The History of Haywood Hall

The history of Haywood Hall begins shortly after Raleigh was named the seat of state government in 1792. This was the year the legislature mandated that state officials live within the capital city. John Haywood, prominent in the city and state, purchased a square of land two blocks east of the state house to coincide with this mandate. Today, Haywood Hall is known as the oldest home in Raleigh that still stands on its original foundation.

John Haywood

John Haywood was born in 1755 in a part of Edgecombe County that now exists in Halifax County. He served in the militia during the War for Independence. Later, he clerked for several North Carolina sessions of Congress. He became Raleigh’s first Intendent (mayor).

In 1787, he was appointed State Treasurer of North Carolina, and kept that position for forty years.  Haywood was also instrumental in founding The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Raleigh Academy, and Raleigh’s Christ Church.

John Haywood built Haywood Hall for his family. Haywood’s second wife, Eliza Haywood, did not like the house they lived in on Edenton Street. Her disapproval of living in Raleigh caused her to return to her home in Wilmington to give birth to their first of twelve children.

In his attempt to have a beautiful home that could impress his wife, Haywood decided to build Haywood Hall and model it after his family’s home in Edgecombe County. Construction on Haywood Hall started in 1799.

House Features

Haywood Hall was built as a large frame, two-story columned house in the classical style of the Federal Period. It has a symmetrical floor plan with a center entrance on both the first and second floors. There is a large center hall with parlors on either side. The chimneys were constructed of Flemish bond brick. Modillion trim was used on the roof cornices, while the interior of the house contains a vast amount of wood trim.

The two parlors and central hall downstairs could accommodate the entire legislature. The wide stairs and wainscoting that leads to the attic suggests that there was a second floor ballroom with a nice retiring space in the attic.

Haywood Hall was built for entertaining. John Haywood had an active sense of hospitality. Local lore has it that the Haywoods would often entertain friends, legislators, and visiting dignitaries.

In 1825, The Marquis de Lafayette visited. John Haywood’s oldest daughter, Betsey Haywood, was the hostess for the occasion. The Marquis proclaimed her to be “the prettiest girl he had ever seen.”

A two room cottage was moved to the back of the house sometime after 1900, and was joined to the house by a porch. This cottage was used as John Haywood’s living space while Haywood Hall was being built, and later served as Haywood’s office.

Many dependencies were also built on the grounds of Haywood Hall, including the following: a barn, a gazebo, a privy, a kitchen, a smoke house, and the servant’s quarters. The cottage, kitchen, and two other dependencies remain on the property today.

The Garden

While living there, Eliza Haywood built formal gardens on the east side of the house. For more than two hundred years, the Brazilian magnolia tree has been the focal point of the garden. According to household records and her writings, Eliza had planted crepe myrtles, a Kentucky coffee bean tree, fig bushes, hydrangeas, roses, and perennials.


When John Haywood died in 1827, his youngest son, Dr. Edmund Burke, purchased the house.  Dr. Burke was a successful physician. During the Civil War, he was appointed to organize the state’s military hospitals. In 1890, he was named Chairman of the Board of Public Charities by Governor Fowle.

Afterwards, Haywood Hall was inherited by Dr. Burke’s son, attorney Ernest Haywood. His prominence came from being a founder of the North Carolina Bar Association in 1885.

John Haywood’s great granddaughter, Mary Fowle Haywood Stearns, and her husband, Walter, bought the house from Ernest Haywood’s estate.

Entrusted to the NSCDA-NC

Haywood Hall was occupied by family members until 1977. Upon her death, Mary Fowle Haywood Stearns left the house to the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in North Carolina. She emphasized the importance of Haywood Hall in the city of Raleigh and the state. Her will stated that the house was left for “the enjoyment of the community.”