English Houses in New Bern
Updated: Mar 12, 2020
While North Carolina was still a colony, we were—technically—British subjects. Our homes were built—technically again—by subjects of King George. And some of these Georgian homes remain, despite fire and flood and the whims of change. There are thirteen mostly-English houses in New Bern.
The Patrick Gordon House, built in 1771, is one of the most unchanged Georgian houses. Though the house was originally built to overlook the Trent River, the east-facing eighteenth-century Flemish bond chimney now faces Hancock Street. Aside from the addition of a broad porch in 1787 and the loss of a western chimney later on, the exterior looks much as it did when it was built. Many of the moldings and trim remain in the interior, including an elaborate Georgian staircase and floorplan. The house was built on an unusually high foundation for the period, allowing for a full basement that includes a wide eighteenth century cooking fireplace and flanking beehive oven.
The Patrick and Mary Gordon House photo courtesy Wikipedia
Throughout the thirteen colonies in the sixteenth century, many homes were constructed in a gambrel-roofed Dutch style. A revival of that Dutch style enjoyed popularity in the late eighteenth century. The Elijah Clark House on Middle Street is one such house, built circa 1770. Though it was enlarged in 1800 and again in 1910, the house retains much of its Dutch Revival character.
The Elijah Clark House photo from Flickr, unattributed
At the start of this article I clarified that the thirteen English houses here were “mostly English.” Although more than thirteen pre-Revolutionary homes still survive, many have been remodeled so extensively that it’s hard to tell they’re that old from the outside. As New Bern became more prosperous in the nineteenth century, sound Georgian structures were enhanced and repurposed. The magnificent 1770 Coor-Bishop House on East Front Street is one such home. Its fine Queen Anne and Georgian Revival features added in 1904 enclose the original structure almost completely. Some Georgian woodwork and finishes are visible inside, but the Coor-Bishop House is more a “house within a house,” a distinct category of home here in New Bern that will be featured in a future article.
The Coor-Bishop House photo courtesy Wikipedia
Not all Georgian homes were grand, of course. In 1770 John Daves, an officer who later served with distinction in George Washington’s forces at Valley Forge and Monmouth, purchased the lot at what is now 313 George Street for 28 shillings. Daves completed the initial 18’ by 70’ structure by 1771. Although little Georgian detail remains inside the home after a remodel in 1975, the Major John Daves house has the steeply-pitched roof, distinctive Georgian gables and chimney that mark it as an important historic structure here.
The Major Daves House photo courtesy Thea Grace Morgan
Even its landscaping is a bit historic; the giant mulberry tree in its back yard was planted circa 1710 during Baron de Graffenreid’s attempt to start a silk industry here. As you probably know, silk worms will only eat mulberry leaves. To our knowledge, there are no silkworms munching mulberry at the Major Daves property today.