We know all too well the words, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Soon, perhaps before this year is out, such words may well ring true for another small albeit unique piece of Elizabeth City’s rich and varied architectural history. Based on the author’s findings, the white two-story residence at 105 West Main Street is slated to be demolished by the end of the month. However, steps are being taken to ensure this house lives on long after its lot is razed, and its walls pass into architectural memory.
Facing the Burfoot-Toxey House, at the corner of Cobb and West Main streets, sits our dwelling designed in the popular L-plan structure from the late 19th century. Likely built around 1900, the house displays some reserved yet notable attributes of the Eastlake style, of which the city boasts many charming examples.
Its projected, pedimented gables are ornately finished with wood shingles. The front sports a small, though nicely ornamented, porch with turned posts and balusters with “webs.” The house’s interior echoes its outwardly reserved decor with a segmented staircase complete with turned balusters and newel posts.
Fortunately, the fate of our Victorian-era two-story will not be completely lost to the wrecking crew. Through the tireless efforts of a dedicated group of historic homeowners and preservationists, architectural treasures like 105 West Main are rescued before the onset of the sledgehammer or bulldozer. Members and friends of the Elizabeth City Historic Neighborhood Association volunteered their time these past weeks to help salvage as much of the West Main Street house as possible, recovering components and fixtures such as doors, banisters, and balusters.
Since 1985, ECHNA has been committed to saving the city’s historic properties as well as educating the public in historic preservation. Concurrent with its mission, the ECHNA salvage store sells these reclaimed articles, ensuring the survival of Elizabeth City’s architectural heritage as well as developing an appreciation for its architectural history. Moreover, ECHNA’s obligation to preserve this history is more than just the story of the residence, it’s also the story of the people who lived there.
One such couple, Mr. and Mrs. Harry W. Dewey, made 105 West Main Street their home for many years. Mr. Dewey occupied this residence at least as early as 1935, based on the available telephone directory listings. In 1950, Harry and Hazel married and settled down at this address for the remainder of their years. As general manager for the Norfolk & Carolina Telephone & Telegraph Company, on South Road Street, Mr. Dewey lived just around the corner from his work. Mrs. Dewey, a registered nurse originally from Bullock, lived in the house until her death in 1998.
Although we may lose 105 West Main Street, we hope we’ll still have saved the “Dewey House” from becoming just another architectural memory.
To learn more about ECHNA and its mission to preserving Elizabeth City’s architectural history, contact Betsy Towne at firstname.lastname@example.org.