In 1895, saw mill owner Jeb Atkinson and his wife, Mary Lorena Atkinson, built a one-story Victorian cottage on 270 acres of land.
With plenty of access to quality lumber, Jeb continually made improvements and alterations to the home. By the time the renovation was completed in 1908, the house stood as a massive two-story dwelling with a five-sided corner tower and a grand wrap-around porch.
That history-rich home, currently owned by Richard and Jeanne Robinson, received a landmark plaque May 6 during the annual Wake County Historic Preservation Celebration held in Apex.
Three other properties in Wendell, Morrisville and Apex were also recognized at the event, which is co-sponsored by the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission and Capital Area Preservation.
“History is alive and well in North Carolina thanks to historic preservation,” said guest speaker Ramona Bartos, administrator for the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office. “Historic preservation is a vital component for economic vitality and keeping sense of one’s place.”
Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne, a vocal supporter of historic preservation, lauded the efforts of the commission during their 20-year history.
“We need to do the right thing for our communities and our properties,” said Byrne. “They do a fabulous job of coaching people through the (preservation) process and making people aware of the tools available to them. It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years but they do a wonderful job.”
The Atkinson House certainly has some local historic significance. Lorena Atkinson was a granddaughter of Etheldred Jones, a Revolutionary War officer who fought at the battles of Cowpen and Guilford Courthouse.
The weatherboards of the home are believed to be cypress that Jeb had shipped from Florida and milled at his own saw mill.
The house’s interior is replete with lavish manufactured woodwork including wainscots, chair rails, crown moldings, fanciful mirrored mantels and a grand u-shaped central stair case.
In 1921, the Atkinsons sold the property to Lorena’s brother, James Beale Johnson, who sold the house to G.B. Whitted in 1923.
The house remained in the Whitted family until 1994 when the current owners bought the home and began methodically restoring it. The Robinsons are also planning to reconstruct the original porch based on documentary photographs.
Wake County Historic Preservation Chairman Ed Morris presented the landmark plaque to Richard Robinson. Mayor Byrne also participated in the presentation.