Spring Hill House
Scroll below for building history
Location: Centennial Campus
The Spring Hill House on the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus was reallocated along
with 52 acres of land from the Department of Health and Human Services to NC
State University on December 21, 2000. The house was undergoing renovations
during the reallocation period, and its custody was passed to the University
on April 20, 2001. The house and surrounding lands will become a part of Centennial
Campus. It is listed on the National Register of Historical Places and is referred
to as Spring Hill or the Theophilus Hunter House.
The following information was excerpted from the Dorothea Dix Hospital Internet home page at http://www.dhhs.state.nc.us/mhddsas/DIX
Spring Hill is located on the site of the large plantation owned by Colonel Theophilus Hunter, a pioneer settler of Wake County and an early leader in Wake County and Raleigh. He served as first Judge of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in 1771, as a colonel in the Colonial Militia, as Representative to the House of Commons, as first county surveyor, as first county tax assessor, as one of five commissioners supervising the erection of the first State House in 1791, and as one of seven Raleigh City Commissioners in 1795. In the late 1700's Colonel Hunter built a smaller house just behind where the present house stands, on a high knoll overlooking the city. He named the house "Spring Hill" for a spring, which was located at the foot of the hill near several large rocks.
Colonel Hunter died in 1798 and is buried near the present house. His grave is the oldest marked grave in Wake County. Theophilus Hunter, Jr., inherited a large portion of the 2,500-acre plantation. About 1816 he built the present two-story frame house of late Georgian style with a one story rear wing adjoining the small late eighteen-century home of his father. The house, standing on a high foundation of heavy stones and mortar with brick piers, was an impressive sight located on the highest hill on the plantation and flanked by cedar trees. The slave quarters were located to the west near the present Council Building. When Theophilus Hunter, Jr. died in 1840, the plantation encompassed 5,000 acres.
The Hunter family owned and occupied Spring Hill until 1864. Sheriff William Henderson High purchased Spring Hill and 160 acres in that year. He and his family lived there until 1872 when he sold the house and farm to William Grimes, a wealthy philanthropist who used the house as a summer home. In 1908, Mr. Grimes' widow sold the Spring Hill property and 160 acres to the State Hospital.
Hospital staff members occupied the house over the next 66 years. The original small house burned during this period. Since 1976, Spring Hill had been the headquarters of Dorothea Dix Community Relations Department and the Dorothea Dix Volunteer Service Guild. It functioned as a social, educational, and public relations area for patients, staff, volunteers, and the community.
It was named a Raleigh historic site in 1978 and was listed on the National Register in 1983. It became a museum house in 1982 when an historic exhibit and memorabilia of Dorothea Dix Hospital was located in the house.
Exterior Of The House
The exterior of the house retains many Georgian elements, such as the still intact molded siding and the three-part molded window frames with robustly molded sills. The siding is painted white, one of the original colors.
The house originally had a two-story porch with Doric columns across two-thirds of the front facade. There were three exterior chimneys, two on the south end and one on the north end, and a plain gable roof. There was an entrance between the two south chimneys to the parlor, an entrance from the rear small porch to the hall and two entrances from the narrow porch along the south wall of the kitchen wing. The front entrance still has the original doorframe and transom. The doorsill and double door were installed in 1960.
Extensive renovations have been made. The first in 1908 was in the classic interpretation of the colonial revival of the early 1900's. The upper porch was removed and the porch door was replaced with a double window alcove. A slate roof was put on and extended on the gable ends. Three dormer windows were installed in the roof (two single and one double).
At the same time, the two southern exterior chimneys and corresponding four interior fireplaces (two in the parlor and one in each of the south bedrooms) were removed and replaced by windows fashioned like the original ones. The outside entrance in the parlor was replaced with a fireplace and interior chimney.
During the 1920's the back porch off the center hall was enlarged, and a closet and bathroom were built over it on the second floor. The north chimney and corresponding corner fireplaces in the dining room and the north bedroom were removed.
