Thursday, December 03, 2009

John Johnston House

(click on photograph for larger image)

John Johnston (1778-1860)

Johnston, John, House (added 1997 - Building - #97000238)
1325 NC 62, N., Yanceyville
Historic Significance: Architecture/Engineering
Architect, builder, or engineer: unknown
Architectural Style: Federal
Area of Significance: Architecture
Period of Significance: 1825-1849
Owner: Private
Historic Function: Agriculture/Subsistence, Agriculture/Subsistence, Domestic
Historic Sub-function: Agricultural Outbuildings, Processing, Single Dwelling
Current Function: Domestic
Current Sub-function: Single Dwelling
Location: West side NC HWY 62 North at junction w/SR 1595 (1325 NC Highway 62 North), in the vicinity of Yanceyville, North Carolina

The following is the summary from the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the John Johnston House, Caswell County, North Carolina (3 January 1997):

The John Johnston House is significant under Criterion C for Design/Construction in the category of Architecture and meets Criteria Consideration B: Moved Properties. The house derives local architectural significance as an excellent example of one of the most prevalent house forms in early nineteenth century Caswell County: the one-and-one-half-story frame Federal style house with hall-and-parlor plan and end chimneys. Today [1997], only about forty examples of this once common house-type survive from the first half of the nineteenth century, though most are considerably altered or deteriorated. The John Johnston House is exemplary among these because it most closely conveys its original form, style, structure and plan. The painstakingly academic restoration of this house was undertaken with great care to retain features that are indicative of the original design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Despite replacement materials, the result is a house that possesses a greater degree of significance and integrity as an early nineteenth century residence than does any other of its type in the county. The house in its pristine pastoral setting also evokes the agrarian roots of the Northern Piedmont region of North Carolina. The bright-leaf tobacco curing process was invented in this region where the rural landscape retains several grand antebellum plantation seats, many of which are in a good state of repair. Many of the more humble early nineteenth century Federal style houses of small planters, however, have disappeared from the landscape or have become severely deteriorated. Thus, the restoration of the Johnston House has rendered it a rare example of a rapidly vanishing house-type in the region.

The John Johnston House was probably built early in the second quarter of the nineteenth century on a plantation of 375 acres that Johnston assembled at that time "on the main road leading from Yanceyville to Milton." A member of a prominent Caswell county family, John Johnston (ca. 1778-1860) was a son of Scottish immigrant Dr. Lancelot Johnston, who served with distinction as a surgeon with the American forces during the Revolution. John Johnston's son by his first marriage to Mary Frances Donoho, Thomas Donoho Johnston (1800-1883), rose to prominence as a businessman in the late antebellum period and built Clarendon Hall in Yanceyville, one of the county's finest antebellum residences. Following John Johnston's death in 1860 and the death of his second wife, Nancy, in 1872, the property had a long succession of owners, one of which, probably either G. T. Hubbard or J. E. Zimmerman, moved the house in the first quarter of the twentieth century some 150 yards southwest to a corner of the property where it served as a tenant house. In the late 1980s it was restored by local resident and historian, Hilda Broda, who received a 1995 Award of Merit from the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina for this project. The John Johnston House now provides the observer with a rare glimpse of rural life in nineteenth-century Caswell County.

When Ruth Little and Tony Wrenn published An Inventory of Historic Architecture: Caswell County, North Carolina, Ruth Little-Stokes and Tony P. Wrenn (1979), the Johnston House may not have been identified as such. It had not been restored and was not on the National Register of Historic Places. On page 111 (Photo 131) of the Little-Wrenn book is a description and photograph of the Zimmerman House:

"Photo 131. Zimmerman House. ca. 1820. 1.5-story frame Federal style house, now stuccoed, with exterior end stone chimneys. Interior almost completely unaltered, with inventive vernacular classical mantel." Note the J. E. Zimmerman referred to in the National Register summary above. This probably was Junius Ellard Zimmerman (1908-1969). Note also that a Zimmerman Road (SR #1595) runs northeast from Route 62 N (the "main road leading from Yanceyville to Milton").

John Johnston House

(for larger image, click on photograph, then click "All Sizes")

The G. T. Hubbard referred to above may be Grattan T. Hubbard, the first postmaster at Hamer, Caswell County, North Carolina.