Stately living: Haywood Hall showcases life in Raleigh during the 19th century

Originally published in Wake Living Magazine

Wake County’s citizens are fortunate to live, work, and play within easy access of the state capital and all of its rich, historical gems. Haywood Hall is one such state treasure. Located two blocks east of the Capitol, this historical home offers a rare glimpse into Raleigh life more than 200 years ago.

Haywood Hall, the former home of John Haywood — North Carolina’s second and longest-serving state treasurer, from 1786 to 1827 — has been painstakingly preserved, thanks to the diligence of Haywood’s family and the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in North Carolina.

Continuously owned and occupied by members of the Haywood family for 175 years, in 1977 Mary Haywood Fowle Stearns bequeathed the estate to Colonial Dames. Since then, Haywood Hall has been designated for “the enjoyment of the community … and to promote a greater understanding of the history of North Carolina and Raleigh.”

Historical significance

In 1798, at 43, the widowed John Haywood married Wilmington native Eliza Williams. In 1799, Haywood began construction on his residence in the then-new state capital of Raleigh (Edenton served as the capital from 1722 to 1766, while New Bern was the capital from 1767 to 1788).

History indicates that the new bride preferred her coastal childhood home to the relatively undeveloped Raleigh. She returned to Wilmington, where she delivered the couple’s first child. After completion of Haywood Hall, Eliza returned to Raleigh. In the following years, the couple had 11 more children.

The entrance of this two-story, classical, Federal-period home features a single-bay, two-tiered portico. It is flanked by two outside Flemish brick chimneys, and the roof displays a modillion cornice. The entrance’s shotgun hall maximizes airflow when both the front and back double doors are open. The downstairs dining and music room was designed to accommodate the entire legislative body.

One of the most impressive features is the faux marble finish on the mantle in the main parlor. After meticulous research by the state’s archives department using microscopic color analysis, the mantel was restored to its original vibrant colors and designs. The furnishings of Haywood Hall are an eclectic mix of antiques furnished by the various Mrs. Haywoods. Fortunately, benefactors from around the country returned several original pieces that were privately owned.

Three large bedrooms and a nursery are located on the second floor, while an original porch has been transformed into several smaller rooms. The real must-see element appears when visitors return to the stairway for the trip back downstairs: Hand-carved, tiered, ornate, one-of-a-kind cornices are highlighted by a whimsical, hand-carved apple and pineapple.

Gorgeous gardens

In addition to often having guests in their home, the high-profile couple enjoyed sharing their garden, which was both functional and ornamental. Fruit trees yielded peach and pear preserves, while flowers added color and sweet aromas. Lavender, foxglove, daisies, morning glories, yarrow and peonies are a few the many flowering plants found in the early estate garden. Eliza Haywood also planted native azaleas and hollies brought in from the swamp lands surrounding Wilmington; the Lady Banks yellow roses gracing the trellises on the front entry are from her original plantings.

Next to the gazebo — the third one on the site of Eliza’s original gazebo — visitors can sit and enjoy the large Brazilian magnolia planted by the Haywoods. Still standing on the grounds are the original barn for the family’s horse and buggy and a detached kitchen, both reminders of the hard work required to operate a city estate during the early 1800s.