Potter House to be restored after fire.
By Mary A. Browning

JAMESTOWN -- The picturesque old Isaac Potter House at 211 West Main Street in Jamestown caught fire on the night of January 5, 2002.  Now, two years later, the word is that it will be restored, maybe by this spring. 

This assurance comes from Billy Ragsdale, who says that the log and frame building will be restored to “just like it was.”  Restoration waits on settlement of the estate of Ragsdale’s mother, Mary Elizabeth Perry Ragsdale, who died in June 2003.

Reports of the fire at the time said that it probably looked worse than it was.  According to Ragsdale, it destroyed the roof but not the logs. The wood burning stove being used in the house by Jamestown resident Jim Burney, who was living in the house at the time, probably caused the fire.  A preservation consultant from the state’s cultural resources department has examined it, and found it suitable for restoration.  That is very good news, because it is an important element in Jamestown’s National Register Historic District.

No one knows exactly when the original log part of the house was built, but the date of about 1819 is usually given.  That is when Isaac Potter bought his land.  An architectural survey that was done in 1979 says that additions were made about 1890.  The enormous chimney at the western end is its most prominent feature.  Was it always that big or was it enlarged later?  Old-timers don’t agree.  Anyone who has spent a cold winter day in the house will agree that the big old fireplace creates a mighty draft, though Potter family tradition says that the original log building was used as a store between about 1819 and 1826, and then as a residence.  Isaac was a farmer, according to censuses, but two of his sons, Isaac and Henry, had brief careers as millers just before the Civil War.  One of the last of the Potters to live in the house was “Aunt Mary” Potter, fondly remembered as a teacher who kept a small subscription school in her home for an unknown period of time.  She died in 1913.

The quaint old place was one of many Jamestown properties that William G. Ragsdale, Jr. purchased in the 1950s to save them from neglect or demolition.  Various tenants have lived there since then. 

In 1974, Mrs. Ragsdale made it available to the Guilford County American Revolution Bicentennial Commission to use as its headquarters.  Anita Schenck, the commission’s coordinator, and Barbara Voelkert, the executive secretary, kept business hours in the old building for the better part of three years as the organization did its work.  Schenck enjoyed working in the house, she says, and remembers that it was pretty comfortable most of the time, although there were a few shivery winter days.  The location was ideal for the headquarters, being central to High Point, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem.

Burney regularly visits the property nowadays because he has a garden there.  The house has not been the target of vandals, fortunately.   It seems to be waiting patiently, anchored firmly by its huge chimney. 

News & Record, Sunday, February 13, 2005

Reprinted with permission of the News & Record  and of the author