The Queen Anne style house at 409 E. Jones St. features tall bay windows, heart pine floors, an original marble tile fireplace and a striking second-story turret. It was once home to jazz musician Saxie Dowell, and an antique grand piano with sheet music for The Three Little Fishies—Dowell’s most famous composition—now occupies the home’s sunny formal living room.
But it’s the classic wrap-around porch that halfway encircles the house that owners Parker Davis and Jake Parrott say is their favorite feature.
“It’s like a Norman Rockwell,” Parrott says. “People see you out eating, drinking wine, playing cards on the porch, and they slowly peter in and hang out. It’s just nice.”
Davis, the sales manager for a Caribbean hotel chain, and Parrott, a real estate attorney, bought the Young-Dowell house in 2015. After renting the home out for a year, the couple began renovations last summer, and they hope to recoup some of the cost of those renovations by applying for the state’s historic tax credit. Last February, Davis and Parrott—who, during their five-year relationship, have always lived separately—finally moved in together.
As neighbors will attest, the property underwent a swift transformation. Last home to four male tenants in their mid-20s, a party spot—complete with front yard corn hole and a kitchen Kegerator—became, in seven months or so, a different sort of festive space: a livable, historic property with updated rooms and original features fully intact.
“It’s a free B and B for family and friends,” Davis says of the 3,100-square-foot, five bedroom, two-and-a-half bath home. “We both like to entertain, and we just love the house and its history.”
Its history begins in the early years of the twentieth century, when Raleigh architect William J. Young built the home, and several others nearby for family members, in 1901, according to historic records. Members of the Dowell family lived in the home during the 1920s and 30s, and the house has served as a women’s boarding house and a Lutheran ministry’s recovery center over the years.
Like many homes in the old neighborhood, the Young-Dowell house escaped destruction in the 1970s when Oakwood’s historic preservation society defeated plans for an expressway that would run through Oakwood and a reorganized state government complex. Oakwood was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and, as part of the historic district guidelines, Parrott and Davis had to get approval from the city’s historic district commission before making changes to the exterior of the house.
The couple replaced a green asphalt shingle roof, scaled back plants and shrubs that were so overgrown they eclipsed much of the porch, and replaced an unsightly wooden deck at the back of the house with a smaller balcony.
“Fortunately when we bought the house it was structurally sound and in great condition,” Parrott says. “Our HVAC was good, plumbing and wiring was good; we had all the things you don’t ever want to have to pay for yourself.”
Indeed, on the inside, contractors from local Madison Renovations made mostly cosmetic changes. These included updating the kitchen, the downstairs master bedroom and bathrooms, and restoring a butler’s pantry to its former glory—the space now serves as a wet bar and glass storage case for the couple’s formal dinnerware, replacing a side-by-side washer/dryer.
Davis and Parrott reclaimed heart pine floorboards from Scotland Neck to replace wood that had been damaged by years of tiling. They had Calacatta marble cut to resemble the original tiles of three fireplaces that had been altered, and they enlisted a woodworker to refashion the mantles to resemble the original aesthetics.
Some of their favorite new features include French doors off of the kitchen that allow for al fresco dining, built-in, floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in a front room library, a tiny door that opens into the upstairs attic and a massive, spa-like master bathroom. The home is painted in cool, inviting tones of green, blue and yellow. Crystal chandeliers hang in the four main rooms of the ground floor, and the walls are decorated with art from a trip the couple took to Spain.
“We’re really lucky,” Parrott says as we’re touring the sunlit, octagonal upstairs bedrooms and lounge. “When we moved in, our furniture fit perfectly. So much of my stuff came from family members, and [Davis’s furniture] is more modern, and it fit and blended together really well.”
While they’re mostly done renovating, the couple has a few more plans in store, including window treatments, finishing the basement into a home gym and planting a garden in front and back of the house. They hope to be finished by December, when they’ll open their home to visitors on Oakwood’s annual Candlelight Tour.
“Oakwood is such a friendly neighborhood,” Parrot says. “It’s sort of old-school. We just love it here.”