- 4,786 square feet
- Lot Size: 0.86 acres / Zoning: Residential
Mary Ann Cumpata
The Pippen House is a true architectural masterpiece located in the Historic District on Tarboro’s picturesque Main Street. This small, welcoming community in eastern North Carolina offers a lot for a small town: fishing or paddling on the Tar River, playing nine holes of golf or enjoying a great meal downtown.
The grand interior of this 5 bedroom, two-story Victorian home has spacious rooms, marble and slate fireplaces, beautiful moldings, heart pine floors, period light fixtures/chandeliers, built-ins, sunroom, 4 covered porches, patio, and fenced backyard on an 0.86 acre landscaped lot. This property is ready for you to move into and apply your personal touches at your own pace.
The Pippen House, also known locally as the Pippen-Staton House, is without question the finest example of post-Civil War Victorian Italianate architecture in Tarboro and the surrounding region. Built by William Mayo Pippen (1830-1889), this large old mansion, unofficially known locally as “Pippen’s Palace”, sits on an unusually large lot which originally encompassed the entire block. Its elaborate design and similarities to the few other comparable North Carolina houses, especially in Raleigh, strongly suggest that G.S.H. Appleget was the architect and builder. He was one of North Carolina’s leading architects just after the Civil War, having moved to the state in 1869 after a successful career designing buildings in New York, Philadelphia and other large northern cities. Appleget houses, if they still remain, are often the largest and finest of the Victorian houses in the older, wealthier towns and cities of central and eastern North Carolina.
Mr. Pippen, a wealthy merchant and planter, bought the original 2-acre lot on Main Street in September of 1879 from John L. Bridgers, owner of the nearby Blount-Bridgers House. Although the public tax records indicate construction in 1874, this does not appear possible or likely based on the lot purchase date. The house is shown clearly on Gray’s Map of Tarboro, published in 1882. Based on this information, the best construction date, assuming a two-year building period, would be circa 1881. William Pippen died in 1889, and his wife, Mary Harrison Powell Pippen, passed away in 1897. Just after the death of Mrs. Pippen, the property was acquired by another prominent Tarboro citizen, Henry L. Staton, a respected local attorney, and remained in his family well into the second quarter of the 20th century.
The exterior of the house which has magnificent detailing was carefully and thoroughly restored in 2014, including: repaired slate roof, replaced standing seam roof, replaced built-in gutters and downspouts, repaired or replaced soffit, modillions, arched windows, and all trim work on house and porches, repaired and reglazed all windows, removed all lead-based paint, documented original paint colors and striped, sanded, primed and painted the exterior. There are four porches with handsome and bold chamfered posts with brackets and ornamental, molded and applied tops. Balusters are equally bold and have the look of crafted urns. The use of decorative bulls’ eyes, baluster pilasters, modillion blocks, dentil work and assorted applied woodwork can be found in abundance on all sides of the house. Of particular significance are the projecting bay windows where all of these elements are incorporated into a stunning display of Victorian decoration. Window tops are arched, and unusual, delicate flower petal round windows are found in the gables.
The front doors are the most exceptional in the region. It is hard to describe the high level of detailed woodwork, with the beautiful rectangular, cut glass inset panels of floral swirling designs. Above the double doors are two equally detailed tear drop transom windows with the same beautiful, early Art Nouveau etched patterns – all in perfect condition. Another major architectural feature of regional prominence is the multi-patterned, polychrome original slate roof that features flower designs and patterns in varying colors of slate.
Upon entering the ornate, etched glass double doors, one immediately sees one of Tarboro’s most beautiful and gracefully curving staircases, with a massive multi-sided newel post and turned balusters. Almost all of the rooms in the house, including the stair hall, have their original, early electric chandeliers. Behind the stairs is a great small space or inglenook for quiet contemplation. The stair hall becomes narrower behind the stair case and leads through the entire house, and provides access to a small half bath with one of the greatest period sinks to be found anywhere and to a wonderful smaller room perfectly suited for use as a home office. Extensive storage closets and cupboards line the hallway to the back of the house.
Downstairs there is the magnificent front parlor with an intricately carved Eastlake marble mantel made with both black and brown stone. The huge chandelier is silver plated, and all of the floor length windows have their original or very early plantation shutters. This is true of all windows in the original portion of the house. The front bay window is large enough to accommodate a grand piano, and between the two side windows is the original, ornate black Eastlake pier mirror that has always been in that location. The mirror has always conveyed with the house. Very large, heavy and molded plaster cornices and large foliated plaster ceiling medallions are not only in the formal parlor, but throughout most of the downstairs rooms. The same is true of the etched, pattern glass transom windows over each doorway.
Behind the parlor is the former gentlemen’s parlor with its original black stone mantel with its curved firebox and the original, very ornate chandelier. Although the room is currently in use as a dining room, it could have a variety of uses, such as a more informal den or library. Behind the former gentlemen’s parlor is a massive room with a large bay window. An opening to the beautiful north porch is just to the east of the bay window. This was the original dining room, and is of a size for large-scale entertaining. This room is adjacent to the very large kitchen located at the rear of the house.
On the south or right side of the stair hall is a large downstairs bedroom with adjoining full bath. This room also has a large bay window facing south and another handsomely carved marble mantel. This one is white with simple detailing. Again, heavy plaster crown moldings and a large ceiling medallion adorn this room as in all of the other major downstairs rooms. The south side of the house also has a large and expansive side porch accessible from several rooms.
Upstairs are three bedrooms. Two have attached full baths. The large windows in these rooms have unusual arched tops, and with the number and size of the windows, all of the bedrooms have superior lighting and great views of the beautiful yard and massive magnolia trees below. The mantels in the three upstairs rooms were unfortunately removed at some point, but could be replaced with simpler wooden mantels of the period.
The yard of this Victorian mansion is enormous to be in the center of Tarboro. It is well known throughout the region for the huge magnolia trees that totally surround the house on all three street sides of the property. This offers an unusual degree of privacy for such a large house in town. A low brick wall also defines the property on all sides.
The Pippen House is within both the locally protected Tarboro Historic Zoning District and the Tarboro National Register Historic District. As a contributing structure in a National Register Historic District, costs for appropriately renovating this single family residential structure may qualify for a North Carolina income tax credit. For income producing properties, such as a bed and breakfast inn, a Federal tax credit is also possible.
Please visit our website at www.tarbororealty.com for additional information and pictures regarding this property.