153 Main Street

Standing on a large 6.25 acre lot, this house is set close to the edge of Durham’s
Main Street in the midst of the town’s commercial district.

  • Record ID: 49
  • Address: 153 Main Street
  • Current Owner: Adams, Carolyn V.
  • Name of Building: Carolyn Adams House
  • Historic Name: The James Parmalee House
  • Download PDF of Original Record

Notable Features

None .

Historical or Architectural Importance

This 2 1/2 story Federal central chimney house stands at the north end of Durham’s Main Street, just outside the Historic District. As built, it was a simple, 3 bay colonial house with Federal-style features: quarter-lune fanlights in the gable ends, cornice returns, full length corner pilasters, and an entry flanked by fluted pilasters with caps and bases and surrrounted by a pediment. The house has undergone extensive alterations, most of them dating from the nineteenth century. These include the addition of a hip-roofed, open porch on the south, east and north sides, a sun porch and a screened porch to the south and a 2 story, gable-roofed, addition to the rear. The original clapboarding, which is still intact, has been covered with blue-painted stucco. The original central chimney has been reduced in size–though it still serves two fireplaces. The original fenestration has been partially replaced: the lower sections of what were once 6x6s now contain two-pane operating units. When the porch was added
in the late nineteenth century, the pediment over the doorway was removed. According to Fowler, this house stands on the site of an earlier eighteenth-century structure
built by Hezekiah Baldwin, who acquired the property from his father, Noah Baldwin. Noah Baldwin had, in turn, received it from his father with a “dwelling, barn, and weaver’s shop” in 1765. Fowler states that the old house was razed and that the present structure was built by James Par:ma.lee, Jr. (1763-18 ), one of Durham’s leading shoe makers. Parmalee and his father, Phineas, formed the shoemaking firm of Phineas Parmalee & Company, which carried on its business on the site. ‘Ihey were prosperous initially, judging from this substantial and rather elegant house. But in the late 1820s they, like many shoemakers, found themselves in financial straits and began borrowing extensively–first small amounts from local merchants and other shoemakers including Joseph P. Camp, Perez Sturtevant, and Alpheus Camp. By the early 1830s, they consolidated three outstanding loans into a mortgage from the Middlesex County Bank. In 1834, the firm failed and James Parmalee, who had moved to Yates, Orleans Cbunty, New York, quit-clairred his house and six acres to the bank. The bank sold it to Middletown manufacturer, Samuel Russell, in 1836. He sold it three years later to Jehiel M. Hand. Hand-who listed his residence in 1851 as Augusta, Georgia–sold the house in that year to Henry W. Bailey. The house passed through a succession of owners between 1851 and 1911, when the house was purchased by Frank Arrigoni in 1919. In 1942, the Arrigoni’s sold it to its present
owners. ‘Ihis house is one of Durham’s few Federal style structures-and with restoration¬† could be as elegant as the David Smith house, which is presently the best example of the Federal period structure in Durham. Standing as it does in an otherwise commercial area, the Parmalee House constitutes an important visual and thematic anchor to Durham’s past. Historically the house is notable for its association with Durham’s shoe industry and with the members of the Parmalee family, who were arrong the pioneer
shoemakers of the town.