Over the years, some have gained illegal entry and many have fogged the first floor windows with curious eyes, but the good stuff is deeper, structurally and intellectually. This past summer, Goodnight Raleigh staff were given access to the entire house — from basement to widow’s walk — for the purpose of documenting the interior.
Houses, as with many things we make or build to suit, tend to reflect the predilections and characteristics of the creator. The Heck-Andrews house certainly fits the man who commissioned it.
The lot Mattie Heck purchased ran the length of the block along Blount Street. An attractive location at the end of a main residential street, just far away (and just close enough) to town.
A little more than two months later, a contract was drafted to build the house.
An excerpt from the contract between builders Wilson & Waddell and Heck reads:
[A] three story house with tower — slate and french roof, and tin top — size forty four (44) feet front by forty (40) feet deep for main building with three story french roof. Back building 20×26 feet. All the materials to be of the very best and to be put up in the very best manner according to the plans and specifications of the superintendent architect G. S. H. Appleget.
Mattie Heck was probably tasked with handling business transactions and aesthetic decisions during the construction of their new house. She insisted on high-quality French window glass. An excerpt from the contract reads,
“Said Wilson and Waddell to furnish all the materials for the work to be done by them, but it is agreed that shall the party of the second part [Heck] conclude to have glass better than first class American, which to be furnished by the said, Wilson and Waddell, then in that case the said party of the second part shall pay the difference in the price of the said American glass and the said better glass as far as she orders the change of glass she made.”
The contract reads like 19th century stereo instructions, but basically, the builders weren’t going to foot the bill for her fancy foreign glass. Below is the receipt for said glass, imported from France to Baltimore, Maryland — one of America’s largest ports at the time.
Heck’s optimism and confidence in the post Civil War new age is clearly displayed in the elegant yet bombastically styled house. It sits with conviction, possessing an air of readiness — as if it could break free of its moorings and sail away at will.
In 1869, Blount Street terminated at North Street, and just as you’d expect to see in a planned city, Raleigh’s boundaries were North, South, East and West Streets. Col. Heck built his house on the edge of town. Big things were afoot for Raleigh at that time — Heck’s house was an important rudder for development along North Blount Street, as well as the former Mordecai Grove, which would later become Oakwood.
In the years following the mansion’s completion, as the last quarter of the 19th century faded, Heck played a major role in the burgeoning residential development in the northeast quadrant of Raleigh.
The Heck-Andrews house is a wonderful example of Second Empire style. The four-story tower, extensive ornamental woodwork, concave mansard roof and repetitive detail are all executed with a fine sense of proportion and aesthetic. This style of architecture became popular around the mid-1860s during the Second French Empire as it was being extensively used in Europe for commercial, municipal and residential buildings.
A steep mansard roof with dormer windows and tower are the style’s most identifiable characteristics. To an American — especially a southern American — this distinctly European style was likely seen as stylish and modern in contrast to more traditional styles of the day that either gave a nod to the past or emphasized function over ornamentation and pretense.
Heck Family Era
The Heck family, Jonathan, Mattie C. and their children, Loula, Fannie, Minnie, George, and 3-month- old Mattie Anne moved into the giant house in 1872 — all eyes on the future.
The next 30 years bore business venture successes and failures, nine children, birthdays, marriages, and deaths. By 1910 only Heck’s widow, Mattie, the family matriarch, and two of her children, Fannie and Pearl — with the help of two servants — resided in the house. A generation began and ended under one mansard roof.
In 1916 Mattie Anne Heck Boushall and her husband Joseph moved into the mansion. Subsequently, matriarch Mattie Callendine Heck moved out of the house where she’d raised her family. After which the mansion was sold to Alexander Boyd Andrews Jr., son of railroad baron Alexander Boyd Andrews. For the first time in half a century, there were no Hecks on the corner of Blount and North.
A. B. Andrews, Jr. Era
Shortly after taking ownership of the house in 1921, A. B. Andrews, Jr. performed an extensive renovation which included updated plumbing and electrical systems, interior aesthetics and general repairs. Sadly, Andrews’ wife Helen, age 43, died of a stroke before she could enjoy the house her husband had lovingly purchased for her. Andrews occupied the house for just shy of 30 years, taking full advantage of the house’s ability to impress. He frequently entertained, but never married again.
