, a collector of customs, was appraised in 1680 at £583, whereas the goods of George Branch were valued in 1696 at £2.13 Although slaves and livestock accounted for a large part of the wealthier estates, there was still quite a discrepancy in the value of household goods and furnishings.14 Some men had only the barest necessities, while others possessed such luxurious items as four-poster beds, walnut chests, fine linen, and porcelain. Yet, even the households of the wealthiest Albemarle planters must have seemed quite crowded. The dwelling house of Seth Sothel, a governor of the Albemarle colony, had one room downstairs and one above. The inventory of his estate made in July, 1695, lists a hall, chamber, dairy house, and kitchen. The inventory implies that the dairy house and kitchen were separate outbuildings.15 The hall, or downstairs room, was used by Sothel not only as his main living room but also as a sleeping room. The term “chamber” was used indiscriminately during this period in North Carolina to refer to a sleeping room either upstairs or down. Another record indicates that the chamber in Sothel’s house was not a downstairs room, but an “uper Chamber” or loft.16 A pair of andirons inventoried in the room suggests that it was possibly heated by a fireplace.17

The inventory of the estate of Francis Godfrey made in 1676 refers to a “framed house forty foot Long 20 foot wide; with a shade on the back side; and a porch on the front, being all sawed work; and all Ready framed....”18 The length of the house suggests that there would have been at least two rooms downstairs. A “shade on the back side” may have meant that there was some type of protective shelter, perhaps a shed, attached to the rear.19 The porch mentioned was not the familiar open porch or piazza, typical of eighteenth-century southern farmhouses. It was perhaps an enclosed one- or two-story projection in front of the main block. Three houses with storied porches survive in Virginia. These houses, Bacon’s Castle, Foster’s Castle, and Criss Cross, have a two-story projection in front, with a vestibule below and a porch chamber above. In a 1709 will the Quaker Francis Tomes of Perquimans precinct stated that some featherbeds should remain “in the porch Chamber for Gods Messengers & Ministers to Lodge....”20

Log houses or log cabins built in the Swedish or German style were not unknown to English settlements in the seventeenth century. There are some records which indicate the early existence of log houses in the Albemarle. During the 1676 disturbances known as Culpeper’s Rebellion, Thomas Miller was taken to the northern part of Pasquotank precinct and there “enclosed in a Logghouse about 10 or 11 foot square purposely built for him....”21 It may have been constructed with hewn logs, a method similarly employed in the construction of blockhouses in several other English colonies.22 In 1683 Governor Sothel had a log house “such as the Swedes in America ... make” constructed on his plantation.23 This log house was used as a storehouse and trading post with the Indians. Log houses such as these, foreign to the English manner of building, seem to have emerged by the early eighteenth century as a prevalent dwelling type in the back regions of the colony along the Virginia border. In 1728 William Byrd wrote that

Most of the Houses in this part of the Country are Log-houses, covered with Pine or Cypress Shingles, 3 feet long, and one broad. They are hung upon Laths with Peggs, and their doors too turn upon Wooden Hinges, and have wooden Locks to Secure them, so that the Building is finisht without Nails or other Iron-Work.24

Log houses were, however, a comparatively late arrival in the Albemarle region and never gained widespread popularity in the older coastal and river areas of settlement.25 Log construction was used there primarily for inferior outbuildings such as cornhouses, meathouses, kitchens, and in some instances for slave quarters.

Since a small but representative number of houses, some of them dating from the second quarter of the eighteenth century, have survived, it is possible to obtain a clearer picture of housing conditions in the eighteenth century in northeastern North Carolina than for the preceding period. Although some of the established seventeenth-century floor plans—the one-room and the two-room, hall-and-parlor plan—still suited many of the farmer’s needs, several new ideas regarding the arrangement and function of rooms began to emerge in this agrarian society which slowly transformed the traditional patterns of domestic architecture. As one examines the remarkable developments that occurred in Albemarle farmhouses over the next 150 years, gradual changes in the social patterns and domestic habits of the Albemarle family are noticeable. Two primary concerns that shaped the development of the new house types were the need for an expanded number of specialized rooms and the conscious desire for privacy.

The simple one-room plan remained an important dwelling unit throughout the eighteenth century, especially in the sparsely settled interior. As William Byrd passed through the Virginia-North Carolina backwoods, he contemptuously remarked that the house of a Captain Embry consisted of only “one Dirty Room, with a dragging Door to it that will neither Open nor Shut.”26 The cooking, eating, entertaining, and sleeping activities were all carried out in this one small room. The cramped conditions of such a house were not lost upon the Virginia aristocrat, as he was “oblig’d to Lodge very Sociably in the Same Apartment with the Family, where, reckoning Women and Children, we muster’d in all no less than Nine Persons, who all pigg’d loveingly together.”27

Until recent years three examples of the one-room house survived in Gates County. The Old Riddick House once stood north of the town of Gates near the Virginia border. Built in the early eighteenth century, it was a one-story and a loft, frame house approximately 18 by 12 feet. A large interior chimney was flanked by a small closet on one side and a ladder to the loft on the other. The dwelling, with its heavily battened doors, exposed ceiling beams, and small window openings, reflected characteristic seventeenth-century features that survived long into the eighteenth century in this area.28

