Williams-Holladay House (1889-1890)

117 South Fourth Street

Wilmington, North Carolina 28401

In 1849, when Wilmington was North Carolina’s largest and most prosperous city, a young James Francis Post arrived seeking work with the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, which had fueled the city’s growth. By the time of his death in 1899, Post, a self-described “architect-builder,” had become perhaps the city’s foremost architectural visionary, leaving a portfolio of dozens of exemplary buildings in a range of styles of the day: Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, Second Empire, Italianate and – perhaps most notably in the Williams-Holladay House – Queen Anne. On February 16, 1890, the Wilmington Star described the newly completed home on South Fourth Street as “one of the handsomest houses in the city …”

Although many things have changed since then, and certainly during the last decade the entire city has undergone an attractive renaissance, the description of this National Register property remains correct.

The shady, brick-paved South Fourth Street, with its majestic oaks, wide sidewalks, granite curbs and graceful historic homes remains the most desirable residential street in the historic district. It is a stroll from the Cape Fear River Walk and the downtown district with shops, restaurants, churches, schools, museums, theaters, art galleries and many other attractions -- yet only a few minutes by car to beaches, the regional airport, marinas, medical district, golf courses, malls, antique shops and film studios.

Mr. George Washington Williams, a prominent Wilmington textile merchant, commissioned this elegant Queen Ann house in 1889 to be constructed on a double city lot as residence for his daughter, Maggie, and her husband, Mr. William Waller Holladay, a native of Richmond, Virginia, who designed the elevations. Mr. Post served as “supervising architect, contractor and joiner.” Typical of Post’s work, the project was performed with attention to the smallest detail, an eye for generous and harmonious proportion, and a commitment to quality.

The Williams-Holladay House later served as residence and parsonage for the First Baptist Church. During the late 1980s and early 1990s the house underwent extensive renovation and historic preservation by its then-owners Mrs. and Mr. Orrell and Alan Jones. The house was gutted and rebuilt, the entire east side was reconstructed to accept the additions of a state-of-the-art kitchen, bathrooms and laundry room to achieve an uncompromising balance of historical authenticity and high-end functional integrity. Plumbing and electrical services were modernized, plaster walls and ceilings were renewed, the slate roof was extensively restored, chimneys were re-pointed or reconstructed and a formal garden, with water feature, brick walkways and arbors, surrounded by an eight-foot decorative masonry wall, was established. Mr. Charles Boney Jr. was the architect of record, collaborating closely with Mr. David Thomas of D.P. Thomas Construction, which provided craftsmanship of the highest calibre.

Since then the Williams-Holladay House has been continuously improved with attention to detail and historic authenticity to maintain the essence and desirability of this extraordinary property. Its spacious and light-filled rooms, the soaring ceilings and tall windows instill an immediate feeling of welcome, comfort and serenity.

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