Staff Person: Martha Elmore
This photograph is a circa 1960s image of the deteriorating doctor’s office in the Penny Hill Community in Pitt County, N.C., bordering on Edgecombe County. It was built in the late nineteenth century. According to Scott Power, in The Historic Architecture of Pitt County, North Carolina, this building is considered to be “a finely detailed example of rural Italianate architecture as defined by the stuccoed exterior scored to resemble large blocks of cut stone and decoratively sawn brackets beneath the eaves.” The Thigpen Foundation was set up in 2003 by the Rev. Dr. Edward L. Thigpen to repair the building in hopes of one day making it part of a museum. Since then, some work has been undertaken to stabilize the structure.
An interesting side note to this topic is the origin of the name Penny Hill for the community. The account was retold by John D. Duncan in a January 27, 1962, Daily Reflector newspaper article. In the account, Bruce Cotten of Cottendale described a trip he took down the Tar River on the streamer Greenville in 1888. As the steamer approached Penny Hill, Mr. Cotten stated the reason for Penny Hill’s name thusly: “…Penny Hill [was] named for a ‘free woman of color’ who used to sell ‘tabacco and eatables’ for the flatboat men of earlier days.”
This photograph is part of a collection of images taken by Jan Sellers Coward (now deceased). He was married to Elisabeth Speight, the daughter of artists Francis and Sarah Speight.
Sources: Chronicles of Pitt County (Vol. 1) edited by Elizabeth H. Copeland and published by the Pitt County Historical Society, Inc., in 1982. The Historic Architecture of Pitt County, North Carolina edited by Scott Power and published by the Pitt County Historical Society, Inc., in 1991.