Two other Gates County dwellings, the Freeman House and the John Roberts House (Fig. 4), show two distinctive plan improvements over the Old Riddick House. In both of these houses the chimney was placed on the gable-end wall, and a stairway instead of a ladder connected the loft with the room below. These two changes provided more space downstairs and upgraded the status of the loft above. In the Old Riddick House the interior chimney occupied more than a third of the available floor space. With the use of an exterior-end chimney in the Freeman and Roberts houses, this space was not wasted inside. A stairway allowed easier accessibility to the room above. Although the chamber could be used with greater facility, it remained an unheated room in these two houses. Thirty-five years ago architectural historian Thomas T. Waterman pointed out in The Early Architecture of North Carolina that inasmuch as the Roberts House once had molded trim and a paneled fireplace wall, its fine interior would not have been used for cooking. He suggested that a kitchen dependency was employed for that purpose.29

Houses with two rooms downstairs (usually a hall and a parlor) not only provided more space but allowed domestic activities to be divided between the rooms in a variety of ways. Isaac Ottwell’s house consisted of a hall, closet, parlor, cellar, and a room above stairs.30 Meals were prepared and eaten in the hall. Cooking utensils such as pot hooks, gridirons, frying pans, and an assortment of pots were located by the large fireplace. Ottwell and his family sat at a large table for their meals and ate from wooden bowls, earthenware dishes, and pewter plates. Also scattered about the room were several saddles, collars, chairs, a pair of scales, and three guns. The parlor was the entertaining and sitting room. Such amenities for social entertainment as glass tumblers, wine flasks, a sugar box, and a teapot and cups were located on a bureau in the room. Several chairs, a few books, a map, spectacles, cotton, calico, and other cloth attest to the fact that the parlor was used by the Ottwell family as the primary sitting room. The presence of a featherbed and a trundle bed indicates that the room, like the “room above stairs,” was a sleeping chamber as well.31

The parlor, like the hall, was used for a variety of domestic activities. In Daniel Dupee’s house it functioned as the principal eating room and as the main sitting room. The parlor in John Clarke’s house was used for three purposes, as a dining, sitting, and sleeping room.32 Although the domestic functions of the parlor and hall often overlapped, it appears that some distinction was made in eighteenth-century inventories between the two names. In estate inventories which mention two or more rooms downstairs, the term “parlor” was rarely applied to a room where cooking activities occurred.

The Newbold-White House (Fig. 5) in Perquimans County is a dwelling, like Isaac Ottwell’s house, with a two-room plan where cooking activities took place in one of the main rooms. In this early eighteenth-century brick house, smoke blackening on the ceiling beams and the lack of archaeological evidence for a kitchen dependency suggest that the smaller north room was used for cooking purposes.33

In the early eighteenth century meals could also be prepared in either a detached outbuilding or, less frequently, in a room in the cellar. The Sumner-Winslow House, originally a one-story dwelling with a hall-and-parlor plan, has a large fireplace in the south room of the cellar which was probably used at one time for cooking.34

More often cooking activities were removed from the dwelling house to a separate outbuilding. This dependency was usually built of wood and measured about 12 feet long and 16 feet wide.35 The advantage of locating many of the service facilities away from the main dwelling was readily appreciated by many colonists in the South. Robert Beverly wrote in 1705 that “All their Drudgeries of Cookery, Washing, Daries, etc. are performed in Offices detacht from the Dwelling-House, which by this means are kept more cool and Sweet.”36

On a visit to the South in the early 1780s, the Marquis de Chastellux remarked that most Virginia

houses are spacious and well ornamented, but living quarters are not conveniently arranged; they think little of putting three or four persons in the same room; nor do people have any objection to finding themselves thus crowded in, because they experience no need to read and write, and all they want in a house is a bed, dining room, and drawing room for company.37

This judgment could have been applied equally as well to the cramped conditions of Albemarle houses. New ideas, however, were already influencing the shape and development of domestic Albemarle architecture. A major change in the traditional house types occurred in the region in the early eighteenth century with the development of the hall-passage-parlor arrangement. The central passageway developed as the concern for privacy grew. For example, to modernize the floor plan of the Newbold-White House (Fig. 5) one of the eighteenth-century owners inserted a partition wall in the larger south room and thus created a narrow 4½-foot center passageway. The old staircase in the corner of the north room was removed and a new stairway was built. It opened off the new center passage and rose through the north room. The flow of domestic traffic was then regulated between the two rooms rather than through one room to the other.

In some of the early center-passage house types the full measure of privacy the plan might have afforded was not entirely realized. The demolished Theophilus White House, a one-story frame house built in Perquimans County in the early eighteenth century, had a rudimentary center passageway, scarcely 4 feet in width, which was flanked by two rooms of unequal size. Since the stairway was not located in the center passage but in the larger room, it was still necessary to pass through the room in order to gain access to the upstairs chambers. Another destroyed house, the 1755 Walton House in Gates County, exhibited the same primitive form of the center-passage plan. In this two-story house, the stairway rose from one of the flanking rooms.38 The next logical step in creating two entirely private rooms downstairs was to place the stairway in the center passageway. In the fully developed center-passage plan, the passageway was widened to incorporate the initial run of the stairs. In the Whedbee House, a late eighteenth-century frame dwelling, two equal-sized rooms flank a 9-foot-wide center passage. A closed stringer stair ascends along the east wall of the passage.

An interesting plan type outside the mainstream of domestic architecture in the Albemarle region is the three-room plan of the so-called Customs House in Pasquotank County. The plan of this one-story frame house has been attributed to Quaker influence.39 In this unique plan two small unheated chambers open at one end onto a larger heated room.

