Historic Home in North Carolina Set to be Burned for Practice

Mercer-Ruffins House | Edgecombe County, NC | c. 1850s

Somewhat of a mystery, this Greek Revival style home in Eastern North Carolina is believed to have been built during the 1850s, with a large rear extension that was added sometime in the mid-1900s. It seems to have been empty for many years, although I can’t say when it was last home to someone.

Based on the current size of the parcel, it is obvious that this was once the center of a large agricultural parcel and it still is today, surrounded by nearly 200 acres. Back in the days before the Civil War, plantations in this area would’ve been planted heavily to cotton and a large operation of this size would’ve likely been supported by enslaved labor.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track down any complete architectural surveys that have been completed for Edgecombe County so information on this home is limited. I am still working to identify the best local historical resources that might have more to share.

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But, according to county property records, the home is known as the Mercer-Ruffin home, the Mercer name being a common surname in the area in those days.

Aerial photograph of this home in 1994

I was able to photograph the interior during a winter storm and I was impressed by how warm it was inside, even without a fire in the hearth or electricity.

The details inside were surprisingly in remarkable shape, considering how old the home is and that it’s been unused for so long.

The bones of this home are still very strong and despite some broken windows the interior, seems to have not suffered much from exposure to the elements.

There is a lot of potential here to save this impressive structure that likely hold many clues and pieces of history within its walls. Clues that will help us to better understand the people who built this, the people who lived here, and what their lives were like back then.

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But, despite my best efforts, I have come up short on any further history on the property so I’ve decided to create this post in efforts to drum up any information that might exist that readers might be able to share with me. In this case, I think the need to gather and document this place is most pressing because the home is scheduled to be burned for practice by the local fire department.

From what I have been told, the current owner is a commercial farming operation that is based in South Florida. In early 2020, myself and other preservationists worked to spread the word online to see if it was possible to intervene in saving this home from fire.

Multiple interested buyers came forward and a brief discussion with the current owners revealed the possibility of selling it to someone, as long as they can move it off the property. But this is where things have stalled, and as of my writing this in August of 2020, there has been no movement on saving the house and the owners have stopped responding to correspondence.

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As of my last visit in May of 2020, the home was still standing so perhaps there is hope that it will be spared from destruction.

Do You Have Information About This Home?

Please respond in the comments below or email me directly: kelly@theforgottensouth.com

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20 thoughts on “Historic Home in North Carolina Set to be Burned for Practice”

  1. Great pics! I so hope that it’s been bought. It would be a tragedy to have it go up in flames! Thanks for sharing! I would love to repost this on my Instagram page!

  2. Thats a crying shame that they are gonna burn it down. This is a part of history. I wish someone would buy it and fix it up and live in it.

  3. Dear Kelly,
    My heart breaks for you, as I empathize totally with the seeming disregard by people in the present day for these homeplaces that tell a story (or many stories) by merely BEING HERE. I am going to try to share this, and with my sister who lives in North Carolina. Thank you for efforts on all the lovely places in our region. May your efforts bear fruit and may someone or a group of someones come forward to save many of them. This one surely deserves to be saved.

  4. This is a shame that it could be destroyed, I wish you could find out the history. There must be some reason no one wants to restore it. Also, I would love to send you some pictures of an old church that is in Enid Mississippi. We found it going to one of my son’s music shows in that area. He had old us about it and told us to make sure and come early enough to see the church. We did and I have pictures if you would like to see them.

  5. Barbara Ann Braastad

    I hope they dont destroy it …such history in those walls….if I had the money I would buy it and fix it up ….so beautiful…please keep us posted ….I love history and we need to preserve it…its all we have as a key to the past and peoples lives…..

  6. It looks like my great aunt’s house in Lagrange nc. It was owned by the “Hardy” family for years and was around during the Civil War. I have an old newspaper clipping about the house. I can send you pictures if you like. To our may we mail me at jelenelewis11@gmail.com

  7. Sorry, turns out the home I’m talking about is In Lenoir county. It’s the same style so they must have built a lot of those kinds of houses. Would anyone happen to have any info on my great aunt’s house located at 1391 Ben F Herring Rd in Lagrange nc.

  8. Is there a recent update on this property? Today is June 11, 2022, and I am hoping beyond hope that this proud home is still standing. My heart just ACHES for all of these beautiful old homes – the ones who hold the energies of our past, both good and bad – I wish we could save them all!!

    1. I don’t have a recent update. As of my last visit in 2021, it was still there. I will see if we can get someone local to check.

  9. Being a volunteer firefighter in Arkansas, I am surprised that the local FD would consider burning this home. Even as old as it is, it would have to be gutted per FEMA regulations. More problems than it would be worth. I sincerly hope that the FD did not use this as a practice run, and that the large corporation that owns the home/land has given any historical preservation groups time to get it moved, or at least sell them a small portion of land so the house can be restored.

    1. I appreciate your comment as I had never heard of this before I moved to North Carolina.

      This is actually 1 of 4 houses I know that are on the docket for practice burns. 2 others were already burned in the past year that I am aware of here in NC. I contacted one of the departments to ask if I could salvage any parts before the fire (windows, doors, mantels) and they told me nothing could be removed in order to create a more authentic scenario for their practice.

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