North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Nichols, William (1780-1853)

Birthplace: Bath, England
Residences:
  • New Bern, North Carolina
  • Edenton, North Carolina
  • Fayetteville, North Carolina
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Jackson, Mississippi
  • Lexington, Mississippi
Trades:
  • Architect;
  • Builder;
  • Carpenter/Joiner;
  • Engineer
NC Work Locations:
  • Edenton, Chowan County
  • Chowan
  • New Bern, Craven County
  • Craven
  • Fayetteville, Cumberland County
  • Cumberland
  • Lexington, Davidson County
  • Davidson
  • Greensboro, Guilford County
  • Guilford
  • Chapel Hill, Orange County
  • Orange
  • Hillsborough, Orange County
  • Orange
  • Salisbury, Rowan County
  • Rowan
  • Raleigh, Wake County
  • Wake
Building Types:
  • Educational;
  • Public;
  • Religious;
  • Residential
Styles & Forms:
  • Federal;
  • Gothic Revival;
  • Greek Revival

Mordecai House [Raleigh]

View larger image and credits

Mordecai House [Raleigh]

Biography

William Nichols (1780-December 12, 1853), an English-born house carpenter, architect, and engineer, worked in North Carolina from 1800 until 1827, during which time he planned and built some of the state's finest and most advanced buildings. The first resident architect in North Carolina since John Hawks, he was also the first North Carolina architect or builder whose practice extended almost statewide, from Edenton and New Bern near the coast to Lexington and Salisbury in the western Piedmont. Using popular architectural books of the day, including Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens, Nichols gave North Carolina unusually early examples of the Greek Revival and Gothic Revival styles. He also encouraged a taste for stylish and sophisticated architecture that had an influence long after he left the state.

Combining the skills of house carpenter and architect, Nichols could construct as well as design buildings, though in some cases he provided only the design or design and superintendence. References to drawings indicate that he supplied plans, sections, elevations, and details, but none of these is known to survive except for a sketch of a cupola on the State House attributed to him. His correspondence and bills survive only in the papers of a few of his clients. Although many buildings have been suggested as Nichols's work from stylistic evidence, relatively few have been documented. The building list encompasses documented works plus a few others where stylistic and circumstantial evidence are especially strong; other possible attributions mentioned in the text await further investigation and documentation.

Nichols was born in Bath, England, a center of Palladian and Adamesque architecture, where he apparently learned his trade in a family of builders. In his application for United States citizenship (1813), he stated that he was a native of Bath, aged 36, and had resided in North Carolina since the year 1800. By at least 1805, he was in New Bern, where in that year he married Mary Rew, and in 1806 he took as apprentice in Nimrod West, aged 15. In 1806 Nichols's accomplishments prompted English engineer William Tatham to recommend his countryman as "a Clerk, Draftsman, Surveyor, Architect, and regular bred (Bath, in England) Workman, of considerable talents, ingenuity, and merit."

What Nichols designed or built in New Bern remains a mystery. Despite extensive research on the city's architecture, there are no known documented Nichols commissions. A few New Bern buildings have similarities to his later, documented work, suggesting his influence, such as elliptical recessed arches and openings, and unusually early use of full-height columns and Gothic and Greek Revival elements. At the New Bern Academy (ca. 1806-1810), especially, such details as semi-circular portico and paired modillions are much like those at his Hayes Plantation House. St. John's Masonic Lodge (completed 1809) was the work of local master builder and lodge member John Dewey; Nichols, too, was a lodge member, and certain design elements suggest his influence, especially the stylized Palladian façade dominated by a large, elliptical recessed arch. Other suggested attributions include the Harvey Mansion (after 1797, ca. 1800-1805), the Isaac Taylor House (after 1792), and the (lost) Bank of New Bern (1805-1806). Two important local churches--both constructed by local builders after Nichols left New Bern but was still in North Carolina--have elements suggesting a Nichols influence: First Presbyterian Church (1819-1822), a neoclassical frame edifice built by Uriah Sandy, Martin Stevenson, and John Dewey; and Christ Episcopal Church (1822-1824) in brick in early Gothic Revival style, erected by local "architects" Martin Stevenson and Thomas Gooding.

