The George W. Dixon House was built in the early 1830s for George W. Dixon, a merchant tailor and one-time mayor of the city of New Bern. 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, as did much of the nation. 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 a type that was popular in New Bern during the early 19th century. Originally, it was a side-hall house of two and one-half stories. A two-story addition to the east was added by the Stevenson family when they owned the home, and a small two-story addition was added by Tryon Palace when they purchased the house from the Stevensons in the late 1950s.
Between the houseís two chimneys is a platform sometimes called a captainís or widowís 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 probably 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 neo-classic in style ranging from 1790 to 1840, and 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. The furnishings in the Dixon House come mainly from the Philadelphia, New York and Boston areas.