Houses on National Register of Historic Places
Out of gallery
Gray Hall was actually given its name in the early 1980s by its then-owners Colonel and Mrs. John Collison. Before that it was named the Gray-Brownlow-Willcox House, representing the three ownerships from the time the house was built. An early example of a Federal-style temple form, Gray Hall is situated on a knoll at the end of a long drive, just east of Medoc Mountain. The house was built circa 1820 by Reverend Joseph Gray. Little is known about Reverend Gray, who 13 years later sold the house to Tippoo Brownlow in 1833. Brownlow was best known as an educator who operated an academy for young women in a small schoolhouse, which was called “La Valle.” When Mr. Brownlow purchased Gray Hall in 1833, he moved the schoolhouse to its new location next to Gray Hall and used Gray Hall as the main building. Brownlow and his wife paid $2,500 for the house and 604 acres. The school closed by 1850 and Brownlow was forced to sell the property in 1851 to Thomas Willcox for $1,750. Thomas Willcox was a successful farmer, who grew cotton, tobacco, corn and hay. Willcox died in 1877 and for the next 130 years Gray Hall remained in the Willcox family and the land continued to be farmed. In 1981, Colonel and Mrs. John Collison purchased Gray Hall from the Willcox family and spent the next 10 years restoring it. Julie and Kjell Bo purchased the house in 2005, after it was completely restored.
Enfield Graded School
The 1950 Enfield Graded School is an excellent local example of a post-World War II school constructed on a larger scale and offering a broader curriculum than earlier local schools. Designed by prominent Raleigh architect Frank B. Simpson, with the assistance of designer Eugene Savage, the impressive two-story masonry Colonial Revival-style building was built to replace the town’s outdated and deteriorated 1917 “graded” school. The school’s design, however, harkened back to the consolidation era’s consensus that public education was vital to community development and the school building should be a reflection of that ideal. The school building was recently turned into senior housing. A one-story concrete block gymnasium, which needs massive renovation, with brick veneer exterior walls is located west of the west wing of the high school and faces southeast toward Branch Street. The gable-front building rests on a concrete slab and measures seventy-six feet across the front, one-hundred-and twenty-seven feet in length, and eighty-two feet across the rear. A 1953 one-story rear addition measures approximately ninety-seven feet in width by thirty-one feet, five inches deep. Three sets of double-leaf doors under four-light transoms are centrally located on the gymnasium’s facade and are flanked on either side by three small window openings. The flat metal breezeway from the main school building connects to a slightly higher flat metal canopy suspended over the doors. The words “Enfield Cougars” and the head of a cougar are painted over the front entrances.
Strawberry Hill is a historic plantation house located off of Thirteen Bridges Road in Enfield. It was built in 1792, and is a two-story, three bay, vernacular frame dwelling with 19th century rear additions. It has double-shouldered brick exterior end chimneys and a gable roof. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. It has been restored throughout the years and is currently occupied by a member of the Whitaker family.
Bellamy’s Mill stands on the south side of Fishing Creek (the dividing line between Nash County on the south and Halifax County on the north). Across the creek extends the dam, which has support structures of cut stone blocks on the Enfield side. Transactions involving the mill site – its dam spanning the creek and its operation involving property on both sides – occur in the records of both counties. The mill on the site was established by James Grant (from Halifax County) in 1817. James Grant was comptroller of North Carolina from 1827 until 1834. He was married to Elizabeth Whitaker, daughter of Matthew Cary Whitaker (see Shell Castle). Grant eventually sold the mill to Eli B. Whitaker, and the Whitaker family (see Strawberry Hill) then sold it to William Hunter, a physician in Enfield, who was the guardian of Joseph and John Bellamy, following the death of their father. Local tradition has it that about 1859 Bellamy and Hunter built the first two stories of the large stone building that now exists and that during the Civil War it was used as a Confederate uniform factory. An 1899 report by the North Carolina Geological Survey on water power in the state provided a description of Bellamy’s operation. It reported that Fishing Creek is the first important tributary of the Tar River, and that it crosses the fall line near Enfield. It was one of only two mills described along this creek. After several owners, Bellamy’s Mill with its machinery, water rights and necessary land across the creek was bought by George W. Garriss, who operated it until it was purchased by Stewart Gibson, of Rocky Mount. The mill has been completely restored since the Gibson purchase. The mill’s history mirrors the history of Enfield’s prominent families: namely the Whitakers, Hunters, Bellamys in the 1800s.
Whitaker’s Chapel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. A schism in the Methodist Episcopal Church in the 1820s makes the Chapel historically significant. The schism and subsequent reform movement began when church laymen, who had no voting rights, resisted the power of the bishops and clergy. On December 19, 1828, 14 preachers and 12 laymen met at Whitaker’s Chapel and organized what became the North Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church (the North Carolina Conference met at Whitaker's Chapel five more times – in 1830, 1833, 1842, 1845 and 1849 – making the Chapel a hub for reform). The Methodist Protestant Church was formed as a result of these meetings. The Chapel is also a Heritage Landmark of the United Methodist Church. The original log chapel was built by Richard Whitaker on his own property (Myrtle Lawn) around 1740. In 1828, the Chapel was rebuilt and then was later moved across the road in 1881. The early 19th century cemetery behind the church contains the remains of Civil War soldiers as well as Methodist Protestant preachers and church members. The Chapel is one of Enfield’s historical treasures. Ten Enfield sites are on the National Register of Historic Places – more than any other town in Halifax County.
