Louisburg Historic District
The Louisburg Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
Located in the northern section of Louisburg, a town of 3,328 (1980 Census), the Louisburg Historic District occupies the significant position in the evolution of residential architecture in the town. It contains noteworthy examples of distinctive major architectural styles from the 1800s through the 1920s. The majority of the 212 properties of the Louisburg Historic District are located in the area that comprised the original 1779 rectilinear plan of the town. Contributing to the cohesiveness of the Louisburg Historic District are street widths and block sizes that have remained the same since they were first laid out in 1779. In addition to the original town plan, the 168-acre Louisburg Historic District encompasses a portion of the Louisburg College campus which is located at the northern point of the original town plan or on the old Town Commons; North Main Street on the north side of the college campus, and several east to west street extensions. The east to west street extensions include: Nash Street extended westward prior to 1860; Sunset Avenue, West Noble Street, Clifton Avenue and Person Street all extended early in the 20th century. The Central Business District of Louisburg, although located in the original town plan was not included within the Louisburg Historic District boundaries due to numerous changes made to storefront facades as well as demolitions. For instance, the courthouse, the focal point of downtown, built in the 1850s was remodeled in 1937 and again in 1968, altering the original form and removing the Greek Revival features. The commercial district does not contribute to the high degree of intactness and integrity present in the neighborhoods which surround the downtown area. It is for these same reasons that the residential area (Kenmore Avenue and South Main Street) on the south side of the Tar River was not included. Modern encroachments, demolition of houses and structural remodelings have contributed to the loss of the architectural history of these once fashionable early 20th century neighborhoods.
Ranging in size from the impressive Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and Neo-Classical style houses of North Main and Nash streets to the more modest Victorian and Bungalow style dwellings of the adjoining streets, the houses of the Louisburg Historic District embody the diversity and vitality one would expect in an expanding town from the period of the 1800s-1920s. Particularly noteworthy are eight architectural styles: a few surviving transitional Georgian/Federal style structures that date from the late 18th and early 19th century; a combination of handsome Greek Revival and Italianate dwellings of the 1840s to the 1860s; a well finished and varied assortment of late 19th and early 20th century Queen Anne style residences; a fine collection of modest late 19th and early 20th century one and two-story frame Victorian style dwellings; an impressive grouping of early 20th century Colonial Revival style houses; four stately illustrations of the Neo-Classical style that was popular from 1900 to 1914; and a sampling of well executed as well as modest Bungalow style dwellings of the 1910s to the 1920s. Also located in the Louisburg Historic District are three handsome brick churches, a frame Gothic Revival church, and the "old campus" of Louisburg College.
These early houses of Louisburg were typically frame construction with the exception of one solid brick, two-story, single-pile house built around 1847. The styles represented illustrate popular architectural trends of a specific period with traditional interpretations and local variations characteristic to other North Carolina piedmont houses. The vast majority of architecture in Louisburg was the work of practical builders and not schooled architects. They used the models in builders and architects guides but translated them into locally appropriate forms. This was the traditional method of construction throughout the piedmont area.
While brick was used in commercial buildings as early as 1896, it was not until 1913 that brick began to be used in residential structures. There are only a small number of brick Colonial, Dutch and Georgian Revival style houses of the 1920s in the Louisburg Historic District. Granite which exists in vast quantities in Franklin County, was never a popular building material in Louisburg although there are four stone houses present in the district: three identical stone cottages (303, 304 and 306 West Noble Street) erected in 1922 and another stone house (N.F. Freeman House, 903 North Main Street) constructed between 1945 and 1948.
The Louisburg Historic District is located on a gradual incline that rises northward from the Tar River. The great unifying element of the Louisburg Historic District is its tree cover of hardwoods, primarily oaks. The street trees have matured into a verdant canopy of vegetation which shades much of the district. The oak groves, the location of Louisburg College, also serves as a unifying element. Large lot sizes, cut granite and fieldstone low walls,and deep setback, particularly along North Main Street contribute to the overall character of the historic district.
