The two-story frame house with finished attic had a traverse hallway plan that was popular among the elite in eastern North Carolina in the early nineteenth century. Three entrances, including the main one in the gable end of the house, led to a large passage across the front of the house that provided entry into the two principal public rooms. A back passage could be entered from either of the two public rooms or a rear service entrance that provided access to the two smaller private chambers and a small winding staircase to the second floor.
The parlor woodwork is notable for its carved and gouged classical decoration.
The house stood on land that belonged to Oxford’s founder, Thomas Blount Littlejohn (1773-1854), and was sold in 1819 to his brother and mercantile partner, Joseph Blount Littlejohn (1776-1854). Both brothers were born in Edenton. Thomas moved to Granville County by 1798 when he married Elizabeth Mutter (1778-1822). Joseph married Anna Maria Jones (1779-1840), a daughter of Willie (1741-1801) and Mary (Montfort) Jones of Halifax County, and started purchasing land in Granville County by 1806. Both brothers amassed extensive land holdings in the area. Joseph and his family left North Carolina for Fayette County, Tennessee, in 1828.
On October 2, 1832, the house and 107.5 acres were advertised for sale in the Oxford Examiner. The house was described as 60 by 40 feet with 16 rooms and 10 fireplaces, noting that it had been designed by Joseph B. Littlejohn, Esq., “who took his design from the best models of modern architecture.” The first floor contained four rooms, four porches, and a “spacious passage.” In addition, there were four rooms in the cellar, six on the second floor, and two in the attic story. The property included a kitchen with three rooms and two fireplaces, a slave quarter, a meathouse, a privy, stables, a carriage house, a commerical distillery, and a “large falling garden” for fruit and vegetables. The house was donated to MESDA by its last owners in the early 1960s.
(For another original building that stood on the property, see the National Register nomination for the Joseph B. Littlejohn House in Oxford: http://www.hpo.ncdcr.gov/nr/GV0261.pdf)
In 2009 the woodwork was analyzed by Susan Buck for traces of its original color, and MESDA worked with Erika Sanchez-Goodwillie to mix handmade linseed oil paint based on Buck’s analysis. The closest commercial color match for the woodwork is Benjamin Moore HC-44 “Tyler Taupe.”
The stenciled decoration in this room is not original to the house. Rather, it was added as a nod to the room’s current use as a gallery for Tennessee decorative arts. The stencil decoration is based on the surviving stenciling found at Hawthorne Hill, a circa 1805 house in Sumner County, Tennessee. Similar stenciling is also found at nearby Cragfont.
RELATED OBJECTS: MESDA also has a first-floor bedchamber (0000.19) and the back passage and staircase (0000.20) from this house. The Edenton Parlor contains several objects that descended in the family of Anna Maria (Jones) Littlejohn, including a portrait of her grandmother, Priscilla (Hill) Montfort (1730-1780), attributed to Edenton artist John Mare (1739-1802), and a pair of Edenton-made card tables that belonged to her grandfather, North Carolina attorney general Robert Jones (1718-1766) (MESDA acc.2539.1, 2750, 5818). MESDA’s collection also contains portraits of Thomas Blount Littlejohn’s brother-in-law John Moore Mutter (1782-1819) and his wife Lucinda Armistead (Gillies) Mutter, painted by Cephas Thompson (b.1775) in Richmond, Virginia (MESDA acc. 5859.1-2).