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A Look at Raleigh’s ‘Folk Victorians’

1890 Bretsch House, Blount Street

Although many of its finest examples were destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s, Raleigh maintains a relatively large stock of Victorian houses. Perhaps the most frequently overlooked houses from this era are Folk Victorians.

The 1890 Bretsch House above is (arguably) classified in this style. A front facing gable, tall and narrow windows, and a finely detailed porch are all characteristics of Folk Victorians. The level of detail on the porch of the Bretsch House is also associated with the Eastlake Victorian style. It was moved from McDowell Street to its current location on S. Blount Street in 1982.

What Makes a Victorian ‘Folk’?

The classification of Folk Victorian is an ambiguous one. The most common traits I’ve seen across historical reference guides are: intricate porch and/or gable detailing, an asymmetrical floor plan, and a lack of grand features such as bay windows and turrets or towers. Folk Victorians were built between 1879 and 1910.

Folk Victorians came into existence with expansion of railroads in the late 19th century. This new form of transportation allowed the inexpensive spread of machined wood features used as trim. This allowed middle class society to build homes that were similar in appearance to the grander Victorians of the day.

Folk Victorians of the Gothic Variety

The large front-facing gable above the porch and decorative bargeboard trim on the house above indicate a Gothic Revival influence. This house is located on Person Street.

Folk Victorians aren’t always modestly sized. The Gothic Revival styled Agricultural Experiment Station on Vanderbilt Avenue was built in 1886 to lay the groundwork for what is currently N.C. State University. Although large, it is restrained in style except for the telltale decorative bargeboard and porch trim.

This is the oldest structure associated with the University, and is now a private residence.

The Pope House

This quiet house on Wilmington Street is a historic and distinct example of the Folk Victorian style. It was built in 1901 by Dr. M.T. Pope, an African-American doctor and war veteran. He ran for mayor of Raleigh in 1919, at the height of segregation and the Jim Crow era.

In addition to the importance of the man who built it, this house is unique in that it is the only detached residential structure within one block of Fayetteville Street. It is also built in a locally rare row house (narrow two story) style. At one point in time the house had an intricately detailed porch, but this was removed when the house was expanded.

The house pictured above was built for Plummer T. Hall some time between 1878 and 1893. Hall was the African-American first pastor of Oberlin Road Church, and this house was a wedding gift for his bride. It remains in the Hall family today in the Oberlin Village neighborhood.

The Sisters of Saint Marys Street

These two houses are located across from Wiley School on Saint Marys Street. I can’t find a build date for either one, but were likely constructed around 1900.

The Morgan Street Corridor

Perhaps the largest concentration of homes in this style outside of Oakwood is a small area around Morgan and Hargett Streets.

This house on West Morgan was built in 1901 and is now home to a law firm.

Few Folk Victorians have a bay window. The one on the house above at 853 W. Morgan was probably added at a later date.

To the left of 853 W. Morgan is this blue house, which has served a variety of purposes in recent years.

Blending in with the neighbors. From left to right, the build dates are 2002, 1901, 1910.

The Hargett Row Houses

There are few examples of Victorian row houses (narrow, medium density) remaining and even fewer intact neighborhoods in this style. One exception is a narrow patch of Hargett Street between Morgan Street and Central Prison that has three Folk Victorians.

The two story house in the photo above fits in cozily with its neighbors, but was built almost 100 years after they were. To its left is the modest single story house in the photo below.

1901 Folk Victorian on W. Hargett Street, facing Central Prison

Not Ignoring the Obvious

This list is by no means comprehensive; it doesn’t speak to the houses in the Oakwood and East Raleigh communities.

Where are other examples of Folk Victorian houses?

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