There are no definite boundaries that divide the neighborhoods within the Louisburg Historic District. The wealthiest and most prominent Louisburg families have always lived along North Main Street, where the majority of the larger houses were constructed. Some prosperous plantation owners developed their land holdings and built houses on the perimeter of the original town plan. Between 1890 and 1915 as the tobacco and cotton market prospered and the demand grew, these estates were divided and developed as house lots and streets were extended to service the newly formed neighborhoods in the early 20th century.
The Louisburg Historic District, consisting of 212 properties, is located within 168 acres, forming a compact architecturally and historically significant area. The structures in the Louisburg Historic District represent the largest concentration of architecturally significant residences in Louisburg. Many of Louisburg's earliest dwellings are located in the district including a few dating from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, as well as a collection of antebellum structures and a varied assortment of residences dating from the 1890s to the 1930s. They exhibit a number of locally and nationally popular architectural styles including vernacular folk types, transitional Georgian/Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Neo-Classical Revival and Bungalow. The Louisburg Historic District's buildings are historically associated with the origins of Louisburg in the late 18th century as a small political and trade center of Franklin County, the development of early 19th century educational facilities for men and women, and the subsequent expansion period initiated in the late 1880s by the arrival of the railroad which was instrumental in establishing Louisburg as a thriving tobacco and cotton marketing center a condition which lasted into the first two decades of the 20th century. The Town Commons, in the center of the district at the intersection of Main and College streets, contains the buildings of Louisburg College, the oldest denominational two-year college in the South. The oldest of these buildings are the 1805 frame Franklin Male Academy building and the four-story brick Greek Revival style "Main Building" built for the Female Academy in 1857. Both of these early institutions evolved into present Louisburg College.
Historic Louisburg is nestled within a bend on the north side of the Tar River and is situated on the eastern extreme of the North Carolina piedmont. The rolling terrain of Franklin County is characterized by sandy loam soil, an abundant supply of creeks and springs, and outcroppings of granite rock. The soil is suited to the cultivation of tobacco, cotton, corn, and timber. Vast quantities of granite were quarried from the western part of the county prior to the 20th century and in part accounts for the beautiful cut stone chimneys present in the county.
In 1779 a portion of Bute County was split into Franklin and Warren Counties. That same year Louisburg was chartered as the county seat of Franklin County. Born in the midst of the American Revolution, the county was appropriately named for Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) who was at that time serving as a foreign minister to France. He had recently negotiated a mutual defense alliance and had arranged loan agreements with France which helped secure the independence of the United States. The town was named in honor of America's ally, King Louis XVI of France.
In 1779 John Norwood, Matthew Thomas, and Joseph Norris authorized by the North Carolina Legislature purchased 100 acres of land from Patewills and Jacobina Milner. In preparation for anticipated settlement Osborn Jeffreys, William Green, William Hill, William Brickill, and John Hunt were appointed as the first town commissioners. These first families associated with Louisburg were planters and landowners who lived in the area prior to the founding of the town and with the exception of Patewills Milner, whose small Georgian house (205 Cedar Street) is still standing within the Louisburg Historic District, lived outside Louisburg. Each man supported the growth of the town, and between 1779 and 1806 each owned property in Louisburg. The first commissioners were responsible for the erection of a courthouse, prison and stocks, and seeing that the town was surveyed and made suitable for houses. The town was surveyed by William Christmas, who also surveyed neighboring Warrenton, and several towns in Georgia, South Carolina, and Kentucky. William Christmas is most importantly noted for being the draftsman for the layout of Raleigh, the capital of the state.
Many factors combined to make Louisburg an attractive location for early settlers. Its location on the main post road to Halifax and its function as the county seat of Franklin County attracted merchants, attorneys, doctors, and skilled craftsmen to the area. As Franklin County's agricultural economy began to shift from a self-sufficient to a cash crop base, area farmers recognized the need of a nearby town in order to market their crops of cotton and wheat. Quality educational facilities for the children of prosperous planters were in constant demand, and Louisburg during the early 19th century succeeded in attracting many such families for this reason.