Julia Russell/Gladys Perry Era
In 1948 the house was purchased from the Andrews heirs by Mrs. Julia Russell. Mrs. Russell likely got the creaky old mansion for a song. Her daughter, Gladys — a stenographer at the DMV, moved in with her mother.
When Mrs. Russell bought the house it had been nearly three decades since it had seen any updates. The interior likely appeared only slightly better than it does today — and Mrs. Russell didn’t change a thing. This detail is especially interesting. It is rare to find a house that hasn’t been updated since the 1920s, and because Mrs. Russell didn’t alter the house structurally or aesthetically, the interior is a bit of a time capsule. There are gas light fixtures still installed, and a long-abandoned load of coal in the basement. Nothing has been modernized, sanded down or painted over. The house is dirty, dusty, and rotten in parts, but it is all there.
After Mrs. Russell’s death sometime in the 1970s, Gladys had the place to herself. In the later years of her life she was known to wander the streets of Raleigh, rifling through trash barrels and dumpsters for items that happened to catch her eye. It is said she preferred to cover her face in thick, white “pancake” makeup in an effort to appear as a ghost — thinking people would most certainly steer clear. Her bright red lipstick, black dress and overcoat completed the guise.
You can read more about Julia Russell and Gladys Perry in Reminiscences of a Raleigh Boy, Part 7: The Ghost of Blount Street
So, what exactly is inside?
The house is, however, one of the most intriguing and beautiful empty houses your narrator has ever seen.
The house is three stories, with a four-story tower and full basement. As you walk in the front entrance you are greeted by a large staircase. Immediately to the right is the reception room, and to the left, the library. The reception room opened onto the family parlor, and the library led into the dining room – the kitchen was located in the rear wing. Originally, each of the first-floor rooms (four in total) featured large bay windows opposite a stately fireplace.
Detail of ground floor fireplace surround.
In 1921 during A. B. Andrews extensive renovation, the two front rooms lost their fireplaces — chimney and all. These two rooms and the central hallway were opened up to create a space spanning the width of the house.
Above, the two chimneys that were removed can be seen closest to front of house.
What follows is a pictorial tour through the Heck-Andrews House.
Left front reception room — note the large radiator. Innovations in residential heating soared in the 1920s. Central heating was a large part of A. B. Andrews’ 1921 renovation. These large radiators are found on all three floors and supplied by a large furnace in the basement.
View from the central hallway looking toward the front door. The Neoclassical interior details like the Corinthian columns seen here, were also part of Andrews’ 1921 renovation.
View of columns looking across central hallway into the library.
An elegant gas chandelier hung beneath the plaster medallion seen here in the dining room.
Ground floor looking toward front door. The basement entrance can be seen on extreme right, stylistically obscured by the woodwork along the side of the staircase.
Pictured above is the family parlor. The door seen on right leads outside to a porch on the right side of the house.
Side entrance. This portion of the house was heavily damaged by leaking rainwater. Stabilization efforts in 1999 have stopped any further deterioration.
Grand hall staircase leading to second floor.
Second floor central hallway.
As you approach the second floor, a large central hallway opens, displaying an array of doorways and windows. A glance into the floor-to-ceiling mirror seen on the right resets your sense of scale. — A friendly reminder from a long-dead interior designer: “You are a small being in a very large house — thank you for your attention.”
The two images seen above depict one of the four second-floor bedrooms. Sinks are found in all the bedrooms in the house, and while that may seem odd at first, it actually makes sense. Before advances in indoor plumbing most people were accustomed to having a washstand in their bedroom for the occasional face wash or garment rinse.
Typically, in the 19th century, well water was carried inside and decanted into large pitchers that would sit on the washstands next to a basin. Plumbed sinks found in bedrooms can be seen as a natural evolution from the days of wooden washstands. In the early days of indoor plumbing, having a sink in your bedroom with all the water you needed on demand was considered a quite a comfort.
