History of the Joel Lane House

Many visitors want to know what happened to Joel Lane’s house after his death. Here’s a time line:

ca. 1769 - Colonel Joel Lane built the house. Enslaved laborers likely performed the labor, felling trees, hand-sawing them into boards, etc.

1790-1820 - Lane or one of the subsequent owners remodeled. They changed the original gable roof line (triangular) to a gambrel (more “barn”-shaped), enlarging the upstairs rooms.

1795 - 12/31/1808 Thomas Lane, a minor son aged 10 years, inherited the house, which was then rented. Thomas lived with his cousin, Martin Lane.

1809 - ca. 1813 Dr. Allen W. Gilchrist, husband to Col. Lane’s daughter Dorothy, bought the house from his brother-in-law Thomas Lane.

Ca. 1813 -1818 Peter Browne, a local attorney, bought the house. Tradition maintains that he removed the Lane headstones in order to plant cabbages in the family burial plot!

1818 - 1919 William Boylan purchased the house from Browne. The house was passed down through several generations of the Boylan family.

ca.1840 - A one-room school house or office was built.

Prior to 1872 - The Boylans added the school/office onto the side of the house.

1911 - The Boylans moved the house to its present location and moved the ca. 1840 addition to the rear of the house (the new lot was too narrow for it to remain on the side).

1919 - Josephine Boylan Van Patten and husband, E. H. Patten, sold the house to R.H. Merritt.

1927 - R. H. Merritt (1st. party) and Raleigh Savings Loan (2nd. party) sold the house to the Wake County Committee of the North Carolina Society of the Colonial Dames of America (now the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of North Carolina, abbreviated NSCDA-NC), for $5,000.

1972 - The Wake County Committee of the NSCDA-NC transfers ownership to the NSCDA-NC. The Wake Committee continues its restoration efforts, and incorporates Joel Lane House, Inc. (now Joel Lane Museum House, Inc.) as a 501 (C) 3 non-profit organization.

March 30, 1974 - Lane family bones reburied in City Cemetery.

April 22, 1976 - Official opening of the restored Joel Lane House as a museum. The 1840 addition was removed during the restoration since it was decided to return the house to its 1793-4 configuration. The addition—now an independent building once more—was relocated a few dozen yards to the North, behind the Joel Lane House formal garden. It generated revenue to support the museum as a rental property and was referred to as a dependency.

Dec. 1976 - The Ruth Coltrane Cannon Cup was awarded to Joel Lane House, Inc. The Cup, the state’s most prestigious preservation award, is presented annually.

April 23, 1978 - The garden, designed by Donald Parker of Colonial Williamsburg, opened to the public.

June 7, 1979 - The “kitchen,” actually a c. 1795 middle class residence, was transported by truck to the site for restoration.

1990 - Landscape Architect, Major “Mac” Newsom updated the garden design.

April 23, 2007 - “Dependency”/rental home (once the ca. 1840 addition) opened as Visitors Center which includes offices and gift shop.

April, 2010 - Public restroom addition to the Visitors Center, designed by David Maurer Architects and built by Greg Paul Builders, officially opened.

2011 - Storage shed designed and built by Greg Paul Builders opened.

2014 - New fixtures for the Museum Store were added to the Visitors Center.

2015 - New fixtures for the office and the rest of the store were added to the Visitors Center.

2019 - New paint study, completed by Dr. Susan Buck, revealed an original dark garnet red paint color and faux-grained doors.

2020 - Paint Restoration: due to moisture damage to underlying wood, all paint was removed from JLMH—as many as 26 layers in some places! The bare wood, visible for the first time in 250 years, revealed saw marks from the original construction, traces of the original red paint, and two mysterious bullets embedded in the wood by the front door. The House was re-painted in the original red discovered by Dr. Buck in the 2019 study.

Today the museum continues to operate as the Joel Lane Museum House, under the auspices of the Wake County Committee of the NSCDA-NC.