The East Raleigh Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The East Raleigh Street Historic District is located about one-half mile east of Siler City's commercial downtown area. Siler City, one of Chatham County's largest towns, is located in Matthews Township, in the western portion of the county. The town is sixteen miles due west of Pittsboro, the county seat. The opening of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway and the location of a depot in Siler City in 1884 were the impetus for development of the town.
At the time of Siler City's incorporation in 1887, the area east of town was still principally farmland. By the turn of the twentieth century, however, the area became increasingly popular and the town's successful doctors, attorneys, and businessmen began building stylish homes incorporating Queen Anne and Gothic Revival details. As Siler City's population continued to increase through the 1930s, the original large lots were subdivided and Bungalows became a popular housing choice.
The East Raleigh Street Historic District extends for approximately a third of a mile in a roughly east-west direction along each side of the granite-curbed, East Raleigh Street to include the 400 through 600 blocks as well as two houses in the 300 block. It also includes a portion of the 300 and 400 blocks of East Second Street (formerly Ashboro Street) which runs parallel to East Raleigh Street. North Fourth Avenue (formerly Overman Street), running roughly north to south, connects the two. Situated on large lots, the houses are uniformly set back from the street and display nicely landscaped yards.
The East Raleigh Street Historic District comprises a collection of early-twentieth century houses and one late-nineteenth century house, exhibiting a variety of architectural styles including the Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, transitional and late Colonial Revival, and Craftsman Bungalow. The ebullient architecture of several of the earliest houses reflects the prosperity of the families who first settled in the neighborhood. The diversity of styles in the neighborhood also reveals the evolutionary nature of changing architectural preferences in Chatham County.
Along the gently bending and maple-shaded East Raleigh Street, several architectural styles are represented, with houses dating from 1903 to c.1945. Anchoring the southwest end of the district at 322 East Raleigh Street is the 1903 Queen Anne style Gregson-Hadley House, one of the earliest and most richly embellished houses in the East Raleigh Street Historic District. It was designed as a one-story variation of the Queen Anne style complete with Eastlake decorations and a multitude of various other period features.
The 1918 Walter Siler House (410 E. Raleigh Street) is located just east of the Gregson-Radley House. It remains today as a two-story frame hip-roofed early Colonial Revival style house. Across the street at 403 East Raleigh Street, the Joseph J. Jenkins House is a two-story Victorian/Queen Anne house built in 1907. The 1909 Hackney-Andrews House at 415 East Raleigh Street is a vernacular Gothic Revival cottage characterized by a prominent central gable, oversized dormer windows, and lively Victorian embellishments.
Along East Second Street, three distinct periods are represented by an array of architectural styles. The earliest surviving house in the East Raleigh Street Historic District is the c.1895 Richardson-Overman House at 327 East Second Street on the corner of North Fourth Avenue. Its one-story triple-A form alludes to the Gothic Revival style. The 1911 two-story Ned B. Bray House (401 E. Second Street) is located east of the Richardson-Overman House. Its high-hipped roof, irregular massing, and wrap-around porch suggest earlier influences of the Queen Anne style, while its block-like form and Tuscan porch columns typify the early Colonial Revival style.
West of the Richardson-Overman House at 319 East Second Street is the Dr. Milligan House, a traditional Colonial Revival house built in 1941. The brick two-story side-gable house is three bays wide with a Colonial Revival portico.
The 1923 Rufus O. Welch House at 323 East Second Street represents still another stylistic period with its deep-flared gables and exposed rafters representative of the Craftsman Bungalow. The W.E. Sharpe House at 417 East Raleigh Street, along with two in the 600 block (618 E. Raleigh Street and the Adam Smith House at 321 E. Raleigh Street) depict another variation of the Craftsman style with their high side-gabled roofs with bracketed central porch or dormer gables, and full-facade bungaloid porches.
Several Sears, Roebuck and Company houses are situated along East Second Street. The c.1920 J. Lyle Smith House (314 E. Second Street), the c.1915 Pike House (318 E. Second Street), and the c.1920 Henry Pike House (326 E. Second Street) are all bungalows and are representative of precut manufactured houses sent to the buyer by rail for assembly on site. The customer who obtained a house directly from the company avoided middlemen and was assured of the lowest price and reliably high quality (Bisher, p.427).
