The Hammock House, built in 1800, is not town's oldest.

Oldest known photo (c.1900) of the Hammock House 
Carteret News-Times 1980

My goal in compiling Historic Beaufort, North Carolina: A Unique Coastal Village Preserved was to present an authentic history of the town’s homes, buildings, sites and families. 

Among the missing pieces of the puzzle of Beaufort’s past was when and by whom the Hammock House was built—a house long assumed to be the “White House” seen on early 18th-century maps. I was determined to find the answer.

All architectural historians I consulted believe the Hammock House to be a late-18th or early-19th century house. Using this time frame, I knew Samuel Leffers owned the 25-acre “White House” property, plus adjoining acreage, from 1795 until 1811.

One morning, it occurred to me to carefully reread Leffers’ letters to his brother John in Long Island, New York, written between 1800 and 1821. In an October 19, 1800 letter Leffers wrote, “My situation at present is agreeable, my new house is calculated to my fancy and pleasantly situated, we have a fine prospect of the Sea, in front have a good garden and spring of water and are about 200 yards from the eastern most boundary of Beaufort town." 

Leffer's new house appears to have been built about 300 yards east of the White House, which was 100 yards west of the town boundary, the boundary having also been described as "100 yards to the eastward of the hammock that Thomas Austin formerly lived on." (The "White House" was located between Fulford and Gordon Streets.)

On March 11, 1811, Leffers sold his 45-acre property (which he called "Spring Garden") including the 1800 "Hammock House," to Henry Marchant Cooke for $1300 (Deed Book P, page 320). On April 16, 1811, Samuel wrote his brother, "…as Mr. Cooke is an intimate acquaintance of mine and has an agreeable wife and but one child and I am particularly attached to the pleasant situation which I have enjoyed for 10 years past I have agreed to continue as a boarder with Mr. Cooke..."

Henry Marchant Cooke and his wife, Frances Barry Buxton, were married in New Bern in 1809. Their first child was born in New Bern. Eight of their remaining thirteen children were born in the Hammock House; four were born (1820 to 1826) at 207 Front Street in the old Benjamin Leecraft Perry House before they moved back to the Hammock House. In 1831, after owning the Hammock House for twenty years, Cooke sold the property, at a loss, to Leggett, Fox & Company of New York City. 

The pieces of the puzzle fell together—architectural style, time frame, owner of the property, Leffers’ letter, and the chain of custody to Cooke—the letter being the clincher.

Four pages of research are included in Historic Beaufort, North Carolina: A Unique Coastal Village Preserved—presenting the White House and Hammock House as two separate structures.

Mary Warshaw
Hammock House circa 1935 to 1940 (Charles Farrell Photo Collection . N.C. Archives)
Elbert R. Felton owned the Hammock House from 1936 to 1945. Felton was the owner and captain of a dredge boat and apparently spent most of his time out of the area, principally in Louisiana. He purchased the Hammock House to provide a home and source of income for his widowed mother and his three sisters. It was probably during this period that the dormers were added.
 Hammock House was built in 1800 . Mary Warshaw painting