William Van Buren Potter House circa 1903

Marsh Street Porch
Grandson of William Jackson Potter, William Van Buren Potter (1875–1962) was the son of James Hollister Potter Sr. and Nannie Murray Potter. Like his father and two of his brothers, William Van Buren Potter was in the wholesale fish business.

James Hollister Potter Sr. built this home for his son as a wedding present when William married Zilphia Cox Darden on July 17, 1903. William and Zilphia had two children—William Hollister Potter (1909–1997) and Alice Darden Potter born in 1905. William Hollister Potter married Eulalie Wallace. Alice Darden Potter married Harold Webb.

It has been said the house was built in part from materials salvaged from a Swedish shipwreck off of Portsmouth, Virginia. Ship’s masts are still visible underneath the house.

Legend has told of a freed slave who worked for the Potter family prior to the Civil War. His apprenticeship in carpentry resulted in not only becoming a skilled craftsman but an accomplished woodcarver. His artistry embellished much of the house, especially the handsomely-carved staircase in the foyer.

The 1997 Ruth Little Survey described this Queen Anne gable-and-wing corner home as “a two and one-half story, five-bay house with plain siding, pedimented front dormer and tall exterior brick chimneys. The wing has a two-story cutaway bay with paneled bracketed dados and pedimented gable with sawnwork bargeboard. It has 2/2 sash with molded caps and bracketed sills. The one-story east porch that faces Marsh Street still has its original turned posts, railing and a spindle frieze with sawnwork brackets.”

ARTIST’S NOTE: As I was working on the painting, someone related an interesting “interaction” that took place at this house. As the story goes, Zilphia Potter had a parrot; her friend and neighbor also had a parrot. The ladies frequently chatted to each other across Marsh Street. Before long, the parrots began mocking their owners by doing the same—a believable story that friends and neighbors must have passed across other streets of Beaufort.