The sun baking on the bricks grabbed my attention as my wife and I walked into town. “Edenton Brickworks” was stamped into a few of the bricks adorning the building that now housed a local law firm. It felt a little bit like an archeological ‘find’ embedded in a modern structure possibly laid many years later and most likely, long after the brick making company had fired its last brick.
I’ve only lived in this historic colonial town for a few months but I already know a thing or two about Edenton Brickworks. Maybe that’s because our cottage home and surrounding neighborhood is steeped in the brick maker’s heritage.
We live in the Historic Edenton Cotton Mill Village, which sprouted up in the early 20th century. The mill was built in 1900. J. A. Jackson of Hertford, NC was awarded the bid on the project to make one million bricks. Edenton Brickworks leased their brick making machine to Jackson during the construction of the expansive cotton mill. Some of the bricks were purchased in Hertford but the bulk of the bricks were made on site. After the building was completed, Haywood Cullen Privott, director of the cotton mill purchased 20,000 bricks left over from the project to construct his lovely Queen Anne Style home on 205 East King Street.
The W.O. Speight House, located on the edge of town, is another Queen Anne Victorian style brick home in Edenton. It was built and designed by the founder and owner of Edenton Brickworks. Oscar Will’s company made all the bricks for the home, cotton gin, and surrounding outbuildings. The home includes three floors, seven fireplaces and solid brick walls 18-inches thick. The plantation house and property was once the center of a large cotton and peanut farming operation.
17th Century Brick Architecture
Northeast NC was one of the earliest regions in the state to build homes constructed of brick. Early settlers from the northern colonies and particularly from Virginia first introduced brick-making techniques to the region along the Albemarle Sound.
As early as the mid-1600’s, wealthier residents began using brick in the construction of homes and buildings. By the next century, the coastal area was known for its brick and tile making. A fine example of 18th-century brick architecture still standing is the Newbold-White House in neighboring Perquimans County. It was constructed in 1730.
Edenton’s Walkable History!
My wife and I have been impressed with the area’s passion toward preservation, history and promoting the region’s heritage. We’ve found this enthusiasm to be quite contagious.
We enjoy taking walks through the historic town and isolating various architectural components so that we may learn more about the town’s fascinating world of old homes and buildings. Some days we focus on windows and doors. On other outings, clapboard or weatherboarding give us clues to a particular era. Domestic brick architecture can be an interesting feature as well. The manner or pattern it was laid often reveals the work of different bricklayers and various sequences of brick bonds used in the construction of a home or building.
Most of the techniques were imported from the Old World and include Common, English and Flemish bonds. The 1767 Chowan County Courthouse was raised in English Bond for the foundation and laid in Flemish Bond brick above the water table. Understanding these ‘bonding’ methods and physics of brick laying gives one a better perspective on the construction and detail of a particular structure. For example, a common bond technique may consist of one course of headers on top of six to eight courses of stretchers. The longest dimension of the brick would tie or “bond” into the wall creating more strength.
Sloping cornices of gables, segmental arches, decorative end gables and corbel lintels are other brick architectural details to look for in southern colonial architecture.
I’m always treated to new treasures and discoveries while strolling the historic streets of Edenton. It seems like a story unfolds around each corner whether it’s a visit to the Roanoke River Lighthouse, a guided tour of the Cupola House or a casual walk with the dog. To learn more about Edenton’s 300 years of history, come by for a visit and discover some architectural gems of your own!