The William C. Coker House, constructed in 1908, and located in Chapel Hill’s Franklin-Rosemary Historic District is a contributing structure in the town’s earliest National Register Historic District and is now on the Study List for individual Nomination to the National Register. It is eligible for a 15% state tax credit for rehabilitation expenses up to $150,000 done in accordance with the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.The home’s distinction derives from its unique history and exceptional setting as well as its Prairie Style architecture and intact Arts and Crafts interior woodwork. The rare combination of architecture, landscape design and remarkable setting make it one of the most significant residences in Chapel Hill. This is not surprising as the home and setting are the creation of UNC Botany Professor William C. Coker, a true Renaissance man, whose interests and accomplishments spanned the fields of botany, modern plant cell biology, architecture, landscape architecture, campus planning, and residential development.
The home was purchased in 1986 by physician Woodrow Burns and his late wife Mary Jane Burns who undertook to renovate the property and restore the gardens as they thought Professor Coker would have wanted them to be. Characterized by a landmark White Oak, the gardens include many native trees and shrubs, an arbor walk, a camellia room, a rose garden, a sunken perennial border and a woodland wildflower walk. The couple placed a preservation agreement with the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill on the 2.8 acre setting around the house to prohibit subdivision and worked with the North Carolina Botanical Garden to establish a small publicly accessible path on the grounds. The University of North Carolina worked with the Burnses to place an easement in honor of Coker’s wife, Louise Manning Venable, to protect and allow viewing of the property’s large stone outcroppings that border the south side of the property.
The William C. Coker Estate is currently available for a new owner. Information on the property is available through North Carolina Estates, www.ncestates.com. Please contact Harry Branch at 919-418-6482 for an appointment to view the estate.