A second significant change in the regional house plan came with the introduction of a double depth of rooms. The desire for more space led many farmers to add a lean-to or shed extension to the back or side of their houses. In many instances, the shed rooms provided an extra bed chamber or additional storage space. A few years prior to 1730 William Reed had added two back rooms to his two-room house. One of the shed rooms was used as a bed chamber while the other served as a buttery and sleeping room.40 The back room in Henry Larner’s house contained several beds and hammocks.41 Samuel Nixon, a prominent merchant in Perquimans County in the late eighteenth century, had three shed rooms added to the west side and rear of his house (Fig. 6). In this altered frame dwelling fireplaces were built in two of the three shed rooms. The west shed room was used for dining.42

The integration of shed rooms with the existing hall-and-parlor plan created a new unified double-pile floor plan (see Fig. 7), which became very popular among the more prosperous farmers in the second half of the eighteenth century. In plan, a center shed room opened onto the larger front room and served as a stair passage. The stairway ascended from this back room toward the front, projecting through the smaller front room. The shed rooms usually opened onto the stair passage rather than the main rooms. Because a gambrel roof was an accompanying feature of this type, greater space was allotted in the second story level. The status of the upstairs rooms also improved with the provision of fireplaces. The earliest surviving example of this house type is the Myers-White House in Perquimans County which was built shortly before 1730. The Riddick House (see Fig. 7) in Gates County and the Sanderson-Sutton House, White-Nowell House, and Sumnerville in Perquimans County are later eighteenth-century representatives of this house type. A slight variation of this plan may be found in the plan of Belvidere. A central passageway divides not only the rear shed rooms of this large frame house but the two front rooms as well. The back rooms communicate directly with the front rooms as well as with the passageway. The stairway is no longer relegated to the rear; it ascends from the front of the center passage.43

The logical progression in the development of the double-pile house was to enclose the back rooms with the front ones under one roof. The Albertson House (see Fig. 8), built in the late eighteenth century, incorporates a double depth of rooms under a gambrel roof. The ground-floor plan of this frame Perquimans County dwelling, two uneven front rooms and three unheated back rooms, is the same as that of Sumnerville or the Sanderson-Sutton House. The improvement in the plan came upstairs where, taking advantage of the space created by the new roof alignment, there was then provided five rooms. The back chambers, like the rooms below, remained unheated.

In the transitional plan of the Old Brick House, there is a central passage with two rooms on either side. Despite the ample width of the passageway, the stair was cramped into one of its corners and ascends through the northeast room. The northeast room is small and remains unheated. These features and the fact that this mid-eighteenth century structure is only one story mark it as an embryonic form of the double-pile center-passage house type.

From the existing evidence it is apparent that the back rooms did not attain equal size and status with the front ones until late in the eighteenth century. This development occurred, however, only in the largest houses. Buckland (see Fig. 9), a two-story frame house in Gates County, is the only surviving late-eighteenth-century example in the three counties surveyed of the mature double-pile center-passage plan. Four equal-size rooms flank a broad central passageway in which a closed stringer stair ascends from the front. Chimneys at each gable end warm each of the four rooms. On inspecting the plan it is difficult to discern a specific function for any of the ground floor rooms. The physical distinctions among hall, parlor, and inferior rooms have been erased by the imposition of this symmetrical arrangement. As the structural differentiation between rooms disappeared, room functions also underwent change. The increased number of rooms meant that those domestic activities which had been confined to the old hall or parlor—eating, sleeping, reading, entertaining, or sitting—were dispersed to a number of rooms, each with a specific purpose—the dining room, master bedroom, library, formal parlor, or sitting room. When the downstairs rooms attained essentially the same size and appearance, such as those at Buckland, one room could as easily be designated a formal parlor or library as another. This development, confined to the larger house types in the eighteenth century, began to filter down into the smaller house types in the next century.

An unprecedented surge in building activity occurred during the first four decades of the nineteenth century and transformed the Albemarle landscape. The variety and scale of houses built during this period accentuated the discrepancies in wealth and status in an agrarian society. A small number of wealthy planters who were ambitious to display their wealth most conspicuously built large houses along the banks of the Perquimans River.44 Many smaller planters adopted a more modest house type which afforded new comfort and space. Most small farmers continued to build in the vernacular traditions of the region.

The building boom produced a number of changes in the character of the regional farmhouse. A significant difference between the farmhouses of the early nineteenth century and their eighteenth-century predecessors was the scale of building. Houses moved away from the old low and rectangular dimensions to squarer, box-like proportions. Rooms expanded in size as well as in number. The full two-story farmhouse, no longer associated with the large and wealthy plantations, became a standard size dwelling on many farms. The symmetrical arrangement of window and door openings in the facade developed not only from new aesthetic sensibilities but from practical considerations for light and ventilation. In the hot summer weather the need for strong cross-ventilation in a house was of primary importance. Most of the new houses were built on pier foundations of from one to three feet in height. The space created beneath the house provided added ventilation. As settlement spread into the low-lying swamp areas, the digging of a full cellar proved to be impractical, and the practice was abandoned.

