Hughes, Raleigh James (1874-1954)

Birthplace:

Elmira, NY

Residences:

  • Greensboro, NC

Trades:

  • Architect

Styles & Forms:

Colonial Revival; Craftsman; Renaissance Revival

Raleigh James Hughes (1874-1954) was an architect active during Greensboro’s dramatic early 20th century growth as a commercial and industrial hub. His principal known works date from the 1910s and 1920s. Although he designed courthouses in Davie and Rockingham County, he is best known for his residences in Greensboro’s early 20th century suburbs and for his skyscraper, the American Exchange National Bank Building (American Enterprise Bank) (1918-1921) in downtown Greensboro, as well as the luxurious country house known as Pennybyrn (1926) near High Point. His practice was quite prolific, and many of Hughes’s works are listed in the Manufacturers’ Record but have not been further identified as yet.

In a colorful story published in the Burlington Daily Times-News of July 23, 1953, kinsman Julian Hughes related Raleigh James Hughes’s early life. According to this account, Raleigh was born to Saul and Margaret Hughes near Elmira, New York. A native of Tennessee, Saul Hughes had moved as a child with his parents to Alamance County, North Carolina, and after the Civil War moved to New York state with his widowed mother. There Saul married Margaret Sutton, a cousin from North Carolina. While living near Elmira, the couple had the first five of their ten children, including Raleigh James Hughes. Shortly after Raleigh’s birth, the family moved back to Alamance County, where Saul worked for the railroad shops at Company Shops (present Burlington). Within a short time, four of the five children died in a diphtheria epidemic; only Raleigh survived. Over their sixteen years of marriage, Saul and Margaret lost nine of their ten children. On June 6, 1884 Margaret and an infant child died, leaving Saul and his motherless son, Raleigh. Raleigh went to live with a relative for a time. Saul remarried in 1885 and had four children, and Raleigh joined the family, but finding the situation difficult, he left home and found work at a local newspaper.

In about 1890 Raleigh turned to house painting for a living. Within a short time, he was inspired by the “artistic work of J. G. Kerner of Kernersville,” famed for painting the “Durham Bull” on walls and fences across the country. Raleigh soon mastered the art of sign painting, and in 1899 he moved to Goldsboro, where he became a popular sign painter. While in Goldsboro, he “took a course in architecture—painted signs and houses by day, and studied architecture while he burned the midnight oil.”

Early in the 20th century Raleigh James Hughes moved to Raleigh, N. C., and worked with contractors Zachary and Zachary, whom he had known in Burlington. He then went out on his own, moving to Lynchburg, Virginia, in about 1907 and in 1910 to Greensboro, where he established himself in architectural practice in the fast-growing railroad town known for its manufacturing, insurance companies, and colleges.

As in Charlotte and Winston-Salem and other cities, Greensboro’s rapidly developing wealth generated elite suburbs that provided a wealth of opportunities to architects. Along with other leading Greensboro architects, Hughes designed residences for Greensboro’s premier early 20th century suburbs. In the Fisher Park suburb, begun about 1890, he is credited with the F. P. Hobgood Jr. House (1915, 115 North Park Dr.) in a Colonial style with hefty, round masonry porch columns and the W. L. Carter House (ca. 1916). In the prestigious Irving Park suburb, developed in the 1910s and 1920s, he is reported to have designed the pair of stone trolley shelters (ca. 1915) at the Sunset Drive entrance to the suburb and several houses including the Parran Jarboe House (1915, 206 Sunset Dr.) in Mediterranean Revival style and probably others. In both Fisher Park and Irving Park, there are numerous houses for which no architect has been identified, some of which may have been Hughes’s work. The 1920s brought Hughes additional prime commissions in Irving Park: among those identified by Preservation Greensboro as Hughes’s work are the James W. Brawley House (1922, 204 S. Tate St.) and the J. A. Matheson House (1920s, 701 Sunset Dr.).

Contemporary records show that Hughes provided designs for many more buildings than have been previously recognized. In the first six months of 1916 alone, the Manufacturers’ Record noted numerous projects for which Hughes was the architect. One noted that J. E. Latham had let a contract for six dwellings of six to eight rooms each in Fisher Park for which Hughes was the architect; the contractor was C. G. Johnson. Hughes also prepared plans for an 8-story business building for A. J. Kluttz and a remodeling of the Greensboro Drug Store.

Beyond Greensboro, in 1916 the Surry County Commissioners announced that they would receive bids to construct a new Surry County Courthouse and jail designed by Raleigh James Hughes and Harry Barton “associate architects”, and a short time later announced the contract had been awarded.

Back in Greensboro, the Manufacturers’ Record of April 18, 1918, reported on Hughes’s commission for one of the city’s most important downtown buildings of the time, noting that bids were being accepted for the 9-story American Exchange National Bank Building from Hughes’s designs. The classically detailed skyscraper at 100-102 N. Elm Street—Greensboro’s principal commercial street—was the tallest building in Greensboro when it opened with great ceremony in 1921. In that year, Hughes moved his office into that building, and he submitted a successful application for membership in the American Institute of Architects, which was endorsed by William H. Lord of Asheville), Willard Northup of Winston-Salem, and Harry J. Simmonds of Greensboro.

In 1926, Hughes won the commission for probably the most opulent house built in High Point—the $126,000 residence of real estate entrepreneur George T. Penny, called Pennybyrn, an unusually large and elaborate rendition of the Renaissance Revival popular among wealthy families in the North Carolina Piedmont and elsewhere. In the following year Hughes married Grace Betts, and they soon had a daughter, Margaret Hughes (Bowman) (1928-2015).