The influx of wealthy and cultured families boosted Louisburg's commercial enterprises, its churches, and its social life. One of the early influential families was the King family. John King, a pioneer of Methodism America an instigator of the first Methodist Conference in North Carolina, purchased land near Louisburg in 1781. In addition to being a minister, John King was also a doctor and supported the establishment of educational opportunities by serving on the first board of trustees for the Franklin Male Academy, located in Louisburg and opened for classes in 1805. His descendants such as his son, Joel King (1778-1863), a leading Louisburg businessman and a member of the state legislature; and his grandson, William R. King (1818 1888), a doctor well known for his interests in public good continued to contribute towards improving the quality of life in the town. Dr. William R. King's Greek Revival style house (308 Sunset Avenue) built between 1850 and 1855 is located within the Louisburg Historic District.
Louisburg was associated with the early development of private schools at a time when the opportunities for education were few in most of the state. Eight years after the town was founded, Franklin Male Academy (Louisburg College) was first chartered in 1787, rechartered in 1802 and opened to classes in 1805. Franklin Male Academy was the first of eight private academies organized in Franklin County during the first half of the 19th century. The members of the board of trustees were some of the county's most impressive citizens. Dr. Alexander Falconer was a scientist and attorney; John Haywood became a North Carolina Attorney General and Superior Court Judge; Major Green Hill and Dr. John King were pioneer founding fathers of Methodism in North Carolina; Major Jeremiah Perry and Colonel Benjamin Sewell were distinguished American Revolutionary patriots; and four trustees were members of the state assembly — Archibald Davis, Jordan Hill, William Green and William P. Williams. Located in the 22-acre oak grove that was originally the town common and the northern boundary for the town, the Male Academy rivaled the fledgling University at Chapel Hill in academic standards and appeal to aspiring scholars in its early days Louisburg also stimulated early educational chances for women. The Female Academy, was chartered in 1813 and opened for classes the next year. By 1855 the Female Academy was changed to the Louisburg Female College. These two academies, located on opposite sides of Main Street on the town commons, established an institution that evolved into the present Louisburg College, the oldest denominational two-year college in the South.
The antebellum period (1840s-1861) found Louisburg sharing in the economic prosperity that characterized the state as a whole. Since Franklin County was primarily agricultural, and the few mills, such as Laurel Mill, were oriented to agricultural technology such as milling corn and wheat, the town developed more into a center for farmers and people conducting court business to meet, to trade and to exchange news At this time Louisburg had four to five hundred citizens, eight mercantile firms, two hotels, a male and female academy, a coach shop, flouring mill, and four churches. Most of these buildings were wiped out in the great fire of 1859. Included were such firms as: Yarborough & Strother the Yarboroughs owned the entire 400 block of Main Street, in addition to other lots in the town and county; R.& A.M. Noble — Richard Noble's house (313 West Noble Street) is located on the west end of Noble Street (renamed in his honor between 1859 and 1882); P.J. Brown — who built the oldest brick house (Brown-Brummitt-Wheless House, 207 Church Street) in town in 1847 and another fine Greek Revival house (Brown-Boddie-Allen House) at 310 North Main Street in 1854. M.S. Davis, one of the outstanding men associated with early education, began serving as principal of the Male Academy in 1856, and held the position for twenty-five years (1856-1881). He would also serve as the president of Louisburg Female College for ten years (1896-1906). Public construction included the Greek Revival Courthouse erected in 1857 (extensively remodeled in 1937 and again in 1968) and the Main Building (National Register listed) at Louisburg Female College erected in 1857.
The 1850s saw the erection of numerous stylish residences for the town's elite merchant families. These houses featured regional Greek Revival form, a boxy, two-story frame with simple classical detailing. The style was popular throughout the south until after the Civil War, long after it was replaced with more romantic architectural styles in the north. Prominent citizens who played leading roles in the development of the town and built homes during this period included: local merchant and cotton broker Jones Fuller (?-1870) who expanded his house (307 North Main Street); Dr. James Ellis Malone's house (704 North Main Street) erected circa 1855; Tempe Perry Williamson, a daughter of the Cascine Perrys (the largest plantation in the area), a small Greek Revival cottage (Williamson House, 401 Cedar Street) around 1850-1857; and merchant M.A. Spencer built his two-story house (306 North Main Street) in 1859. With the exception of Tempe Perry Williamson, these men were eminent merchants, attorneys, and doctors of the community and built their homes along Main Street, at that time the only street through town and the most advantageous location.
