Restored Peeler House brings offices, events to downtown Kannapolis
Published 12:00 am Monday, February 13, 2012
By Hugh Fisher
KANNAPOLIS — Since 1923, the H.J. Peeler House has stood on the corner of South Ridge Avenue and 1st Street.
The brick home has seen the boom and the decline of Cannon Mils, the rise of the N.C. Research Campus and thousands of passing trains.
Many remember it as the location of Lady’s Funeral Home, which leased it during the 1950s and ’60s.
Today, Jamison Lee and Colleen McDaniel have restored it, furnished it and opened its doors to 21st century Kannapolis.
With office units upstairs and rooms for meetings and events below, Lee said the Peeler House is ready for business.
Getting there, however, was a seven-year struggle.
Lee, a Fort Mill, S.C., native, bought the house in 2004 for “about $130,000,” he said.
“I had an interest in old houses and architecture,” Lee said.
So did McDaniel, his girlfriend and business partner, who’s a landscaper.
She had settled in Kannapolis while a student at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
“We were taken by the quality of the houses themselves,” Lee said.
The Peeler House, at the time, needed serious attention.
The interior had water damage. The floors were sagging and the foundation needed to be reinforced.
Only a couple of the home’s rooms were being used.
Much of the original dining room and parlor had been torn out around 1950 when Lady’s Funeral Home converted half the ground floor into a chapel.
It’s not obvious today, with the rooms bathed in light from restored Art Deco fixtures.
The rooms are freshly painted, with carefully restored woodwork and new walls built to match the traces found when previous renovations were demolished.
Undoing the previous changes was the first task.
Lee said he felt it was important to bring the house as close as possible to its original state.
“I felt like the architect knew what he was doing, and that would be best,” Lee said.
McDaniel said there weren’t many photos to go on. The Peeler family was able to provide some information, but much was learned just by looking at the house itself up close.
And it’s still a work in progress.
But the Peeler House is a testament to American craftsmanship, Lee said.
“This hearkens to the days when things were really built,” Lee said.
“You can walk into a million-dollar house today and it has vinyl doors.”
The outer walls are 14 inches thick, made of three layers of brick — no wooden frame.
“You can’t build it today, legally,” Lee said.
Though the house is solid, keeping it that way has been difficult.
Lee declined to estimate how much the project has cost him and McDaniel.
“Let’s just say a lot of time, more time than money,” he said. “Every weekend of my life and every day I’ve had off has been given to this house.”
That’s led, in part, to their decision not to live in the Peeler House.
For one thing, they said, it’s just too big.
“It came to be about appreciating it, enjoying it,” Lee said.
“I’m a steward, a caretaker. We’re just trying to leave something better than we found it.”
He’s started by moving his own office there — Lee runs a video production business — and making ready for others to join him.
He sees the Peeler House’s former upstairs rooms as potential “virtual offices,” short-term spaces leased for a few weeks to a few months.
Downstairs, he said, the restored parlor and dining room provide conference space and venues for wedding receptions, family reunions and the like.
Though the Peeler House isn’t exactly as it once was — among the additions are an entrance elevator and a handicap-accessible restroom — McDaniel and Lee hope the restored home’s charm will be a draw.
“It’s unique, and we really don’t have much like it here,” Lee said.
The two hope to get some neighborhood and community groups into the Peeler House for meetings.
“We just think it’s a cool way for people to get together, to know their neighbors and know the community,” McDaniel said.
Besides that, he asked, “Why does an office have to be bland?”
For more information on the historic H.J. Peeler House, visit www.hjpeelerhouse.com
Contact Hugh Fisher via the editor’s desk at 704-797-4244.