The Robert Hay House
The Hay House – Currently Closed to the public for renovations.
The Robert Hay House, built in 1804, is modest by comparison to other homes of the Palace complex. The origins of the home suggest it was a speculative build constructed by Benjamin Good, a New Bern carpenter and builder who acquired the lot in 1804 when the Eden Street area was still relatively undeveloped. The initial footprint of the house consisted of a “side hall” staircase on the south side of the home, and one, large fireplace-heated rooms on each of the first and second floors, an attic chamber, and included a hearth-based kitchen in the cellar. It provides an early example of the emerging style of Federalist period townhouse.
Local tax records list this house as “unfinished” when Scottish immigrant Robert Hay acquired the property for 1,000 dollars shortly before he married in 1816. Hay’s primary business – a carriage shop – was located across Eden Street in what had been the Stable Office of the former capitol palace complex.
To accommodate his growing family and business, Hay enlarged the house in the 1820s with a rear addition consisting of a double piazza and two additional small-heated rooms. Double porches or piazzas are a distinctive element found on many of New Bern’s early 19th-century houses of vernacular or regional design. Oriented to the southwest as they are at the Hay House, the piazzas provide a comfortable outdoor-seating area year-round, especially appreciated during the long, hot days of summer. In the summer, the louvered shutters can be closed to deflect sunlight while keeping the windows open to allow in the cooling breezes from the Trent River.
The Robert Hay House has been restored to the appearance it had 1830 – 1850. Research conducted by archaeologists, architectural and other historians was used as the basis for a four-year restoration project of the home in the mid-1990s. Careful attention was given to accurately preserve nearly all the original plaster, and detailed woodwork. The interior and exterior paint colors were matched to an analysis of the original color palette of paints used by the Hay family. With an 1843 family inventory list of furnishings, some Hay family pieces, and local descriptions of homes of the period, the house was re-furnished with reproductions made by skilled 20th-21st century woodworkers using traditional hand tools and methods.
It is currently under renovation.