Of the ten antebellum buildings that survive today in the Louisburg Historic District, three can be attributed to regional builder, Albert Gamaliel Jones of Warren County: the Malone-Holden House (704 N. Main Street) erected in 1855, the Fuller-Malone-Parham House (307 N. Main Street) erected in 1857, and the Main Building of Louisburg Female College erected in 1857. The Main Building was probably the largest structure of its kind located in this region when constructed and is still an unusually well-preserved example of Greek Revival institutional architecture.
The spiritual needs of the town saw the establishment of four religious denominations by the 1850s. Methodism was established early. Located near Louisburg was the home (NR) of Green Hill, the 1785 location of the First Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in North Carolina. Also John King, a pioneer in the Methodist movement, settled in the area. Methodist Church services were being held as early as 1802 and by 1859 the Methodist congregation had erected a second church on the site of the present United Methodist Church (402 North Main Street). The Baptist congregation was formally organized in 1836 and the Episcopal congregation was formally organized in 1845. The Presbyterian denomination was active in Louisburg during the antebellum period but only sporadically.
Since the citizens of Louisburg prided themselves on having educational facilities within the town, it only follows that newspapers would also be desired. During the antebellum period, the first local newspaper was published. The groundwork for the more successful effort was laid by The Louisburg Union published as early as 1846, and the North Carolina Times published as early as 1848. By 1854, the only newspaper in town was the Weekly News (later called the American Eagle or the Louisburg Eagle) edited by W.H. Pleasants (1834-1906). Originally from Raleigh, he became a highly esteemed citizen of Louisburg. He owned one-fourth of the 200 block of Main Street in 1834 and although his house burned sometime between 1882 and 1900, he rebuilt a two-story, single-pile house (207 North Main Street) around 1900 which still stands. He was mayor of the town for fifteen years, including the period immediately after the Civil War, an active member in the Methodist Church and father of a large family. His descendants contributed to the built history of the town by building several Queen Anne and Victorian houses (Pleasants-Ferguson-Collier House, 208 Church Street; William H. Pleasants, Jr. House, 211 Church Street; Pleasants-Holmes House, 209 Church Street).
Prior to 1861 people were buried in family cemeteries and in local church yards located within the community. St. Paul's Episcopal Church (301 Church Street) had such a graveyard beside the church building and as more people moved into town, local citizens living in the area expressed the desire for a cemetery removed from their immediate houses. Captain Richard Fenner Yarborough donated four acres of land situated on the Warrenton Road, one mile northeast of Louisburg, for the site. Captain Yarborough's brother-in-law John Neal, who died in 1861, was the first person interred here. The existing graves in St. Paul's church yard were moved to this site. This acreage eventually became the core of Oakwood Cemetery.
The Civil War halted the growth of Louisburg as it did other towns throughout the South. Local tradition holds that the first Confederate flag designed by Orren Randolph Smith of Franklin County was first raised over the courthouse square on March 18, 1861. The only direct contact the town had with the Union Army came at the close of the war when Yankee solders camped in the oak groves of the College and Male Academy and in the front yard of Richard Noble (313 West Noble Street). The emotional feelings of some of the town's residents were expressed by Anna Long Fuller (307 North Main Street) as she wrote in her diary on May 1st, 1865: "Their tents are pitched in the College and Male Academy groves. A Gen. Wood, has made his Headquarters in Mr. Noble's front yard, have streched[sic] their tents...and while I am writing a band of music is discoursing national airs. Would that I could describe my feelings but I have not the power."
The next month on June 18th, she continues: "but here they are still...encamped in our beautiful college groves, which have always been the pride of the Village, and consecrated to learning-now polluted by the tread of our vindictive foe."
