80 Main Street

This house stands on a small half acre lot close to the edge of Durham’s Main Street. It is surrounded by the grounds of the Durham Consolidated School.

  • Record ID: 92
  • Address: 80 Main Street
  • Current Owner: Thomasson, Dean and Donna
  • Name of Building: Dean Thomasson House
  • Historic Name: Lemuel Camp Tavern
  • Download PDF of Original Record

Notable Features

– Federal
– gable-roofed portico sheltering the main entry
– doorway with double architrave molding
– 6 pane toplight
– double-leaf four panel door
– one story shed roof addition to the northeast corner

Historical or Architectural Importance

This house is an interesting example of Durham’s architectural conservatism. Although built in the Federal Period, this structure, with its central chimney and double overhang, is more typical of the houses built in the mid-eighteenth century. Nevertheless, there are Federal touches. These include the gable-roofed portico sheltering the main entry and the small cornice returns in the gable ends of the main block. The 36 ‘ x29’ main block is a two and a half story five bay structure which stands on a sandstone block foundation. The fenestration is 12×12 throughout — except for the gable peaks, which contain small 6x3s. The main entry, which is centered on the facade, is protected by a gable roofed portico supported by square posts. The doorway, which is framed with double architrave molding contains a 6 pane toplight and a double-leaf four panel door. In the southwest corner of the house is a “funeral door”. In the l850s, two major additions were constructed . The first, a one story shed roof addition to the northeast corner, measures 28×18 and stands on a brick and sandstone block foundation. Its windows are 6x6s. The second, a two story roofed addition to the south gable end of the main block measures 22×22. This addition contains a chimney. Its own entry door, on its west side contains an arch-top door and frame in the Italianate style.
In 1805, Benjamin Pickett (1729-1817) gave his daughter Martha (1775-1860) and her husband Lemuel camp (1776-1848), this half acre lot on Main Street. No house stood on the property. By the fall of 1806, however, the Grand List shows Lemuel, who had owned no house before this point, being assessed for “3 smoakes” — a house with three fireplaces. Presumably he built this house between 1805 and 1806. It was opened as a tavern shortly thereafter, one of many in Durham which served the major overland route between New York and Boston. Lemuel Camp died in 1848 — by which time the tavern had become a residence. His widow lived on in the house until 1860. On her death, the property, which by this time included 23 acres of surrounding land, was divided between Camp’s surviving children, Edward Pickett Camp of New Haven (1808-1863) and his spinster sister, Sophronia Camp (1796-1872). Based on the premise that good fences make good neighbors, the siblings made a surprisingly explicit division of the property, dividing the rooms and even the stairways beteeen themselves. Neither lived there, however, and there is reason to believe that the house was divided into apartments at this time. At the turn of the century, Sallie. B. Strong, who was a Camp by birth, bought up the scattered shares in the property, living in part of
the house herself and renting other portions to tenants. Among the more notable of these was the watercolorist Wedworth Wadsworth (l846-1926). In 1927, she sold the property to J. Franklin Bailey in exchange for room and board for her lifetime. She died in 1933 at the age of 80. The house continued to be occupied by tenants
and changed hands several times until 1976, when it was acquired by its present owners. They restored the exterior and interior of the house in 1978. This house is one of the best preserved examples of late colonial/early Federal architecture in Durham. Its historical significance derives from its association with the Camps, one of Durham’s founding- families, and fron its function as a tavern in the days when Durham was an important stopover on the overland route from New York to Boston.