[caption id="attachment_166466" align="alignright" width="300"] Bill Cobb, Rachel Hall, and their dog, Atticus.[/caption] Despite the layers of lead paint, holes in the ceiling, and vines growing through the windows into the
Despite the layers of lead paint, holes in the ceiling, and vines growing through the windows into the north parlor, Rachel Hall and Bill Cobb could see the light. Sunshine poured into the William Hollister House on New Bern’s Broad Street, just a block from Tryon Palace, revealing heart pine floors, horsehair in the original plaster, and molding believed to be imported from Britain. Later, after chipping away paint with dental picks, Hall and Cobb found an intricate grapevine design in the molding.
The couple purchased the home in 2018 and worked closely with John Wood, a preservation specialist with the NC State Historic Preservation Office, to maintain the history of the structure, which had served as headquarters for the Union paymaster during the Civil War.
Once they dove into renovations, Hall and Cobb realized it was no mistake that the house sat on the highest land in the neighborhood, that the large windows let sunlight naturally warm the home, or that the original beams were made of cypress, a natural termite repellent. “They knew what they were doing when they built it,” Hall says. “We shouldn’t alter it.”
Wealthy Connecticut merchant William Hollister began construction on the house in 1839 and completed it in 1841 for his wife, Janet, daughter of one of the wealthiest men in town.
Today, Hall and Cobb live among remnants of the 19th century: pulls from a bell-pull system, used to ring for the free and enslaved workers who may have lived in the basement; burns tracing the spot where bullets were made; and a few marks where a spray of rat shot from a Union soldier’s pistol was lodged into the heart pine planks, for reasons only the house knows.