Monday - Thursday 10:00 am to 9:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
This handsome Greek Revival house stands on a commodious one and three quarter acre tree-shaded lot on Durham’ s Main Street, near the intersection of Route 68.
– full length corner pilasters with entasis which rise to a full pediment
– full pediment contains a demi-lune fanlight
– windows in the main block are surmounted by crown-molded lintels with corner blocks
The Coe-Parsons house is a two and a half story, three bay side-hall Greek Revival residence. It boasts full length corner pilasters with entasis which rise to a full pediment. This pediment contains a demi-lune fanlight. A hip-roofed porch supported by heavy square recessed panel columns of late nineteenth century origins stands on the north, west and east sides of the house. The main entry, which is framed with pilasters contains a transom and sidelights. The windows in the main block are 6×6 throughout. They are surmounted by crown-molded lintels with corner blocks. There are three additions to this house, all dating from the nineteenth century. The largest, a one and a half story gable roof kitchen ell stands to the rear of the main block. Built in the Greek Revival style, with eyebrow windows, it may date from shortly after the main block was built. Two one story additions to the north and south sides of the house stand on brick foundations. They appear to date from the construction of the porch in the second half of the nineteenth century. The fenestration of the additions is consistent with that of the main block.
In June of 1829, Manoah Camp sold 53 rods of his home lot to Benjamin Hutchins Coe, a well-to do young man with artistic ambitions. The son of a wealthy Middlefield farmer, Elijah Coe, Benjamin Coe had married a Durham belle, Lydia Curtis, in 1823. With a substantial inheritance and sophisticated sensibilities, young Coe’s house was bound to be unusual–and so it was. He evidently brought in craftsmen from outside Durham to erect it, for in execution and design it is far more elegant than any other Greek Revival structure in town. He only lived in the house for three years. In 1833, he moved to New York City, where he became a notable art dealer and author of books on painting and drawing. The purchaser of his house was Sarruel Parsons (1788-1848), a Durham native who had prospered in New York City as a dry goods merchant. Afflicted with tuberculosis, he retired to his birthplace at the age of 45. On Parson’s death in 1848, the house passed to his widow, who lived in it until her death in 1887. She left it to her urnnarried daughters, Catherine (1829-1896) and Caroline (1836-1894), both of whom lived in New Haven. In 1902, the property was sold to John R. Smith, a painter and decorator, whose wife was Harriet Eliza Coe, a cousin of Benjamin H. Coe and the daughter of one of Durham’s wealthiest citizens. She sold the house in 1938 to
Austin M. Ackerman, Durham Center postmaster and proprietor of Ackerman’ s Store.
The house passed to its present owners in 1973.
This house is unquestionably the finest and most high style example of Greek Revival architecture in Durham. Its historical significance derives from its
association with Benjamin H. Coe, the nineteenth century artist and art dealer, and Samuel Parsons, one of the leading figures in Durham’ s ante-bellum commercial