Places in Peril 2012: Fendol Bevers Farmstead

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Fendol Bevers Farmstead, 5713 Leesville Road

Why it’s important:
The Fendol Bevers Farm, straddling Leesville Road near Briar Creek, is a remarkable early farmstead that dates to about 1850. This early I-House has Greek Revival details, a stone foundation and chimneys, original windows with ornamented surrounds, and an intact interior. Early farm buildings surrounding it include a kitchen house, smoke house, and several tobacco barns and storage sheds. Fendol Bevers was Raleigh’s City Engineer and surveyed Wake County. His 1871 survey map helped establish the Durham County borders when it split from Wake County 10 years later. In 1895, after Bevers’ death, the house and farm were sold to J. Elmer Ross.

The Fendol Bevers Farm may be one of the best preserved farms in Durham County and is one of only a handful of antebellum structures still standing in the area. The property has been added to the state’s study list, is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, and has potential as a local landmark.

Why it’s in peril:
Around 2005, the Ross family sold the farmhouse and seventy-six acres on the north side of Leesville Road. The developer, who had accumulated 400+ acres of the original Bevers tract, including the parcel containing the farmhouse, planned a large residential development called Sierra, with 540 single-family homes. The first phase (covering 176 acres) was approved in 2008 by Durham County officials. The original developer was amenable to relocating the structure; however, the property changed hands in 2010. A site plan for Phase 2 (246 acres) was approved in 2011, but no work on either phase has been done to date. Development pressures and the resulting loss of historic resources and open spaces remain a concern.

What’s needed:
The threat to the Bevers Farm is indicative of the pressures that suburban development put on the rural built environment. While such growth may be inevitable, historic houses and farm buildings illustrate an important part of our past and should be retained and celebrated within the development plan. Setting aside several acres for the farmhouse and the surviving outbuildings will provide the necessary context for the structures without sacrificing the overall development.
Preservation Durham encourages the use of preservation and conservation easements to protect the house and immediate surroundings and will facilitate the property’s listing to the National Register of Historic Places and Durham County Landmarks, both of which offer financial incentive for redevelopment. Preservation Durham will work with developers to allow for purchase and restoration of the house and outbuildings by a private owner, saving this important piece of Durham’s rural history.