Cary News

Morrisville gets its own preservation group

Historic preservation has become the mission of a new group that is forming in Morrisville, and its first target is the iconic Pugh House.

Preservation Morrisville, a group of about a dozen Morrisville residents and area history buffs, is the town’s only historic preservation group.

“With the growth that’s happened in Morrisville over the last few years, historic landmarks are really coming on our radar,” said Michele Nicklis, an organizing member. “We don’t want to stop at the Pugh House. We are going to be looking at other sites that need more work.”

Nicklis said the group aimsto raise public awareness, recruit volunteers and provide financial support for restoring and protecting historic sites. Morrisville Mayor Jackie Holcombe actually planted the seed for the group a few months ago during a meeting of the Morrisville Community Fund. Due to the recession, the town had put off funding repairs to the Pugh House.

The Morrisville Community Fund provides grants for nonprofits, but it needed a nonprofit group to take responsibility for restoration before doling out any money.

In April, a group of interested residents took up the challenge.

Preservation Morrisville is still in the organizing stages and has yet to file for 501(c)3 status, Nicklis said.

In the meantime, the Morrisville Community Fund has set up a separate fundraising account for Preservation Morrisville, which allows the group to collect money for the Pugh House.

The James M. Pugh house was built around 1870 and was on the National Register in 2003, but was taken off in 2008 when the house was relocated to the corner of Morrisville Carpenter Road and Page Street to accommodate a state road improvement project.

Mabel Pugh, artist and renowned book and magazine illustrator, once lived at the Pugh House, said historian Ernest Dollar. Her book “Carolina Bluebonnet,” published in the 1930s, showed what daily life was like in Morrisville, he said.

Given the background of its former resident, one use for the Pugh House would be as an arts incubator, said Dollar, who is a member of Preservation Morrisville.

“Art and history are such close cousins, they would be a unique draw rather than a musty museum,” he said.

It’s already worked at the Horace Williams House where Dollar is the director of the Preservation Society of Chapel Hill. The historic Chapel Hill home is used as a community center, where the society hosts concerts, exhibits and lectures.

The Pugh House could serve as an art gallery with programming. Dollar said he would be happy to give a lecture on Mabel Pugh, who also served as the head of the art department of Peace College between 1936 and 1960.

“It would be great to reintroduce her to Morrisville,” Dollar said.

The town has not yet made a decision for the future use of the space, said Tony Chiotakis, Morrisville’s director of community services.

About $100,000 left over from the restoration of the old Christian Church will be used to make some repairs to the exterior of the structure. The work includes removing the aluminum siding, painting, and repairing or replacing any deteriorated wood on the front porch, side porch roof and deteriorated sections of the scroll work along the soffit areas.

An architect is working with the town to come up with a project scope and the bids are expected to be in about July.