THE DAVIS HOUSE

According to Jean Bruyere Kell in The Old Port Town Beaufort, North Carolina, three houses on the west end of Front Street were separate homes until acquired by “Miss Sarah” Davis in 1882. She joined them under one roof to become the Davis House. From 1882 until World War II it was one of the most popular boarding houses in Beaufort. Ms. Kell noted that G.I. Stanton wrote in City by the Sea, 1901:

The Davis House established many years ago is comfortable and homelike, only a white shell road separating it from the water—and from its long verandas one can look through Old Topsail Inlet to the sea.

The hotel closed in the 1930s. In 1970, the property was acquired by Duke University. By offering affordable housing, the Duke University Laboratory on Piver's Island was able to encourage a large number of scientists and graduate students from around the world to come to Beaufort at various times in the year to work with Duke colleagues on a variety of endeavors.

Fortunately architectural historian Tony P. Wrenn was in Beaufort in 1970 doing a survey for the NC Department of Archives and History, and was able to save the building from destruction. It was agreed that the fa├žade of the buildings would remain intact. The apartments became known as the Colonial Apartments.

At the time Wrenn wrote, in part: “125 Front Street (Warner House) includes part of a house built ca.1769 and retains Federal interiors. The Pigot House at 123 Front Street, was built before 1839. 121 Front Street was built in 1880 by the Donnell family and purchased by Sarah Davis in 1882. Apparently Mrs. Davis joined the three houses and three porches together in the 1880s to create her well-known hotel.”

The 1997 Ruth Little Survey recorded the Davis House (119-125 Front Street) as "three 2-story gable houses connected by an attached 2-story front porch, originally used as a hotel/apartment house. The porch is the longest in Beaufort with a total of thirteen bays, and has an exterior staircase, slender Doric columns, plain railing, and paneled and glazed early 20th century doors. The houses have been altered and exhibit various sash types, including 9/6, 6/6, 4/4 and 2/2."

The structure was neglected and eventually fell into a state of disrepair. It was, however, rescued in the last few years and converted into private condos/residences. Today the Front Street Davis House "houses" are designated as follows:

119 is now the Davis House Dining Annex ca. 1836.
121 (previously 1880 Donnell-Davis House) is now the Thomas Duncan House circa1849.
123 (previously 1839 Pigot House) is now the William Jones House circa 1813.
125 remains the Warner House circa 1769.