Hardscrabble Plantation House

Samuel Hopkins, probable carpenter; Martin Palmer, probable carpenter

Late 18th century; early 19th century

Durham County
Street Address:

N side SR 1002, Durham County, NC






Home of planter William Cain (b. 1743-d. 1834), the plantation house was built as two separate structures joined by a passage, each taking the form of a 2-story frame dwelling with brick end chimneys. These have been variously dated, including some suggestions that the older part dates from the 1770s and the newer one from ca. 1790. Stylistic evidence and comparison to documented local houses suggest that the front, Georgian style portion was built in the late 18th century for Cain, and the back, Federal style section in the early 19th century. Either Martin Palmer or Samuel Hopkins or both may have been involved in building the ca. 1790 section. On Aug. 14, 1790, Palmer informed Richard Bennehan that he was enclosing a house for a Mr. Cain. On Jan. 8, 1794, Hopkins wrote to state treasurer John Haywood referring to “The House I built for Mr. Cain,” commenting that Cain was “very confident he has not been out less than £1,000 on it” (University Papers, University Archives, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina). Architectural historian Barbara Hume has noted resemblances between interior woodwork in the Federal style section of Hardscrabble, plates in an 18th century English architectural guide (Palladio Londinensis), and certain early 19th century Hillsborough houses (the Frederick Nash House, the Hazel-Nash House [Pilgrim’s Rest], and Lochiel), and attributes these houses to Palmer as well. Thus far no documentation has been found of the builders of these houses.