Although the Oakwood neighborhood has the largest collection of Victorian-era houses in Raleigh, Hillsborough Street was once a bastion of homes built in the same period. Sadly, only a few remain today. There are others on the periphery however, such as the house pictured above on Boylan Avenue, one block away.
What Qualifies as Victorian?
The simplest definition is any house built during the reign of Queen Victoria: 1837-1901. I took the liberty of extending this period to also include houses constructed until around 1910. For the purposes of this article, I included houses that displayed some or all of the following characteristics: asymmetrical layout, bay windows, steeply pitched roofs, and ornate decoration.
The Oldest Structure Associated with N.C. State
One of the most notable of all of the remaining Victorians is the N.C. Agricultural Experiment Station on Vanderbilt Avenue, dating to 1886.
While many may know that Holladay Hall is the oldest classroom on campus, the oldest structure associated with the University is the house above. It’s one of the oldest remaining Victorian-era houses in the Hillsborough Street area and is a private residence.
Maiden Lane and Enterprise Street
The Maiden Lane and Enterprise Street areas have a handful of homes dating to the very early part of the 20th century. Many serve as rental units or apartments.
I had thought this was a fraternity house, but the Greek letters are gone from the front of the house.
Business up Front,
Party Victorian in the Back
Two houses are hidden because they were converted to commercial properties by appending storefronts to the street-facing side several decades after construction.
The house in the greatest state of disrepair is the Fabius Briggs House on the corner of Ashe Avenue and Hillsborough Street. At some point in the 1950s the storefronts were attached to the front of the house, sealing its fate as a neglected beauty. Today its future lies in limbo as it has been condemned by the city and lies within the path of a major mixed-use redevelopment plan.
I don’t know anything about this particular house across from Char-Grill. It blends in with the attached storefronts, yet you can still notice the differences: the cast iron window frames on the right are typical of 40s and 50s era construction, while the prominent cross gable and roof of the house section visible on the left suggest the early part of the 20th century.
The Cameron Park Fringe
Some of the houses on the edge of the Cameron Park area are a great study in the transition period from angled lines and asymmetry to the more popular American four square style which replaced it. The houses closest to Hillsborough Street were the first lots to be snapped up when first subdivided, so it makes sense that these had more of the flair and other characteristics of the early 1900s.
The Area Around Ashe Avenue
In addition to the Fabius Briggs House, there are two other early-century grand houses in the area between Park Avenue and the Morgan Street split. These both featured centered dormers, one of the first aspects of the more restrained style. 1910 seems to be the year which featured the largest shift away from decorated and asymetrical construction.
The Not-So-Hidden Victorian Houses
The grandeur and scale of these houses are relatively proportional to how close they are to the Capitol Building. The area in the few blocks around it were once lined with grand mansions. Today, the three most striking examples that remain are the ones closest to it.
The most dramatic and detailed of all Hillsborough Street area Victorians is the Dodd-Hinsdale House. It was built in 1879 by Thomas Briggs for then Raleigh Mayor William H. Dodd.
The house was sold shortly thereafter, and remained in the same family (Hinsdale) for around 90 years.
The house fell into disrepair and by the early 90s and was in danger of demolition. It was at that time the Reynolds family purchased it with the intent of restoring it and turning it into a fine dining establishment, which it remains today.
Not in the Victorian Style, but Worth a Mention
This Neo-Classical Revival house was built in 1903 by Dr. Andrew Watson Goodwin. He was the Chair of Anatomy at Leonard Medical School, and then later became chief physician for the now-abandoned St. Agnes Hospital.
It has been home to the North Carolina Democratic party since 1979.
Further Reading on Residential Victorian Architecture in Raleigh:
- The Fabius Briggs House: A Crumbling Raleigh Relic
- Raleigh’s Merrimon-Wynne House: A Win-Wynne Situation
- Early History of the Dodd-Hinsdale House
- Enterprise Street: A Motley Crew of Unlikely Neighbors
- Col. Heck’s Oakwood ‘Spec’ Houses
- A Nail That Could Not Be Removed: Raleigh’s Richard B. Haywood House
- Reminiscences of a Raleigh Boy, Part 1: The Blount Street Saga