Several new plan types appeared in the early nineteenth century. The most popular type in the Albemarle area was the side-passage plan (see Fig. 10). Unlike the narrow proportions of its city cousin, the rural version of the side-passage plan was as broad as it was deep. In plan, two large rooms flanked a passageway running the length of one side of the house. The stair could be placed in various positions in the passageway. There are over twenty examples of the side-passage plan dwellings in Gates, Perquimans, and Pasquotank counties dating from about 1810 to 1840.45 In lower Pasquotank County this type of house dominates the landscape. The side-passage plan appears to have suited the domestic requirements of the small planter, the man who owned about 250 to 400 acres of land and from four to ten slaves.46

Possibly the antecedents of the side-passage plan may be found in two diminutive dwellings along the banks of the Little River in the former port of Nixonton. Although their dates are unknown, the Morris House (see Fig. 11) and the Nash House exhibit the rudimentary plan configuration of the side-passage house. There is a relatively narrow side passage (7 feet wide in the Morris House and 7½ feet wide in the Nash House), which is interrupted at the beginning of the back shed room by a partition and doorway. In the Morris House the side passage continues past the partition into the shed area. In the shed area of the Nash House, however, there is no distinguishing separation between the back room and the side passage.

By the second decade of the century the rural side-passage house had reached full maturity. The plan of these houses presented a unified balance and coordination among the three main downstairs elements. The side passage extended the length of the house uninterrupted. in the Thomas Shannonhouse House in Pasquotank County and the Mitchell-Ward House in Perquimans County (see Fig. 10), the side passage exceeds 11 feet in width. In most houses it ranged from 9 to about 13 feet in width.47 The two well-proportioned rooms were warmed by separate gable-end fireplaces. Both rooms communicated with the side passage by separate entrances and with each other by a door in their partition wall. The back room in many of these houses had an exit along the back wall. In these cases, the room probably functioned as a dining room, the door providing easier access to the kitchen dependency. The front room primarily served as a parlor. Upstairs, the side-passage house had from three to five rooms which were used almost exclusively as bedrooms. In the Thomas Shannonhouse House there are four rooms upstairs; because it was impossible for all of them to be heated, only the two rooms on the chimney side were warmed.

Since the side-passage plan was conceived as a complete unit, it was rarely changed later to incorporate complementary rooms on the other side of the passageway. The Carter Farmhouse (see Fig. 12) and the Hunter House in Gates County are the only extant rural examples of the expanded side-passage plan in the three counties.

Two houses, the Morgan House in northern Pasquotank County and the Whit Stallings House in Gates County, are variations of the side-passage house. In both houses the main entrance was shifted to the center of the gable end. This reorientation, however, did not disturb the essential elements of the old plan. Two rooms still opened onto a broad passageway which ran parallel to the front elevation rather than perpendicular. In the Stallings house the heated downstairs room was the formal parlor, and the unheated room served as a dining room. There were four bedrooms and a sitting room located upstairs.48

A relatively minor house type that appeared in the Albemarle area in the first half of the nineteenth century had a three-block arrangement. A two-story, pitch-roofed, main block was flanked by a one-story wing on either side. Stockton and the Albertson-Leigh House (see Fig. 13), both in Perquimans County, are examples of this house type which may have had its origins in an eighteenth-century pattern book by Robert Morris.49 The plan of the Albertson-Leigh House consists of an entrance foyer in the main block with a one-room wing on either side. Beyond the foyer is a back room. A narrow stairway, opening onto the back of the foyer, rises through the back room. Exterior-end chimneys at the side and rear gable-ends heat the three principal rooms. The foyer, although a new element, served the same function as the center passageway. It provided a common means of access to all the main rooms. Characteristically, the rooms in this particular house type, like in other new nineteenth-century house types, were designed for particular purposes, such as dining, entertaining, and sleeping.

If the first half of the nineteenth century was a period of innovative development in new building forms, it was also an era which saw the persistent continuation of traditional house types. In many areas plan types common to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries held on with tenacity. The old house types, in many instances, could not offer the modern nineteenth-century standards of comfort and privacy. In smaller houses a person seldom enjoyed the privacy of a separate bedroom. Often these houses were poorly constructed, providing inadequate protection from inclement weather. Slave houses, particularly, showed very little improvement over earlier one-room or two-room houses.50 Among the free population the plan of the one-room house expanded to include shed rooms in the rear or grew to two full stories. The Jessup House in Perquimans County has one large room with two shed rooms in the rear. The shed rooms were probably used for sleeping since there was no stair to the tiny loft over the front room.51

The traditional hall-and-parlor plan was still favored by many farmers in the nineteenth century despite its antiquated layout. The Billups-Delaney-Ward House (see Fig. 14) in Perquimans County and the Norfleet and Elbert Riddick houses in Gates County initially each had a two-room arrangement. The inherent problem of the hall-and-parlor plan, the absence of a cross passage, led to the insertion of a partition wall in the larger room by the owners of the Norfleet and Billups-Delaney-Ward houses. In both houses the improvement seems to have been made shortly after they were built.52

Despite their formal facades and architectural embellishments, most of the larger Albemarle houses retained traditional floor plans. A common type throughout the nineteenth century was the frame two-story dwelling with one room on either side of a center passageway. Although the size of the center-passage farmhouse grew to generous proportions, the number of rooms remained the same as in the eighteenth-century prototype. In many instances additional rooms were made possible by the construction of a two-story wing perpendicular to the back of the house. When the rear wing was placed in the middle of the house at the end of the center passage, a “T” plan was formed. The Jones House in Perquimans County had a two-story wing added in 1836, giving the house a “T” configuration. In the Savage and Thomas Nixon houses, the rear wing was added to one side of each house, creating an “L” layout. After 1830 in some houses, such as the Edmund Skinner House, the rear wing was built as a part of the original plan. The inspiration for the largest plantation houses did not come from traditional house types but derived from a conscious emulation of national tastes and styles. Two imposing mansions along the Perquimans River, Lands End and Cove Grove, accompanied by a sophisticated interpretation of Federal and Greek Revival details, are virtually outside the pattern of traditional domestic architecture. These houses, with pattern-book designs and a double-pile center-passage floor plan, could have been found in many parts of the country.53

In the second half of the nineteenth century the vernacular tradition in domestic architecture ended. It was supplanted by an architecture whose plans and ornamentation derived ultimately from sources outside the native tradition. The Civil War and Reconstruction proved to be important catalysts in this change, for these events disrupted the economic and social foundations of the region, which, in turn, altered the traditional building patterns. The Albemarle, building in a manner and scale which reflected the social and economic realities of the postwar South, became more receptive to imported tastes and new techniques.