After the Civil War citizens worked toward regaining economic stability amid a new political, social, and labor system. Two of the leaders during reconstruction were Joseph J. Davis (610 North Main Street) and Charles Mather Cooke. Davis and Cooke, both graduates of Franklin Male Academy, had one of the most successful law partnerships in North Carolina. Both men had prestigious political careers and were active in civic and church affairs of Louisburg. Judge Joseph J. Davis served three terms in Washington and was a State Supreme Court Justice from 1887 until his death in 1892. Charles Mather Cooke served in both houses of the State Legislature for several terms, and held the Fourth District Seat on the State Superior Court from 1902 to 1916. Judge Cooke was extremely active in the Baptist Church serving as moderator in the State Baptist Convention and was instrumental in the reorganization of Louisburg Baptist Church (302 North Main Street) in the 1870s. Another native son of Louisburg who also received his early education at Franklin Male Academy was Dr. James Beverly Clifton (602 North Main Street), later president of the 1880s county medical society.
Newspaper publications had been suspended since the Civil War but by 1870 George Strother Baker (Patterson-Noble-Baker House, 313 W. Noble Street), a descendant of the Bakers and Strothers that date back to the founding of the town, began editing and publishing The Franklin Courier. The paper was sold to James A. Thomas and A.M. Hall in 1875. Thomas later bought out Hall's interest and changed the name to The Franklin Times. He remained editor and proprietor of the paper until his death in 1909, and his descendants have continued to publish The Franklin Times without interruption. The Thomas House (201 Church Street) was a modest one-story frame house on the corner of Church and Franklin streets which was enlarged in the 1920s.
The 1880s ushered in a time of expansion and change for Louisburg. The Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, which had been completed through nearby Franklinton in 1840, connected a spur-line to Louisburg in 1885. This enhanced the town's role as a cotton and tobacco marketing center. By the time the railroad had been in operation for a little more than two years, the Louisburg market was shipping 6,500 bales of cotton per year compared to 2,500 bales of cotton per year in pre-railroad times. The 1880s also saw tobacco coming into its own as the king of the crops, not only in Franklin County but the northeast region of the state as well.
The twenty-five year period from 1890 to 1915 represented enormous advances in the wealth and services in the Town of Louisburg. The first Sanborn Insurance Map of the town done in 1893 shows there were already eight tobacco warehouses and prize houses in existence compared to fifteen that were to be in operation by 1898. This period also brought the establishment of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in 1895, the first commercial bank in Louisburg. The president and founder of the bank, William Bailey, built the finest Queen Anne style house (311 North Main Street) in the town when he moved here in 1895.
Louisburg's population had grown from 818 in 1884 to 1,178 in 1900 to 1,775 by 1910. As newcomers moved into the town, early families such as Boddie (205 Cedar Street), Brown (310 N. Main Street), Malone (307 N. Main Street), Neal (401 North Main Street) and Person (607 N. Main Street), who owned large tracts of land around their homes on Main, Church, and Nash streets began parceling and selling off house lots. In 1908, George S. Baker, Jr. developed part of the land surrounding his early 19th century house that had been in his family since the Civil War. This development formed the westward extension of Noble Street. By 1913 the King family estate located on the western border of the town was developed as the westward extension of Sunset Avenue. The town also spilled over to the south side of the Tar River and began expanding along Kenmore Avenue and South Main Street (areas not included in the Historic District).
Perhaps the most significant individual associated with the economic growth of this area was George W. Ford (1849-1922). He moved to Louisburg from Pennsylvania in 1871 and became a primary influence in stimulating downtown development. Of particular importance was his role in building the majority of the commercial building in the downtown area during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His other business interests included a hotel, a brick factory, tobacco warehouses, and numerous dealings involving real estate in Louisburg as well as in the county.
By the late 1890s brick buildings were going up in the commercial district in keeping with the general trend in other urban areas around the turn of the century. Allen Bros. and Hill completed three brick stores, a brick livery, and a cotton gin; L.P. Hicks (105 Elm Street) erected a two-story brick store; and R.G. Harts, C.T. Stokes, Colonel W.T. Hughes (305 North Main Street), Peter Reavis (213 North Main Street) and C.B. Cheatham erected brick tobacco prize houses and warehouses. Spectacular fires in the downtown area during later years (1903, 1904, 1905) were responsible for the loss of most of these commercial buildings. By 1900 there were eight tobacco dealers and four cotton brokers in Louisburg compared to seven tobacco dealers in nearby Youngsville and three cotton brokers in nearby Franklinton, the only other towns of any consequence in the county.
