June 2014 UPHA Home of the Month

June 2014 Home of the Month

Jenny and Tony McGrail Home, 2822 Van Dyke Avenue, University Park

Our home at 2822 Van Dyke Avenue is one of the earliest examples of a Raleigh bungalow, according to an architectural survey done by the city some year ago and published by the City of Raleigh Museum. A bungalow is a one-story house type of Arts and Crafts design popular in the early 1900s. The house was built in 1916 by Professor William Hand Browne Jr. who came to teach physics and electrical engineering at NC State College in 1908. In 1916, the two departments were separated and Prof. Browne was appointed Head of the Dept. of Electrical Engineering, the position which he held until his retirement in 1946.

The house existed before Van Dyke was a street. Its original address was 408 Dixie Trail. The stone house at the corner of Van Dyke and Brooks belonged to Prof. Browne’s associate in the EE Dept., R.S. Fouraker. We believe that these were the only 2 houses in this block during those early years. When we bought the property in 1985, the house east of us at 2820 Van Dyke (now Rob & Rhonda Mosely’s lovely home) was a small yellow bungalow (also facing Dixie Tr.) which, we were told, was the carriage house for Prof. Browne’s property. We don’t know how much land he originally held, but do know that he owned the parcel at Wade Av. and Dixie Tr. which is now Hymettus Park. He kept his bees there, ergo the name — for Mount Hymettus and its famous honey in Greece. In 1969, his heir Cicely Browne gave the Hymettus park land to the city of Raleigh with specific instructions that it only be used as a park, never to be developed. It is a beautiful little corner of nature, and we hope everyone will protect and maintain it, and pay respects to Prof. Browne and his family for preserving it for all to study and enjoy.

As for our little bungalow, we have enjoyed many happy years here, always striving to maintain its original style and craftsmanship as much as possible. When we moved here in 1985, it had been rental property for quite a long time. It was very neglected and had undergone some less-than-correct “remuddles”. We are restoring as we are able, and have hopes that a future owner with more time, energy and resources will be able to do more with the bones and structure of this very historic Craftsman bungalow to showcase it as it was during the early part of the twentieth century. Apparently we are happier with our little spot in University Park than Mrs. Browne was, as she named the home “Pitysmont”. We’ll never know how or why that came about, but it certainly would be interesting. We did have one visit back in the 90’s from a granddaughter who, by then was well advanced in years and a country doctor in Appalachia. We only visited for a short while, but she recalled to us that she and her parents had moved back in with the Brownes during the Great Depression years. She recalled that they lived in the attic, and she remembered extensive flower gardens up to Dixie Trail and all the oak trees all around.

In 1997 we told the Capital Trees Program of Wake County about the majestic white oak in our back yard, and gave them some background info on our house and property. In August 1998, our white oak was presented a Capital Trees award in the Historical category. We think Prof. Browne would be pleased.

A note about the log cabin in our back yard: It is not original to the property, but was rescued from demolition and moved here in 2000. The cabin had been relocated from the mountains to the Heritage Circle at the state fairgrounds, where it served many years as the Cider House down by the lake during the state fairs. We are friends with the Lingg family who make and sell apple cider at the NC State Fair, and when they had to upgrade their building, the old cider house was put on a flatbed truck (just barely shy of being demolished) and brought to 2822 Van Dyke Av. where it has lived a quiet life ever since.

And as for Van Dyke Avenue: Professor Browne’s granddaughter also told us that when Raleigh decided to turn his driveway into a city street, they asked if they could name it for him. Being a rather modest fellow, he said “No, but you can name it for my beard”. Photos obtained from NC State University archives do indeed show that he sported a very handsome Van Dyke beard.


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