Nooe, Bennett Jr. (1859-1937)

Birthplace:

Lexington, NC

Residences:

  • Pittsboro, NC

Trades:

  • Builder
  • Manufacturer

NC Work Locations:

Styles & Forms:

Queen Anne

Bennett Nooe, Jr (December 21, 1859-August 10, 1937) was a lumber manufacturer and builder important to the development of the Piedmont community of Pittsboro. Like many builders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Nooe began and was most often identified as a lumber manufacturer, but he expanded his business into construction, chiefly in Pittsboro, where tradition cites to him several residences, including especially ornate versions of the Queen Anne style. Although he is credited with having worked in other communities, his main impact was in Pittsboro, where a good number of picturesque residences are credited to him and where his memory remained strong.

A son of Bennett and Mary Ann Watson Nooe of Davidson County, Bennett Jr. married Fannie Rothrock, a native of South Carolina, in 1884. He established a shuttle block manufacturing company in Lexington, N. C. to supply the local textile industry, and the couple moved to Pittsboro soon after the opening of the Pittsboro Rail Company’s railroad in 1887, where Nooe opened a second shuttle block factory and a sawmill. The Pittsboro area was known for its abundance of dogwood and persimmon trees that supplied the unusually hard wood needed for shuttle blocks. After depleting those trees, Nooe shifted his emphasis to the sawmill and added a planing mill, dry kiln, and brickmaking operation. In a typical advertisement in the Chatham Record of January 2, 1890, B. Nooe Jr. offered for sale lumber, weatherboarding, ceiling, flooring, and coffins. As the town grew, Nooe moved into the construction business in the 1890s, but in 1900 he still identified himself as a lumber manufacturer in the United States Census. Carpenter Thomas Hackney has been identified as foreman for some of the construction projects. In 1900, at age 50, Bennett Nooe headed a large household in Pittsboro that included his wife, Fannie, 39, and their eight children aged from twelve years old down to a newborn baby, born at regular intervals during the couple’s sixteen years of marriage. Five of the children were in school. Also in the household was Anna Bray, a servant, and Bennett’s brother, Fred P. Nooe. In 1910, the family composition was much the same, but by this time two of the older sons were working in the saw mill. By 1920, most of the children had left home, leaving only four children living with Bennett and Fannie Noe; at age 60, Bennett continued to be identified as a lumber manufacturer, and two of his sons worked with him.

Based on interviews with Nooe family members and E. C. Tatum’s article, “Bennett Nooe, South Carolina Lumber Pioneer,” in The Southern Lumber Journal, March 15, 1930, Ruth Selden-Sturgill reports that between 1893 and about 1904 Nooe’s construction firm built as many as a thousand stores and houses in Pittsboro, Raleigh, Durham, Lexington, and Chapel Hill. Selden-Sturgill observes that much of the work locally associated with Nooe was characterized by ornate patterned surfaces and abundant turned and sawn decoration. Relatively few of his buildings have been documented, but several have been attributed credibly to him based on local and family traditions and architectural character; a sampling of these appears in the building list.

Among the few contemporary newspaper references to Nooe’s construction business, the Chatham Record of June 13, 1895 reported that that Messrs. London and Son had contracted with Nooe “for the erection of a large brick store [the London Store] . . . on the corner opposite their present store.” The News and Observer of August 29, 1897 praised Nooe’s business as the “chief industrial establishment of Pittsboro.” Brief newspaper notices cite Nooe’s contracts to build a house in Lexington, a bridge over the Rocky River, and an oil mill near Gibson, but offer little further information.

About 1905 Nooe shifted his focus away from building to producing building supplies, including bricks, lumber, and shingles, and caskets. He also served as mayor of Pittsboro and captain of the home guard during World War I. He expanded his operations farther into North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. The Nooes’ social activities, like those of prominent citizens of other towns of the day, were reported in newspapers, such as the luncheon given by Mrs. Nooe to announce the engagement of daughter Mary Charlotte to Richard Aiken of Fuquay Springs. At “Mrs. Nooe’s beautiful home, ‘The Poplars,’’’ the guests played rook in the lavishly decorated drawing room, then partook of a “delicious salad luncheon” in the dining room, where the dining table and the walls and curtains were adorned with hearts “artistically arranged.” The wedding was planned for April 26, 1916. The bride was a graduate of Peace Institute in Raleigh and the groom a tobacco merchant.

