504 WEST FRONT STREET
"Built in the 1890s for Thomas L. Sellars, a son of Dr. Benjamin A. Sellars, and long-time executive of the department store established in the mid-1870s by his father, this Queen Anne residence reflects the affluence which came to Burlington in the last years of the nineteenth century and the westerly development of the city as members of the rising middle class began construction of more substantial dwellings. Numerous mature trees shade the two-story frame structure whose high hip roof extends to gables on the facade and side elevations. Decorative bargeboards and fishscale wood shingles ornament the gables of the T-shaped house which has a stair-hall entrance in the angle of the T leading to a central hallway. Interior features include molded corner blocks, paneled wainscot in the hall, a paneled newel post and turned balusters on the staircase, and simple Victorian mantels. Tapered wooden posts on brick piers, connected by a simple square-in-section balustrade, support the one-story porch which spans the left hall of the facade and wraps around the east side of the house; a pedimented gable marks the entrance, Sanborn maps indicate that this porch replaces an earlier one and probably was built during the 1920s popularity of the bungalow style."
-Architectural History of Burlington, NC, page 138
A BRIEF HISTORY
Amazingly, in over 125 years, this home has only been owned by 3 families. The house was built in 1890 by Thomas L. Sellars, son of Dr. Benjamin Sellars, founder of the Sellars Department Store which opened in Downtown Burlington in 1872. Thomas was president for 25 years. Sellars married Lila Graves and had 3 daughters, Bessie Lee, Sarah, and Helen. Thomas and Lila lived in the home until their deaths in 1940 and 1955, respectively. Bessie Lee never married and stayed in the home until her death in 1980. In 1981 the house was purchased by Thomas and Sandy Harper. Thomas was originally from Massachusetts and spent his career in the US Navy. Sandra was a Burlington native, anxious to move home after the Navy took them across the country for 20 years. Thomas was also a founding member of the Burlington Historical Society.
The 3,354 square foot structure has had quite a lot of modern updates. The electrical was updated by removing the knob and tube wiring and fuse box, and upgraded to a modern breaker system. The original plumbing was also replaced. Blown in insulation was added throughout the home, and a very energy efficient geothermal water source heat pump was installed. An extensive French drain system was installed to shunt water away from the home to a cistern in the rear of the yard. The original windows were reconditioned and weatherized for another 100 years of life. Modern showers as well as a central vacuum system made the home comfortable for modern living. In the 1980s the Harpers expanded the original kitchen ell into a large, bright family room with walls of windows overlooking the backyard. A two-car garage was added below with a flat deck above, which opens to the window filled family room.
The current owners purchased the home in 2005 and have continued to improve the home over the last 14 years but always with respect for the history of the house. A new roof was installed in 2006, and a period appropriate exterior paint scheme applied. The ancient pecan tree (rumored to be one of the largest in the city) was cabled to prevent storm damage. Efforts were made to add back in some of the Victorian details that had been lost over time. The butlers pantry was put back in place during a 2014 kitchen remodel. Custom mahogany cabinets and period appropriate hardware allow the kitchen to blend seamlessly with the rest of the historic home, while the layout and ample storage allow for comfortable modern living. Victorian Fireplace mantles were reinstalled, and custom built-ins were added to the library.
The almost one acre yard boasts an ancient pecan tree perfect for a swing, and the rear is completely fenced in, making it perfect for children and pets. A double wide circular driveway provides plenty of parking. Several perennial gardens have been added, but a generous amount of the yard remains open for running and playing. Figs can be enjoyed from the several mature fig trees, and the pecan trees provide an abundance of delicious nuts. Mature camellias, hellebores, hydrangea, and azaleas grace the property, providing almost year round blooms.
Each family who has called this place home has put their touch on this beautiful historic building, ensuring that it will be a special place to live for the next 125 years.
The Thomas L. Sellars House is part of the Burlington Historic Preservation and included on the Historic Walking Tour. Click here for more information.
DECORATIVE FISHSCALE SHINGLES • DECORATIVE BARGEBOARD ON GABLES • CENTRAL HALLWAY • BEADBOARD CEILINGS • TURNED BALUSTERS ON STAIRCASE • HEART PINE FLOORS • FIREPLACES WITH SIMPLE VICTORIAN MANTELS IN ALMOST EVERY ROOM • PANELED WAINSCOT HALLWAYS • SOUTHERN YELLOW PINE FLOOR BOARDS • TWO-CAR GARAGE • EXTENSIVE LANDSCAPING • CUSTOM BUILT-INS IN LIBRARY • CUSTOM MAHOGANY CABINETS IN KITCHEN • BUTLERS PANTRY • FENCED IN BACKYARD • DOUBLE WIDE CIRCULAR DRIVEWAY
Downtown Burlington has done a lot of work to make the downtown area something special, with historic buildings, great locally-owned shopping and dining, and a 15-square-block area with free public Wi-Fi access. The collaborative spirit runs deep in Burlington, and residents have no shortage of opportunities to take an active role in their community. Click here to learn more.
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REALTOR, Broker, SPS
Keller Williams Realty
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