‘Bulrushes,’ House With a History, Falls Deep Into Disrepair
Graham called the
house he built in
because the undergrowth reminded
him of the biblical
story in which
Moses was placed
in bulrushes beside
the Nile River.
In mid-August, Carolina could lose an important part
of its history — unless someone buys it first. The ramshackle house at 115 Battle Lane, in the Franklin-Rosemary historic district and at the northeast corner of
UNC’s campus, has been condemned by the town of
Chapel Hill after being damaged in a storm early this year.
The house is more than just another expensive
property. It once was home to several influential North
Carolinians. The structure was built in 1908 by Edward
Kidder Graham, an 1894 graduate who became an
English professor in 1907 and later served as UNC’s
president. His cousin, Frank Porter Graham (class of
1909), also lived in the house for a time.
The 3,200-square-foot house sits on more than half
DAN SEARS ’ 74
an acre of land. Built in the Colonial Revival style, it
has bay windows, wood shingle siding, mantels, a
graceful stairway and wood floors.
However, the house and surrounding land need
work estimated at up to $1 million. The house requires
a complete rehabilitation, and an uncontrolled growth
of bamboo on the property has been a problem since
the house was built. Edward Kidder Graham called it
“Bulrushes” because the undergrowth reminded him of
the biblical story in which Moses’ mother placed him
in bulrushes beside the Nile River.
Preservation North Carolina, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting historic properties, has
teamed with the house’s owners to find an appropriate
buyer. The organization helps owners who no longer
need or want property to identify new owners who will
rehabilitate and maintain the historic character of a site.
Bulrushes at different times housed a sorority and a
poet laureate of England. A 1968 movie, Three in the
Attic, was filmed in the house. Mary de Berniere
Graves, a famous painter of the 1920s and ’30s, also
lived in the house for a time.
Perry Morrison ’ 84, who lived in the house his senior year, wrote in the Carolina Alumni Review that year
that the Grahams had been in fast company at Bulrushes. Roommates Charlie Tillett and Kemp Battle,
both from the class of 1909, and Frank Winslow of the
class of 1904 were each elected president of the N.C.
Bar Association and all later were UNC trustees.
Honors continued from page 3
The Kenan Trust gift comes at a time
when the honors program has become a
deciding factor for students who choose
Carolina over distinguished peer universities, said James Leloudis ’ 77, associate dean
for honors. A limited capacity to serve all
qualified students has caused the program
to lose hundreds of talented applicants to
other schools, he said.
“Of the 3,800 students in the class of
2011, 200 first-year students were invited
to join Carolina’s honors program,”
Leloudis said. “With the past year’s new
gifts, and more available honors courses,
nearly 10 percent of entering students in
future classes will receive invitations. This
gift will greatly help our ability to recruit
top undergraduates, as well as keep talented
North Carolina students here at home.”
Currently, any of the 120 honors
courses are open on a space-available basis
to all students with a B average.
academic units there, Moeser said.
The price tag is $45.75 million, and the
foundation intends to finance the purchase
over a long term, said Richard Mann, vice
chancellor for finance and administration. A
limited liability company affiliated with the
Kenan family owns the building complex.
Frank Hawkins Kenan ’ 35, who oversaw the major expansions of the William
R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, had his office
in University Square for 25 years. Moeser
said it was “always Frank Kenan’s wish for
the property” that it become part of the
University. The sale is set to close no later
than July 1, 2009.
UNC and Chapel Hill officials are
excited about the potential enhancement
to the retail landscape, and any development likely would be upscale. An $80 million retail-and-condominium project has
been in the works for a parking lot across
In a statement, Moeser said, “This has
an enormous potential to benefit downtown. We want to explore all options for
using the property to meet the University’s
needs, while also benefiting downtown
The University will seek ideas from
town leaders and citizens, said Roger Perry
’ 71, chair of the foundation’s board of directors, chair of the University’s Board of
Trustees and president of East West Partners,
a development company in Chapel Hill.
“The portion of the property on
Franklin Street should always be used for
commercial purposes in its current form
but with an eye toward redevelopment in
the future,” Perry said.
Development of the University Square
complex began with the start of Granville
Towers in 1965, when the property was
owned by Northwestern Mutual Life
Insurance Co., and continued in phases
over the next eight years. Frank Kenan
acquired the property in the early 1970s.