In about 1922 Bennett and Fannie Nooe moved to Allendale, South Carolina, and Fannie died in 1924 (News and Observer, June 7, 1924). For a time Bennett lived in Ridgeway, S. C. with a daughter and operated the Ridgeway Lumber Company. Later in life, in about 1932 he moved to Fuquay Springs (present Fuquay-Varina) to reside with his daughter, Mary Charlotte Aiken. He was survived by her and five sons, two sisters, and a brother. His funeral service was held at the Pittsboro Methodist Church and he was buried in Pittsboro (News and Observer, August 11, 1937.

Note: This account of Bennett Nooe’s career derives mainly from the research of architectural historian Ruth Selden-Sturgill. She obtained biographical information on Nooe from an article provided to her by Fred Nooe, Jr., of Pittsboro: E. C. Tatum, “Bennett Nooe, South Carolina Lumber Pioneer,” in The Southern Lumber Journal, March 15, 1930, pp. 20, 50, 51. She also interviewed Nooe family members. Most National Register nominations for properties associated with Nooe draw upon Selden-Sturgill’s research. For additional properties attributed to Nooe, see Ruth Selden-Sturgill, Historic Resources of Pittsboro Multiple Properties nomination form, 1982; and M. Ruth Little and Michelle Kullen, Pittsboro Historic District National Register nomination, 1999

Rachel Osborne and Ruth Selden-Sturgill, The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina, 1991

Ruth Selden-Sturgill, Historic Resources of Pittsboro Multiple Properties National Register of Historic Places nomination, 1982

Ruth Selden-Sturgill, A. P. Terry House National Register of Historic Places nomination, 1982

M. Ruth Little and Michelle Kullen, Pittsboro Historic District National Register of Historic Places nomination, 1999

Ruth Little, Sheriff Wiley Brewer Farmstead National Register of Historic Places nomination, 2003

Laura A. W. Phillips, Henry Adolphus London House National Register of Historic Places nomination, 1998

Sort Building List by:
  • A. P. Terry House

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    Ca. 1900

    Location:
    Pittsboro, Chatham County
    Street Address:

    601 Womack St.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Rachel Osborne and Ruth Selden-Sturgill, The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina, 1991

    Note:

    Part of a farm complex, the Terry house features Nooe’s characteristically elaborate and varied exterior and interior ornament, some of it produced locally, other elements probably ordered from catalogs.


  • Henry Adolphus London House

    Contributors:
    Bennett Nooe, Jr., attributed builder
    Dates:

    Ca. 1892-1895

    Location:
    Pittsboro, Chatham County
    Street Address:

    440 W. Salisbury St.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Rachel Osborne and Ruth Selden-Sturgill, The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina, 1991

    Note:

    The Queen Anne style cottage, one of the more ornate residences attributed to Nooe, and features varied and lively surfaces and trim. Family tradition reports that the house was built in 1892, but a deed transferring the property from Henry London’s parents to Henry’s wife, Minnie, is dated 1895. Such a delayed transfer within a family is not unknown. See Laura A. W. Phillips, Henry Adolphus London House, National Register of Historic Places nomination.


  • London Store

    Contributors:
    Dates:

    1895

    Location:
    Pittsboro, Chatham County
    Street Address:

    SE corner Hillsboro St. and E. Salisbury Sts.

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial


  • Sheriff Stephen Wiley Brewer House

    Contributors:
    Bennett Nooe, Jr., attributed builder
    Dates:

    1887

    Location:
    Pittsboro, Chatham County
    Street Address:

    365 Thompson St.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Note:

    According to a family history and recollections prepared by Georgie Brewer Tilley, a granddaughter of Stephen and Catherine Brewer, the Brewers employed newcomer Bennett Nooe to build their family home. It is believed to be the first house he built in Pittsboro. Thomas Hackney was identified as the foreman in charge of the project. Pittsboro’s weekly newspaper, The Home, of January 12, 1888, announced, “Sheriff Brewer will soon move into his nice new home.” See Ruth Little, Sheriff Wiley Brewer Farmstead National Register nomination.


  • Terry-Hayes House

    Contributors:
    Bennett Nooe, Jr., attributed builder
    Dates:

    1890s

    Location:
    Pittsboro, Chatham County
    Street Address:

    217 Hillsboro St.

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    Rachel Osborne and Ruth Selden-Sturgill, The Architectural Heritage of Chatham County, North Carolina, 1991

    Note:

    The Queen Anne style cottage is described as one of the finest examples of that style credited to Nooe.


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