Backstory and Context
The Hawkins-Hartness House was built in 1882. Dr. Alexander B. Hawkins purchased the frame house that once stood on Raleigh city lot 267 in October of 1881 because his wife had been fond of it. Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins returned to Florida but asked Dr. Hawkins’s brother, Dr. William J. Hawkins, to have the house renovated while they were away. Upon their return, however, Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins discovered that William had removed the frame house and had replaced it with a house of his own design. According to legend, Mrs. Hawkins had the verandah added in order to lessen the severity of the house’s exterior. Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins lived in the house for the rest of their lives.
One of the most interesting features of the old Hawkins-Hartness House was the water system that Dr. Hawkins had installed. In the late 1800s, Raleigh did not yet have a city-wide water system, so Dr. Hawkins installed a windmill to pump well water into the attic to use for utilities. He also erected a 6,000 gallon rainwater cistern in the north garden for use as drinking water. Dr. Hawkins shared this drinking water with the governor’s mansion, regardless of who was in office. Thus the Hawkins-Hartness House had close ties to the governorship in the late 1800s as it does today.
The Hawkins-Hartness House changed hands a few times in the early 20th century. Dr. Hawkins conveyed the house to his sister-in-law, Martha H. Bailey, who had been living with Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins for quite some time. In 1922, Miss Bailey sold the house to William and Sadie Erwin. However, the Erwins never lived in the house. They sold the house in 1928 to James and Annie Hartness. James A. Hartness was the North Carolina Secretary of State from 1929-1931. Mr. and Mrs. Hartness lived in the house for the rest of their lives.
Upon Mrs. Hartness’s death in 1969, the state of North Carolina acquired the Hawkins-Hartness House. The house was converted into offices, which were first used by the State Department of Local Affairs. It was also used by the Department of Historical Preservation for a time. In 1988, the Hawkins-Hartness House became the office of the lieutenant governor, and it has served this purpose ever since.
In 2013, the Hawkins-Hartness House received a much needed face-lift. Newly elected Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, an architect by trade, undertook a large scale renovation to restore the Victorian to her former glory. Mr. Forest secured donations from several local businesses to complete the six month renovation at no cost to the State. The history of the house was preserved as much as possible. For example, the original dining room table is still in use now as a conference table. However, some contemporary-style furniture has been put into use upstairs making this unique house even more eclectic.
The Hawkins-Hartness House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark. Visitors are welcome to tour the home and are encouraged to call ahead to schedule a time.