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Winfall Historic District

Winfall Town, Perquimans County, NC

The Winfall Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]

The Winfall Historic District, located northeast of Hertford in the Parkville Township of Perquimans County, is a well-preserved small town that evolved from a crossroads community into a commercial and residential center. The arrival of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad in 1881 initiated the growth of the town. Although the economy of Perquimans County has always been rooted in agriculture — from corn, wheat and cotton in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to tobacco, peanuts and soybeans in the twentieth century — the lumber industry bolstered the economy by the early twentieth century. As agricultural and industrial enterprises prospered, Winfall became a center of the local economy, thus meeting National Register of Historic Places criterion for commerce. The success of the community during this period is reflected in the collection of late-nineteenth and early-to-mid-twentieth century buildings that line Main Street. Winfall has one of the most intact assemblages of vernacular Queen Anne, Craftsman and Colonial Revival inspired dwellings in Perquimans County, thus meeting National Register criterion for architecture. The period of significance for the Winfall Historic District begins in 1865, the date of construction of the earliest building in Winfall, and continues to 1950, encompassing the primary years of the town's development. There are 101 resources in the Winfall Historic District, seventy-three percent of which are contributing. The noncontributing resources, most of which are modest Ranch houses and recently constructed sheds and garages, do not overwhelm the contributing resources.

Historical Background and Commerce Context

Perquimans County, formed around 1668 as a precinct of the County of Albemarle, is bisected by the Perquimans River. The two resulting land masses are Durants Neck to the northeast and Harveys Neck to the southwest. Creeks and swamps further define the landscape. The county has been divided into five townships (Belvidere, Bethel, Hertford, New Hope, and Parkville) since 1868. The town of Hertford, incorporated in 1758, serves as the county seat. Winfall, located three miles northeast of Hertford in Parkville Township, is the only other incorporated town in Perquimans County. The economy of the county has always been rooted in agriculture, resulting in rural communities growing up around water and transportation routes. The lumber industry also provided a large number of jobs for county residents by 1900, resulting in a period of county-wide growth and change. Twelve communities had post offices in 1900: Beech Springs, Belvidere, Burgess, Chapanoke, Durants Neck, Dwight, Eva, Heliford, Jacocks, Nicanor, Winfall and Woodville.[1]

The small crossroads community at the junction of the roads from Hertford and Parkville and the road from Woodville to Belvidere in rural Perquimans County was known as Red House Fork in the early nineteenth century. The community acquired the name Winfall when a store at the intersection blew down in a storm. A few locally prominent men, including Josiah H. White, Jonathan W. Albertson and Edward C. Albertson, began purchasing land near the junction in 1850. By 1872 a modest commercial district and residential area had developed.[2]

The street plan for the town of Winfall was laid out in 1873, the same year the community acquired a post office and became an election precinct. The street grid utilized Main Street as the primary east/west corridor. King, Queen, Cornelia and Randolph Streets ran parallel to Main Street, while Spence, Kirby, Catherine, Louisa and White Streets ran perpendicular to Main Street. Streets such as Louisa, Catherine and Cornelia were named after the wives of prominent landowners.[3]

The arrival of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad in 1881 promoted further growth in town. Winfall was one of five railroad stops along the sixteen-mile stretch of line in Perquimans County. The Norfolk and Southern stops in Winfall, Chapanoke, Benbury, Hertford and Yeopim provided farmers with a faster and more direct link to the markets of Virginia and encouraged the development of lumber companies throughout the county.[4]

Elihu A. White planned an addition to Winfall of 133 lots north of King Street in the 1880s, and many of those lots were sold to black workers who were employed at the Major and Loomis Mill in the 1890s. Winfall was incorporated in 1887, with A.S. Jordan serving as the first mayor. The town's population numbered 222 by 1900, resulting in the construction of new residential and commercial buildings through the early twentieth century. Winfall's population remained steady through the 1910s and early 1920s, and grew to 426 by 1930.[5]

Winfall teemed with activity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Albemarle Observer, a biweekly newspaper published in Edenton, reported on the social scene of the small town. Winfall residents received friends and relatives and hosted surprise parties, wedding showers, receptions and religious revivals. They shopped, attended church services, went to school and received medical care in Hertford, Elizabeth City, Greenville and Norfolk. They visited nearby attractions such as Virginia Beach and the U.S. Fish Hatchery near Edenton, and traveled further afield to destinations such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and Niagara Falls. The paper also covered somber events such as deaths, wrecks on the Norfolk-Southern line and accidents at the Major and Loomis Mill.[6]

