Local News

Groups Aim To Save Former Home Of Late Raleigh Author

Posted December 11, 2003 5:52 a.m. EST

— A North Carolina State University fraternity is looking toward the future with plans for a new house, but some worry the building proposal ignores a big part of North Carolina's past.

Different groups are trying to work together to preserve the former Park Avenue home of Elizabeth Lawrence -- an innovative garden writer who died in 1985.

Concerns began to surface when FarmHouse fraternity was given the green light to build a new house and tear down the old one.

The fraternity has called the structure home since 1969, but said it no longer provides ideal living conditions.

"The house is for a single family home and it's being used for a fraternity house," said Matthew Moyer, FarmHouse building committee member.

The original plan called for demolishing the old home when the fraternity moves into its new one. If that happens, former city council member Benson Kirkman said Raleigh would lose a window to its past.

"Our hope is to move the house," he said.

In the early- to mid-1900s, pioneer garden author Elizabeth Lawrence called the structure home.

"She's the Jane Austin of garden writing," said Kate Torrey, UNC Press director. "She's maybe best known for her first book, 'A Southern Garden.'"

Lawrence was one of the first to talk and teach about gardening in a southern climate. Her inspiration came from the windows in her Raleigh home and the garden that grew beneath them.

A compromise was reached in November to protect the structure from demolition. Kirkman is hoping to raise money to move the house.

"You're probably talking a couple hundred thousand dollars," he said. "So often you have to reach crisis before something can be done."

Kirkman said

Preservation North Carolina

is trying to get involved, as well.

Pieces of Lawrence's historic garden are already preserved at N.C. State's arboretum. Lawrence was the first woman to earn a degree in landscape architecture at the North Carolina State College School of Design.

The fraternity hopes to move into its new house next fall.