Widow Puckett House, c.1818

501 E. Franklin Street


Built around the turn of the 19th century, the Widow Puckett House is one of Chapel Hill’s oldest standing buildings. With no documentation to prove its age, the property’s previous owner could have constructed the Widow Puckett House as far back as the 1790s. It is believed that Jane Puckett, the widow of Chapel Hill Postmaster John Puckett, constructed the home. Jane Puckett housed student boarders and is said to have been hospitable as well as a fine cook. In 1820, Mrs. Puckett sold the home for $1,300 to Denison Olmsted, UNC professor of chemistry, mineralogy, and geology. Olmstead then convinced the UNC Board of Trustees to purchase the home and make it available for faculty members. Remaining in the hands of UNC for about five years, James Phillips, UNC mathematics professor and patriarch to the notable Chapel Hill Phillips family, purchased the home. One UNC President (Francis Venable) and one UNC Chancellor (Robert Burton House) have lived in the Widow Puckett House. Three generations of the House Family lived in the home after Robert House from 1934 until 1987. This home is a significant landmark in Chapel Hill not only because of who has lived in it, but because it has adorned the landscape of Chapel Hill since the conception of the University. Thus, it has helped lay the foundations for the place Chapel Hill has become.