Nichols's first documented commissions came in Edenton, North Carolina, where he lived from about 1806 to 1817. There he applied for American citizenship in 1813, and in 1815 (his first wife having died), he married Sarah Simons. In Edenton, too, he took apprentices to the carpenter's trade, including Benjamin Boulton, Cornelius Leary, James Reed, and James Riggs. He also owned and hired slaves, probably including artisans as well as servants and laborers. Nineteen slaves were listed in his household in the census of 1810, and he also acquired land in the town and county.

The project that brought Nichols to Edenton, and the earliest work for which Nichols's correspondence survives, was the 1806-1809 "restoration" of the colonial period St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The Edenton congregation employed Nichols, referred to in the project as "Architect and House Joiner," to visit Edenton from New Bern in December, 1805, and paid him to survey the building and make plans in a suitable "manner for fitting up the church."

Nichols's well-documented interaction with St. Paul's building committee offers early insight into the ambitious and style-conscious builder and architect. He proposed extensive repairs and an elegant interior, with coved ceiling, columns carrying the galleries, plus a spire and "neat vases" (classical urns) atop the entrance tower. He priced the work at $3,300, plus materials. This was beyond the parish's means, and treasurer Josiah Collins urged cuts, including omission of the spire, the vases and the block cornice and frieze around the cove ceiling. Nichols objected to such "abridgement of the work . . . for it would procure me no credit which is an object for me." Eventually the parties agreed on a contract for $2,150 with a plain roof for the tower. But as work proceeded, the committee agreed on some changes (shown in an extra bill for $522 dollars, paid in full on February 13, 1809), and Nichols had his cornices and the spire with corner vases after all.

Also in Edenton, Nichols made repairs to the colonial Chowan County Courthouse (see John Hawks) and built some modest frame buildings, including a Chowan County Jail (ca. 1810), the Baptist Meeting House (1810), and a house for a Mrs. Harriss. He is also credited, on stylistic grounds, with expanding the James Iredell House (1827) long after he left Edenton, which is credible given his known relationship with James Iredell, Jr.

Nichols's premier work in Edenton was Hayes Plantation House (1814-1817). The large frame house incorporates a Palladian plan and late Federal style elements, plus some of the state's earliest Greek Revival and Gothic Revival details. He drew upon books such as Asher Benjamin's American Builder's Companion and Stuart and Revett's Antiquities of Athens, the latter for the tall, stylized columns of the portico facing the Albemarle Sound. Nichols's work is recorded in detail in the plantation journals and correspondence kept by his client, planter James Cathcart Johnson. After some preliminary work, including Nichols's attention to the plans, Johnston recorded in his book, "Nichols engaged to superintend my building at $60 pr month commence 3rd October 1815." In typical fashion, Johnston himself contracted for much of the project, from cutting and sawing timber to plastering. He and Nichols worked out many details, and Nichols made visits to New York to order stone steps, mahogany handrails, iron railings, and many other items for the house.

Nichols's work for Johnston at Hayes paved the way for his future career. In December, 1816, before Hayes was completed, Johnston wrote to his cousin James Iredell, Jr., legislator from Edenton, encouraging Iredell to "remember Nichols" as a possible architect for the proposed state penitentiary, a huge and costly project. "I know of no man so well qualified to superintend a public building in that way," said Johnston. Nichols was already pursuing the commission; in November, 1816, the committee for the project reported receiving "an elegant plan drawn by Wm. Nicholls, a professional architect of Edenton, together with some remarks and explanations, and an offer of his services, should the measure [to build the facility] be adopted." The penitentiary project was not funded, but Nichols must have made a good impression in Raleigh. On December 11, 1817, Iredell reported to Johnston that "Nichols has got into employment at Fayetteville--Mr. [John] Winslow, member from Fayetteville, took Nichols there about a week ago and procured for him an engagement to superintend the building of the State Bank Branch and Cape Fear Branch Bank at Fayetteville at 90 dollars a month--His plans have been very much admired." {Hayes Papers, Southern Historical Collection}

