Owins-Bedford House – 113 Live Oak Street

From: 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) - Images are Field Study drawings and photographs.

The dwelling at 113 Live Oak Street in Beaufort is a one and a half story timber framed cottage with front porch that was built in two parts. This is evident in the change in siding and roof line as well as the different sizes of the porch. Sitting well back from the waterfront, it faces south to the water rather than the street suggesting that it originally stood on a larger lot. Although much altered, the original eastern section measures 20 feet in width and is 23 feet deep excluding the porch. The smaller west section has been heavily rebuilt with little evidence in the attic or the interior of surviving nineteenth century fabric. This addition originally had a much lower roof as is evident in the attic where there is a fragment of an earlier rafter nailed against the beaded weatherboards of the west gable of the original east building. Squares of metal flashing still are attached to the weatherboards just above the angle of the original roofline of the west addition. This addition was rebuilt in the twentieth century and may have incorporated a few old framing members.

The house sits on brick piers. The spaces in between were later filled in with brickwork. The window frames have an unmolded architrave and cap. The outer door, on the west end of the south facade has reproduction hinges, but the inner door is board-and-batten and seems to be early, if not original. Of the two chimneys, one is now centrally located, but had been an exterior chimney located on the west gable end of the original house before the western addition was made. The other is on the west end of the addition. Both have been substantially rebuilt. If the house dates from the eighteenth century, then only some of its framing members are of that age. It is just as likely the building started out as a single story dwelling with an integral shed constructed sometime in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

The first period of building (the eastern section) encompasses the passage, a large heated room, and unheated shed rooms. However, the passage partition appears to be a later addition. Throughout the Period I structure, there are Roman moldings on the architraves and the surbase. The chairboard with molded cap extends through the partition and under the stair, indicating that the space was originally one large room. The cavetto and astragal backband on the single architraves of the stair partition doorway, front windows, and doorway to the rear shed rooms are the type commonly found in Beaufort, which date to the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The fact that the molding is found on the inserted stair passage partition suggests that the house was substantially upgraded at that time. There are three board and batten doors in this section that seem to be original to the structure. The door from the main room into the shed and the door between the original two shed rooms have early strap hinges.

As noted earlier, a fifteen foot addition was made to the west end of the house. This consisted of a large room and a small unheated rear room under a shed roof. There is a small step down into the shed room. The back of the Period I chimney extends into the Period II room and has been plastered over.

The stair was added or replaced an earlier stair. The floors have been replaced so there are no ghost marks to indicate a location of the original staircase. The present stair is an open tread stair until it winds back to get to the attic. It has an oval handrail supported by square balusters typical of the first quarter of the nineteenth century.

The attic framing indicates that the original east section of the house was raised to 1 ½ stories in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. There are many circular-sawn rafters that have been inserted and much of the sheathing of the knee walls is comprised of similarly sawn materials. Many older rafters were reused and awkwardly joined to new ones at their apex. There are mature cut nails in trapped weatherboard on the west gable of the original section. The present integrated front porch was fabricated at that time.


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House and Family History

Excerpts from 
Porchscapes-The Colors of Beaufort-Three Centuries of History Woven Through Art and Words

When William Owins and Thomas Bedford purchased this lot in 1729, the property may have been much closer to the water. The original part of this house was most likely one of Beaufort’s first substantial structures, built facing Taylor’s Creek in “New Town” Beaufort. The property, near the southwest corner of Live Oak and Ann Streets, was part of 100 acres annexed in the 1723 incorporation act which doubled the acreage of the planned town; lots were then designated “Old Town” and “New Town” Beaufort.

William Owins was a tailor. He bought and sold several other properties and was part of the 1747 town militia. Thomas Bedford was a carpenter. It is believed that both lived and worked in their small cottage.

The original low-ceiling structure had only two rooms, a hall and a sleeping loft. Floors were laid and pegged with wide boards. Stairs from the entrance hall led to the “unfinished” loft. An engaged shed was added late-eighteenth or early-nineteenth century. The shed was later converted into a kitchen, tiny bedroom and bath.

The earliest known owner, after Owins and Bedford, was Thomas Duncan, who bought the half-acre property in 1806 from town commissioners. Twentieth-century owners included authors Jean Bruyere Kell and Miss Amy Bradley Muse.

Kathryn and David Cloud purchased the Owins-Bedford House in the early 1970s. As preservation enthusiasts, it was important that the cottage maintained the look and feel of colonial Beaufort. When Miss Delight Thomas’ home, known then as the Cramer House at 401 Ann Street, was moved to the restoration grounds in 1977, Kathryn Cloud rescued the wood that had been added when the 1796 Courthouse was converted to a residence; the old lumber was used to construct cabinets in the Owins-Bedford kitchen.