The tobacconists attracted to Louisburg by the lucrative tobacco and cotton marketing industry left a legacy in some of the architecture of this period. W.T. Hughes' house (305 North Main Street) built in 1900 has the most impressively finished interior of any Queen Anne style house in the Louisburg Historic District; his brother Clark Hughes built a more modest Queen Anne house (306 Church Street) also in 1900. The Colonial Revival house (Reavis-Allen House, 213 N. Main Street) with a slate covered roof built in 1906 for Peter Reavis is still standing on the corner of North Main Street and Sunset Avenue.
As was typical in North Carolina around the turn of the century, most families were large and the children remained in the town where they were born. Therefore it was not uncommon for a large and prominent family to be engaged in a variety of business interests. In Louisburg, with the arrival of the thriving warehousing industry, the local families seem to add warehousing to their list of business interests much like the Allen family — a large and prominent family who owned commercial property downtown, a livery, a cotton gin, and extensive land holdings.
By 1906 Louisburg had all its public services in operation: the Louisburg Graded School (Louisburg College) and a water-works plant were constructed in 1905; a telephone service and a power plant were operative by 1906.
At this time the Town of Louisburg's agriculturally based economy (primarily tobacco and cotton) was booming. This growth brought forth unprecedented building activity in the private sector. This was the period (1895-1910) when the majority of the houses in the Louisburg Historic District were erected. Impressively finished houses in the Queen Anne, Neo-Classical, and Colonial Revival styles, in addition to the more modest houses, were built not only in the Louisburg Historic District but on Kenmore Avenue and South Main Street as well. The economic prosperity of the town was further reflected by the construction of three impressively finished church buildings, all located within the Louisburg Historic District. The Baptist, Episcopal, and Methodist congregations erected new sanctuaries in the early 1900s.
By far the most active contractor in Louisburg during the early 20th century was M. Frank Houck (b.1872). Originally from Davidson County, he arrived in town around 1898 or 1899 and worked in the area until moving north of Louisburg to the Epsom community in 1917. In addition to being a contractor, he was partners with George W. Ford in a brick manufacturing plant located near Fox Swamp Bridge, west of Louisburg in 1906. His numerous works represented in the Louisburg Historic District include the following: Hughes-Tucker House (306 Church Street, 1900), Hughes-Watson-Wheless House (305 North Main Street, 1900), Hill-Allen-Stovall House (210 North Main Street, 1898), Egerton-Pruitt House (101 Elm Street, 1905), Reavis-Allen House (213 North Main Street, 1906), Capt. R.F. Yarborough House (204 North Main Street, 1902), Collie-Best-Taylor House (209 North Main Street, 1904) and Houck-Leonard House (518 Nash Street, 1911).
There were other contractors active in Louisburg but unfortunately records of their work are scarce The 1900 Census lists Houck as the only house contractor and nine carpenters — six of whom were black. These carpenters, such as Perry Williams who helped construct the Alston House (107 South Elm Street, 1902-1905), worked under the supervision of builders such as Houck.
M. Stuart Davis, Jr. was a native of Louisburg and an architect and engineer. He established his firm in Louisburg around 1906. Although he designed several houses in town: Hicks-Perry-Bland-Holmes House (304 North Main Street, 1914), Furgurson-Hicks House (105 Elm Street, 1908) and remodeled the Carlyle-Pleasants-Mills House (512 Nash Street, 1913), he was more active as a surveyor and road builder than as an architect.
Architects from outside Louisburg did not do many works in town. Their designs are seen principally in the three church buildings constructed in 1900 and in two houses. Architects include Barrett and Thompson of Raleigh, North Carolina — Louisburg Baptist Church (302 N. Main Street, 1900), St. Paul's Episcopal Church (301 Church Street, 1900) and Neal-Webb House (401 North Main Street, 1904): Benjamin D. Price of Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey — United Methodist Church (402 N. Main Street, 1900), and Howard E. Satterfield also of Raleigh — Pleasants-Yarborough House (213 Church Street, 1927).