Moving to Fayetteville in 1817 or 1818, Nichols settled in the state's principal commercial city, an inland port on the Cape Fear River upstream from Wilmington. He was listed there in the United States Census in 1820. While in Fayetteville, Nichols surely met Ithiel Town, the noted architect from New Haven and New York, who was also there in the early 1820s, but no record of their acquaintance or relationship has been found. In addition to the two banks Iredell mentioned, as an engineer Nichols planned and built the municipal water system, of which he was the president and a stockholder, and advised on navigation projects on the Cape Fear River. There are also possible Nichols attributions in Fayetteville based on stylistic features and circumstances: the Bank of the United States (ca. 1818-1820); perhaps the small, frame Oval Ballroom, an elegant curved room in a freestanding building, enriched with attenuated Ionic pilasters; and the original St. John's Episcopal Church (1817-1818), a simple Gothic Revival building later rebuilt on the old walls after the fire of 1831 (see William Drummond). Nichols may also have built the law office (1818) and summer home (1820) of Judge Robert Strange, the Fayetteville Academy, and other structures now lost. In 1831, a city-wide fire swept Fayetteville, destroying or damaging most of its buildings including much of Nichols's work.

Not long after arriving in Fayetteville, and doubtless aided by his influential friends, in 1818 Nichols gained a salaried position (at $400 a quarter) as State Architect and Superintendent of Public Buildings (the title varied). He was responsible both for new state buildings and for repairs and improvements to existing ones. Between 1820 and Lafayette's 1825 visit to Raleigh, Nichols evidently added the tall Ionic portico to the front of the "Government House," or Governor's Palace which faced the State House from the south terminus of Fayetteville Street. He also built a small office building on Union Square.

Nichols's most important project as State Architect, however, was the remodeling of the State House in Raleigh. In 1818, he was commissioned to survey the old State House, built in 1794-1797, to advise on repairs and renovations. In 1819 he was also asked for "professional" advice on where to place the statue of George Washington in Roman garb, commissioned in 1815 by the state from the prestigious Italian sculptor Antonio Canova and expected to arrive soon. Combining the two ideas, in 1819 Nichols presented a persuasive report, full of classical references and accompanied by drawings (now lost), advocating a complete transformation of the State House to provide a suitable location for the statue. He estimated the project would cost no more than $25,000. The committee endorsed his design, which they said possessed "that taste and elegance, which the nature of the subject made so absolutely indispensable." The project was authorized in 1819, and work began in 1820 and was completed in 1822.

Nichols's dramatic transformation of the State House produced an imposing neoclassical brick edifice with central dome, twin porticoes, and arched openings at the ground story; its central rotunda and paired legislative chambers followed the example of its predecessor. Combining Palladian and early Greek Revival elements, it was an early example of a plan used previously in the United States Capitol, with a central rotunda flanked by large legislative chambers. The Raleigh Register of October 19, 1821, with language surely contributed by Nichols, carried a detailed description of the nearly completed building. The circular Senate chamber featured a gallery supported by twelve pillars "of the Greek Ionic order." The House of Commons was to be "semi-elliptical" with its gallery supported by a "Peristyle of columns of the same order." Stairs and offices occupied the east and west wings. "The Rotunda, surmounted by a Dome, which is to be the receptacle of the Cenotaph of Washington, occupies the center of the building." In 1821, Nichols supervised the hauling of the Washington statue from Fayetteville, where it had arrived by boat via Wilmington, and its installation in the ground floor of the rotunda. There the famed statue was lighted from above from the cupola atop the dome.

Upon its completion in 1822, although the cost of the edifice had far exceeded the estimate--running to $65,000--the State House met with widespread admiration. In a letter to a friend in New Haven, architect Ithiel Town praised it as being a more elegant State House than any other state had yet built, and admired the statue of Washington. In remarks to the legislature published in the Raleigh Register of November 22, 1822, the governor praised the "talents of the architect" seen in "such an elegant specimen," and expressed his appreciation for "giving encouragement to genius and attainment in one of the fine arts, which has hitherto been so little known, or properly estimated, among us." Nichols's State House provided the state with an important object of public pride. It also proved to have a profound influence on the form of its successor, the North Carolina State Capitol (1833-1840).

After completion of the State House, the University of North Carolina employed Nichols from 1822 to 1827 to improve or build several campus buildings. These projects included construction of the 3-story Old West and addition of a third story to the older Old East to balance it. He also planned Gerrard Hall (originally the New Chapel), a brick structure with a tall Ionic portico similar to that at the Governor's Palace, and made repairs and alterations to other university structures.

During his "engagement with the state," Nichols continued his private practice. In 1822 he advertised under the heading "Architecture and Civil Engineering" that he could attend to the "frequent applications" of those whom his official duties had obliged him to neglect. A few private projects have been documented from what must have been highly productive years. Like other architects, for some he may have supplied drawings and specifications by mail, while for others he supervised construction.

In Hillsborough, not far from Chapel Hill, Nichols planned Eagle Lodge (1823-1824), a sophisticated brick building with small Ionic portico. He was also involved in planning St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, a modest brick building with Gothic Revival windows: In 1825, churchman William Anderson wrote to his uncle, Duncan Cameron, "Mr. Nichols has made a farther alteration in the plan of our church making it 35 x 45 feet, saying that a less width would not be proportional to the length" (Cameron Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection). Also attributed to Nichols is Lochiel, a 1 1/2 story raised cottage with Federal style details, built for a member of William Anderson's family.

West of Hillsborough, Nichols undertook scattered but important projects. He designed the Guilford County Courthouse and the Davidson County Courthouse in the 1820s, and possibly the Rowan County Courthouse, all of which are long lost. In Salisbury, as Nichols informed Archibald D. Murphey, he designed a monument to leading Salisbury citizen Archibald Henderson, which was fabricated "at a Statuary in Philadelphia" in 1825. The pedestal with urn in brownstone and marble is signed by "Wm. Nichols, architect."

Other private projects have been suggested as Nichols's work because of their architectural character, but without supporting documentation thus far. Still to be determined, for example, is whether Nichols had a role in planning such distinctive houses in the Albemarle region as Athol near Edenton and Cove Grove near Hertford, which resemble later Alabama houses credited to Nichols.

Back in Raleigh, where Nichols had been employed as State Architect, he gained notable commissions among the local elite. The only surviving example of his work in Raleigh is the large addition to the Mordecai House (1825-1826), located on a plantation that was then located north of the city. Here Nichols served as architect and contractor. In April 1825, Ellen Mordecai wrote to her brother Solomon that their brother Moses Mordecai (d. 1824) had provided in his will for expanding his old house for his widow, Nancy, and their children. Ellen commented, "Nancy very wisely has made a contract with Nichols the architect in Raleigh--he will have the whole trouble of the building & it is to be given up to Nancy complete except painting. Nichols has a very handsome taste the state house is beautifully finished and I think he will make the place very handsom [sic] as well as very comfortable and convenient" (George W. Mordecai Papers, Southern Historical Collection). Payments from the estate to Nichols went from July, 1825, to December 5, 1826. Nichols produced a 2-story frame addition that became the main, south front of the house. It features unusually early Greek Revival details, including a Palladian double portico with stylized Doric and Ionic inspired columns, and rooms finished with early Greek Revival moldings and mantels.

Other commissions in Raleigh included either building or strengthening the Wake County Jail of 1825; remodeling and addition of a piazza to the George E. Badger House (1827); and the first sanctuary of Christ Episcopal Church (1826-1829), a simple Gothic Revival frame building. The Raleigh Register reported on November 1, 1826, that the members of Christ Church had "contracted with Mr. Wm. Nichols to build it. . . [From] the acknowledged talents of the architect, we have no doubt this church will be an ornament to the city." In April, 1827, when Nichols left for Alabama, he left the church and some other projects unfinished.

As was true of many North Carolinians in the 1820s and 1830s, prospects for work and wealth attracted Nichols to the fast growing state of Alabama. There he became State Architect and planned and built the State Capitol, buildings at the University of Alabama, and other public and private projects.

Although no longer living in North Carolina, Nichols still had a role in its architectural development, specifically in defining the cruciform plan of the State Capitol built in 1833-1840. As traced in detail by Cecil D. Elliott and John L. Sanders, after Nichols's remodeled State House burned in 1831, in 1832 the legislature appropriated $50,000 to rebuild on the site, and directed the building commissioners to "employ an architect for such purpose as they may deem necessary"; the legislature specified that the "general plan" should be "the same as the former building," but larger, with at least the lower story of stone, and the roof covered with zinc or other fireproof material.

By early 1833 the commissioners had received various plans, including a temple-form design by the prestigious New York firm of Town and Davis and a design from William Nichols, acting in some capacity with his son, William, Jr., who had become an architect or builder himself. Nichols, Jr., met with the commissioners, and on April 2, 1833, the commissioners chose the Nichols scheme. According to the Raleigh Register, they engaged Nichols, Jr., to "prepare the Plan of the Building and to make out the proper specifications. . . . If any further architectural skill be found necessary, Mr. Nichols, or his father [italics added], on being requested to do so, will pay occasional visits to Raleigh during the progress of the work." On July 26, 1833, Nichols, Jr., was paid $350 for his professional services, and the commissioners stated that they required no further services. They anticipated hiring a contractor or a supervisor to manage the project with their guidance.

Although no image of the Nichols design for the State Capitol survives, descriptions and the stone walls as built show that it was cruciform in plan, with a central dome, Ionic porticoes, and arched openings at the ground story; its central rotunda and paired legislative chambers followed the example of its predecessor. It was also similar to but grander than Nichols's Alabama State Capitol. Construction began on the stone edifice in early summer, 1833, and the cornerstone was laid on July 4. Later that summer, Town and Davis came back into the project and transformed the design into their own bold Greek Revival style. But with the massive stone walls already begun, they necessarily incorporated Nichols's cruciform plan, rotunda, and flanking legislative chambers.

Generally credited to the more famous Town and Davis, the unique design of the State Capitol owes as much to the less often acknowledged contribution of William Nichols. As stated by John L. Sanders, scholar of the State Capitol, "The Nicholses determined the ground plan, general dimensions, and massing of the capitol and the disposition of the principal spaces within it. Their successor architects, Town and Davis (August 1833-35) and David Paton (1835-40), modified and greatly refined but could not fundamentally alter the basic design."

From Alabama, William Nichols, Sr., moved in 1833 to Louisiana, where as Assistant State Engineer he enlarged and remodeled B. Henry Latrobe's former Charity Hospital in New Orleans to serve as the State House. In 1836 he moved to Mississippi where he spent the rest of his career, again serving as State Architect. He planned or built the State Capitol, the Executive Mansion, and the Penitentiary in Jackson, plus other churches, schools, residences, and public edifices. At his death in 1853 Nichols was a resident of Lexington, Mississippi. His tombstone in Lexington was inscribed "William Nichols, Archt., A native of Bath, England, Died Dec. 12, 1853, Aged 73 years."

Nichols was well-remembered in North Carolina after nearly 30 years' absence. The Raleigh North Carolina Standard carried news of his death on January 7, 1854, and on February 8 published a remembrance: "Capt. William Nichols, [who] . . . died recently in Mississippi, was the architect who designed and executed the very great improvements made upon our old State House, which was completed in 1822, and burned down in 1831. He was an Englishman, eminently skilled in his profession, and traces of improvement introduced by him are now discoverable in every section of the State. The cottage erected by him [a] mile north of this City, on the road to Petersburg, by the late Moses Mordecai, Esq., was designed by him, and was the earliest specimen of that order of architecture among us." Years later, Governor David L. Swain recalled of Nichols in Early Times in Raleigh, "He was a skillful and experienced artist and made the public greatly his debtor for a decided impulse given to architectural improvements throughout the State, in private as well as public commissions."

Authors: C. Ford Peatross and Catherine W. Bishir. Contributor: John L. Sanders.

Published 2009

Building List

North Carolina State Capitol (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1833

Contributors:
Dates: 1833-1840
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: Union Square, Raleigh, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Public
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Edward T. Davis and John L. Sanders, A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina: The Works of Alexander Jackson Davis (2000).
Note:

Although sometimes credited solely to Town and Davis, the design of the capitol was the result of a sequence of work by William Nichols, Sr. and Jr., Town and Davis, and David Paton, with advice from William Strickland. For a fuller explanation of the chronology and contributions of architects involved in the State Capitol, see Bishir, North Carolina Architecture and other sources cited herein.

North Carolina State Capitol

State House (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1792

Contributors:
Dates: 1792-1795; 1820-1824 [remodeled]
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: Union Square, Raleigh, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Lounsbury, and Ernest H. Wood III, Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Elizabeth Reid Murray, Wake: Capital County of North Carolina, Vol. I, Prehistory through Centennial (1983).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).

State House

Governor's Palace (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1814

Contributors:
Dates: 1814-1816; ca. 1820-1825 [addition]; 1855 [addition]
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: South St. at Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir and J. Marshall Bullock, "Mr. Jones Goes to Richmond: A Note on the Influence of Alexander Parris's Wickham House," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians Vol. 43, No. 1 (March, 1984), reprinted in Catherine W. Bishir, Southern Built: American Architecture, Regional Practice (2006).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).
  • Elizabeth C. Waugh, North Carolina's Capital, Raleigh (1967).
Note:

Modeled after the plan of the Wickham House (1811-1812) in Richmond, Virginia, the brick building was razed in 1885.

Old West (Chapel Hill, Orange County)

Orange Chapel Hill

1822

Contributors:
Dates: 1822-1823; 1844-1848 [addition]; 1924 [renovation]; 1991-1992 [extensive renovation]
Location: Chapel Hill, Orange County
Street Address: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • John V. Allcott, The Campus at Chapel Hill: Two Hundred Years of Architecture (1986).
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Edward T. Davis and John L. Sanders, A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina: The Works of Alexander Jackson Davis (2000).
  • M. Ruth Little, The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1795-1975 (2006).
  • William S. Powell, The First State University: A Pictorial History of the University of North Carolina (1992).
Note:

Alexander Jackson Davis enlarged and remade the north façades of Old East and Old West with Tuscan end bays to face Franklin Street. Builder Dabney Cosby questioned his design. See J. Marshall Bullock, "The Enterprising Contractor, Mr. Cosby," for a detailed account of Cosby's involvement in the Old East and Old West projects. The photograph shows Old West on the right.

Old West

Old East (Chapel Hill, Orange County)

Orange Chapel Hill

1793

Contributors:
Dates: 1793-1795; 1822 [addition]; 1844-1848 [addition]; 1924 [internally reconstructed]; 1991-1992 [extensive renovation]
Location: Chapel Hill, Orange County
Street Address: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • John V. Allcott, The Campus at Chapel Hill: Two Hundred Years of Architecture (1986).
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Edward T. Davis and John L. Sanders, A Romantic Architect in Antebellum North Carolina: The Works of Alexander Jackson Davis (2000).
  • M. Ruth Little, The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1795-1975 (2006).
  • William S. Powell, The First State University: A Pictorial History of the University of North Carolina (1992).
Note:

Old East is the oldest building on UNC campus. It was enlarged and given the Tuscan end bay by Alexander Jackson Davis. See North Carolina Architecture and Architects and Builders in North Carolina for details and J. Marshall Bullock, "The Enterprising Contractor, Mr. Cosby," for a detailed account of Dabney Cosby's involvement in the Old East and Old West projects. It was gutted and rebuilt within the old walls in 1924.

Old East

St. Paul's Episcopal Church (Edenton, Chowan County)

Chowan Edenton

1736

Contributors:
Dates: 1736-1774; 1806-1807 [renovated]; 1848 [modified]; 1950 [restored]
Location: Edenton, Chowan County
Street Address: 100 W. Church St., Edenton, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
  • Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941).
Note:

The brick colonial church took years to complete, from 1736 to 1774. Its builders are not known. In 1806-1807, the parish employed architect William Nichols to renovate the old church, which had suffered from neglect. He added the Federal style interior woodwork, a spire on the tower, and other elements; Joe Welcome and Jim Millen accomplished the repointing of the old brick walls and probably the interior plastering. Some changes were made later in the 19th century, including the chancel furnishings planned by Ecclesiologist architect Frank Wills of New York. During a restoration in 1949, when the interior woodwork had been removed, the church caught fire and was severely damaged. It was immediately restored, reusing the Federal period and antebellum interior elements.

St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Skinner Law Office (Edenton, Chowan County)

Chowan Edenton

1810

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1810
Location: Edenton, Chowan County
Street Address: 401 Court St., Edenton, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Thomas R. Butchko, An Inventory of Historic Architecture, Sampson County, North Carolina (1981).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).

Chowan County Jail (Edenton, Chowan County)

Chowan Edenton

1810

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1810
Location: Edenton, Chowan County
Street Address: Edenton, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public

Baptist Meeting House (Edenton, Chowan County)

Chowan Edenton

1810

Contributors:
Dates: 1810
Location: Edenton, Chowan County
Street Address: Edenton, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Religious

Hayes Plantation House (Edenton, Chowan County)

Chowan Edenton

1814

Contributors:
Dates: 1814-1817
Location: Edenton, Chowan County
Street Address: Hayes Plantation, Edenton vicinity, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
  • Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).
  • John G. Zehmer, Jr., Hayes: The Plantation, Its People, and Their Papers (2007).
Note:

On Hayes's construction, see Catherine W. Bishir, "'Severe Survitude to House Building': The Construction of Hayes Plantation House, 1814-1817," North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 68, No. 4 (Oct., 1991), reprinted in Catherine W. Bishir, Southern Built: American Architecture, Regional Practice (2006). For a history of the family and house, see John G. Zehmer, Hayes Plantation.

Hayes Plantation House

Harriss House (Edenton, Chowan County)

Chowan Edenton

1810

Contributors:
Dates: Undated, ca. 1810
Location: Edenton, Chowan County
Street Address: Edenton, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Residential

James Iredell House (Addition) (Edenton, Chowan County)

Chowan Edenton

1827

Contributors:
Dates: 1827
Location: Edenton, Chowan County
Street Address: 105 E. Church St., Edenton, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
  • Thomas R. Butchko, Edenton, an Architectural Portrait: The Historic Architecture of Edenton, North Carolina (1992).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).
Note:

The Iredell House addition has been attributed to Nichols on stylistic grounds, including similarities of detail to Hayes Plantation House. However, recent dendrochronology research indicates it was built about 1827, by which time Nichols was in Raleigh or had left for Alabama. No documentation of its construction has been found.

New Bern Academy (New Bern, Craven County)

Craven New Bern

1806

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1806-1810
Location: New Bern, Craven County
Street Address: 514 New St., New Bern, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).
  • Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina (1988).
Note:

Although no documentation links Nichols with the New Bern Academy, similarities of detail with his Hayes in Edenton suggest his hand, including the half-round portico and the use of paired modillions.

New Bern Academy

Cape Fear Bank (Fayetteville, Cumberland County)

Cumberland Fayetteville

1817

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1817-1818
Location: Fayetteville, Cumberland County
Street Address: Fayetteville, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Commercial

State Bank (Fayetteville, Cumberland County)

Cumberland Fayetteville

1817

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1817-1818
Location: Fayetteville, Cumberland County
Street Address: Fayetteville, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Commercial

Bank of the United States (Fayetteville, Cumberland County)

Cumberland Fayetteville

1820

Variant Name(s):
  • Fayetteville Womans Clubs Club
Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1820
Location: Fayetteville, Cumberland County
Street Address: 225 Dick St., Fayetteville, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Commercial
Images Published In:
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).
Note:

The history of the present Fayetteville Woman's Club is somewhat uncertain, but evidently it was built as a bank, probably by William Nichols, and became a residence after 1836. It is one of the few buildings in Fayetteville that survives from before the fire of 1831.

Fayetteville Water Works (Fayetteville, Cumberland County)

Cumberland Fayetteville

1822

Contributors:
Dates: Ca. 1822
Location: Fayetteville, Cumberland County
Street Address: Fayetteville, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public

Davidson County Courthouse (Lexington, Davidson County)

Davidson Lexington

1824

Contributors:
Dates: 1824-1825
Location: Lexington, Davidson County
Street Address: Lexington, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public
Note:

David L. Swain cited the Davidson County courthouse as one of Nichols's works, and court records include references to the project. When the Davidson County court authorized construction of a new courthouse and jail in 1824, it recommended taking the courthouse in Salisbury (Rowan County) as a model in terms of size and materials and recommended employing William Nichols as superintendent.

Guilford County Courthouse (Greensboro, Guilford County)

Guilford Greensboro

1820

Contributors:
Dates: 1820s
Location: Greensboro, Guilford County
Street Address: Greensboro, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public
Note:

David L. Swain, governor, listed courthouses in Davidson and Guilford counties as Nichols's work in his book, Early Times in Raleigh (1867).