The Dutch Colonial Revival style is represented by the 1927-1928 Dorsett House (424 E. Raleigh Street). It features a gambrel roof, a full-facade roof dormer, and a small one-story portico, all typical of the style.
Overall, the outbuildings of the East Raleigh Street Historic District include mostly small one-story detached frame garages built in the 1920s and 1930s and located behind or to one side of the house. These garages are an important element of the East Raleigh Street Historic District in that they indicate more widespread automobile ownership during the prosperous 1920s. A wide range of outbuildings from the 1930s and 1940s accompany the 1913 Bungalow-style Adam Smith House at 321 East Raleigh Street. Individually, these buildings functioned as a smokehouse, wash house, well house and chicken house (Sanborn Maps).
Of the twenty-six primary buildings, all but one are single family houses and only three are noncontributing. The noncontributing houses in the East Raleigh Street Historic District, those built after the period of significance are Ranch-style houses of both brick and frame built in the 1950s through the 1990s (Siler City Tax Records). The East Raleigh Street Historic District continues to retain a harmonious environment unified by its early twentieth century architecture, large landscaped yards, and quiet tree-lined streets.
The East Raleigh Street Historic District is eligible for listing in the National Register for community planning and development and also for architecture. Its group of primarily early twentieth-century houses and their attendant outbuildings are a well-preserved and eclectic collection of resources erected primarily between c.1895 and c.1950. The East Raleigh Street Historic District depicts the succession of nationally popular styles such as Gothic Revival, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and Tudor Revival. Also prominent are vernacular renditions of these styles. The exuberance of the Victorian architecture exhibited by some of the earlier houses manifests the prominence and prosperity of the families who initially settled in the East Raleigh Street area.
This mostly early twentieth century residential suburb, with its collection of well-maintained middle- and upper-income housing was not planned, but developed gradually over a rather lengthy span overlapping several stylistic periods. Spread out on curving streets with spacious lots and generous setbacks, Siler City's earliest suburb evoked rural associations, yet was within convenient commuting distance to the city. The East Raleigh Street Historic District is one of the best preserved early suburban neighborhoods in Siler City.
Historical Background and Community Planning and Development Context
Siler City, located in Matthews Township in western Chatham County, was a region of country homesteads and family farms for over one-hundred years before the town came into existence. Early settlers to the region included Plickard Dedrick Siler and his wife, Elizabeth Hartsoe, who came from Germany through Philadelphia and Virginia, and around 1750 settled at a place approximately four miles north of the present town of Siler City. Their son, John Siler (1756-1822), purchased a plot of land close by in February, 1794. By 1805, the home and farm of John Siler were established where the current center of town is now located (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, p.122).
In December, 1842, after John Siler's death, William W. Matthews (1814-1894) bought the John Siler House and one-hundred and forty acres of surrounding land. A crossroads existed here as early as 1808, with the east-west road running from Raleigh to Salisbury with branches to Lexington and Salem. The north-south road went from Martinsville (later Greensboro) to Fayetteville. Since Matthews provided food and lodging for stagecoach travelers at his home, the area became known as Matthews Crossroads (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, p.122).
By 1870, Samuel Siler (1810-1900) was operating a small gristmill on the creek at a point about three blocks south of the Siler-Matthews House. A country store owned by Samuel Siler and operated by his son, Cincinnatus Siler, was located near the mill. A blacksmith shop was also in the vicinity. In 1880, a rural post office was established at the Silers' country store. The new post office was named Energy (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, pp.122-123). In 1884, with the completion of a track of the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railway from Sanford to Greensboro, the name was changed to Siler Station, honoring Samuel Siler who donated the land for the depot. In 1886, the name changed to Siler City (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, p.123).
The completion of the railway through Siler City spurred a period of growth which was to produce Chatham County's largest town. The town streets and lots were laid out in 1884 and two mercantile houses were opened. An act to incorporate Siler City in Chatham County was ratified on March 7, 1887. By 1890, the population of Siler City had grown to 254. Businesses in the town included several general merchandise and produce companies, a hotel, several livery stables and blacksmiths, a physician, a tan yard, a saw and planing mill, a photographer, a cotton gin, a shoe shop, a dry goods and millinery shop, and a general merchandise and harness shop (Hadley, p.212, 216-217).