Even before the war the demise in traditional domestic architecture had already begun. Technologically, innovations such as the invention of balloon framing in the 1830s and improvements in the manufacture of cut nails meant that houses could be built much faster and at a reduced cost. By taking advantage of these improvements more people could afford to build a house, although many of these houses were smaller in size and poorer in architectural quality than the traditional house types. The introduction of the stove just before the Civil War modified traditional room functions. In later years the chimney gave way to the stove flue. To a few the consequence of this technological change appeared catastrophic. They believed that the “banishment” of the open fireplace signaled the end of domestic felicity. In a popular postwar journal Paul H. Hayne lamented:

Where, in the absence of the frank-hearted flames, is a family to assemble in evenings, to exchange those charming confidences, which are the soul of household life and affection?

With no bright centre of domestic enjoyment and companionship, the ties of family are first loosened and then broken. People learn to depend upon outside excitement, to seek—each according to sex—the billiard table or ballroom. The juvenile community is neglected by its proper teachers and protectors, in a word, the entire household becomes disjointed and disorganized; and finally, for all we can tell, the “domesticities” will vanish altogether, and the idea of the “family” be ranked among the fossil conceptions of a long-forgotten age.54

Perhaps the greatest factor in the decline of vernacular architecture was the displacement in popular esteem of the traditional types of dwellings by ones taken from patterns in builders’ handbooks. There was a popular feeling that the old architecture was inadequate, not meeting the requirements of the ordinary citizenry. Many believed that the houses of most North Carolinians were generally “plain and cheap” and that “sanity of mind and morals is almost impossible without suitable habitation.”55In a letter to a Raleigh newspaper in October, 1853, Professor William H. Owen of Wake Forest College, decrying the shortcomings in traditional domestic architecture, suggested that the styles in pattern books such as A. J. Downing’s The Architecture of Country Houses and Cottage Residences were better suited to the needs of the people. He remarked that:

The cottage style of building is becoming fashionable, and deservedly so, as it combines more of the requirements of comfort, taste, beauty and variety than any other. It is also in less danger from storms, lightning and fires, particularly the last, which frequently breaks out in the second story. The cottage style, however, does not always reject the second story.56

As the nineteenth century progressed and communications improved, differences in regional styles tended to lessen. Traveling carpenters, working with pattern books under their arms, repeated popular designs wherever they went. Later in the century sawmills produced standard moldings, doors, and other woodwork. By the time mail-order catalogs advertising a complete line of building materials arrived in the Albemarle region, the vernacular tradition in domestic architecture had been all but forgotten.

Changes in living conditions occur very slowly in traditional agricultural societies. Perhaps in domestic architecture more than anywhere else the strength of tradition makes itself felt. French historian Fernand Braudel remarked that “a ‘house’ ... bears perpetual witness to the slowness of civilisations, of cultures bent on preserving, maintaining and repeating.”57 Yet, in looking at Albemarle domestic architecture over a period of 200 years one sees significant changes up and down the social scale. Primarily, the range in the architectural scale expanded, reflecting a growing disparity in wealth in the region. This distinction was more pronounced after 1775. Houses became more formal and specialized, permitting a greater variety of household activities. From the symmetrical mansion houses along the Perquimans River to neighboring, unadorned, one-room houses, the wide variation in housing conditions accentuated class distinctions.

The field survey provides an excellent opportunity for locating and recording the rich variety of local vernacular architecture. It also reveals a gross neglect of North Carolina’s architectural heritage. The decline in the number of farmhouses, mills, and other rural buildings continues at an accelerated pace. Of the more than seventy houses investigated in Gates, Perquimans, and Pasquotank counties, over one third of them have been demolished or are in the advanced stages of decay. A dozen more are unoccupied and may suffer a similar fate. In these three counties alone half a dozen important eighteenth-century dwellings described by Thomas T. Waterman in The Early Architecture of North Carolina are now destroyed. With the disappearance of the vernacular farmhouse an opportunity to understand North Carolina’s cultural heritage is lost.

Maps and Diagrams


                 Figure 1.                                      Key to Figures 2-4                              Figures 2 and 3.



          Figures 4 and 5.                                             Figure 6                                               Figure 7



                 Figure 8.                                                 Figure 9                                       Figures 10 and 11



    Figures and 12 and 13.                                   Figure 14                                       



*Mr. Lounsbury is a doctoral candidate in American Studies at George Washington University, Washington, D.C. He wishes to express appreciation for the kindness of those people in Gates, Perquimans, and Pasquotank counties who allowed him the opportunity to examine and record their homes.

1 Vernacular architecture is a term used to describe those buildings that are constructed “according to local custom to meet the requirements of the individuals for whom they were intended.” Cary Carson, “The ‘Virginia House’ in Maryland,” Maryland Historical Magazine, 69 (Summer, 1974), 185, hereinafter cited as Carson, “The ‘Virginia House’ in Maryland.”

