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Historic Hertford home getting face-lift

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Cliff Miller looks over one of the downstairs rooms in the Issac Hall House on West Market Street that he and wife Pat recently purchased in Hertford. The Millers are renovating the early 19th century home either to live in or rent.

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Friday, April 13, 2018

HERTFORD — Cliff Miller wasn’t looking for another house. Yet now he and his wife Pat own one of oldest ones in Hertford.

The Millers initially bought a home in Elizabeth City about three years ago and moved down from Virginia. But then their real estate agent called last year.

“She told us she had this listing, and it was really cool and I thought, ‘what the heck?’” Miller said. “We weren’t really interested but we saw it and we fell in love with it.”

The Millers are now the owners of the Isaac Hall House at 200 W. Market Street.

Depending on where you look, the house was built in either 1818 or 1819. Either way, it’s a lot older than their Elizabeth City home, which was built in 2006.

Miller, 60, claims he’s never been interested in buying and fixing up very old homes. When he was a boy, his parents bought a farmhouse in central Virginia that had been built in the late 1800s. However, the Hall House seemed to cry out for a face-lift.

“When we looked at it, we agreed it’s too nice a house not to bring it back to the way it should look,” Miller said.

Miller said from what he has learned the oldest house in Hertford was built in 1775. There is another that was built in 1785. The oldest surviving house in Perquimans County, however, is the Newbold-White House, which was built around 1730.

The person who built the Millers’ house, Isaac Hall, was a craftsman and chair maker. According to records, Hall sold the house in 1822 to Daniel Rogerson. In 1834, Dr. Robert Gordon bought it. Gordon was the first owner to make an addition to the house.

The house’s next owner was Thomas White, who purchased it in 1856. The house stayed in the White family until 1973. Mattie White was the last White to occupy the house, Miller said.

Perhaps the house’s most well-known resident was Clinton White Toms. He was born in the house in 1868.

After graduation from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1889, Toms started a private school in Plymouth. While there he married Mary Newby of Hertford and they had seven children. Five years later he was appointed superintendent of the Durham public schools.

Toms entered the tobacco business in 1897 and shortly after that he moved the family to New York City. Mary died in 1925. In 1928 he was made president of the Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company, a post he kept until he died in 1936.

Miller said the house was originally built in a Federal-style as a two-story building with a side hall plan. The rear parlor and upstairs bedroom were added around 1835. Also added then was the single-story shed-roof porch. That porch was changed as it appears today by Thomas White around 1856 or 1857. The chimneys were also converted to interior ones sometime after that. As part of enlarging the rear stairwell in 1835, the stairs were relocated to where they remain today.

Painters are already in the process of scraping old paint off the structure. Some exterior boards will need to be replaced, but most are in good condition. The electric system has already been upgraded and the plumbing is good. Miller said what’s key is that the roof and floors are solid.

Once the home is complete Miller isn’t sure if he and Pat will move in themselves or rent it to tenants.

The home was on the market briefly in 2016, but the listing was quickly pulled. When it went back on the market last year, it was only a matter of months before the Millers bought it.

For now, Miller has not been short on company while he supervises the renovations.

“Almost everybody on the block has stopped by and they can all tell me a little bit about the house,” he said.

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