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The Horace Williams House was built in 1854 by Benjamin Hedrick. Professor of Analytical and Agricultural Chemistry at the University, Hedrick purchased the property as a home for his wife Mary Ellen, and their two young sons. He envisioned a distinctive octagonal structure and hired Hillsborough builder John Berry to construct the house. The home was completed in 1855, and the Hedricks moved in. 

The House went through several owners and renovations before finally passing into the ownership of Horace Williams in 1897. Williams was the last private owner of the home. He was the Chair of Mental and Moral Science (Philosophy) at the University, and students shared a great admiration for him.  Williams remained at the University for half a century, and on his death in 1940 bequeathed all his property to the University. The house became a rental for professors and their families, until its gradually deteriorated condition attracted the attention of Preservation Chapel Hill.

The House is operated and maintained by Preservation Chapel Hill as an example of adaptive reuse. The only historic house open the public in Chapel Hill, the building serves as the organization's offices, as well as providing meeting and event space, art exhibitions, and public education programs.

The Horace William House is the only historic house open to the public in Chapel Hill. The house  retains its original architecture including woodwork, floors, ceilings, and mantles. We have a collection of antique furniture, including a set of four chairs and a newly acquired settee that once belonged to Horace Williams. We offer self-guided tours of the house, including an exhibit about the history of those who lived there.


As part of our adaptive reuse of the Horace Williams House, in addition to our offices, we operate an exhibition space in our Octagon Room. We have exhibits by local artists who sell their work (a portion of the proceeds help fund the ongoing maintenance of the house), as well as a variety of history exhibits. Exhibits rotate every few months. For more information, visit HWH Art Exhibitions


We also have a number of self-guided walking tours of the surrounding community, which you can pick up free of charge at the Horace Williams House. Explore the historic district along East Franklin Street, wander the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery, and more.

Horace Williams House

Horace Williams House
Front Elevation
Photographed ca. 1950
Horace Williams House
Front Elevation
Photographed ca. 1900
Horace Williams House
Front Elevation
Photographed 2010

HWH Adaptive Reuse

The Horace Williams House serves as headquarters for PCH in our Adaptive Reuse strategy—to preserve historic homes through use outside of private residences. This strategy means the house is available for event rentals, small and large, such as those listed below. For more information, please contact:

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Team Meeting


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