One of the happier developments among historic houses recently is that the Walter Thomas House in Leasburg has gone under contract. It’s a great restoration opportunity, and it’s been for sale for a year and a half. Leasburg is somewhat out of the way, 10 miles from Yanceyville or Roxboro.
Some of the work has been done — a restored staircase, new septic system, plumbing, electrical upgrades, new insulation and reinforced chimneys. The metal roof is less than 15 years old. Add in five chandeliers, seven fireplaces (one with a Thomas Day mantel — this is all according to the listing), the columns out front and the upstairs balcony, and you’ve really got something special.
Update: The house sold for $131,000 on June 26, 2020, $13,000 over the asking price. The owners accepted the offer May 30, two days after putting the house up for sale.
Caswell County has some of the grandest antebellum mansions in the state. The John Johnston House is something quite different and more rare. “Though members of the Johnston family were prominent in social and economic affairs in Caswell County from the eighteenth century onward, the significance of the house derives less from the specific historical contributions of its occupants than from its representation of a class of plantation residence that has rarely been preserved,” the home’s 1997 National Register nomination says.
The number of grand old houses in Caswell County is amazing, and Dongola House is one of the real gems. “The home is considered the most monumental house in Caswell County and one of the grandest in the Piedmont,” the N.C. State University Library says (Rare and Unique Digital Collections). “Dongola is a two-story, L-shaped brick home, with a tall portico of four Doric columns composed of stuccoed brick.” Multiple internet sources report that some envious person also called it “the most pretentious farmhouse of the Piedmont.”
Dongola stands at 336 W. Main Street in Yanceyville. It’s for sale at an unpretentious $109,000. “Many people believe it will take a fortune to refurbish this palatial home – we have quotes for everything and it will take less than $100K,” Preservation North Carolina says. The organization holds protective covenants on the house. Sadly, there are no current photos of the interior available. There’s a large collection of undated photos on Flickr.
Update: The house remained for sale until February 2020, when it was taken off the market.
In the early decades of the nation’s history, Caswell County was one of North Carolina’s most prosperous and prominent counties. Long beyond living memory, though, its fortunes crashed. Now, about all that’s left of its glory years are some truly impressive houses, scattered here and there from Camp Springs and Cherry Grove up to Milton and Semora.
The Moore-Gwyn-Ewalt House in the Locust Hill area is a beautiful example of Caswell’s glorious past — 6,226 square feet of Federal-style elegance on 200 unspoiled acres. The house was built in 1790; considerable square footage is in the form of two well-designed wings built in 1995. It was listed June 1 at $1.75 million. The address is 5869 U.S. Highway 158. Situated southwest of Yanceyville and close to N.C. 150, it’s within a relatively easy commute to Greensboro.