HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION NEWSLETTER
June 30, 2006 Issue 3 Volume 1
The Historic Preservation Commission of Oak Ridge has been very busy this last
quarter. We have approved several COA’s including one for McDonald’s. They will be
building their first McCafe in Guilford County right here in Oak Ridge. We have also
made progress in implementing our Historic Markers. This is where we put all the
pieces of the Oak Ridge puzzle together. We have placed one at the Jesse Benbow
House and we are getting ready to order our next one for the Charles Benbow House.
From there we are looking at the Oakhurst Home. We will give you a glimpse at the
proposed sign that will be placed at the Charles Benbow House and a brief history of
We are still working on the Oak Ridge Tapestry. We feel like this will be very important
Keepsake and we will bring you more details as they become available.
Please feel free to contact us with any suggestions or comments. Enjoy!!
Oak Ridge Historic Preservation Commission
Dedication of the Jesse Benbow House 1858
Saturday, June 24, 2006
The Jesse Benbow House is the first historic marker to be place on a
property. It is the Commission’s goal to continue to identify many more of
the important landmarks that made Oak Ridge what it is today. The home is
currently owned by Paul and Rebecca Woolf, who have lived there for the
past year with their three children.
Commission Chairman, Chris Parrish thanked the Woolf's for allowing us to
do this and how important is it to our community. Mayor Pro-Tem, Roger
Howerton remembered fond memories of his childhood, when his first grade
teacher, Mrs. Merriman owned the house and would bring the children
there. He also told of the adjacent property, where horses are now
boarded, being the first and only golf course in Oak Ridge. One of the
stipulations of playing on the course was that on one hole you had to hit over
the barn to continue play.
The Benbow family is such an important part of what Oak Ridge is today.
They were one of the first to start textiles in North Carolina, they helped
form Oak Ridge Institute, which is now Oak Ridge Military Academy and
Charles Benbow started what is now Guilford College.
Below is the marker proposed for the Charles Benbow house:
CHARLES BENBOW HOUSE
The Benbow family was originally from Wales and gradually made
their way to Guilford County in the late 1700's. Thomas Benbow
married Hannah Stanley in 1787. They settled in present day
Greensboro. On December6, 1787 Charles was born. Charles married
Mary Saunders on December 12, 1811.
In 1812 Charles had purchased 240 acres of land in western Guilford
County. But it was not until Mary inherited this land from her father in
1814, that Charles decided to build his estate. The Quaker style house
was conservative in plan, Charles’ application to detail was the least
inhibited of any builder in Guilford County. Its ambitious decorative
design is individualistic and unorthodox, combining Georgian, Federal
and Greek Revival elements. The house was completed between 1823
and 1824. Charles Benbow, a Quaker, and his family were one of the
most prominent and financially successful families in Guilford County.
The family is associated with the early development of the textile
industry in NC, as well as having a significant role in the establishment
of two local educational institutes, what is now Oak Ridge Military
Academy and Guilford College. Charles Benbow died in July 1868 at
the age of 81. Mary Benbow died in 1875.
In 1982 this home was place on the National Register of Historic Places
In 1983 it was designated as a Guilford County Landmark
We would like to thank Rose Pratt for all her hard work in getting the
text put together and being our coordinator in getting the signs made
and delivered. This has been no small task. Below is the next Historic
property we hope to add a Historic Marker to.
Oakhurst was built by the most prominent southern architect, Frank
P. Milburn for Martin H. Holt, who was a co-principal with his brother
J. Allen Holt, of Oak Ridge Institute (which is now the Oak Ridge
Oakhurst is the finest, most exuberant surviving Queen Ann style
architecture in Guilford County. The house was originally built without
a kitchen for it was said that Mrs. Holt did not care to cook. One of the
most striking features is the three story tower that rises through the
porch roof and is topped with an ogee roof line.
The Holt family pioneered in cotton manufacturing and were
considered to have done more than any other to advance the textile
industry in North Carolina, but the Holt brothers made Oak Ridge
Institute one of the most flourished, first class schools in the state.
In 1914 Martin retired because of an illness and soon passed away.
Thomas Early Whitaker took over as principal of the school. In 1917
he became the owner of Oakhurst.
T.E. Whitaker had such a wide circle of friends that it is said that
more guests have been entertained here than any other home in the
A lifelong friend said “He had the mind of a chancellor and the ability
to adjust differences between friends that was given to few men.”
T.E. Whitaker died unexpectedly in 1929. Oakhurst stayed in the
Whitaker family until 1981.
Oakhurst is on the National Registry of Historic Places
and a Guilford County Historic Landmark
In our Tidbits section we would like to highlight The Old Mill in
Oak Ridge off of Hwy 68. This is a great summer “must see” spot
for the family or to bring anyone visiting the area.
The historic gristmills that dot the North Carolina landscape are
always interesting. We are very lucky to have The Old Mill at
Guilford right here in Oak Ridge. The Old Mill at Guilford was
founded on Beaver Creek in 1767 to grind grain for the early
settlers of what is now Guilford County The mill was founded by
Daniel Dillon. Today, the mill produces all-natural, stone
ground, and whole grain foods. The mill owners are Charles and
Heidi Parnell. The mill sells such items corn meal and grits
along with a wide assortment of mixes: oat bran muffins,
Scottish shortbread and an assortment of cookie mixes to name a
few. The original mill was moved in 1818 about 500 feet down
the stream when they built the new dam. According to an article
in the Northwest Observer written by Alicia Cosgrove; The Old
Mill of Guilford is one of just a handful of working gristmills in
the nation and holds a place in the National Registry of Historic
places for its 200-plus year history. The article also stated that
local legend had it that the mill came under possession of British
troops in 1781 as they were on their way to fight the Battle of
Guilford Courthouse. A flood later washed away most of the
original mill, but the timbers that support the new mill are
thought to be from the original one. This is truly an Oak Ridge
treasure you should not miss visiting.
THE BUFFALO PIT
Several of our Historic Preservation Commission members took a field trip to a spot called the
"Buffalo Pitt" Rose and Tom Pratt, Sandra Smith, Gary Stafford, Douglas Nodine and George
McClellan all took a little step back in time. George tells us from what little is known, this site is
believed to be where Native Americans herded buffalo that were hunted and killed for food. This
site is thought to be over two hundred years old. At this time we are trying to learn more about it
and hope we can share more with you at a later date. In the meantime "mum" is the word on the
exact location of the site. Rose Pratt and George McClellan were the Historic Preservation
Commission members that were willing to make the trek to the "Buffalo Pit."