The Cupola House was built in 1758 for Francis Corbin, land agent for the last of the English Lords Proprietors, Robert Carteret, Earl of Granville. It has been called the finest Jacobean house south of Connecticut, as well as “North Carolina’s most significant early dwelling.”
In 1777, Corbin’s heirs sold the property to Dr. Samuel Dickinson. A Connecticut native, he married Elizabeth Penelope Eelbeck Ormond, Penelope Barker’s niece, and one of the women who signed the Edenton Tea Party resolutions. The Dickinson family and their descendants occupied the house for 141 years.
In 1918, in financial straits, Miss Tillie Bond, the last of a long line of heirs, sold the elaborate Georgian woodwork from the Cupola House to a representative of The Brooklyn Museum. Edenton residents, alarmed that a piece of their history was being lost to them, hastily organized the Cupola House Association on March 10, and on the very next day, purchased the upstairs woodwork back from the dealers. The downstairs woodwork was installed in the Brooklyn Museum’s American Rooms exhibit, where it remains on display today.
Tillie Bond sold the house to the Cupola House Association shortly after the woodwork’s removal. The Cupola House Association was the first organization in the state established to save and preserve a specific building in North Carolina.
Following the purchase, the first floor of the house was used as a county library for 45 years. The upstairs, with original woodwork intact, served as a local museum and was gradually filled with objects associated with the house and its occupants.
In the 1960’s, the library relocated to their new building next door, and the rehabilitation and restoration of the house began in earnest. With full cooperation of the Brooklyn Museum, the Association reproduced the lost woodwork. The restored interior was opened in August 1966. It has been furnished with period pieces, and is on the town tour of historic properties.
The Association acquired land to the north and south of the house, and installed flower and herb gardens in the 1970’s, using eighteenth century planting materials. A group of dedicated volunteers maintain the exquisite gardens today.
In 1971 the Cupola House was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark. It is owned and operated by the Cupola House Association, and remains one of the Architectural treasures of Edenton and North Carolina.