BUNN-L ArchivesArchiver > BUNN > 2001-09 > 0999929600
From: "Carla Tate" <>
Subject: [BUNN] Bennett Bunn Plantation
Date: Fri, 07 Sep 2001 23:13:20 -0700
The Bennett Bunn Plantation in eastern Wake Co. NC is for sale. This
property has been designated a national historic landmark. I am forwarding
the message below which I have received from Robin Pugh of the Wake County
Historic Preservation Commission.
Bennett Bunn was the son of Benjamin Bunn and Catrin (Catherine) Massey.
Benjamin bought this land (on Moccasin Creek) from Richard Massey, believed
to be his father-in-law. Benjamin built a mill and a dam on the property
which were destroyed in an 1848 flood. Today some of Benjamin's property
has been, I believe, made into present-day Bunn Lake.
I think this is a shame that it cannot stay in the Bunn family. And I am
afraid that housing developments will eat away this large farm.
>From Robin Pugh:
"Here's a copy of an article from (Raleigh) The News & Observer :
December 7, 2000
A farewell to antebellum roots
Author: RICHARD STRADLING; STAFF WRITER
Estimated printed pages: 4
Two hundred years of family stories pour out as Grace Hutchins shows
visitors around the house and grounds of the Bennett Bunn Plantation in
eastern Wake County.
Stories about the spot on the pine parlor floor made by a torch thrown
through the front window by a would-be thief during the Civil War. About
the 80-year-old cedar trees along the front drive that her uncles, bachelor
farmers named Alac and Avon, planted as saplings they dug out of the woods.
About the rosewood mantel clock that a Yankee soldier had looted somewhere
and left with the Bunns because he was tired of carrying it.
"I've still got that clock," Hutchins said. "It runs just fine."
Hutchins, 85, expected the farm and its history would remain in the family,
too, as it has through wars, economic depressions and the decline of
tobacco. But her two children and her grandchildren have careers, families
and plans elsewhere that don't involve the ancestral home.
So Hutchins and her son, Gary Kilkelly, who lived on the farm awhile and
has moved to Boone, have decided to sell. They're asking $1.95 million for a
federal-style house built in 1833, several outbuildings, a small tobacco
allotment, some old farm tools and 162 acres of fields and hardwood forest
just outside Zebulon.
People who care about history and open land in Wake County are watching the
sale closely. The property is on the National Register of Historic Places
and is a Wake County Historic Landmark. In the state's fastest growing
county, where so many other large farms have disappeared, the Bunn homestead
is a living link to the area's agricultural past.
"It's a rare survivor," said Gary Roth, executive director of Capital Area
Preservation. "This family has maintained it quite well."
But will it survive a change in owners? The plantation sits right off U.S.
264 and is already bordered by new subdivisions.
"This is the eastern frontier," said Joan MacNair Petty, the agent trying to
sell the farm. "How long before development is on the way?"
Last spring, Raleigh developer Jerry Wagoner agreed to pay $1.9 million for
the plantation, with the idea of keeping the house and 30 acres for himself
and subdividing the rest into house lots. Wagoner is trying to get out of
the deal after a survey showed the property was 16 acres smaller than he
thought, and the two sides are fighting over his $50,000 deposit in court.
Hutchins says she'd like to see the plantation remain unchanged. The family
spoke with the Triangle Land Conservancy about permanently protecting the
farm, through an easement or a bargain sale to the conservancy, but decided
to take a chance on finding a sympathetic buyer who would pay market price.
She believes a few houses carefully built in the woods wouldn't impose on
But the land is part of what makes the property so historic and why county
commissioners designated the whole farm as a historic landmark, not just the
house, said Robin Pugh, staff member for the county Historic Preservation
"The agricultural land at the Bennett Bunn Plantation certainly sets the
context for the house and outbuildings," Pugh said. "The buildings are
important, but when you remove a house or a farm from its setting, it loses
some of its significance."
The farm is named for Hutchins' great-grandfather, who inherited the land
from his father in the 1820s and moved into a log cottage a few yards from
where he would build a house. He grew corn and wheat and kept cattle, sheep
and hogs, with the help of as many as 16 slaves.
Each generation of the family passed the plantation to the youngest
daughter. Hutchins' mother, Etha, inherited the house but chose to live in
town with her husband, Zebulon's first dentist. Her uncle Alac lived on the
property instead. Hutchins remembers visiting as a child and picking
scuppernong grapes and blueberries and walking through the woods to a creek
and the remains of a family mill and earthen dam washed out in 1848.
Alac Kemp lived on the farm for decades, refusing to compromise the house by
installing electricity or running water. He kept the tools Hutchins'
grandfather used to make shoes and preserved the 1833 smokehouse and an even
older shed by building new barns over them.
"I'm so glad my uncle thought to preserve things," Hutchins said.
Hutchins inherited the house in 1973 but loved the concerts and social
events of the city too much to leave her apartment in Raleigh. She put in
plumbing and electricity and used the house for parties and quiet refuge.
In 1990, Hutchins moved into the same 200-year-old log cottage that her
great-grandfather had lived in. She added a kitchen, bathrooms and a
sunroom, rebuilt the old stone fireplace and pulled off the tin that covered
the logs inside. She put a glass frame over the spot on the wall where
someone had scribbled a crude memorial to two slaves, Simon Bunn and Joni
Piedelle, who died in the 1860s. Hutchins believes the two are buried along
with three other slaves in a small cemetery surrounded by the stubble of
this summer's soybeans.
Fifteen years ago, Hutchins asked the federal government to place the
Bennett Bunn Plantation on the National Register of Historic Places. The
town of Zebulon wanted to encourage industrial development in the area, and
Hutchins thought the listing might discourage someone from developing the
farm. The Wake County landmark status later gave the family a 50 percent
property tax break.
The historic designations don't prevent development of the property, though
significant changes could jeopardize the historic status. Modest
development that leaves the buildings and surrounding fields unchanged might
work, said Roth of Capital Area Preservation.
"Ideally, we'd love to see the property kept intact," he said. "But on the
other hand, there are sensible development options that can achieve a good
part of what we want to achieve."
As for Hutchins, she's enjoyed the history of her family's plantation and
her years restoring and updating the houses. Widowed in 1967, she has
remarried and moved to Chapel Hill, where the walking trails remind her of
the path to the old mill. She can't explain it, but she says she isn't sad
to see the farm leave the family.
"I don't know why," she said. "I'm a person who lives in the future.""
I do not know the result (if any, yet) of the court case. I believe the
property may still be for sale as a browser search of "Bennett Bunn
Plantation" turned up a real estate listing for $1,850,000.
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp