901 Holt Dr.
Displaying a type popular in the early to mid-twentieth century, this replica of George Washington’s home in Virginia is roughly two-thirds the size of the original. It stands on a large, formally treated lot that extends through the block and thus presents two different facades to two parallel streets—a small entrance facing Harvey Street and a classic “Mount Vernon” portico overlooking Holt Drive and a small linear park suitably called “Potomac Park.” The grandeur of the house captured newspaper writers’ attention and set a tone for Hayes Barton as well as establishing James A. Davidson as a premier builder.
The reference to heroic historical antecedents well suited a wealthy family with long roots in North Carolina. The house was built for Albert Lyman Cox, son of famed Confederate officer William R. Cox and himself a World War I hero, attorney, politician, and entrepreneur, and his wife, the former Arabel Nash of an extended Tarboro family that included Episcopal bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire. Arabel was also the sister-in-law of leading Wilmingtonian James Lawrence Sprunt, husband of her sister, Annie Gray Nash. Albert and Arabel Cox, who married in 1909, had resided on Raleigh’s North Blount Street and on Hillsborough Street before moving to Hayes Barton.
The construction date is defined by articles in the News and Observer. The issue of August 3, 1922 reported on recent building permits, including one for the $45,000 residence of Albert Cox, which far exceeded all others listed, none of which was for more than $10,000. The house was completed within a year: the News and Observer of July 1, 1923, reported that Mrs. Albert Cox had recently entertained in “her home in Haynes-Barton [sic].” The United States Census of 1930 listed Albert and Arabel and their five children at the residence, with the value of Cox’s real estate noted as $60,000. In the early 1930s, Cox lost the property, which had been mortgaged. (Similar fates befell a number of the owners of the fine houses in Hayes Barton.) The family moved to Washington, D. C., and Albert Cox served as commander of the National Guard. “Mount Vernon” was acquired by Alfred Williams, of Alfred Williams and Company, a third-generation book and stationer’s store that later became a large office outfitter. The house is generally associated with Williams and his family.
Note: Davidson and Jones Archives, private collection; News and Observer, various issues.