Further renovations in 1960 included the pouring of a cement floor and the replacement of columns on the front porch. A screened porch was built adjacent to the south side of the kitchen. In 1980, in order to conform to state law concerning handicapped, a cement ramp with brick pillars along the sides was built leading to the porch entrance.
Interior Of The House
The interior follows a center hall plan, one room deep. The rooms are spacious with 12-foot ceilings. All walls are 18-24 inches thick with cross trusses for reinforcement. These were originally covered with wood lathes and plastered, except in the center halls. There, the trusses were covered with horizontal yellow pine sheathing fastened with T-head nails. The original baseboards were narrow.
In the early 1900's renovation, a thin wallboard was placed over the sheathing in the hall and rooms and wider baseboards over the original baseboards. Many layers of wallpaper were uncovered in 1988 when the house was re-decorated.
All window frames are original with the exception of those replacing fireplaces. The wooden pegged frames are constructed in three molded parts; a beaded board, the applied molded backboard and the frame. The interior doorframes are the original frames, with turned molding. The first floor original pine floors were covered with hardwood floors in 1920 and these were replaced in 1960. A new floor was laid in the rear wing about 1930.
Center Hall And Storage Area
The entrance hall spans the depths of the house and thus serves as a breezeway in the summer. The back door formerly led to a small back porch with an outside cellar stairway located under this porch.
A window at the back of the hall was located over the first landing on the stairway to the second floor. In the 1908 renovation, the stair rail to the second floor was replaced and the inside stair to the cellar was relocated under the second floor stairway.
The porch (screened in 1920's) was made into a kitchen in the 1940's when the house was divided into apartments. In 1960 it became a utility room and now is a computer work area for the Volunteer Guild.
The historic exhibit of the hospital and nursing school is located in the hall.
Theophilus Hunter Room
The parlor is named in honor of Colonel Theophilus Hunter, Sr., the original owner of the large plantation. Colonel Hunter is buried several hundred feet from the house. His grave is the oldest marked grave in Raleigh (1798) and may be seen from the parlor.
When the house was built, there were two fireplaces in the south end of the parlor and the story is told that Theophilus Hunter, Jr., believed that children should sit at one fireplace, adults at the other. He had a large family of seven children, six girls and one boy. The high mantel and narrow shelf of the present fireplace are said to be from one of the original fireplaces.
The Dorothea Dix Room
This spacious room is named in honor of Dorothea Dix, who in 1848 persuaded the North Carolina Legislature to pass the bill establishing the first "Hospital for the Insane" in North Carolina. It was named "Dix Hill" in honor of her grandfather and was built on a portion of the plantation owned by a member of the Hunter family, Maria Hunter, granddaughter of State Colonel Theophilus Hunter. Mrs. Hall sold 53 acres to the state of North Carolina on September 10, 1850, and the first building of the hospital was built on that property.
The Butler's Pantry
The butler's pantry, adjoining the dining room, originally had an inside cellar stairway. In the 1908 renovation the stairway was closed, floored and made into a storage pantry. In the 1930's it became a bathroom. At some point, a utility closet was built in the butler's pantry.
The kitchen wing had two rooms. A bedroom was located on the site of the present kitchen and a kitchen in the present meeting area. A narrow porch ran along the length of the wing and a door to each room.
This wing became one of the apartments in the 1940's. In 1960 the partition between the two rooms were removed, changing the front area into a dining area.
The cellar is excavated only under the center hall and dining room. A cement floor was poured over the dirt floor in later years.
When the house was built, the second floor had one large bedroom and two smaller bedrooms and a wide center hall. No doubt there was a door leading onto the upper front porch.
In 1908 during the colonial revival renovation, the upper porch was removed and the door leading to the porch made into the present double-window alcove. Perhaps, at this time a partition was made along the inner wall of the large bedroom, forming a hall closet and another closet in the bedroom. In the 1920's a closet and bathroom were added to the rear of the house over the back porch.