Shell Castle was built in 1790 by Matthew Cary Whitaker and Elizabeth Coffield Whitaker, who were one of several interrelated planter families in Halifax County. In 1789 they bought 1,123 acres, paying 900 pounds. Shortly thereafter he began building the residence and the home took 12 years to complete! According to family tradition, farm produce from the plantation was sent to Norfolk on wagons, which returned loaded with oyster shells to make mortar or plaster for the house. Another account suggests the name of the residence stems from the contrast between the ambitious exterior and the remarkable simplicity of the interior. Matthew Cary Whitaker had run away from home at 16 to join his uncle, Col. John Whitaker, to fight the British. The mother of Confederate Generals Robert and Matt Ransom was born at Shell Castle. The five-bay, Georgian-style frame dwelling with a two-story rear ell was originally surrounded by apple orchards, a cider press, rice fields, a cotton gin, a carp pond, deer park and a formal boxwood garden. The home changed hands three times after the Whitaker family relinquished ownership. It was timbered, and, sadly, several of the old out buildings were destroyed. A few years ago, this home was on the Christmas Homes Tour and listed as a “Mystery Home.” Participants were asked to refrain from taking photos. Shell Castle was purchased in January of 2018 by Billy McDaniel, a fifth-generation farmer and his wife, Oberlin, a large-animal veterinarian. The McDaniels will keep Shell Castle as a family residence. Billy is now farming the land and they are restoring the outbuildings, such as the doctor’s quarters and school house.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985, Myrtle Lawn is a 19th century plantation complex. It is celebrating its 200 year anniversary this year, so DERP is pleased to feature this home on the 2016 Colonial Christmas Homes Tour. Historically, the home was owned by members of the Whitaker family from the 18th century through the mid-20th. The plantation center contains a frame house that combines a ca. 1816 portion and an 1850s expansion (erected in two building campaigns. The oldest portion is the right, east three bays and then expanded two bays to the west to create the present five-bay width). It encompasses seven contributing buildings and the farm landscape. The house, of heavy timber frame covered with weatherboards, features the traditional vertical form and original Federal style detail, combined with Greek Revival and Italianate motifs of the antebellum expansion. The log and frame outbuildings are examples of earth fast construction. (Log outbuildings are fairly rare in this section of the state; the use of logs resting directly on the ground and their survival for more than a century are especially remarkable.) Jewel Whitaker lived in the house until the 1970s. The present owners, the Sykes Family, have undertaken a careful renovation process to stabilize all of the structures. Notice the local artwork and hand-crafted chandeliers.
The 1845 Federal Tripartite with 1790 Georgian addition is like no other. The home, which had fallen into disrepair, belonged to the Mann Family Trust and was originally situated on Highway 481 in Enfield, Halifax County. Halifax County has provided North Carolina with more leaders—governors, congressmen, generals—than any other county in the state. When a tear-down was threatened, Preservation North Carolina asked donors to contribute to moving the home to its new site, where it was restored and updated. Branch Grove is the birthplace of the founder of BB&T. The elegant home features three bedrooms, 2½ baths, eat-in kitchen, large living room, formal dining and interior breezeway joining both homes, six working fireplaces, welcoming front porch and the most beautiful true standing-seam metal roof. Original and gorgeous wood floors, mantles, moldings, flat-panel wainscoting, hardware, windows and doors ooze with history and charm. Downstairs is the master suite with large, private porch, en-suite and upstairs bonus room. Windows are nine-over-nine sashes on the 1st floor and six-over-nine sashes on the 2nd floor. The home now sits on 40 acres, on a corner lot with a circular drive. It was restored by leading contractor in preservation restoration, Andrus Construction, following Preservation NC protective covenants. Once James and Julia Andrus began the restoration, they fell in love with the house and purchased it from Preservation NC. It is currently for sale and the historic home is thoroughly remodeled with high-end finishes, appliances and details throughout – while maintaining the exquisite charm of the home – and ready to move in.
Thought to have been built before 1806 for John Branch, who was governor of North Carolina from 1817 until 1820 as well as governor of the Florida territories from 1844 until 1845. Branch was also Secretary of the Navy and a U.S. senator. It is believed that John Branch’s son Joseph hosted the Marquis de Lafayette at his home during Lafayette’s 1825 American tour. Lafayette, a French Revolutionary General, fought alongside Americans in the American Revolutionary War. When Lafayette returned to America to celebrate 50 years of American independence in 1825, he toured the country. A visit with the Branch family was part of the tour. He gave a speech from the second-floor balcony to the crowds gathered below. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house was donated to Preservation North Carolina in 2013 and it was bought by a young couple, Mary and Andrew Doran, from New Jersey. They are currently restoring and updating the property.
The James H. Parker House was part of a 41 acre tract that Parker purchased from Gov. John Branch in 1876. The two large Magnolia trees that stand in the front yard were brought back from Florida by Gov. Branch (he was governor of both North Carolina and later the Florida territories) and were part of the original Branch property. James H. Parker lived at Rose Hill Plantation until the new house was constructed in the late 1870s. The Italianate style is embellished with a metal gable rood and a porch paired with chamfered posts with lacy-sawn brackets (also on side porches). Dr. William Mann, Jr., bought the Parker House in 1993 and had the house placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dr. Mann began a massive and careful restoration of the elegant home, but only 70 percent was completed before he passed away. In 2010, Myra and Andrew Wirtz bought the Mann estate and have completed the restoration project. Recently the Wirtz’s purchased another Mann home across the street from Parker House. This Mann home is currently being restored and will function as an art studio and gallery for Myra Wirtz.