The town of Whitsett was named for the Whitsett Institute, a school for boys founded by the son of early settler Joseph Whisett. The family homestead has stood in the small eastern Guilford County town since 1883, but it may need some luck to remain standing much longer. The house and its surrounding 11 acres are for sale at $1.3 million. A hopeful sign: The owners have listed it as a residential property, even though it has been used as a financial firm’s office for many years. A less hopeful sign: They’ve also listed it as a commercial property, “11.3 Acres of Improved Commercial Land for Sale”:
“Prime development opportunity along the I-40/I-85 corridor in the fast-growing E. Guilford and W. Alamance market,” the listing reads. “Two properties consist of an office building on 11 acres and a vacant tract of 67 acres. Highest and best use is mixed use residential consisting of apartments, townhomes and SF lots.”
And, oh, by the way, “Beautiful Victorian House built in the 1880s is currently used as office.”
The house is designated as a Guilford County historic landmark, but that distinction provides no protection from the possible short-sighted “highest and best use” of the property. It has 5 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, 6,983 square feet. The price comes out to $186 per square foot, not unreasonable for a historic home on 11 acres. The property has three buildings, including a 700 square-foot guest house. The house is set back a good distance from Burlington Road, also known as U.S. 70.
The Whitsett House is in very good condition — it’s an upscale office space — although much interior detail has been lost. Some of the rooms look downright luxurious, but others will need work to turn transform the house from an office to a home.
It would be a shame to see the house go. It was built by Joseph Bason Whitsett (1835-1917). In 1863, he married Mary Lusetta Foust (1845-1938), whose family owned grist mills and were major landowners in the area.
Joseph was a railroad man, his obituary recalled: “Twenty-five years of his life was [sic] spent in various capacities of railroad work, and he was identified with the first railroad building ever done in this section of the old North Carolina Railroad: afterwards with the Richmond and Danville system, and for a short while with the Southern.”
Their son, William Thornton Whitsett (1866-1934), was a renowned educator. In 1888, he founded the Whitsett Institute. He operated it until it was destroyed by a fire in 1918. He served on the Guilford County Board of Education for 21 years and as a trustee of the University of North Carolina for 22 years.
William also was a locally prominent literary figure and historian. The Whitsett Institute published a book of his poems, Saber and Song, in 1917 (now available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle).
William’s death prompted an especially mournful report in The Burlington Daily Times-News, March 22, 1934:
“Dr. William Thornton Whitsett has passed away!
“The sun sank behind the horizon of the life of this illustrious citizen of North Carolina at twelve-forty o’clock last night, following a critical illness of ten days with pneumonia. He was 67 years old. His works will echo and re-echi throughout many years to come.”
7241 Burlington Road, Whitsett, Guilford County
The Joseph Bason Whitsett House
- $1.3 million
- 5 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, 6,983 square feet, 11.33 acres
- Price/square foot: $186
- Built in 1883
- Listed September 28, 2021
- Last sale: $176,000, October 1987
- Note: GIS map of the area with the 11-acre and 67-acre tracts highlighted (click to enlarge):