Business directories from the period document that in 1903, H.D. Pendleton, Alphonso White, George W. Turner and W.H. Speight owned grocery stores in Winfall's commercial district. W.L. Jessup, Watson Winslow and W.F.C. Edwards sold general merchandise. These stores served town residents and local farmers from the northeastern part of the county who came into town to shop, retrieve their mail and ship their crops out of town by rail. When the first permanent bridge replaced the pontoon bridge that linked Winfall and Hertford in 1897, much of Winfall's commercial trade moved across the river into Hertford.[7]

Other entrepreneurs in early twentieth-century Winfall included J.W. Hurdle, who operated a livery stable, J.R. Billups, who plied his trade as a blacksmith, Thomas Perry, who provided masonry and plastering services, and A.J. Bright, who was a millwright. The physician B.W. Hathaway served the community's four hundred residents. There were two boarding houses in town: the Hotel Billups and a house managed by Mrs. Elihu White. In 1907, J.E. Davidson and W.D. Miller were the town butchers, and J.R. Billups shipped produce. Wilson Hendricks and F.W. Humphlette ran wood-working shops. W.H. Moore and Elihu Felton worked as barbers in town. In 1910, five general merchants remained in Winfall: E.B. Daughtrey, W.L. Jessup, J.H. Baker, J.W. Ward, and Alphonso White.[8] Alphonso White and Alonzo R. Winslow owned saw mills and grist mills in the Winfall vicinity. The White and Jessup cotton gin operated just outside the town limits.[9]

The economy of Perquimans County has always been rooted in agriculture. Small subsistence farms produced two principal crops in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Indian corn and wheat, in addition to small quantities of oats, beans and potatoes. By the early nineteenth century, Quaker out-migration resulted in the consolidation of small parcels of land into large plantations. The slave labor force in the county also increased, and the cultivation of cotton rose dramatically by 1860. During the early twentieth century, peanuts and soybeans emerged as important cash crops. Tobacco was also grown, but on not on a large scale.[10]

By the early twentieth century, the lumber industry bolstered the economy of Perquimans County. George Major of New Jersey founded the Major and Loomis Mill on the banks of the Perquimans River between Winfall and Hertford in 1894. The twelve-acre mill site was adjacent to the railroad, making the export of items such as siding, molding, ceiling, flooring and dimensional lumber more efficient. The Frost and Davis Lumber Company of New York marketed the mill's pine products outside of North Carolina. The mill also sold lumber locally, and was an important part of the economy, employing 150 residents of Winfall and Hertford at the time it burned in 1951.[11]

The commercial district in Winfall continued to be an important center of the community until the mid-twentieth century, when the nearby merchants of Hertford and Elizabeth City eclipsed the offerings of local store owners. Winfall experienced a steep decline in population in the late 1930s, as reflected in the 1940 census count of 160 people, but regained residents by 1950, when the town numbered 421 people. There was not a great deal of growth in town after most of the stores closed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, which is reflected in the small number of homes along Main Street constructed after 1955.

Architecture Context

There are three other historic districts in Perquimans County: Belvidere Historic District (National Register 1999), Hertford Historic District (NR 1998), and Old Neck Historic District (NR 1996). The districts encompass buildings representing the early English settlement of Perquimans County in the eighteenth century through the mid-twentieth century. Winfall's development was relatively late in a county context, but is indicative of the significance of the arrival of the railroad to rural communities.

Residential Architecture

Standardized building materials began to appear in the built environment of Perquimans County in large quantities by the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Circular saw mills were operating throughout the county, and decorative sawnwork was available from the Major and Loomis Company, the Albemarle Lumber Company and M.C. Brown in Edenton. Traditional house forms such as the coastal cottage and the two-story, three-bay, frame house persisted through the early twentieth century, often enhanced with sawnwork elements. Queen Anne, Craftsman and Colonial Revival inspired dwellings became increasingly popular by the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most frequently appearing in the context of larger communities. In Hertford and Winfall, the growing speculative and rental housing market relied on simplified, traditional, one- and two-story house forms.[12]

The domestic architecture of Winfall follows a traditional pattern from the side-hall to the center-hall plan, incorporating elements of various styles as they became popular. None of the houses are overwhelmed with ornamentation, but Queen Anne, Craftsman and Colonial Revival details are represented. Local sawmills may have provided the elaborate sawnwork elements that embellish many of the buildings. Most of the houses have been modified in some way, particularly by the installation of modern siding materials over original weatherboards, but the Winfall Historic District as a whole retains architectural integrity.