In 1908 a Franklin County lawyer, Thomas W. Bickett was elected North Carolina Attorney General. Bickett, a native of Union County had come to Louisburg to practice law in 1895. He married a Louisburg girl, Fannie Yarborough, and represented the county in the State Legislature in the 1907 session and served as the governor of North Carolina from 1917 to 1921. His home still stands at 621 North Main Street.
The year 1916 saw the number of tobacco dealers increase from seven in 1907 to eleven and the number of cotton brokers had risen from two to five, thus marking the zenith of the tobacco and cotton markets in Louisburg. There are no surviving warehouses within Louisburg, those not destroyed by early fires have been torn down, leaving only historic photographs to attest to the quantity and size of these building.
Louisburg's main streets were paved in 1917, but the county roads were not surfaced until after 1921. Highway construction and maintenance had been a state responsibility since 1915 but it was not until the program was expanded in 1921 that the "Good Roads" era was felt in North Carolina. It was at this time another prominent citizen moved to Louisburg, Chester A. Ragland (1886-1943), a native of Granville County and a road contractor. He constructed over two hundred miles of roads in Franklin County and also built roads all over the state, including the road from Brevard to the top of Pisgah Mountain, from Linville Falls to Altamont, and from North Wilkesboro to Sparta. His house at 807 North Main Street is the finest example of the Dutch Colonial Revival style in Louisburg.
The town's most recent noted master carpenter began working in the town around 1915. William Henry Edens (1890-1974) moved with his parents from Marlboro County, South Carolina in the early 1900s. It is not known with whom he apprenticed in Louisburg but he did some work with M. Stuart Davis. His works include the following: George Cobb House (307 Sunset Avenue, 1922), Aaron Tonkel House (714 North Main Street, 1935), Ford-Edens House (202 Cedar Street, 1915), Shaw-Ragland House (807 North Main Street, remodeled 1922), Thomas-White House (107 Sunset Avenue, remodeled 1920s), Fuller-Green House (905 North Main Street, 1940), North-End Service Station (812 North Main Street, 1938), and Mary C. King Rental Duplex (Halifax Road, 1938).
The stock market crash in 1929 hit Louisburg hard. In addition to the crash, the effects of a bad crop year was realized by county farmers. Their cotton and tobacco crops brought two million less than they had received the year before, or one-half the value of their 1928 crop. Even with hard times Louisburg's population continued to increase, although only slightly from 1,954 in 1920 to 2,182 in 1930. There were numerous business closings and much loss of property due to the inability to meet mortgage payments and pay taxes.
The late 1940s found the economy returning to normal. But the town was destined not to return to its former boom time. The prominent families of the town had always owned large amounts of land and an assortment of businesses bringing in money. With the inability to pay taxes on this land, a major asset was lost and this loss was hard felt when the local businessmen tried to recapture that prosperity of the pre-depression era. Assets, which have been handed down over the generations and increased through marriages, once lost take time to recover.
Since the 1950s the Louisburg Historic District has undergone several changes. While some families have continually secured lodgers in the larger old homes (principally along North Main Street, within the three blocks north of the commercial district), the houses in that area have largely been converted to rental property. The Louisburg Historic District has so far been spared widespread commercial or modern encroachment that resulted in the loss of the fine historic houses of Kenmore Avenue, once an early 20th century fashionable neighborhood. The construction in the 1950s of Bickett Boulevard relieved development pressures on the Louisburg Historic District from commercial interests.
Today, Louisburg has a population of 3,328. The architecture represents the built history of this town primarily from the 1800s. The high concentration of historic houses within the Louisburg Historic District with minimal intrusive or modern encroachments illustrates the fortunes and tastes of the people associated with Louisburg's history and development into the early 20th century political and trading center of the county.
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† Vickie Mason, Preservation Consultant, town of Louisburg, Louisburg Historic District, Franklin County, NC, nomination document, 1968, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.