The George W. Dixon House was built in the early 1830s for Dixon, a merchant tailor who was briefly a town commissioner. Dixon purchased the lot the house stands on in 1826. It was part of the original Tryon Palace grounds, which had been divided into building lots and sold by the state after the Palace burned in 1798. The Dixon lot represented a choice corner location. The house stands on its original foundation; it has never been moved.
In contrast to their contemporaries, the Robert Hay family (see Hay House), the Dixons enjoyed an elegant lifestyle and furnished their home in the latest fashion. But after 1833, Dixon fell on hard times economically. He mortgaged his house and its contents four times between 1833 and 1836, finally losing the house in a foreclosure sale to settle his debts in 1839.
During the Federal occupation of New Bern in the Civil War, the Dixon House served as a hospital for the 9th Vermont Infantry.
Federal in style with some Greek Revival features, the house is a good example of the popular side-hall plan dwellings built in New Bern during the early 19th century. Originally two and one-half stories high,. the house received a two-story addition at its east elevation by the Stevenson family in the late 19th century. Tryon Palace added a small one-story wing when they purchased the house from the Stevensons in the late 1950s.
Between the house’s two chimneys is a platform sometimes called a captain’s or widow’s walk. Contrary to the romantic myth that these platforms served as lookouts for wives fearful that their husbands had been lost at sea, they were used for chimney maintenance or as a quick access to the roof, should a spark from one of the chimneys catch the roof on fire.
The furnishings in the Dixon House are of the Federal and Empire styles ranging from 1790 to 1840. They are primarily American, in contrast to the mostly English furnishings of the Palace. When the Dixon House was built, New Bern was a port city. New Bern ships carried pitch, tar, lumber and agricultural products to the north and the West Indies and, in turn, brought back manufactured products and furniture. Present furnishings in the Dixon House come mainly from the Philadelphia, New York and Boston areas, but the sideboard, dating from 1809, was created by Edenton cabinetmaker James Borritz, and is likely comparable to what Dixon would have owned.