|Norman Splendor in Raleigh|
The Truman G. and Annie Laurie Williams House is a unique expression of the eclecticism and revival styles of the early 20th century and a testament to the power of a devoted and true preservationist.
The house, built in 1939, is a rare example of the Norman French style in Raleigh, with granite walls and a multicolored slate roof that are set off by a round entrance tower.
Mr. Williams was a veteran of World War I and founder and operator of the Raleigh Dental Laboratory, only one of two in the state at the time when he started the company. After their marriage in 1924, Mr. and Mrs. Williams rented rooms in a house nearby, weathering the uncertainty of the Great Depression and assiduously saving money to buy a lot and build a home of their own.
In 1934, Mrs. Williams saw a house plan featured in an issue of House Beautiful — a French-influenced cottage designed by Jerome Robert Cerny in Lake Forest, Illinois — and she immediately fell in love with the design.
The Williamses traveled to Chicago with their builder John F. Danielson, who worked on many of Raleigh's prominent estate homes, and as Mrs. Williams said, "the more of it I saw, the more I loved it." They immediately commissioned a set of plans from the architect.
Danielson brought in Charles F. Gillette to advise the couple on siting the house. Gillette, who was working with Danielson at Raleigh's Taton Hall at the time, is well known as one of the Southeast's most prominent landscape architects.
His landscape plan for the property incorporated formal French gardens and materials that complimented the architecture and thoughtfully created connections between interior and exterior living spaces. His design elevated a distinctive architectural design into an extraordinary estate property.
Mr. and Mrs. Williams worked together in the Raleigh Dental Laboratory for more than 40 years. After Mr. Williams's death in 1973, Mrs. Williams continued to live in and care for their home and stayed active in the community as a supporter of the arts and her church. She maintained the gardens with the plantings that Gillette had suggested and kept the house beautifully preserved.
In 2005 Mrs. Williams donated a preservation easement to Preservation North Carolina, ensuring that the remarkable property will be cared for in perpetuity. She continued to live in her beloved home until her death in 2008 at the age of 105.
The house has been inherited by her nephew, Dr. Charles S. Manooch, III, who is also proving to be an excellent steward. He initiated an application for Raleigh Historic Landmark status this spring and will be pleased to toast its official declaration at the September 26 Preservation Celebration. A bronze plaque will commemorate this property's excellence and the unparalleled dedication of its owners.