The master bedroom on the second floor is depicted above. It is the only bedroom in the house that leads directly into a bathroom. It is very likely that this is the room in which the final resident of the house, Gladys Perry, spent her final years — in isolation, surrounded by her treasured detritus.
Second floor bathroom.
Detail of a 1920s cast iron toilet basin on second floor. Part of A.B. Andrews 1921 renovation. If there ever was a beautiful toilet, this is it.
After a walk up some decidedly rickety stairs that lead to the third floor, the mansard roof makes an appearance. The interior walls in the rear wing are pitched with the windows set out to sit vertically — a construction detail that your narrator found very intriguing.
Above, a curved hallway on the third floor, rear wing. A small bathroom is located just through the doorway. Around the bend is another large central hallway with floor-to-ceiling shelving.
At the end of the third floor central hallway are french doors with a large glassy surround. Just beyond is the spiral staircase that leads to the tower — and ultimately, the widow’s walk.
Third floor bedroom. The walls in this room have a wonderful texture only time and neglect could create. Upon closer inspection the pattern from wallpaper likely hung more than century ago has left its mark on the bare plaster.
Seen above is one of the four third-floor washstands. The sinks on the third floor have a single cold water spigot flowing into a porcelain basin with a hand carved marble counter and back-splash. They are really quite beautiful — and very early examples of indoor plumbing. They are, in effect, automatically filling wooden washstands.
Little is known about how the original plumbing was configured, but it is certain that the house started life with some arrangement of water pipes, however primitive. A mention of a sink, bathtub and “pipes to carry water and the lead-ing of water tank” is seen in the written plans for the house. Indoor plumbing was exceedingly rare in 1869 and it is probable that the house started out with one central sink connected to a cistern or tank, likely located on the third floor. The Heck family servants would then tote buckets of water filled from this central sink to various locations around the house.
If one sink sounds paltry for such a large house, keep in mind that the Heck-Andrews House was built nearly two decades before Raleigh had a municipal water system. It is feasible that the sinks such as the one pictured below, were not installed until after the house was connected to Raleigh’s municipal water system — sometime around the early 1890s.
View looking toward back of house from front, third floor bedroom. Sinks in both bedrooms can be seen.
Two bedroom doors meet.
Above, the spiral staircase leading to the tower. At the center of the frame is the nearly vertical stairway leading to the hatch for the widow’s walk.
Raleigh’s 19th century answer to an observatory, the tower windows offer a wide-reaching view of the surrounding neighborhood. The City of Raleigh as seen from the tower in the late 1800s would have looked considerably less crowded than today.
Looking down on Blount Street from tower. The Hawkins-Hartness House (c. 1882) in full view.
The two remaining chimneys. View looking toward rear of house from roof access hatch in tower.
Rear of tower as seen from roof. Access hatch can be seen open at bottom. The widow’s walk is the small area at the very top of the tower surrounded by a low balustrade. It has been told that the wives of seamen would watch for the return of their spouses ships from this vantage point on coastal houses. All too often, the sailors were claimed by the sea, leading to the term “widow’s walk.”
Present and Future
The State of North Carolina put the house on the market in late 2015, less than a year after the exterior of the house was completely repainted. As of January 2016, the 144-year-old gal sits patiently waiting for a new owner.
If it’s true what they say about things that matter being on the inside, then much like Gladys Perry, the mansion is but a ghost of its former self. With fresh red lipstick and pancake makeup the old place excites feelings of suspicion and intrigue.
Houses such as the Heck-Andrews House were built during a time when the distance between a craftsman’s hands and the final product was little more than the length of a hand-tool. Every roof slate, every linear foot of baseboard, floorboard, molding; every piece of plate glass, every strip of wood lath and every decorative detail had a man or woman’s hands behind it. The mansion is just as much a residence as it is a piece of 19th century sculpture.
For a mere $950,000 this house could be yours. What the real estate listing doesn’t mention is the enormous amount of historical knowledge, money and love required to bring this structure back to life.
“What makes a house grand
ain’t the roof or the doors
if there’s love in a house
it’s a palace for sure
it ain’t nothin but a house
a house where nobody lives.
Without love it ain’t nothin but a house,
a house where nobody lives.” -Tom Waits