2 Thomas J. Wertenbaker, The Founding of American Civilization: The Old South (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1942), 185-195, hereinafter cited as Wertenbaker, The Old South.

3 Raymond B. Wood-Jones, Traditional Domestic Architecture of the Banbury Region (Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, 1936), 71-138; M. W. Barley, The English Farmhouse and Cottage (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961), 108-122, 164-176, hereinafter cited as Barley, The English Farmhouse and Cottage.

4 Eric Mercer, English Vernacular Houses (London: HMSO, 1975), 37-39, hereinafter cited as Mercer, English Vernacular Houses; J. T. Smith, “The Evolution of the English Peasant House to the Late Seventeenth Century: The Evidence of Buildings,” Journal of the British Archaeological Association, Third Series, XXXIII (1970), 139-143; Cary Carson, “English Vernacular Architecture Gone Native,” paper presented at a meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians, Boston, Massachusetts, April 24, 1975, copy in the author’s files; Barley, The English Farmhouse and Cottage, 108-113. The English nomenclature “hall” and “parlor” derive from medieval usage. Barley notes, 5, 28, that the hall developed in medieval society as a common living room and that the term parlor was adopted in the fourteenth century from the medieval monastery “for a place set aside for the reception of visitors from the outside world.”

5 Barley, The English Farmhouse and Cottage, 67-68; Mercer, English Vernacular Houses, 60.

6 Carson, “The ‘Virginia House’ in Maryland,” 186; Wertenbaker, The Old South, 80; Hugh Morrison, Early American Architecture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1952), 135; Marcus Whiffen, The Eighteenth Century Houses of Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg, 1960), 3-10; Carson, “English Vernacular Architecture Gone Native.”

7 Durand de Dauphine, A Huguenot Exile in Virginia, 1687, translated and edited by Gilbert Chenard (New York: Press of the Pioneers, 1934), 119.

8 Bernard L. Herman and David C. Orr, “Pear Valley et al.: An Excursion into the Analysis of Southern Vernacular Architecture,” Southern Folklore Quarterly, 39 (December, 1975), 316; U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C., “Nomination Form: Pear Valley, Northampton County, Virginia.”

9 Sarum was constructed between 1662 and 1680. Carson, “The ‘Virginia House’ in Maryland,” 191-195.

10 Norfolk County Deeds, Office of the Clerk of Court, Norfolk County Courthouse, Princess Anne, Virginia, Book C, 180. In November, 1655, a Virginia carpenter, Robert Bonham, brought suit against the estate of Francis Yeardley. Bonham charged that “For building a house to the Southward for Batts to live in and trade with the Indians wch I did Doe by Coll. Yeardley’s Appointment ... he did promise to see me paid for it.” This Batts was Nathaniel Batts, one of the earliest known settlers in North Carolina. See W. P. Cumming, “The Earliest Settlement in Carolina: Nathaniel Batts and the Comberford Map,” American Historical Review, XLV (October, 1939), 82-89; see also Elizabeth Gregory McPherson (ed.), “Nathaniell Batts, Landholder on Pasquotank River, 1660,” North Carolina Historical Review, XLIII (January, 1966), 66-81. The 1657 Comberford map shows a house labeled “Batts House” located on the Albemarle Sound between the Roanoke River and Salmon Creek in what is now Bertie County. W. P. Cumming, The Southeast in Early Maps (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), plate 57.

11 Peter Carteret, Report to the Lords Proprietors about Plantation on Colleton Island, December 3, 1674, Thurmond Chatham Papers, Box 1, Folio XXVII, Archives, Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, hereinafter cited as Carteret, Report to the Lords Proprietors.

12 Carteret, Report to the Lords Proprietors.

13 Inventory of the Estate of Valentine Bird, August 2, 1680, and Inventory of Estate of George Branch, February 2, 1696, in Council Minutes, Wills and Inventories, 1677-1701, Secretary of State Papers, State Archives, 30, 108, hereinafter cited as SS Wills and Inventories, 1677-1701. The average net value of eighty estates returned between 1680 and 1719 was £73. SS Wills and Inventories, 1677-1701 passim.

14 Kevin Peter Kelly, “Economic and Social Development of Seventeenth-Century Surry County, Virginia” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle, 1972), 167-171. Kelly estimated that in the last thirty years of the seventeenth century livestock accounted for just under 50 percent of the value of a Surry County planter’s estate.

15 Inventory of the Estate of Seth Sothel, July 9, 1695, SS Wills and Inventories, 1677-1701, p. 107.

16 Mattie Erma Edwards Parker (ed.), North Carolina Higher-Court Records, 1670-1696, Volume II of Colonial Records of North Carolina, Second Series, edited by Mattie Erma Edwards Parker and others (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History [projected multivolume series, 1963—], 1968), 23, hereinafter cited as Parker, Higher-Court Records, II.

17 Inventory of Estate of Seth Sothel, July 9, 1695, SS Wills and Inventories, 1677-1701, p. 107.

18 Inventory of Estate of Francis Godfrey, probated March 5, 1676, March, 1680, and May 19, 1680, SS Wills and Inventories, 1677-1701, p. 17.

19 According to the Oxford English Dictionary, IX, 588, the term “shade” in the seventeenth century referred to a shelter from the wind, a screen from excessive heat or cold. In 1624 Capt. John Smith wrote that “To keepe us from the winde we made a shade of another Mat.”

