Grape Hill – Structure Only
- 2,900 square feet
- Lot Size: N/A acres / Zoning: N/A
, Regional Director
Preservation NC, Piedmont Office
Built during the agricultural boom years of the 1830s, Grape Hill is an unusual blend of sophisticated interior woodwork emblematic of Antebellum Warren County architecture within an exterior of elegant simplicity.
The quaint town of Norlina (Norlina is the mailing address and therefore the closest town to Grape Hill, which is actually in the vicinity of the Wise community) in Warren County can trace its roots back to the early 19th century, when it was a stopover for supplies along the Raleigh & Gaston and Seaboard & Roanoke Railroads. With convenient access to 85, this small community is only about 10 miles from the Virginia State Line, and is close to both Lake Gaston and Kerr Lake. Norlina is about an hour from Durham and Research Triangle Park.
Architectural & Historical Information
Built for the Joshua Davis Jr. family near Locust Grove, the seat of his parents’ plantation, it appears to be a simple two-story Federal-Adamesque I-house, but on a much grander scale. Archival photographs show its original entry porch was more Greek Revival in style with a pedimented portico supported by a Doric entablature.
The tall five-bay façade with side addition accommodates two stories of nine-over-nine windows, a molded box cornice, tall stone chimneys stuccoed and scored to give a refined ashlar finish, all resting on a high stone foundation under which is located a basement with summer kitchen and workspace.
The double-leaf entry doors lead into a wide highly ornamented hallway with tall marbleized baseboards, heavily molded door surrounds with bullseye cornerblocks and a low wainscot. The stairway is located at the back of the wide center hall and features a single-run stair with ogee bracket ends and marbelized risers. The enormous main parlor shares similar woodwork to the center hall including marbleized baseboards, low wainscot with a heavy band creating a chair rail.
The highlight of the main parlor is a mantel which shares intricate detail with some of the finest early houses in Warren County showcasing wide molded engaged pilasters supporting a multi-paneled frieze topped by a delicately carved lozenge band below the deep molded shelf. Both parlor mantels were stolen years ago, but happily the mantel from the main parlor was recovered and has been safely stored off site. The remaining first floor rooms share more simplified versions of the parlor and center hall woodwork such as a low wainscot, six-panel doors and a post-and-lintel mantel with molded detailing in the side addition. Plaster walls and beautiful wide board wood floors can be found throughout the house. The former gabled rear porch located at the back of the center hall was enclosed decades ago and includes a bathroom.
Second floor details are fine yet predictably more modest and include simple paneled mantels, six-panel doors, chair rails, and simplified version of the first floor stair that continues up to two large attic rooms. The second story is also divided by a stair hall with one large bedroom on one side and three rooms on the other side of the hall. Much original paint remains on doors and trim (red and blue-gray).
Grape Hill has been vacant for many years and has been used for storage for the surrounding farm. The house must be moved or it will be lost to demolition. The house appears to be very sturdy, but will require a complete rehabilitation once moved to its new site.
Click here for an article on Grape Hill’s history.