NR nomination: Called by some sources the "First President's House," portions of this structure were salvaged from the "President's House," which dated from c.l795 to 1840 and was demolished to make way for Swain Hall at Columbia Street and Cameron Avenue (see discussion of the Junius D. Webb house, above). The salvaged portions were incorporated into new construction by Junius D. Webb on his back lot ca. 1913. In its present configuration, the Caldwell-Mitchell-Webb House is much altered by the application of aluminum siding but, in profile, it suggests a nineteenth-century hipped-roof I-house form. It features an irregularly spaced three-bay fenestration, with double-hung windows (probably dating from the early twentieth century), an entry transom, an interior chimney and a hipped wrap-around porch with turned spindles. The house is associated with the two men who lived longest in it during the nineteenth century.
Joseph Caldwell (1773-1835) was educated at Princeton and came to Chapel Hill in the last decade of the 18th century as a professor of mathematics and astronomy, becoming the first president of the University in 1804, a post he resigned in 1812 after what was probably its first successful fund raising campaign. The troubled tenure of Robert Hett Chapman followed after which Caldwell was prevailed upon to return as president in 1816, an office he held until his death in 1835, having lived in the house only a few years, off and on. He was replaced in an acting capacity by Professor Elisha Mitchell (1783-1857), the other long-time resident-some four decades, in fact-of the first President's house.
Mitchell, probably the first nationally recognized scholar in UNC history, was educated at Yale and arrived in Chapel Hill in 1818 as a teacher of mathematics, having also obtained a license as a teacher of theology as well. He and his wife first lived as tenants of the house (renting from Dennison Olmstead, another resident after Caldwell moved to a house just east of the President's residence), buying it when Olmstead moved. A professorial jack-of-all-trades, Mitchell interested himself in mineralogy, chemistry, and geology while at the same time preaching in the Congregational Church and serving as university bursar, superintendent of grounds, arid, on the death of Caldwell, acting president. He also conducted scientific expeditions to the North Carolina Outer Banks and western mountains. The tallest peak in the state, Mt. Mitchell, was named for him, an appropriate appellation since Mitchell was killed in a fall on the mountain during one of his expeditions and was buried at the peak.
In the 1998 survey, this was deemed a Contributing Building.
2015 Survey Update: The two-story, hip-roofed house is three bays wide and double-pile with deep eaves, an interior brick chimney, and a two-story, projecting hip-roofed bay at the rear of the left (east) elevation. The house has plain weatherboards, one-over-one wood-sash windows, and a six-panel door with one-light transom that is centered on the façade. The foundation has been stuccoed. The entrance is sheltered by a near-full-width porch supported by turned posts with an original matchstick railing. The porch wraps around the left elevation where it has been enclosed and an entrance to the enclosed portion of the porch has been boarded. A one-story, hip-roofed wing extends across the rear of the building with six-over-six wood-sash windows. A low stone wall extends across the front of the property.
SOURCES: Kaye Graybeal, National Register of Historic Places Nomination: West Chapel Hill Historic District, Orange County OR1439 (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, 1998); Heather Slane and Cheri Szcodronski, 2015 Survey Update (NCSHPO HPOWEB 2.0, accessed 10 Jan. 2020); courtesy of the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.