Since 1833, several generations of the Neal family have farmed land in what is now northwest Durham County. An early family house (demolished ca. 1940) is said to have served as a kitchen after William T. Neal built the present frame tri-gable I-house with its one-story rear ell around 1890. Eight acres of Neal’s once-extensive farm and the house are now the property of his grandson, William T. (Billy) Neal, III. A 1920s replacement porch and a covering of artificial siding have modified the house, but its rear brick chimneys and six-over-six sash windows remain. The interior center hall plan is basically intact, and much original woodwork including a stair with a heavy turned newel and turned balusters, and simple mantels have been retained. At the rear of the house are a smokehouse, a buggy and granary building, a wagon shelter, and a barn, all of frame construction.
William Neal and Benjamin Duke of the American Tobacco family dynasty were good friends who swapped tales and tools. Duke encouraged the raising of tobacco, which became Neal’s major livelihood, but in the 1920s when Duke sought his land for the Duke Forest, Neal declined to sell. He instead conveyed and bequeathed land to his sons and daughters, who settled near the homeplace with their families.
UPDATE, early 2020:
The house has remained in the family of Neal's descendants over at least four generations. Though the surrounding property is now somewhat smaller than described above, it still includes a number of farm and out buildings of varying age.
1.6.2020 (N. Levy)
This building was the subject of a What's It Wednesday?! post on Open Durham's social media accounts (Facebook and Instagram), the week of January 8, 2020. Follow us and stay tuned for more finds!