Friends Support Nancy jones house

The Nancy jones House (9391 Chapel hill road, Cary)

The Nancy Jones House is one of four Cary properties individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This distinction is granted to properties that have a unique historic and architectural character and are deemed worthy of preservation for their significance to the cultural heritage of the nation. This honor was bestowed on the Nancy Jones House in 1984. Learn more about Cary's National Register Properties here.

What makes the Nancy jones house worthy of National Register status?

The National Register Nomination for the Nancy Jones House identifies three areas of the property’s historic significance:  architecture, communications and politics (folklore). The relevant historic period is 1800-1899.

Architectural Significance:  A fine example of vernacular Federal architecture, the Nancy Jones House, built around 1803, is also the oldest remaining house in the Cary area.

Communications:  The National Register Nomination does not offer any explicit discussion regarding the role of The Nancy Jones house in communications. However, with the house being the primary stagecoach stop and tavern on the Raleigh-Chapel Hill route during the antebellum period, it would be reasonable to conclude that it served as a gathering place where information and ideas were shared.

Politics (Folklore):  The stagecoach stop and tavern was visited by a number of political dignitaries, including President James K. Polk, the eleventh U.S. president, as well as former North Carolina governors John Branch, John Motley Morehead and William Alexander Graham. The National Register Nomination states, “It seems likely that, on one occasion or another, practically all of the state’s governors in the mid-nineteenth century stopped at the Jones House.”

Perhaps the greatest claim to fame for the Nancy Jones House comes from a popular legend that is not without controversy.  The legend holds that in 1838, the governors of North Carolina and South Carolina met at the tavern. After quickly consuming their first servings of apple and peach brandy, they waited for their second round to be served. During that time, North Carolina’s Governor Edward Dudley was heard to say, “It’s been a damn long time between drinks!” We can only imagine how mortified proprietor Nancy Jones must have been!

Now, for the controversy. The famous quote has also been attributed to several different politicians at a number of other locations, including the home of a prominent banker in Columbia, South Carolina; a banquet in Raleigh; and the “Old White” hotel, predecessor to the Greenbrier resort, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. The controversy and various versions are set out in a 1938 article in the Cambridge Sentinel of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Learn more about the history of the Nancy Jones House here.

What has been done to ensure preservation of the Nancy jones house?

The Friends of the Page-Walker have monitored the status of the Nancy Jones House for many years and have placed it high on our list of preservation priorities.

In 2005, the FOPW Historic Preservation Committee began developing a plan for the preservation of the house. Committee members Bob Myers and Julie Robison were given a tour of the grounds and the interior. The committee worked to build public awareness of this cherished treasure, including it in the annual slideshow inventory presented by the Friends, “What Have We Got to Lose?” Contacts with Town staff and elected officials were maintained, with emphasis on preserving the structure for future generations.

Our level of concern heightened when the property was purchased in 2016 by the neighboring Sri Venkateswara Temple of North Carolina as part of their expansion plan; it became unlikely that the house would be allowed to remain on its original site.

On May 3, 2019, the Town of Cary announced that it had reached agreement to purchase the house from the Sri Venkateswara Temple, whose leaders had a strong desire that the house be preserved. We were relieved that the house would be saved, but unfortunately, the sale was conditioned on the house being moved to a new location. The purchase was finalized on October 18, 2019.

In the May 3rd announcement, Town Manager Sean Stegall said, “I think of the Nancy Jones house as a 216-year-old patient on the operating table who doctors are trying to save from dying. That’s what the agreement between the Temple and the Town accomplishes, and now we can take the time we need to work with our citizens on the next chapter Nancy Jones will play in our history.”

Since acquiring the Nancy Jones House, the Town has worked diligently to preserve the “216-year-old patient,” taking the following steps:

  • Consulted with the State Historic Preservation Office on best practices for maintaining the house until it is moved
  • Installed locks on the back door and removed historic hardware from the front door for safe keeping
  • Hired ThoughtCraft Architects to assess the house and provide recommendations to prevent deterioration
  • Strategically installed louvers in specific windows to improve air circulation and decrease interior moisture
  • Installed a vapor barrier underneath the house
  • Altered the electric panel to provide electricity to the sump pump under the house so it can run on a continuous basis (electricity is not running to the main house)
  • Taken photographs for baseline comparisons
  • Labeled and stored historic elements that have been removed (e.g. window panes and sashes that were removed for the installation of the louvers)
  • Discovered bees inside a wall cavity on the second floor; called in an expert to remove, rather than exterminate, the bees.

What’s next for the NANCY JONES HOUSE?

The next and most significant step will be identifying a new location and planning to move the house, not a simple undertaking.

Good news! On October 8, 2020, The National Register Advisory Committee reviewed the town’s request for the Nancy Jones House to remain listed in the National Register of Historic Places during its relocation. The proposed new location is near the intersection of Chapel Hill Road and NW Maynard Road. The request was unanimously approved. The Committee’s recommendation will be forwarded to the National Parks Service for a final decision, which they are expected to act on within 45 days.

What do we know about the future location? 

The Town of Cary is considering a number of sites that might be suitable for relocation of the Nancy Jones House; however, one site appears to be emerging as the most promising. At the May 7, 2020, Town Council Meeting, the Council entertained a rezoning request for a proposed development at the intersection of Chapel Hill Road and NW Maynard Road, called “Bainbridge.” As part of the rezoning, the developer designated a one-acre tract of land on the western edge of the development that would be donated to the Town for parkland. The tract was described by Town staff as being optimal for the Nancy Jones House, due to its close proximity to the original location, on at least one acre of land and which would allow for the house to continue to face Chapel Hill Road. The Council unanimously approved the rezoning, with members voicing support for this new location. Read the Cary Citizen’s report on this action here.

In an effort to keep the Nancy Jones House listed in the National Register during and after the move, the Town has submitted a relocation report to the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). The report will be presented by SHPO to the National Register Advisory Committee (NRAC) in October. If the NRAC approves, the report will then be forwarded to the National Park Service for final decision.

What do you love about the Nancy Jones House?

Share your thoughts with us! info@friendsofpagewalker.org

SOURCES:  

  • National Register of Historic Places
  • Town of Cary, National Register Properties in Cary
  • National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for the Nancy Jones House
  • Ask the Architect .Org
  • Cambridge Sentinel, June 4, 1938
  • The Innkeeper, Spring 2005
  • North Carolina General Warranty Deed, recorded on December 9, 2016, conveying Tracts 1 and 2, BM 1991, Page 1041, from April W. Gillespie and husband, David F. Gillespie, to Sri Venkateswara Temple of North Carolina
  • Cary Acquires Oldest Remaining Home – 1803 Nancy Jones House – for Preservation, Rehabilitation, Town of Cary News Release, posted on May 30, 2019
  • Ms. Gillian White, Historic Preservation Planner, Town of Cary
  • Cary Town Council Agenda, May 7, 2020, Staff Report, 17-REZ-27 Bainbridge Cary Chapel Hill Road
  • Town Council Approves 5 Rezonings, Cary Citizen, May 8, 2020
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