In 1715 Thomas Bray, who lived in the vicinity of Indian Town in what is now Gates County, brought suit against Edward Jordan in Chowan precinct court for failing to build “one house of the dimention of twenty foot long & fifteen foote wide with a shade or lean too of eight foot wide....” This ambiguous reference to “shade” may have meant that it was either a synonym for “lean too” or that both terms represented two distinctive features. Gates County, General Court Minutes, 1716-1724, State Archives, 125.

20 Will of Francis Tomes, October 10, 1709, in Wills, 1712-1722, Secretary of State Papers, Book 2, p. 55, hereinafter cited as SS Wills, 1712-1722.

21 William L. Saunders (ed.), The Colonial Records of North Carolina (Raleigh: State of North Carolina, 10 volumes, 1886-1890), I, 300.

22 Samuel Eliot Morison (ed.), The Log Cabin Myth, by Harold R. Shurtleff (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1939), 162; see also Abbott Lowell Cummings, “The Garrison House Myth,” Historical New Hampshire, XXII (Spring, 1967), 3-17.

23 John Lawson, A New Voyage to Carolina, edited by Hugh Talmage Lefler (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967), 223-224; Parker, Higher-Court Records, II, 312.

24 William K. Boyd (ed.), William Byrd’s Histories of the Dividing Line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina (Raleigh: North Carolina Historical Commission, 1929; New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1967), 94, hereinafter cited as Boyd, William Byrd’s Histories of the Dividing Line.

25 Will of J. Henry King, February 26, 1714, in SS Wills, 1712-1722, Book 2, p. 100; see also the Edenton Gazette, July 20, 1810.

26 Boyd, William Byrd’s Histories of the Dividing Line, 313.

27 Boyd, William Byrd’s Histories of the Dividing Line, 314.

28 U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service, Historic American Buildings Survey, Washington, D.C., “Old Riddick House, Gates County, North Carolina, 1940.”

29 Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947), 27, hereinafter cited as Johnston and Waterman, Early Architecture of North Carolina.

The John Roberts House is now a heap of rotted weatherboards, posts, and vines. The oldest part of the Freeman House actually stands five feet into Virginia. The downstairs room has been altered, but the chamber above remains unchanged. Two small windows light one gable end, and plastered knee-walls rise about 2½ feet to meet the slope of the gable roof. The Freeman and Roberts houses exhibit notable changes from the seventeenth-century style of eaves construction. In both houses the false plates are laid flat along the tie beams instead of being set in diagonally, and a box corner encloses the structural elements of the roof.

30 Inventory of Estate of Isaac Ottwell, in General Assembly Laws, 1715, Inventories of Estates, 1728-1741, Secretary of State Papers, State Archives, 19, hereinafter cited as SS General Assembly Laws, 1715, Inventories of Estates, 1728-1741.

31 Inventory of Estate of Isaac Ottwell, SS General Assembly Laws, 1715, Inventories of Estates, 1728-1741.

32 Copy of a mortgage from Daniel Dupee [Dupree] to William Heritage, July, 1763, in “Book on North Carolina Furniture of the Coastal Plain,” unpublished manuscript in the Alexander Crane Papers, State Archives, Chapter 5 (unpaged); Inventory of Estate of John Clarke, September 18, 1719, SS Wills, 1712-1722, Book 2, pp. 258-259; Inventory of Estate of James Leigh, October 28, 1728, SS Wills, 1722-1735, Book 3, pp. 217-218.

33 The Newbold-White House is a one-story house elegantly laid in Flemish bond with glazed headers. Perhaps only the Jordan Farmhouse in Bertie County and the now-dilapidated Isaac Gregory House in Camden County could rival its dazzling brickwork. The arched fireplace opening on the interior chimneys, the relatively narrow-beaded ceiling joists, and the flat-resting false plates are indicative of an early eighteenth-century date of construction for the Newbold-White House.

34 The Sumner-Winslow House began as a one-story building with interior end-chimneys and brick end-walls. The original north end is laid in Flemish bond with a glazed header chevron pattern delineating the pitch of the roof line. About the first decade of the nineteenth century the house was remodeled. The front door and the first floor windows were enlarged, and the entire house was raised to two full stories and covered with a stylish hip roof. Two shed rooms divided by a center passageway were added to the rear, and two walls were installed to create a center passage in the main block. A new stair was placed in the front passageway. These alterations not only afforded a greater degree of privacy but also created a sense of spaciousness.

35 Virginia Gazette (Williamsburg), August 1, 1766, February 23, 1769. Other outbuildings frequently mentioned in newspaper advertisements and estate inventories were smokehouses, often built of brick; meathouses; storehouses; dairies; milkhouses; boulting houses; cornhouses; threshing houses; stables and barns.

36 Robert Beverly, The History and Present State of Virginia, edited by Louis B. Wright (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1947), 290.

37 François Jean, the Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North America in the Year 1780, 1781, and 1782, translated and edited by Howard C. Rice, Jr. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2 volumes, 1963), I, 441.

38 Johnston and Waterman, Early Architecture of North Carolina, 31.

39 Johnston and Waterman, Early Architecture of North Carolina, 173-174.

40 Inventory of Estate of William Reed, March 15, 1729, SS Wills, 1722-1735, Book 3, pp. 178-179.

41 Inventory of Estate of Henry Larner, SS General Assembly Laws, 1715, Inventories of Estates, 1728-1741, p. 11.

42 The Samuel Nixon House started with a two-room, hall-and-parlor plan. This gambrel-roofed house, however, was altered, changing its original character. Shed rooms were added to the west side and rear. The hall became a center passageway with the stair rising along its western wall. The hall fireplace was restructured to face the new western room and a new chimney was built to warm the northwest shed room. A doorway was inserted between the old parlor and the new unheated room. The upstairs retained a two-room plan configuration.

