A Quiet Secretary with a Vivacious Past
The desk stands quiet and reclusive in its corner, its bookcase closed, its writing panel folded upward.
The piece looks more like a tall yet
unassuming brown box to a casual
observer. But the 8-foot-3-inch tall desk
carries a name befitting its heft: the Gen-
eral Thomas Person Secretary.
There is little outward indication that
this secretary, a desk with a bookcase, is
one of the oldest pieces offurniture on
campus. Currently, it sits unlabeled in a
corner of the first floor of the George
Watts Hill Alumni Center.
The desk's composition hints at its ori-
gins. The combination of mahogany with
oak as a secondary wood suggests it was
made in England, according to its catalogue
sheet from the UNC Property Office.
The document esti-
mates the date of manu-
facture as about 1770.
Soon afterward, the sec-
retary became the prop-
erty of Thomas Person, a
wealthy landowner and
politician who played a
major role in the early
history of the University
and the state.
But the desk itselfis of
a personal and private
temperan1.ent, as furniture
goes. There is little adorn-
ment save a scrolled pedi-
ment crowning the book-
case that curls into carved
rosettes and a molded cor-
nice directly beneath.
The contents of the bookcase are
meant to be hidden behind double
shutters; the desk looks unkempt if
the doors are left open. It would
have housed those well-worn tomes
most useful to its owner rather than those
suited for decorating one's study.
The secretary is one of
the oldest pieces of furni-
ture on the campus. The
desk features several nar-
row, secret drawers dis-
guised as ornamental
l"'y IAfigust 2005