By 1900, Siler City's population had increased to 440. The first ten years of the twentieth century marked the emergence of several important industries, including the establishment of the Siler City Bending Company (1901), the Chatham Manufacturing Company (1909), later incorporated as the Oval Oak Manufacturing Company, and the Siler City Milling Company (1910). Local telephone service was established in 1902, the same year the Chatham Bank opened for business. The town population again doubled during that decade reaching 895 by 1910 (Hadley, et.al., p.216-217).
Significant residential construction had begun in Siler City in the 1880s. Twenty-five dwellings were built in Siler City between January 1884 and April 1887 (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, p.123). These earliest houses were one- and two-story frame buildings, many rendered in the vernacular three-gabled form common to the rural county and located primarily to the southwest of downtown.
The East Raleigh Street Historic District developed east of town primarily during the early twentieth century as a residential area for upper-class residents of Siler City. Residents included bankers, local politicians, industrialists, realtors, and builders. The neighborhood emerged from origins typical of upper-middle-class neighborhoods across the country during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Improved infrastructure such as roads, water, and sewer made it feasible for those with means to move further away from the central business district.
In 1895, the Gothic Revival-inspired Richardson-Overman House at 327 East Second Street was the first to be built in the area just east of the commercial district. The Overman family, who came to own the house shortly after Isaac M. Richardson built it, is the family for whom Second Street was formerly named.
Just after the turn of the twentieth century, more stylish frame houses incorporating Queen Anne and Colonial Revival features were being constructed along East Raleigh Street. These include the Gregson-Hadley House (322 E. Raleigh Street) built in 1903, the Joseph John Jenkins House (403 E. Raleigh Street) built in 1907, and the Hackney-Andrews House (415 E. Raleigh Street) built in 1909. These fashionable houses reflect the prominence of those who built them, the Gregson and Hadley families were bankers, industrialists and land realtors; Jenkins was a politician, sheriff, and banker; and Hackney was a builder (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, pp.135-136).
According to Sanborn Fire Insurance maps, approximately twenty houses along East Raleigh and East Second Streets had been constructed by 1930. Although building slowed during the Great Depression, it picked back up again after World War II. During the 1940s, the town limits of Siler City were extended and it grew over 100 percent from 2,501 to 4,455 people (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, p.40). There were several houses constructed in the East Raleigh Street neighborhood after World War II, typically one-story brick Ranch houses.
The industrial base of the town started an expansion about 1937 and increased after World War II. Two major factors in this growth were the opening of branch plants of companies located elsewhere in the state and nation, and the increase and expansion of locally owned industries. Furniture manufacturing, poultry and meat processing, hosiery, lingerie, yarn, and textiles are among the principal industries located in Siler City at this time. The corporate limits of the town were expanded on June 23, 1959, with the new area containing 4.182 square miles (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, p.125).
A general air of prosperity pervaded Chatham County in the first two decades of the twentieth century. During this period, nationally popular styles and standardized forms — some of them inspired by modern technology — increasingly came to predominate over the earlier more locally inspired building patterns and techniques. In domestic architecture, the Gothic Revival style remained popular until about 1900. Next came the Queen Anne style, followed by modest Colonial Revival designs (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, p.45).
Among Chatham County's towns, Siler City, in particular reflected the emergence of the Queen Anne mode. Siler City's earliest houses erected mostly in the southwestern section during the late nineteenth century, were adaptations of the rural two-story triple-A form. But by the first decades of the twentieth century, a group of stylish Queen Anne and Queen Anne/Colonial Revival transitional residences had sprung up east of the central business district along East Raleigh Street (Osborn and Selden-Sturgill, p.46).
The exuberant 1903 Queen Anne style Gregson-Hadley House (322 E. Raleigh Street) is an East Raleigh Street landmark. Designed by William H. Tippet, a prominent area builder from the adjacent Randolph County, the house is an unusual one-story variation of the Queen Anne style complete with Eastlake decorations and other period features. The asymmetrical massing comprises a combination of projecting wings and bays that are repeated in the complex form of the exaggerated hip roof with its multiple projecting gables.
The typical Queen Anne shape is augmented by a pentagonal turret in the southwest corner, a highly decorated wrap-around porch, a highlighted off-center entry, and irregular fenestration.
The transitional Queen Anne/Colonial Revival Joseph John Jenkins House (403 E. Raleigh Street) is characterized by a high hip roof with three gable-roof wings, a pedimented wrap-around porch, and a diminutive asymmetrically-placed second-story porch. Queen Anne motifs include sawtooth shingling and intricate bargeboarding in the gables with turned and sawn woodwork embellishing the porches.
