Two Morrisville homes could become official landmarks

aramos@newsobserver.comNovember 22, 2013 

The Rev. Atkins House on Church Street in Morrisville could be put on the National Register of Historic Places.

TOWN OF MORRISVILLE

— The town could soon have two more Church Street sites on the National Register of Historic Places: the Rev. Atkins House and the Pugh House.

If both are accepted, Morrisville will have four sites on the national register. The Williamson-Page House and Historic Christian Church already have the designation.

The Morrisville Town Council approved the Pugh House as a local historic landmark in October to pave the way for its listing on the national register. The council is set to vote Dec. 10 on whether to designate the Rev. Atkins House a local landmark.

Morrisville has put an emphasis on historic preservation for more than five years. Efforts launched in earnest in January 2007, when the Town Council adopted the Town Center Plan.

The plan focused on “leveraging the elements of Morrisville’s historic crossroads village to create a distinctive and inviting center of community.” Its goal was also to enhance “the quality of life by preserving our past and protecting our future.”

Councilwoman Margaret Broadwell said it’s exciting that the town is continuing to move forward in its historic preservation efforts.

In the 1980s, there was an attempt to preserve some structures, but it fell by the wayside because property owners were concerned about limiting what they could do with their land, she said.

But some new property owners have come to town, and the Town Center Plan reinvigorated efforts, Broadwell said.

“It’s a collective approach to honoring the past,” she said. “It’s about bringing the past to the present to be honored for future generations.”

The resident-led Historic Crossroads Committee identified 20 structures, but only a handful were recommended by the State Historic Preservation Office as being eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The Rev. Atkins House at 214 Church Street has architectural significance and ties to two local prominent figures: the Rev. Robert Atkins, a former minister of Morrisville First Baptist Church, and Samuel Horne, according to the town’s application.

Horne was one of the town’s major landowners in the late 1800s. He opened a knitting mill in 1810 that made men’s hosiery. He also built a handful of mill houses for workers, according to town records.

The house, which Atkins built in 1913, sits on land once owned by Horne. Before becoming a minister in 1907, Atkins was a rural mail carrier.

Architecturally, the house is an anomaly for its time. It’s considered one of the only examples of classic revival cottages in Morrisville.

The Atkins home was modern for its day, with porch columns and a pyramid-shaped roof.

In the case of the Pugh House, this is its second chance at the national register. It was listed in 2003, at its old location. Morrisville moved the house for a road widening project in 2008. As a result, the house needs to be re-designated.

The Pugh House was built in 1870 and was the childhood home of Mabel Pugh, a noted artist in North Carolina who gained fame for her blockprint illustrations.

She taught for many years at Peace College in Raleigh, where she was head of the art department.

Pugh received several awards, including some from the North Carolina State Fair. In 1930, she won the block print prize from the Southern Artists’ League. She exhibited her work throughout North Carolina and all over the country, including Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles.

In 1933, during her time in New York, Pugh illustrated “Little Carolina Blue Bonnet,” a children’s book that depicted the life of a young girl in her hometown of Morrisville.

In the early 1940s, the Library of Congress bought a Pugh lithograph and block print for its Collection of Contemporary American Prints.

Wake County already includes the Atkins House and the Pugh House as local landmarks. There are about 140 such landmarks in the county.

Ramos: 919-460-2609; Twitter: @AlianaCaryNews

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