The finest example of Georgian Revival architecture in Wilson and the most impressive early twentieth century residence that survives in Wilson, the W.W. Graves House was built ca 1923 for one of the county’s most successful farmers. William Graves (1876-1948), the son of Dr. James Thomas and Louisa (Barnes) Graves, was descended from a long line of prosperous planters in Wilson County. He left the family homestead in the first decade of the twentieth century and moved to Wilson. From town, he managed his extensive farming interest from a downtown office and was actively engaged in real estate development in growing Wilson.
This house is impressively situated on a large lot that extends from West Nash Street through to West Vance Street along North Deans Street. The 160-foot setback from West Nash Street and the lush canopy of mature hardwoods adds to the grandeur of the site. The imposing two-story, seven bay-three bay brick residence is symmetrically composed beneath a hipped roof covered with green Ludowici tiles and features three gabled dormers with arch-headed windows flanked by paneled Doric pilasters.
The symmetrical façade is divided into seven bays. The tile roof is accented by pedimented dormers with arched windows flanked by pilasters. The boldly molded cornice is ornamented with modillions and the corners are accented by stone quoins. The surface of the house is richly patterned using brick panels and stone trim. An imposing central bay is stone veneer above the generous front door with its fanlight transom. Doric columns ornament the sun porch, entry, and porte-cochere. The oriental influence on Georgian design is suggested by the fine latticed balustrades. A matching garage is located behind the house.
The central entrance bay on the west façade is noteworthy and features a shallow porch carried by paired Tuscan columns and has a dentil frieze with a wrought iron roof balustrade. The second story of the entrance bay contains a six-over-six sash window enframed by an impressive sandstone surround composed of a crossetted surround flanked by Doric pilasters. Flanking the entrance bay are six bays filled with six-over-six sash windows (diminished on the second story) that have stone sills and brick lintels with stone keystone and end voussoirs. Decorative panels of bricks diagonally-laid in a basketweave pattern are placed above each first story window.
Across the front is an uncovered terrace, which connects to a porch and a porte cochere on the south and a glass enclosed porch on the north. Both flanking wings are supported at the corners by Tuscan pillars with flanking Tuscan columns and have a handsome Chippendale-style roof balustrade. The side elevations are finished similarly to the front, as is the rear elevation, which is occupied by a one-room, two-story cell, and extensive one-story service rooms, and a handsomely latticed rear porch.
The interior continues the impressive scale and the superb quality of detail that is found on the exterior. A notable entrance enframed by delicate colonettes and containing leaded sidelights and elliptical fanlight with a brick soldier course lintel enters through a small vestibule into the center hall. The interior centers upon this exceptionally commodious hall, which features the impressively-detailed open stringer stair that rises at the rear. Molding strips divide the plastered walls into panels, and a bold, classical molding crowns the hall and the large front (south) parlor. The parlor focuses on an entirely paneled fireplace wall with a handsome Colonial Revival mantel. The molded door surrounds are surmounted by a projecting molded cornice sheltering a reeded frieze with a swag ornament.
In the west corner of the house is the smaller music room and behind that, in the north corner, is the spacious dining room; both of these rooms feature a handsome cornice with a Greek fret motif and foliate trim. The dining room is further embellished with a seven-foot-tall paneled wainscot and a handsome beveled glass window in the door to the pantry. The rest of the first story is finished with more modest Colonial Revival woodwork. The second story hall is also spacious and continues the same cornice details as the first story hall. Arranged off of this are four large bedrooms, two baths, and a sleeping porch. A rear stairs rises from the kitchen in the ell. At the rear of the house is a large, two-story, three-car, brick garage, sheltered by a hip roof and flanked by interior end chimneys.
The green Ludowici tile roof, the brick soldier course lintels, the six-over-six sash windows, and the cast concrete sills connected by a row of raised header bricks give the garage a handsome finish. To the rear (northeast) of the garage is the spacious, now overgrown, former gardens. Graves died here is 1948 and his widow, Gladys (Wells) Graves remained here until her death in 1980. In the spring of 1984, the house was given by the heirs to Atlantic Christian College to be maintained as a residence for the President.