Nelson House - 201 Front Street

Early Domestic Architecture in Beaufort, North Carolina - Summer Field Study 2011 - College of William and Mary & Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Dept. of Architectural and Archaeological Research (Klee and Lounsbury) Click images to enlarge.

The Nelson House is a two-story frame home located at 201 Front Street, directly facing the waterfront. The layout and details of the building suggest that it was built in the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The house developed over three periods: the early, original front structure, and two modern back additions.

At the front of the house is a two-story integral porch, a feature typical of Beaufort. The porch has square columns, exposed joists, and beaded sheathing, which date from a twentieth-century rebuild. The exterior of the house is sided with weatherboards. Original beaded weatherboards can be found beneath the second story porch. These weatherboards are undercut to fit across the studs and are secured by mature cut nails.The house also has two brick chimneys on either side, both covered in modern stucco. The house stands on brick piers, which were later infilled in the gaps between. The original framing consists of hewn and pit-sawn members held together by mature cut nails, which indicates that the house was built some time in the early nineteenth century when such nails came into widespread use.

The original plan on the first floor consisted of a narrow center passage with a small heated room on the left and a much larger heated room on its right. This room was later enlarged still further but its earliest extent is apparent in an overhead beam in the position of a partition wall that once divided it from a small room behind. There is a winder staircase in the left corner of the current passageway, which is a typical location for stairs in Beaufort. The second floor layout consists of a heated east room, an unheated west room into which the stairs rise, and two smaller rooms in the back that open off of each of the front rooms. Though the fireplace in the east room has been blocked, it is evident in a patch in the floorboards for the mantel, and a break in the baseboard and chairboard. A door on the south wall of the east chamber opens onto the second-story porch.

On the first floor, all mantels, door and window surrounds have been replaced with modern casings, but much original woodwork survives on the second floor. Several doorways and windows retain their Roman molding profiles, composed of cavettos and astragals. Original two-panel door leaves also survive on this level, opening into the two back rooms. They are held by butt hinges. - Natalie Eller (Summer study student) Photos and drawings by Carl Lounsbury and students.