117 Main Street, west side

This property is set in a neighborhood of well-preserved homes along Main Street which comprise Durham’s Historic District.

  • Record ID: 64
  • Address: 117 Main Street, west side
  • Current Owner: Talmadge, Gladys
  • Name of Building:
  • Historic Name: Roberts-Moffitt House
  • Download PDF of Original Record

Notable Features

The three-bay facade features a central Greek-Revival-style doorway dating from the early nineteenth century. The front door, recessed about half a foot from the exterior
wall, is flanked by four-paned sidelights and pilasters which support a massive entablature with dentiled course and projecting cornice. The gable end displays slight cornicr
returns and a twelve-paned rectangular window. The six-over-six sash display wooden lintel-type window heads. A single-story ell and shed extend from the west elevation.

Historical or Architectural Importance

The early history of this house is obscure. A dwelling house stood on this property as early as 1739 but architectural detailing suggests that the original house was either
rebuilt or remodeled in the early nineteenth century. Unusually oriented gable-to-street, the 2 1/2  story dwelling rests on a sandstone foundation. The clapboarded post-and-beam frame is topped by an asphalt-shingled, shallow pitched roof.

The first mention of a building standing on this property is in 1739 when Samuel
Roberts of Durham purchased a three-acre lot with a dwelling house and barn from Samuel Norton. Within a year Roberts had sold the property to John Bates (b. 1717). The Bates family had come to Durham in the early eighteenth century from the neighboring town of Haddam. Shortly before he migrated to Granville, Massachusetts, in 1757, Bates sold the house and a blacksmith shop to Abner Newton. In March of 1767 James Robinson bought the house from Newton’s estate and sold it the following December to Lemuel Moffitt. In 1763 Moffitt married the widow Huldah Newton (1741-1771) and they had three children: Abigail, Hannah, and Lemuel. In 1785, after Moffitt had migrated to West Stockbridge, Massachusetts, he sold the property with a “mansion” house and a cooper’s shop to John Hall. Hannah and John Hall (1753-l831),who resided in the house from 1785 to 1831, are most likely responsible for the Greek-Revival-style alterations. Upon his death in 1831 Hall willed his homelot to his daughter, the widow Hannah Catlin. Hannah (1791-1875) married John J. Catlin (1791-1825) in October of 1822. A native of New Marlborough, Massachusetts, Catlin studied medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He first took up practice in Salisbury and later came to Durham in 1822 to serve as the town physician. He and his new wife resided with her parents on Main Street. After John’s death in 1825 Hannah remained with her two young children, Julia and Samuel. In
1859 Mrs. Catlin sold her daughter Julia Jackson (1825-1913) the property “reserving the use of said premises to myself during the term of my natural life” (DLR 28:4). The
Catlin’s son, Samuel H. (1824-1866), studied for his medical degree at Yale and graduated in 1848. He practiced in Brooklyn, New York, before taking the position of Surgeon for the United States Army, Department of the Gulf. Samuel died in New Orleans at the age of 42. Julia Catlin never married and she remained in the house until her death in 1913.
An unusual form of colonial-period architecture, the Roberts-Moffitt House is notable
for its. association to many of Durham’s prosperous and influential families.