Like many architects, Hughes’s practice was hurt by the Crash of 1929 and the ensuing Great Depression. He wrote to the AIA that he lacked funds to pay his membership dues, and said that he was starting the year with unpaid office rent and grocery bills. He discontinued his AIA membership. Eventually he restarted his practice, but his work in the 1930s and 1940s remains unidentified. In the 1940s he received a major commission from Greensboro insurance magnate Julian Price for a mountain lodge in Blowing Rock, but Price’s death in 1946 brought an end to that project. The Greensboro city directory listed the Hughes family residing at various locations in Greensboro. By 1951 they were at 306 Florence Street. Raleigh Hughes died at Butner Hospital at age 80, and Grace survived him until 1989. Raleigh and Grace Hughes were buried at Westminster Gardens cemetery in Greensboro.

Note: The author of the 1953 account of Raleigh James Hughes’s early life, Julian Hughes, was evidently Raleigh’s stepbrother and the son of Saul Hughes and his second wife, Ella. At that time, Raleigh James Hughes and his wife, Grace, were still living and may have been among the writer’s sources.

Note: Greensboro’s O. Henry magazine of May 2015 carried an article listing numerous projects cited to Hughes. With further documentation, they may be added to this building list.

Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).

Benjamin Briggs, Architecture of High Point, North Carolina (2008).

O. Henry magazine, May, 2015

Preservation Greensboro website, “Architect Hughes Contributed to Greensboro’s Character” at http://preservationgreensboro.typepad.com/weblog/2011/06/architect_hughes_contributed_to_greensboros_character.htm

Sort Building List by:
  • American Exchange National Bank Building

    Contributors:
    Variant Name(s):

    American Enterprise Bank

    Dates:

    1918-1920

    Location:
    Greensboro, Guilford County
    Street Address:

    100-102 N. Elm St.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Images Published In:

    Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).

    Note:

    The Manufacturers’ Record of April 18, 1918 noted that bids were being accepted for the 9-story American Exchange National Bank Building, which had been designed by Hughes. The tallest building in town at its completion, the classically detailed skyscraper at 100-102 N. Elm St. was one of several fine early 20th century skyscrapers that help define downtown Greensboro. It was opened in 1921, and Hughes moved his office there. Originally heavy Doric columns and an entablature defined the first two stories. Around 1940, the lower two floors were remodeled with aluminum storefronts. A renovation ca. 2012 restored much of the original character.


  • Davie County Courthouse

    Contributors:
    Raleigh James Hughes, architect (1916)
    Dates:

    1909, 1916

    Location:
    Mocksville, Davie County
    Street Address:

    100 block S. Main St.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Public

    Images Published In:

    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).

    Note:

    The present courthouse reflects Hughes’s 1916 reworking of a 1909 building after a fire. It features a Corinthian columned portico and a cupola. Hughes’s role is noted in the Manufacturers’ Record during the first few months of 1916.


  • F. P. Hobgood House

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1915

    Location:
    Greensboro, Guilford County
    Street Address:

    115 North Park Dr.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).

    Note:

    The Colonial Revival house has a distinctive form with a deep, heavy-columned from porch across a 1 ½-story house.


  • J. A. Matheson House

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1920s

    Location:
    Greensboro, Guilford County
    Street Address:

    701 Sunset Dr.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).

    Note:

    The large Colonial Revival house in the Irving Park overlooks the golf course.


  • James W. Brawley House

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1922

    Location:
    Greensboro, Guilford County
    Street Address:

    204 S. Tate St

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).


  • Parran Jarboe House

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1915

    Location:
    Greensboro, Guilford County
    Street Address:

    206 Sunset Dr.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).

    Note:

    The Mediterranean Revival style residence was planned by Hughes for a local physician.


  • Pennybyrn (George T. Penny House)

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1926-1927

    Location:
    High Point, Guilford County
    Street Address:

    1315 Greensboro Rd.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Benjamin Briggs, Architecture of High Point
    North Carolina
    (2008).

    Note:

    The Renaissance Revival country house, known as the grandest residence in greater High Point, was built for George T. Penny, who with his brother Jim composed “The World’s Original Twin Auctioneers” and prospered in the real estate business. The mansion was located in a relatively rural area, and within five years of its completion, George and his wife Lena moved to Greensboro and leased out their country house, which later served various purposes including a nursing facility and a convent. It is now part of a continuing care community.


  • Surry County Courthouse

    Contributors:
    Harry Barton, architect; Raleigh James Hughes, architect
    Dates:

    1916

    Location:
    Dobson, Surry County
    Street Address:

    114 West Atkins St., Dobson, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Public

    Images Published In:

    Laura A. W. Phillips, Simple Treasures: The Architectural Legacy of Surry County (1987).


  • W. L. Carter House

    Contributors:
    Raleigh James Hughes, architect; William Carter Bain, contractor
    Dates:

    1916-1917

    Location:
    Greensboro, Guilford County
    Street Address:

    811 N. Elm St.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Marvin A. Brown, Greensboro: An Architectural Record (1995).

    Note:

    One of several Hughes-designed houses in the Fisher Park suburb, the large brick house displays the horizontality of the Prairie style with eclectic details. The Manufacturers’ Record noted in 1916 that W. L. Carter awarded a $13,000 contract to builder W. C. Bain for the house Hughes had designed for him.


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