501 East Franklin Street

c. 1798, c. 1920, 1960s
The Widow Puckett House is among the oldest houses standing in Chapel Hill, though it is uncertain if it predates the Hooper-Kyser House across the street. The two-story, side-gabled, Federal-style house is three bays wide and double-pile and is arranged in a side-hall plan. It has German-profile weatherboards, asphalt shingles, boxed eaves, and two exterior brick chimneys on the left (west) elevation. Most of the windows are six-over-six wood-sash, some with louvered shutters. There is a single window in each gable. The six-paneled front door, located at the right (east) end of the façade, features a four-light transom. A hip-roofed, full-width front porch—which is supported by four sets of paired posts capped with slightly lowered capitals—features a standing-seam metal roof. Projecting from the right rear (northeast) of the main block is an original two-story gabled ell with an exterior brick chimney in the rear gable. The northwest corner of the original structure and the rear ell feature two-over-two wood-sash windows, one of which has been removed.

Projecting from the right elevation, a one-story, four-bay, side-gabled wing, constructed between 1915 and 1925, has an interior chimney and standing seam metal roof. Not visible from the street are a series of later shed-roofed additions at the rear (north) of the wing. Northeast of the rear ell and connected by a one-story gabled hyphen is a one-story, gabled addition with a partially enclosed shed-roofed screened porch on the west elevation that also appears on the 1925 Sanborn map. After 1949, a one-story porch on the west elevation of the rear ell was expanded and fully enclosed. The one-story, flat-roofed enclosed porch projects beyond the left elevation of the house, is lined with paired four-over-four and six-over-six windows, and is accessed by a twelve-light French door.

John Puckett, the village postmaster, bought the lot from John Craig in 1817. In 1820, Denison Olmsted, a noted physical scientist and professor of chemistry at UNC, purchased the lot and probably a house that had been erected on it, which he deeded to the university when he returned to teach at his alma mater of Yale University in 1825. In 1826, Dr. James Phillips came with his family to Chapel Hill from Harlem, New York, to serve as mathematics professor for the university and moved into this house. His daughter was poet and writer Cornelia Phillips Spencer (known for ringing the campus bell when the university reopened after the Civil War and for whom Spencer Hall is named). His two sons were lawyer Samuel Phillips (who was on the legal team of Homer Plessy in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case) and Charles Phillips (who served as professor of applied mathematics at the university). The house, including the side and rear wings, rear porch, and hyphen, appears on the 1915 Sanborn map, the first to include the 500 block of East Franklin Street. The one-story sunroom likely replaced a one-story inset porch after 1945.

In the 2015 survey, this was deemed a Contributing Building.

c. 1920
A front-gabled garage faces a private alley that runs to the west of the main house. The garage features German-profile weatherboards, an asphalt shingle roof, an open bay on the west elevation and a six-over-six window with shutters on the south elevation. According to Sanborn maps, the building was constructed between 1915 and 1925. In the 2015 survey, this was deemed a Contributing Building.

SOURCE: Heather Wagner Slane, National Register of Historic Places Nomination: Chapel Hill Historic District Boundary Increase and Additional Documentation, Orange County, OR1750 (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, 2015), courtesy of the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.



501 E. Franklin Street