Beautiful, spacious shingle home, built 1908
Impossibly scenic lot on a cozy corner of the idyllic UNC campus
Home to three famous Carolinians
What’s the catch? Well, there’s a hole in the house where a tree fell on it. The lot is overgrown. And it’s been condemned by the town. But the Edward Kidder Graham House is far from lost--at least if Preservation North Carolina can find a buyer in the next six months. If not, a demolition crew will swiftly erase this piece of Chapel Hill and North Carolina history.
Up to a million dollars, say restoration experts, to rehabilitate the 3,200-square-foot house. Add to that the $900,000 asking price (house on 0.62 acres).
Sounds like a lot? Take a look at home values in Chapel Hill’s historic districts and try to find an equivalent. Under $2 million starts to sound like a bargain. And don’t forget that the State of North Carolina offers 30% tax credits for qualified restoration of historic homes.
Then think of what this buys. Not just a comfortable, historic, totally renovated home in an impossible-to-beat locale. It buys back a critical part of the story of North Carolina and the nation’s first state university.
Take a Storied History
Edward Kidder Graham, who built the house, was a Charlotte native and UNC graduate (1894). He was made full professor of English at UNC in 1907 and taught the department’s first journalism course. Appointed university president in 1914, he worked, in his words, “to make the campus co-extensive with the boundaries of the State.” His tenure was cut short in 1918, however, when he died in the influenza pandemic at age 42.
Graham’s wife Susan was another passionate advocate for education. With two degrees from Cornell and teaching experience at Newcomb and Sweet Briar colleges, she devoted herself to expanding opportunities for women. Susan, too, died tragically young, in 1916 at age 34. Friends dedicated a memorial fountain to her, which today sits in a corner of Coker Arboretum.
A cousin, and one of the most notable North Carolinians of the twentieth century, Frank Porter Graham, also lived in the house. Internationally known for his support of social justice, freedom of speech, and excellence in education, he was the first president of the state’s consolidated university system (1930-49) and served briefly in the U.S. Senate.
The Graham House’s luminary inhabitants attracted Chapel Hill’s brightest to gather, socialize and discuss the problems of the day. This was where ideas were forged as the university expanded to become truly public, to make women’s education a reality; as it reached out to mill workers fighting for rights in Gastonia; as it faced two world wars.
“This house embodies the progressive spirit of North Carolina in the twentieth century,” says Myrick Howard, PNC President. “We must make every effort to rescue it.”
Add a Little (Free) Love
It’s not every home to several famous North Carolinians that has also doubled as the set for a semi-notorious B-movie.
In 1968, director Richard Wilson used the Edward Kidder Graham House to shoot a good portion of Three in the Attic, a goofy, low-budget sexploitation picture about a young free-lover kidnapped by three women he has been cheating on. The movie was a flop, and while it likely would have shocked the Graham family, it remains a document of the sexual revolution.
“Having the movie shot here puts the house in a whole other category," says Ernest Dollar, who is executive director of the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, working with PNC to save the house. He jokes, “This film proves that preservation is sexy.”
Find a Remarkable Steward
So where are the people who will save the storied, sexy Edward Kidder Graham House? “We know they're out there,” says Cathleen Turner, PNC’s Piedmont Regional Director. “This house has so much going for it.”
But they will have to step forward quickly. Six months is a short time, and to lose this piece of the Grahams’ legacy--indeed, for someone to lose the opportunity to restore this piece of history--would be a shame.
To learn more about the Edward Kidder Graham House, visit www.PreservationNC.org or contact Cathleen Turner, firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-682-8540.
Glenn Perkins is Director of Outreach Education for Preservation North Carolina.