Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dey House undone

A long sad story of the deterioration and of what was said to be one of Chapel Hill's 25 oldest structures has ended with the demolition of the Dey House. The Historic District Commission was able to postpone the demolition for one year, but after that it had no authority. Even the town's recently enacted demolition by neglect ordinance, which would have imposed substial fines for not repairing the property, was something the owner managed to work around.

The earliest owner of this house was Dr. William P. Mallette, who supervised the university infirmary. The date when he purchased the property is not known, but he sold the house in 1871 to Methodist minister Joseph Martin. Martin's wife, Clara, ran a boardinghouse here for students. In 1921 Professor William M. Dey, head of the romance languages department, and his wife, Alice, purchased it and made their home here for forty years. At Alice's death in 1965 it was purchased by the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.

The two-story, one-room-deep house has simple features that are characteristic of the mid-nineteenth century--weatherboarded walls, six-over-six pane sash windows, a gable-end brick chimney, and a boxed roof cornice. The front door with fanlight, sidelights, and an arched enrance porch are early-twentieth-century replacements. It is likely that the house originally had a wide porch.

From M. Ruth Little, The Town and Gown Architecture of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1795-1975 (2006).

UPDATE: Chapel Hill News, "Requiem for Dey House": "There are only some two dozen 19th-century houses left in Chapel Hill. One by one they go. With each one that comes down, we lose another little bit of the heritage and character of the town in which we live."

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