43 Contrasting with the simple treatment of the interior finish, the trim along the modillion cornice at Belvidere is elaborate and gives some architectural pretentiousness to the facade. The unusual roof, a hipped gambrel type, is similar to that of the Augustine Moore House in Yorktown, Virginia.

44 Porte Crayon, a popular antebellum southern humorist, gently admonished the use of pretentious and inappropriate names ascribed to many of the local houses: “Bordering on the Sound and around Edenton are many handsome residences and well-improved estates, whose names, Belvidere, Montpelier, Mulberry Hill, etc., in a country almost as level as the surface of the water, exhibit the disposition of the human mind to cherish pleasant illusions in the midst of adverse circumstances.” Porte Crayon, The Old South Illustrated, edited by Cecil D. Eby, Jr. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1959), 174.

45 Some of the houses with the mature side-passage plan are as follows: Harrell, Mitchell-Ward, and Townsend houses in Perquimans County; Elmwood, Carter Farmhouse, and the Hunter House in Gates County; and Blackstock, the Cartwright-Fletcher, Cartwright-Small, Davis-Brothers-Sherlock, Thaddeus Freshwater, Griffin-Perry-Markham, Lowry, Nixonton House, Robert Shannonhouse, Thomas Shannonhouse, and Whedbee-Stanton houses in Pasquotank County.

46 Three small planters who built a side-passage house on their farms in the lower Pasquotank peninsula between 1814 and 1836 were Thomas L. Shannonhouse, Thaddeus Freshwater, and Robert A. Shannonhouse. All three men were prominent in local affairs but were by no means the largest landowners or slaveholders in the area. Between 1814 and 1839 Thomas Shannonhouse owned on the average 358 acres and seven slaves. Thaddeus Freshwater averaged 365 acres and seven slaves between 1822 and 1839. Robert Shannonhouse, son of Thomas Shannonhouse, possessed an average of 290 acres of land and nine slaves between 1834 and his death in 1840. Pasquotank County Records, Tax Lists, 1814-1839, State Archives, passim.

47 A question arises as to the purpose of such wide passageways. In the side-passage plan, almost one third of the ground-floor space was occupied by the passageway. The stairway and the front and rear entrances were easily incorporated within the wide passage. Ventilation, also, does not seem to have been a factor in the width. Why the extra space, and how was it utilized?

In a house in Chowan County hammock hooks riven into the walls of a passageway suggest that the passageway provided extra sleeping space. James B. Avirett, The Old Plantation: How We Lived in the Great House and Cabin before the War (New York: F. Tennyson Neely Co., 1901), 36-40.

48 Inventory of Estate of Whit Stallings, Gates County Estates Records, State Archives. Whitmel Stallings, a state senator from Gates County in the 1840s, owned from 1816 to 1841 an average of 524 acres of land and six slaves. When he died in 1858 he was one of the wealthiest men in southeastern Gates County. Gates County Tax Lists, 1816-1841, State Archives, passim.

49 Johnston and Waterman, Early Architecture of North Carolina, 37.

50 An accurate description of slave houses in the Albemarle is difficult because so few, if any, identifiable slave houses remain. Guion Johnson noted that most North Carolina slave houses might have “contained one large room or two small ones divided by a thin partition. As a rule, the houses were unsealed, and their occupants, to keep out the cold ... plastered the walls with whatever paper they could obtain....” Guion Griffis Johnson, Ante-Bellum North Carolina: A Social History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1937), 525.

On the William Shepard plantation in Pasquotank County five “negro houses,” each 36 feet long and 18 feet wide, were constructed of plank and scantling. “Directions of Wm. B. Shepard,” undated, Folder for Ann Daves Shepard, P.C. 417.11, Josiah Collins Papers, State Archives.

51 The large double-shouldered Flemish bond chimney of the Jessup House, which once had a 1797 date brick, probably survives from an earlier house that was on the site. The present house was built in the early nineteenth century, perhaps to take advantage of the existing chimney. The corner posts, plates, and door jambs of the present structure remain exposed above the plaster finish.

The Lance Smith House in Gates County is another structure in which the ground floor plan of the old section is only one room. The house, dating from about 1810, is a full two stories. The two stories are connected by a small stair which ascends from the rear corner of the downstairs room.

52 The Billups-Delaney-Ward House is one of the earliest houses in the area which used cut nails in its construction. Lath nails which were cut from the same side and which have hammered heads were employed for the lath work throughout the house.

On December 20, 1805, Thomas Bissell of Edenton announced that he had begun to manufacture cut nails at the following prices:

8d. l0d. 12d. 20d. Nails, 15 Cts. lb.

6d. ” 16 ” ”

4d. ” 50 ” ”

3d. ” 50 ” m

See Edenton Gazette for November 26, 1806.

53 Waterman attributes the designs of the mantels at Lands End to illustrations in an architectural pattern book by Asher Benjamin. Johnston and Waterman, Early Architecture of North Carolina, 43.

54 Paul H. Hayne, “Firesides and Hearthstones,” Appleton’s Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Art, January 21, 1871, 79-80.

55 Thomas Henderson Letter-Book, 1810-1811, State Archives, 35; Southern Weekly Post (Raleigh), October 15, 1853, hereinafter cited as Southern Weekly Post.

56 Southern Weekly Post, October 15, 1833.

57 Fernand Braudel, Capitalism and Material Life, 1400-1800, translated by Miriam Kochan (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 192-193.

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