Hopkins, Samuel (fl. 1790s)
Samuel Hopkins (fl. 1790s) was a builder who came to Orange County about 1793 and constructed some of the first buildings at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He is believed to have been a native of Virginia. When the United States Census was taken in Orange County in 1800, the residents listed under “The University of North Carolina” included “Joseph Caldwell and the other professors,” the “students (thereof),” and fourteen other heads of household including Samuel Hopkins.
Samuel Hopkins was a friend of builder James Patterson of Chatham County, who erected the first building at the university, Old East (1793-1795). By the early 1790s Hopkins owned two lots in Chapel Hill and three slaves. In 1793 he contracted to build the university’s President’s House, a 2-story frame structure with a side-passage plan; his drawing with floor plans is illustrated in William S. Powell’s book, The First State University. In 1794 Samuel Hopkins and other men including William Cain of Orange County signed a bond to assure the successful completion of the President’s House. In 1794 Hopkins wrote to John Haywood from Hillsborough concerning building projects under consideration and referred to the house he had already built for William Cain, which might be either Sans Souci in Hillsborough or Hardscrabble out in the county.
Samuel Hopkins continued to work for the university for a few years. In 1795 he proposed to build a grammar school, noting that “I have now a parcel of prime hands”—workmen, probably slaves—who could do the work, but the school was apparently not built for several years. In 1795, Samuel Hopkins and Philemon Hodges contracted to build the college chapel, Person Hall, a 1-story structure of brick laid in Flemish bond with round-arched windows. Despite alterations and expansions, it survives in recognizable form as one of the earliest buildings on campus.
In 1799 Hopkins was appointed “Superintendent of the Principal Buildings” at the still struggling university, specifically to oversee construction of South Building, a large, 3-story brick edifice that followed a Palladian format. The project ran into logistical and financial problems. On November 11, 1799, Hopkins reported to John Haywood that the quantity of oyster shells hauled from Fayetteville was insufficient to make the amount of mortar needed, and “as the time of our brick laying was too short to make it worth while to send Waggons to Fayettv[ille] expressly for more oyster shells, we have quit the brickwork for this season.” Funds ran out, the project stopped in 1801, and not until 1814 was the building completed. Hopkins last appeared in local records in 1805 when he sold three slaves to William Kirkland.
There were several men named Samuel Hopkins in this period. According to the “Documenting the American South” web site, Chapel Hill’s Samuel Hopkins was born in 1769 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia and moved to North Carolina from Albemarle County, Virginia, was an original owner of a lot in Chapel Hill, served as the town’s first postmaster, married Elizabeth Daniel [Granville County] in 1797, wed his second wife, Harriet, about 1820, and moved to Kentucky where he died in 1839. Further study of his life and career is needed.
- Documenting the American South, http://docsouth.unc.edu/.
- Lucile Noel Dula, Pelican Guide to Hillsborough (1979).
- Archibald Henderson, The Campus of the First State University (1949).
- Arthur Link, “A History of the Buildings of the University of North Carolina,” M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1941).
- M. Ruth Little, The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1795-1975 (2006).
- Orange County Records, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
- William S. Powell, The First State University: A Pictorial History of the University of North Carolina (1992).
- University Archives, 1793-1801, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
- Dates:Late 18th century; early 19th centuryLocation:Durham CountyStreet Address:N side SR 1002, Durham County, NCStatus:StandingType:ResidentialNote: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.
- Variant Name(s):Old ChapelDates:1795-1798; 1843 [renovation]; 1936 [renovation]Location:Chapel Hill, Orange CountyStreet Address:University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NCStatus:StandingType:EducationalImages Puslished In: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:The building burned in 1880 and was rebuilt within the original walls and expanded. It was extensively renovated in the 1930s.
- Dates:1795Location:Chapel Hill, Orange CountyStreet Address:University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NCStatus:AlteredType:EducationalImages Puslished In:William S. Powell, The First State University: A Pictorial History of the University of North Carolina (1992).Note:The President's House was moved to 211 McCauley St. and was altered over the years.
- Dates:1799-1801; 1814 [completed]; 1926-1927 [internally reconstructed]; mid-20th century [renovated]; late 20th century [renovated]Location:Chapel Hill, Orange CountyStreet Address:University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NCStatus:StandingType:EducationalImages Puslished In:John V. Allcott, The Campus at Chapel Hill: Two Hundred Years of Architecture (1986).
Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
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:Drawings for the 1926-1927 alterations to South Building, including the south portico, are labeled, "office of Atwood and Nash, Inc., architects and engineers, Chapel Hill, N. C.," and dated 1926 and undated (Special Collections Research Center, NCSU Libraries, Raleigh, North Carolina). A set of steps and walls accentuating the descent to the quadrangle below was added in 1929, enhancing the Beaux-Arts effect of the tall building with portico. The postcard view shows the south side of South Building as redesigned for the 1920s expansion of the campus southward.