The Ned B. Bray House (401 E. Second Street) is another significant two-story transitional Queen Anne/Colonial Revival constructed 1911-1912 by builder, J.W. Turner. The asymmetrical high hip-roofed dwelling with irregular massing and tall interior corbeled brick chimneys recall the preceding Queen Anne period, whereas its block-like form and pedimented wraparound porch with Tuscan columns typify the early Colonial Revival style.
The implementation of the pure Colonial Revival style brought a more restrained approach to building, with double-pile plan symmetry and solid, simplified exterior detail. The c.1920 Walter Siler House (410 E. Raleigh Street) offers a good example of an early Colonial Revival style dwelling. Located along East Raleigh Street, the Walter Siler House is a simple, boxy, two-story house with a hipped roof. Its symmetrical facade is three bays wide and sheltered by a hipped-roof porch supported by classical columns.
From the 1920s through the 1930s, the Craftsman Bungalow style was the stereotype for domestic architecture in Chatham County. As with previous styles, variations were commonplace. Siler City's Craftsman-style houses tended to be more elaborate, with patterned brickwork, multiple overlapping gables, and exaggerated eave brackets. The 1923 Rufus O. Welch House at 323 East Second Street, is a notable example of the Craftsman Bungalow. Distinctive features include its brickwork porch balustrade set in an oversized "X" pattern and deep flared gables over the porch and adjoining porte-cochere.
Reflecting nationally popular tastes, several traditional Colonial Revivals were built in the Raleigh Street neighborhood prior to World War II. The 1925 Dorsett House (13) on East Raleigh Street is a typical Dutch Colonial Revival, complete with a gambrel roof, full-facade dormer, and a small one-story portico over the entry. The last house built in Siler City prior to World War II is the 1941 Dr. Milligan House (319 E. Second Street). Constructed in the conventional Colonial Revival style, the Dr. Milligan House is a brick, two-story house with a symmetrical facade and a gable-front portico which shelters a central front door surrounded by sidelights and a fanlight. The 1937 Alfred Hackney House (420 E. Raleigh Street), with its complex roof of front and side gables, as well as the large chimney placed prominently on the front facade, reflect elements of the Tudor Revival style.
Several modest traditional brick houses were added to the neighborhood in the 1930s and 1940s, including the 1938 Evans Stone House (419 E. Raleigh Street), a small L-plan brick Bungalow. Owen Stone, who lived in the adjacent c.1910 I-house, built the house for his son to live in prior to World War II.
In domestic architecture, the modest Ranch style came to predominate in Siler City, as elsewhere in Chatham County, after World War II. Several brick Ranch houses were added to the East Raleigh Street neighborhood, including the 1954 Mary Athelene Clapp House (322 E. Second Street).
The East Raleigh Street Historic District comprises a significant collection of houses ranging from the late-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, along with one 1990 dwelling. The large number of turn-of-the-twentieth-century homes in the East Raleigh Street Historic District are indicative of the prosperity and prominence of early Siler City businessmen, while the later Bungalows and Ranch houses typify more modest housing built from the 1930s through the 1950s. The diversity of styles in the East Raleigh Street Historic District illustrates the evolutionary nature of changing architectural preferences in Chatham County.
Bisher, Catherine. North Carolina Architecture. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1990.
Chatham County Register of Deeds Office, Pittsboro Courthouse, Deed Books.
Graybeal, Kaye interview with Wade Hadley, February 10, 1998.
Hadley, Jr. Wade Hampton The Town of Siler City, 1887-1987. 1987.
Keane, Beth interview with Thomas Andrews, March 18, 1999.
Keane, Beth interview with Mary Athelene Clapp, March 18, 1999.
Keane, Beth interview with Alfred Hackney, March 18, 1999.
North Carolina Survey Files. Located at the State Historical Preservation Office, Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, NC, 1988.
Osborn, Rachel and Ruth Selden-Sturgill. The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina. Charlotte, North Carolina: The Delmar Company, 1991.
Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Maps, Siler City series.
Siler City Tax Records.
‡ Beth Keane and Kaye Graybeal, Retrospective, East Raleigh Street Historic District, Chatham County, NC, nomination document, 1999, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
2nd Street East • 4th Avenue North • 6th Avenue North • Raleigh Street East