Winfall Historic District's earliest surviving houses include two simple, two-story, frame dwellings with side-hall plans and a one-and-one-half-story, frame coastal cottage. The circa 1865 John A. Bennett House and the circa 1875 Josiah H. White House have experienced exterior changes, but retain their original overall form. Both houses also reflect the building boom that followed the arrival of the railroad in 1881, with their hip-roofed porches supported by turned posts and sawnwork brackets. The circa 1871 William W. Phillips House is a late example of a coastal cottage with an engaged front porch and rear shed rooms. The house retains original elements including the front door, sidelights, transom, and nine-over-six wood sash windows.

Most of the contributing dwellings in Winfall date from 1880 to 1930. Modest one-story, frame houses sprang up along Main Street, with wealthy local businessmen such as Alonzo R. Winslow and Jesse H. Baker building more elaborate two-story, frame homes with sawnwork elements. Josiah and Robert White constructed one-story speculative houses to sell or rent. The largest and most architecturally distinctive dwellings are located at the center or on the outskirts of town, with more modest, simply adorned houses filling the space between.

Popular national architectural trends, such as the Queen Anne style, are sparsely represented in Winfall. The Queen Anne style is characterized by asymmetrical massing including a variety of forms, textures, materials and colors and architectural embellishments such as towers, turrets, tall chimneys, projecting pavilions, porches, bays and encircling verandas. A simplified version of the style, using locally known forms and incorporating a few new architectural embellishments, first appeared in Perquimans County in the 1890s. The circa 1904 Willis L. Jessup House at 504 Main Street boasts vernacular Queen Anne elements in its tower with a flared polygonal roof and its expansive porch.

The widespread availability and standardization of building materials during the mid-to-late-nineteenth century is reflected in the use of decorative mill-sawn elements throughout Winfall. The circa 1888 W.E. Speight House, the circa 1890 J.D. White House, the circa 1894 Alonzo R. Winslow House, the circa 1895 R.T. White House, and the circa 1920 Jesse H. Baker House have elaborate sawnwork elements including brackets, pendants, balustrades, posts, bargeboards, and spindle friezes. The circa 1885 Josiah H. White Rental House has pierced sawnwork porch posts, and turned posts abound on the porches of even the more modest homes of Winfall.

The simply finished, circa 1895 Alphonso White House, located amongst all of the Victorian embellishment in Winfall, provides contrast as the only tripartite house in town. The Palladian-inspired building form (a two-story, front-gable main block with one-story wings) of the Alphonso White House is increasingly rare in northeastern North Carolina. Three earlier examples of dwellings with tripartite forms survive in Perquimans County: the Elizabeth P. Clayton House (circa 1804), the William C. Scott House (circa 1830) and the Josiah H. White House (circa 1840).[13]

Period revival styles appeared in Perquimans County by the early twentieth century. As with other nationally popular styles, classically derived details rather than full-blown examples of the styles were incorporated into Winfall's building vocabulary. Colonial Revival columns appear on the porches of the circa 1920 Jesse H. Baker House at 144 Wiggins Road and a more modest home at 302 Main Street. The circa 1937 house at 513 Main Street is a good example of a one-story, shingled, period revival cottage, while its circa 1935 neighbor across the road at 510 Main Street is a classic, two-story, three-bay, boxy, Colonial Revival house.

The Bungalow style was more popular than other national styles in Perquimans County, with most examples being one-story, gable-front, frame houses with deep eave overhangs supported by oversized brackets and front porches with truncated posts on brick piers. A few one-story bungalows appeared in Winfall by the 1930s, and truncated posts on brick piers replaced turned posts on some porches along Main Street. The bungalows at 108, 112, and 305 Main Street are simple, one-story, frame examples built as cost-effective, middle-class housing. 305 Main Street has the best example of truncated posts on brick piers, while 108 Main Street has a decoratively shingled front gable. The circa 1920 two-story frame house at 205 Main Street and the circa 1893 White Store also have truncated posts on brick piers.

