Brick Lane, east side

Surrounded by overgrown fields on the east side of Brick Lane, the John Curtis House is set in a residential neighborhood just to the east of Durham’s commercial center.

  • Record ID: 2
  • Address: Brick Lane, east side
  • Current Owner: Griggs, Donald J.
  • Name of Building:
  • Historic Name: John Curtis House
  • Download PDF of Original Record

Notable Features

Additions include a 2.5 story, single-bay, ridge-to-street ell added to the south elevation giving the facade a four-bay appearance. A 2.5 story, ridge-to-street ell has been added to the rear potion of the north elevation and all single story, two-bay shed-roofed ell has been added to the front portion of the same elevation. Another large, single story ell has been added to the eastern elevation. All the additions are support by concrete foundations. The facade entryway is concealed by a small, single-bay, single story enclosed entry porch which features an eight-paned glass door flanked by two long single-paned sidelights and surmounted by a two-paned overlight. A small decorated dentil course trims the eaves of the porch. Six-over-six and six-over-one sash are exhibited throughout house. Outbuildings include a 2.5 story, gable-to-street, twentieth-century Domestic style house located to the southeast of the main house and two small single story sheds located to the east and north.

Historical or Architectural Importance

This 2.5 story, three-bay, center-chimney Colonial-period house has been significantly altered since it was erected by John Curtis ca. 1770. Capped with a ridge-to-street gable roof, the original block utilizes a post-and-beam framing system which rests on a sandstone foundation. The major alterations to the building are the many twentieth-century, balloon-framed additions that have been superimposed on the north, east, and south elevations when the building was enlarged as a convalescent home. The entire house is asbestos-sided and all the roofs are asphalt-shingled. John Curtis (1721-1800) erected this house ca. 1770 on a nine-acre lot he purchased from Samuel Fairchild. Curtis, who represented Durham at the General Court in 1755, was the son of James Curtis, an original proprietor of Durham. A farmer, Curtis married Dinah Norton (1723-1800) in 1747. In 1778, John sold the property with a dwelling house to his eldest son Abijah (1750-1825). Abijah, married to Ann (Bishop), enlisted as a private in Captain Stephen Norton's Company soon after the confrontation at Lexington. In 1817, Abijah sold the homestead to his son, Samuel (1787-1846), who ran a cider mill and distillery at the corner of Brick and Maiden lanes. Samuel and his wife, Lucretia (Brooks) migrated to western New York in the early nineteenth century when the depletion of the farmland forced many new families to move westward. In 1829, brothers Miles and Noah Merwin purchased the property. Miles (1795-1879) was instrumental in the organization of the Merriam Manufacturing Company which produced japanned and stamped tinware. Miles and Noah (1807-1849) were both farmers and were well-known for driving large herds of cattle from northern New York to Durham. The Merwin brothers also operated a successful sawmill on Mill Road in the center of town. In 1835, Miles quit-claimed "the Curtis Place" to his brother, who resided there until his death in 1849. Noah's widow, Olive (Stowe) Merwin (1809-1872), occupied the farmhouse until 1872, when she quit-claimed the property to her three children, Edward Payson, Lucy Stowe, and Charles Baldwin Merwin. German immigrants, Emil (1820-1907) and Leuchen (1836-1827) Klein purchased the property from Noah's heirs in 1872. In the middle of the twentieth century, the house was enlarged and transformed into a convalescent home and is still active today as the Dogwood Acres. Although significantly altered from its original appearance, the John Curtis house is noteworthy for its long association with the Curtises, one of Durham's founding families.