Mountain Road Walking Tour
The Dabney Cosby Home, Woodside

Woodside was the home of Dabney Cosby and was built in 1837.

This house is about a mile past the Halifax library and on the same side of the road.

Its designer and builder, Dabney Cosby, Sr., along with his son, Dabney Cosby, Jr., provided Southside Virginia with a variety of architecturally literate houses, churches, and public buildings.

Cosby's daughter lived to be nearly ninety here.. Another daughter married Jefferson Davis Van Benthusen of New Orleans, a nephew of the Confederate President and later as the wife of Captain Nelson she lived in a nearby house here.

Dabney Cosby, his wife, and other family members are buried at St. John's Church.

COSBY, DABNEY (c. 1793 - August, 1862), architect-builder, active, in Virginia and North Carolina from the 1820s to his death in 1862. Cosby was born in Virginia and resided in Raleigh from c. 1840 to his death, and is one of a small group of nineteenth century North Carolina builders whose identity and works are known.
See this 2009 extensive article written for the North Carolina Architects & Builders.

He was a well-known and highly respected architect-builder who constructed a number of significant architectural monuments in Virginia and North Carolina during the early Victorian period. Cosby's specialty was rough-casting: that is, the application of a rough exterior wall surface composed of mortar and fine pebbles, and many of his buildings have this finish.

During his long and extremely productive career, Cosby worked in a variety of architectural styles, including the Federal, the Greek revival, the Classical Revival, the Italianate Revival and the medieval revivals.

He is said to have worked with Thomas Jefferson in the construction of the original buildings at the University of Virginia in the 1820s. His earliest documented work is the construction of the Sussex County, Virginia, courthouse, in 1825. In addition to several additional Virginia courthouses, Cosby built a large number of plantation houses in Halifax County, Virginia, between 1835 and 1850. He also constructed a good part of Union Theological Seminary in Richmond prior to 1845 and churches in Petersburg and Smithfield, Virginia.

In 1840 Cosby purchased a lot in Raleigh on Dawson Street, and remained a Raleigh resident until his death, although his letters indicate that he travelled almost continually during this period. His earliest documented work in North Carolina was the construction in 1840-42 of a house for the Mordecai family in Raleigh, perhaps the Mary Lane Mordecai House, now demolished.

Gravestone in rear of home.
Inscription reads:

"Walter Tapp
Son of D. & M.A. Cosby
Sept. 21, 1845
June (?)0, 186(?)
Of such is the kingdom
of heaven"
At the same time, he built a house in Wake County for Mrs. Rebecca J. Williams. From 1845 to 1847 Cosby was working under architect A.D. Davis as the subcontractor in charge of masonry on the additions to Old East and Old West buildings at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His next known project was the construction of a brick house for Dr. Beverly Jones in Bethania in 1847. Cosby's Dawson Street Residence, a now-demolished Italianate Revival villa, is attributed to him and was probably built during this period.

Between 1847 and 1850 he built the residence and schoolhouse for the North Carolina Deaf and Dumb Institute on Caswell Square in Raleigh. In 1850 Cosby constructed the mammoth Yarborough Hotel on Fayetteville Street, Raleigh. His last known projects, in 1855, were the construction of the Governor's Palace on South Street, Raleigh, and the construction of a residence for Professor Wingate of Raleigh. On both projects he acted as superintendent under James Saintsing, a Raleigh architect-builder.

Many of Cosby's Virginia buildings have been, preserved, but the only North Carolina project for which he is known to have been responsible which remains are the additions to Old East and Old West in Chapel Hill. It is likely that many more Cosby buildings will be discovered in North Carolina as a result of continuing research. Cosby and his wife had many children, including at least three sons. Two of these, Dabney, Jr., and John William, continued in their father's profession. Both worked in Raleigh on the Deaf and Dumb Institute, and later moved to Halifax County, Virginia. John William Cosby's only other known project in North Carolina was the design of the Caswell County Courthouse, built between 1858 and 1861.

Wake County Deeds, Wake County Tax Listings, 1841-1854; U. 8. Census Records for Raleigh, 1860; and individual Cosby receipts, 1841-1860, in Wake County Accounts in the collection of the North Carolina Division of archives and Records; Account Books of Thomas H. Briggs, 1847-1886, Briggs Hardware, Raleigh; letters, memoranda and receipts to or from Cosby in the Cosby Papers, I and II, the Dr. Beverly Jones papers, the George W. Mordecai Papers, and the David L. Swain Papers, Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; a printed tract, A Memorial to the General Assembly of North Carolina by Dabney and John William Cosby," Raleigh: Charles C. Raboteau, 1851, and a broadside, "The Late Dabney Cosby, Esq.," Raleigh: 1862, in the North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; notice in The Milton Chronicle, Vol. 172 No. 45, Jan. 8, 1858; and information supplied me by Kenneth Cook of South Boston, Virginia.

Ruth Little-Stokes March 3, 1974


Halifax County Courthouse--1832
Goshen--1833 (destroyed)
Oak Grove--1835
Woodside--1837 (his own home)
Magnolia Hill--1840
Grand Oaks--1840
St. John's Rectory, Antrim Parish--1841
St. John's Church--1844
Brooklyn, home of the Barksdales, was enlarged by Cosby in 1854; his work is now hidden by later additions.

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