The 2,300 acres that comprise the historical core of Cooleemee plantation in modern Davie and Davidson counties were purchased by Peter Hairston in 1817. Hairston was born in Virginia and moved to the area in 1786 after serving as a captain in the Revolutionary War. Once established in his new state, Hairston became involved with politics, serving as a state senator, and increased his wealth through development of his plantation supplemented by multiple business enterprises such as an ironworks and an export business. Hairston died in 1832 and left the Cooleemee plantation to his young great-grandson, Peter W. Hairston.
Original Date Cast:
The next Hairston to make an impact on Cooleemee, young Peter, was educated in both Virginia and North Carolina, and used his education to broaden the plantation’s holdings and production, increasing the number of slaves working the property to 300 before his death. Between 1853 and 1855, he built a home for himself on the site using plans and architectural details from fashionable handbooks and manuals of style for both interior and exterior elements. The home was styled as an Anglo-Grecian villa with a three-story spiral staircase at the center of a cross from which four, two-story, wings radiate. Seen as an outstanding example of Greek Revival architecture, the house has been preserved and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
Efforts by historians and the Hairston family to document the history of the Cooleemee plantation have resulted in insightful works that analyze the family and its deep connections between descendants of the white and enslaved members of the Hairston family. Many freed Hairston slaves remained on the property and worked as hired hands after the Civil War and their descendants are often welcome guests at the home. Additionally, the Hairston family has established a land trust for the house and surrounding property to protect it for future generations.
Henry Wiencek, The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White (1999)
Catherine Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990)
Historic American Buildings Survey Records: http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=hhdatapage&fileName=nc/nc0000/nc0022/data/hhdatapage.db&recNum=0&itemLink=r?ammem/hh:@FIELD(DOCID+@BAND(@lit(NC0022)
William Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, III, 2-3—sketches by Peter Wilson Hairston
High Point Enterprise, January 15, 1997
National Register of Historic Places Nomination
Hairston and Cooleemee Website: http://www.hairston.org/homes/cooleemee.htm