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The Andrews-Duncan House—Back From The Brink

Andrews-Duncan House, 9 September 2018. 8x10 tintype by author.

Andrews-Duncan House, 9 September 2018. 8×10 tintype by author.

The long-languishing Andrews-Duncan House at 407 North Blount Street may have shed its last window screen, tossed its last corbel, and dropped its last roof slate. After years on the market, the State of North Carolina has a pending buyer for this property. The new owner plans to restore the house and what is even better… No wedding venue, office, or event space here—incredibly, the new owner intends to live in the seven bedroom, six bathroom, 10,000-plus square-foot mansion.

Andrews-Duncan House September 2018.

Andrews-Duncan House September 2018.

The attention and care a live-in owner could offer this property is long overdue. The eaves are rotted, the paint is severely deteriorated at nearly 40 years old, and brackets and other original wooden trim pieces have simply fallen to the ground in recent years.

Time, coupled with the catalyst of neglect, have taken their toll.

North side, Andrews-Duncan House, September 2018. Photograph by author.

North side, Andrews-Duncan House, September 2018. Photograph by author.

Homeless individuals now take shelter on the front porch.

Homeless individuals now take shelter on the front porch. Photograph by author.

 

Heavily adorned chamfered porch posts—likely old-growth heart pine milled (and possibly felled) in Johnston County at Wilson & Waddell's sawmill. The same sawmill that supplied lumber for the Heck-Andrews House next door. Photograph by author.

Heavily adorned chamfered porch posts—likely old-growth heart pine milled (and possibly felled) in Johnston County at Wilson & Waddell’s sawmill. The same sawmill that supplied lumber for the Heck-Andrews House next door. Photograph by author.

First floor front rooms c. 2015.

First floor front rooms c. 2015. Photograph by author.

Stair in main hall. Half covered by right wall installed during 1970s conversion to offices.

Stair in main hall c. 2015. Photograph by author.

Basement fire place. The locally sourced coursed stone foundation can be seen here.

Basement fire place c. 2015. The locally quarried coursed stone foundation can be clearly seen here. Photograph by author.

The Andrews-Duncan House was designed in the Italianate style by George S. H. Appleget and constructed by builders Wilson and Waddell. If these names sound familiar, it’s because both were associated with the construction of the Heck-Andrews House built next door only a few years earlier.

The house was completed in 1873 and commissioned by Colonel Alexander Boyd Andrews (1841-1915) a construction magnate, railroad executive and capitalist. Andrews started his working life as a child. After his mother died in 1852 when he was just 11 years old, he was taken in by his uncle, Philemon Hawkins—a railroad developer. It was Hawkins who introduced the bright young man to the railroad industry. Andrews was an eager, quick study and within just a few months of working for his uncle on railroad construction projects in Western NC he was promoted to high-ranking positions including general superintendent and paymaster. He continued working with his uncle until the outbreak of the Civil War. After the war, nursing wounds from the battlefield, Andrews found himself destitute, but through family connections and a good amount of his own smarts he eventually became superintendent of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad. Seven years later, he built his grand residence on North Blount Street where he would live with his wife Julia and their five children until his death in 1915. It is told that the day of Andrews’ funeral, a great many Raleigh businesses closed down to attend and out of respect. He was a highly respected and well-loved figure, not only in Raleigh, but the entire state. Charismatic and philanthropic, he was known to regularly donate to charities that helped the poor.

Alexander Boyd Andrews, Sr. c. 1900. Photograph courtesy, State Archives of North Carolina. N.53.16.1430

Alexander Boyd Andrews, Sr. c. 1900. Photograph courtesy, State Archives of North Carolina. N.53.16.1430

Andrews’ second child, Alexander Boyd Andrews, Jr. (1873-1946) was born in Henderson, NC during the construction of the house and was less than a year old when the Andrews family moved into their new home in the winter of 1873. A New Year’s Day, 1874 article in the Raleigh Daily News stated, “Captain A. B. Andrews, Superintendent of the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad, has moved into his new and handsome residence on Blount Street.”

Andrews, Jr. spent his formative years in the giant house and is said to have had a lifelong fondness for the house directly next door—the well-known Heck-Andrews House. In 1921, Andrews, Jr. purchased the house he’d admired since childhood and undertook a sizable renovation effort. The house was a gift to his wife Helen who is said to have highly enjoyed decorating the interior. Sadly, Helen unexpectedly died before work was finished–she was 42. Now a widower, Andrews, Jr. spent his remaining years living alone in the house and often entertained, but never remarried.

A. B. Andrews, Jr. and his wife, Helen, posing in a novelty photo set at Atlantic Beach. c. 1920. Photograph courtesy of The State Archives of North Carolina. N.94.12.68

A. B. Andrews, Jr. and his wife, Helen, posing in a novelty photo set at Atlantic Beach. c. 1920.
Photograph courtesy of The State Archives of North Carolina.
N.94.12.68

Main hall of Andrews-Duncan House with wedding gifts displayed after the marriage of A. B. Andrews' daughter, Jane. 10 April 1901. Photo by Cyrus P. Wharton, Courtesy State Archives of NC. N.94.12.57.

