Monday, January 12, 2015

The house that was cut in half

or, Half a house is better than none?

By John B. Green III

Photocopy of sketch of the Cole House dated June 1885. New Bern Craven County Public Library.
The Cole House once stood on the north side of the 500 block of Pollock Street.  Probably dating from the first quarter of the 19th century, the house was acquired by James Carney Cole in 1858 for his residence.  Cole and his family remained in New Bern during the Union army occupation and he died during the great yellow fever epidemic of 1864.  The property passed to his daughter Mary Catherine Cole.  It was during the ownership of Miss Cole that the house began its piecemeal progression to demolition.  Some time in the late 1890s the house was enlarged to the west and converted to a duplex with a second entrance and porch added.

Detail of 1898 Sanborn Insurance Map of New Bern showing the Cole House converted to a duplex.
Mary Catherine Cole sold the property to her sister Lavinia Cole Roberts (Mrs. Frederick C. Roberts) in 1904.  In 1910 the Roberts sold a portion of the property containing the old Cole House to their daughter Annie Roberts Boyd (Mrs. W.G. Boyd).  The Boyds proceeded to demolish the eastern half of the Cole House.  They are said to have reused some of the materials from the Cole House in the new house which they constructed on the eastern portion of the lot between May 1910 and January 1911.  The remaining western half of the Cole House was repaired and retained as a rental property.

Surviving western half of the Cole House, photo ca. 1950. N.C. Division of Archives & History.
The Boyds sold the 1911 house to D.W. Hanks in 1923.  It was demolished ca. 1970.  The western half of the Cole House lived on until 1968 when it was purchased from the Boyd heirs by the New Bern Historical Society.  The society demolished the structure to make way for a new rear driveway to their headquarters building, the Attmore-Oliver House.