Last week, our county lost an architectural and historical treasure. I’m sure many of you have heard about the debate within the Leasburg community about a new Dollar General. Part of this project was the moving or demolition of the Hambrick House, an early 19th century federal cottage with a Greek revival addition. In asking my own family members about this antiquated structure, not much substance could be produced. For my entire twenty-five years upon this earth, the house had been entirely abandoned.
As a tenth generation Caswellian, and native of Leasburg, I’ve always loved that historic village. It was the “stomping grounds” of my forefathers and my own father when he was a child. What would appear to be a small collection of historic houses, a few stores, a post office and a few churches, reveals much more upon further inspection. Through field and forest, many signs of the past can be found. As a child, I searched the old cemeteries of the county and fell in love with two located in Leasburg. My 5th, 6th and 7th great grandparents can be found in a row within the Leasburg Community Cemetery. Other distant ancestors can be found in the woods where the old tent revival meetings used to be held in the 1800s. Foundation stones are also scattered throughout the countryside marking the homes and even the graves of those that have come before.
I was always fascinated with the story of Leasburg as the first county seat. Just as in Yanceyville today, there used to be a town square, or rather, a town lot located on the present site of the Nicholas Thompson House at the corner of Olive Hill Church Road and Highway 158 East. There once stood a courthouse and jail on this site. Surrounding this area, several homes and stores were erected and not long into the new (19th) century, this included the Hambrick House.
Located facing Highway 158 in front of the Leasburg Community Cemetery, the home faced a major road to showcase the family’s wealth and prestige. A feature that I never noticed was the raised brick foundation of the home, which flashed Flemish bond brick to the public. Around a month ago, a handful of interested individuals, including myself were able to view the house for the first time.
When I walked into the original federal portion of the house, I was stunned. The house was literally in its original condition. The Hall mantle was an extraordinary piece of federal workmanship and the house was filled with thick moldings and original doors. Originally a two room up and two room down structure, it reminded me of the original section of the Bartlett Yancey House just outside of Yanceyville. There are very few federal cottages left in Caswell County, indeed even throughout the whole state, and it was sad to see this one go down, despite many efforts to save the structure. Luckily, the interior implements of the home were saved including the mantle thanks to the efforts of Preservation North Carolina who helped advocate for the moving of the home.
The Hambrick House is not the only home that is at risk in Caswell County of being lost to the ages. There are so many architectural and historical treasures in this county. We normally visualize a grand plantation home as being of most significance in this part of the country, but it is the more humble homes that need to be focused on as well, even former enslaved dwellings that are now used for a different purpose or just sit abandoned.
Our history is our identity, including the places where people once lived. My hope is that though the Hambrick House is gone in Leasburg, which we deeply regret, the people of Caswell County may look to their own properties and communities and give these old places more value than before. They are part of us. They are part of our story. Without them, our story cannot be accurately told for the benefit of future generations which does not accurately represent the rich cultural and historical treasure that is Caswell County, North Carolina.