Mid-twentieth-century garages are the most common outbuilding type in the Winfall Historic District, but there are several clusters of earlier outbuildings. The circa 1901 Willis L. Jessup House, located at 504 Main Street, has a frame shed, a brick shed, and a garage (all appearing to date from the 1930s) associated with it. The circa 1894 Alonzo R. Winslow House at 409 Main Street also has a collection of 1930s outbuildings: a brick shed, a frame shed, and a frame garage. The outbuildings at the circa 1920 Jesse H. Baker House at 144 Wiggins Road include a weatherboarded carriage house, barn, and shed built about the same time as the house.

A relatively small number of one-story, low-gable-roofed brick Ranch houses were built on Main Street after 1955. Due to their lack of architectural and historical significance, these buildings have been classified as noncontributing.

Commercial Architecture

Five late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century frame buildings survive as vestiges of the once thriving commercial center of Winfall. These sparsely ornamented buildings, clustered at the intersections of Main Street with Catherine Street and Winfall Boulevard, range in size from one-story, one-room buildings to two-story buildings that served as stores and residences. All of the late-nineteenth century commercial buildings have a front gable roof, while the Winfall Service Station, built in 1920, has a hipped roof. Most towns replaced their frame stores with brick ones by the turn of the twentieth century, but Winfall's frame commercial buildings remained. The expansive brick commercial building that once stood at the intersection of Main Street and Catherine Street was more in keeping with the size and scale of early-twentieth century commercial buildings in neighboring Hertford.

The two-story, weatherboarded, frame, circa 1893 general store on the corner of Main Street and Catherine Street now serves as the Winfall Post Office. The two-story, hip-roofed front porch has truncated posts on brick piers on the first floor and chamfered posts with sawnwork brackets on the second floor. The two-story, weatherboarded, frame commercial building at 310 Catherine Street was also constructed in the late nineteenth century. A recessed entry with raised-panel bulkheads is centrally located on the front elevation.

The two one-story, frame buildings at 210 and 212 Catherine Street, (connected by a hyphen and a shed-roofed front porch), also functioned as general stores during the first half of the twentieth century. The northern end is a one-story, three-bay, front-gable roofed, building with deep cornice returns, while the southern end is a two-story, three-bay building with large store-front windows, a shingled front gable and a narrow one-story rear ell. None of the commercial buildings retain general store-era interior elements such as display counters and shelving.

The circa 1920 Winfall Service Station, positioned on the corner of Main Street and Winfall Boulevard, has been vacant since it was replaced by a modern gas station across the railroad tracks. The Winfall Service Station, built during the transition from simple filling stations, selling only gas and oil, to full-service stations with rest rooms and retail sales areas, is characterized by a hipped-roof and an engaged canopy supported by truncated posts on brick piers. The additions to the south elevation of the building functioned as garage and storage areas.


Epworth United Methodist Church, built in 1903, is the only surviving church in the Winfall Historic District. The building, an excellent example of the Gothic Revival style, is one of only a few such churches in Perquimans County. Its ornamental buttresses, arched window and door surrounds, double doors, and projecting gable-end entry are intact. Interior elements such as headboard wainscoting and ceiling sheathing also survive.


  1. The exact date of the storm event that resulted in Winfall's name is not known. Dru Gatewood Haley and Raymond A. Winslow, The Historic Architecture of Perquimans County, North Carolina (Elizabeth City: Precision Printing, 1982), 2, 59.
  2. Ibid., 229.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid., 56.
  5. Ibid., 229; Alan D. Watson, Perguimans County: A Brief History (Raleigh: Division of Archives and History, 1987), 107.
  6. The Albemarle Observer, Edenton, North Carolina, 1914-1915.
  7. The News and Observer, The North Carolina Yearbook and Business Directory (Raleigh: The News and Observer, 1903),441.
  8. Watson, Perquimans County, 107.
  9. Levi Branson, Branson's North Carolina Business Directory (Raleigh: 1884, 1890, 1897); The News and Observer, The North Carolina Yearbook (1907, 1910).
  10. Drucilla H. York and Raymond A. Winslow, Jr., "Old Neck Historic District," National Register of Historic Places Nomination, 1996.
  11. Haley and Winslow, The Architecture of Perquimans County, 232.
  12. Ibid., 62.
  13. Ibid., 48.

‡ Heather Fearnbach, consultant, Winfall Historic District, Perquimans County, North Carolina, nomination document, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Bembury Road • Catherine Street • Church Street • Main Street • Route 37 • Two Mile Desert Road • White Street • Wiggins Road • Winfall Boulevard