Gerrard Hall (Chapel Hill, Orange County)

Orange Chapel Hill

1822

Variant Name(s):
  • New Chapel
Contributors:
Dates: 1822-1837; 1858 [improvements]; 1938 [internally reconstructed]
Location: Chapel Hill, Orange County
Street Address: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Images Published In:
  • John V. Allcott, The Campus at Chapel Hill: Two Hundred Years of Architecture (1986).
  • M. Ruth Little, The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1795-1975 (2006).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).
  • William S. Powell, The First State University: A Pictorial History of the University of North Carolina (1992).
Note:

As built from Nichols's design, Gerrard Hall included an imposing Ionic portico on one side; the portico was removed ca. 1900, and recreated in 2007-2008. The hall was rebuilt internally in the 1930s.

Gerrard Hall

Eagle Lodge (Hillsborough, Orange County)

Orange Hillsborough

1823

Contributors:
Dates: 1823
Location: Hillsborough, Orange County
Street Address: 142 W. King St., Hillsborough, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Fraternal
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).

Eagle Lodge

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church (Hillsborough, Orange County)

Orange Hillsborough

1825

Contributors:
Dates: 1825-1826
Location: Hillsborough, Orange County
Street Address: St. Mary's Rd., Hillsborough, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941).
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).
Note:

Local tradition credited the design of St. Matthew's to cleric Francis Lister Hawks; there is evidence, however, that William Nichols took a role in the design of the modest Gothic Revival brick church.

St. Matthew's Episcopal Church

Lochiel (Hillsborough, Orange County)

Orange Hillsborough

1820

Contributors:
Dates: 1820s
Location: Hillsborough, Orange County
Street Address: Hillsborough, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).

Archibald Henderson Monument (Salisbury, Rowan County)

Rowan Salisbury

1825

Contributors:
Dates: 1825
Location: Salisbury, Rowan County
Street Address: Old Lutheran Cemetery, Salisbury, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Memorial

Mordecai House (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1825

Contributors:
Dates: 1825-1826
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: Mordecai Drive, Raleigh, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Public
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).

Mordecai House

Christ Episcopal Church (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1826

Contributors:
Dates: 1826-1829
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: N. Wilmington St. at Edenton St., Raleigh, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Religious

George E. Badger House (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1827

Contributors:
Dates: 1827 [improvements]
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: W. Edenton St. near Dawson St., Raleigh, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Residential

Wake County Jail (Raleigh, Wake County)

Wake Raleigh

1825

Contributors:
Dates: 1825
Location: Raleigh, Wake County
Street Address: Fayetteville St., Raleigh, NC
Status: No longer standing
Type:
  • Public

William Nichols's Work Locations

Bibliography

  • William Anderson to Duncan Cameron, Feb. 14, 1825, Cameron Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Mary Badger to George Badger, April 12, 21, and 28, 1827, Polk, Badger and McGehee Family Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Lounsbury, and Ernest H. Wood III, Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir, "'Severe Survitude to House Building': The Construction of Hayes Plantation House, 1814-1817," North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. 68, No. 4 (Oct., 1991), reprinted in Catherine W. Bishir, Southern Built: American Architecture, Regional Practice (2006).
  • Thomas R. Butchko, Edenton, an Architectural Portrait: The Historic Architecture of Edenton, North Carolina (1992).
  • Davidson County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Cecil D. Elliott, "The North Carolina State Capitol," Southern Architect (June, 1958).
  • Hayes Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • Legislative Papers, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • George W. Mordecai Papers, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  • North Carolina Standard, Jan. 7, 1854, Feb. 8, 1854.
  • C. Ford Peatross, William Nichols, Architect (1979).
  • Raleigh Register, Oct. 19, 1821, Nov. 22, 1822, Nov. 1, 1826.
  • St. Paul's Episcopal Church Records, Edenton, copies courtesy of Elizabeth V. Moore, Edenton.
  • Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina (1988).
  • John L. Sanders, "William Nichols," in William Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, Vol. 4 (1991).
  • John G. Zehmer, Jr., Hayes: The Plantation, Its People, and Their Papers (2007).
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