It’s remarkable that all three of the Whitsett family’s surviving homes have come up for sale in recent months. The 1883 Joseph Bason Whitsett House was sold in January. The Francis Marion Smith House, built in 1898, sold in February. Holly Gate remains for sale. Joseph and Mary Foust Whitsett and their children were arguably the most prominent family of their era in the greater Gibsonville-Whisett area, and their homes comprise a fitting memorial.
Holly Gate, 721 N.C. Highway 61 in Whitsett, was the home of Joseph and Mary’s daughter Effie and her husband, J.H. Joyner, both educators at the Whitsett Institute (founded by Effie’s brother William Thornton Whitsett). The “impressive, two-story, Queen Anne style, frame house, built around 1910, [is] one of the best surviving in the county,” according to An Inventory of Historic Architecture: High Point, Jamestown, Gibsonville, Guilford County (1979).
The house has 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 bathrooms. With 3,530 square feet, the its price comes to a spectacular $496 per square foot. That may explain why the house has been for sale for six months, despite the immaculate elegance of the interior and extraordinary landscaping. It was last sold in 1976 for $50,000. (For what it’s worth, the listing shows 3,887 square feet, 10 percent larger than county property records show, not an unusual discrepancy with an elaborate old house.)
Like the Smith house, Holly Gate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The property’s nomination calls it “a transitional Queen Anne-Colonial Revival house constructed in 1908-1910. It is a frame two-and~a-half story dwelling with picturesque massing and a gray slate roof.”
The architect and builder are unknown. Faculty members of the Whitsett Institute built a number of large homes in Gibsonville and what is now the town of Whitsett in the late 1800s and early 1900s. “The remaining structures from this group are the finest Queen Anne Revival houses standing in the eastern section of Guilford County,” Holly Gate’s nomination states.
“The residence presents an irregular silhouette and plan, typical of the Queen Anne aesthetic. … A tall hipped roof is complicated by a large projecting gable to the front and a semi-hexagonal hip to the left. The roofline is broken further by three high chimneys with brick band courses and molded tops. The first two stories are covered with clapboarding, while the gable end is covered in shingles.
“A Colonial Revival porch wraps around the left side of the house. The porch begins with a pedimented gable over the main central entrance to the house. There is an inset balcony immediately above the entrance pediment.
“On both levels, the porches are composed of grouped Doric colonettes on plinths. A turned balustrade was placed between the plinths in the first story porch.
The house is set back from Highway 61, which is a two-lane main street here in the middle of Whitsett. The wooded lot is four acres. The landscaping is extravagant with walkways, flower beds, a pergola, a fountain and perhaps the most elegant outhouse in the Piedmont. The listing includes 55 pictures of the grounds (99 total pictures, an extraordinary number).
J.H. and Effie Whitsett Joyner
Professor James Henry Joyner (1873-1960) was a native of Nash County. He taught English, mathematics and penmanship at the Whitsett Institute. Joyner was a graduate of the institute himself and a 1903 graduate of Catawba College.
He taught at Whitsett for 23 years and later served as the first principal of Gibsonville High School. After he retired, he was a member of the Guilford County Board of Education for 21 years and a member of the state Board of Education.
Effie (1877-1976) and the professor were married for 67 years. She also taught at the school. She was a younger sister of William Thornton Whitsett, founder of the institute and a literary figure of local prominence.
Sadly, the Whitsett Institute burned in 1918 and was not re-opened, but its loss led to a new era of public education in the area. “Dr Whitsett and Professor Joyner both turned their energies and influence on behalf of the establishment of a public high school in nearby Gibsonville,” the National Register nomination says. “The school was established and Joyner became its first principal. Under his leadership Gibsonville High School became the first accredited high school in Guilford County.”
721 N.C. Highway 61, Whitsett, Guilford County
The James Henry Joyner House
- $1.75 million
- 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms, 3,530 square feet, 4.04 acres
- Price/square foot: $496
- Built in 1908
- Listed October 21, 2022
- Last sale: $50,000, June 1976