Main hall of Andrews-Duncan House with wedding gifts displayed after the marriage of A. B. Andrews’ daughter, Jane. 10 April 1901.
Photo by Cyrus P. Wharton, Courtesy State Archives of NC. N.94.12.57.

Parlor of Andrews-Duncan House with wedding gifts displayed after the marriage of A. B. Andrews’ daughter, Jane. 10 April 1901. Photo by Cyrus P. Wharton, Courtesy State Archives of NC. N.94.12.57.

Parlor of Andrews-Duncan House with wedding gifts displayed after the marriage of A. B. Andrews’ daughter, Jane. 10 April 1901.
Photo by Cyrus P. Wharton, Courtesy State Archives of NC. N.94.12.57.

In 1919, several years after the death of Andrews, Sr., 407 North Blount was sold to newlyweds, Paul L. Pearson, a Raleigh dentist, and Laura Duncan Pearson. The couple lived in the house until around 1929 when Paul moved to Apex while Laura stayed on Blount Street. By 1937, their marriage had ended, and Laura is no longer listed in Raleigh city directories as Laura D. Pearson, instead as Laura Duncan. In 1938, she opened the house to tenants, running it as a rooming house until her death in 1968 at age 91.

Below, the house can be seen in the background during the dedication of the Henry Clay monument. The Henry Clay Oak stood near the street on the south lawn until 1991. This venerable oak tree was thought to have predated the City of Raleigh and is told to have been shade for Whig presidential candidate Henry Clay as he penned his famous Raleigh Letter, which explained why the annexation of Texas without Mexico’s consent would “compromise the character of the nation, involving us certainly in war with Mexico and probably with foreign powers.” The letter cost him the presidential election and correctly predicted the triggering of the Mexican-American War. When asked to defend his position he replied, “Right or wrong, I am standing by the doctrines of the Whig Party. I had rather be right than be President.”

Sue Tucker Eason (left) and Diane Russell Kirchofer (right) stand on either side of the Henry Clay Oak marker unveiled 20 October 1939 beneath the Henry Clay Oak tree on Blount Street. NO_39_10_79. From the News and Observer Collection, State Archives; Raleigh, NC. Copyrighted by the News and Observer.

Sue Tucker Eason (left) and Diane Russell Kirchofer (right) stand on either side of the Henry Clay Oak marker unveiled 20 October 1939 beneath the Henry Clay Oak tree on Blount Street. NO.39.10.79. From the News and Observer Collection, State Archives; Raleigh, NC. Copyrighted by the News and Observer.

Henry Clay Oak c. 1917. From the Albert Barden Collection, courtesy State Archives of NC. N.53.15.1653

Henry Clay Oak c. 1917. Note chimney and side porch, both long gone, are seen in this photograph. From the Albert Barden Collection, courtesy State Archives of NC. N.53.15.1653

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1972 the State of North Carolina purchased the house from Duncan Heirs. It was converted to office space and occupied by a division of the State Bureau of Investigation for several decades while slowly moldering into its current state of disrepair.

Andrews-Duncan House, March 1980. Photograph by Karl Larson. From the Karl Larson Photograph Collection, State Archives of NC.

Andrews-Duncan House, March 1980. Photograph by Karl Larson. From the Karl Larson Photograph Collection, State Archives of NC.

For the first time in over 80 years, the Andrews-Duncan house has had a turn of luck. Its proximity to the Heck-Andrews House has always been a bit of a thorn in its side. The Heck House steals everyone’s eyes for itself, it is florid and feminine—demure, while almost forcefully commanding your attention. From ~1950-1990 the Heck House had zero maintenance. The paint vanished, the tower windows were shuttered, thickets grew in the once opulent lawn. Even during this time of neglect, it captured hearts and electrified imaginations. It has been overshadowing and outshining everything around it, in sickness and in health, since it was built.

Heck-Andrews House c. 2015. Black glass ambrotype by author.

Heck-Andrews House c. 2015. Black glass ambrotype by author.

The Andrews House is on the opposite side of the street—literally and figuratively. It is the antithesis of delicate; a stout, regal structure—understated in the most bombastic way possible. Passersby see it, they note that it is big, old and crusty. Some mental table scraps of reverence are tossed its way for diligently checking off those boxes, but it has never gotten the deep reverence and affection the Heck House has received all these years. But with a new owner willing to spend large amounts of time and money, it may soon siphon off a bit of the spotlight that has shone upon the Heck House for so long.

Here’s hoping, anyway.

Andrews-Duncan House as it appeared in 1970. Photograph courtesy of The State Archives of North Carolina. N.70.4.259

Andrews-Duncan House as it appeared in 1970. Photograph courtesy of The State Archives of North Carolina. N.70.4.259

 

 

 

 


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