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The Love House and Hutchins Forum, the Center’s headquarters, is built upon a site that has witnessed a vast span of southern history. Located at 410 East Franklin Street, the historic Love House is a fitting home for the Center for the Study of the American South, a focal point for regional study and service at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Two thousand years ago, American Indians built a seasonal camp here that university archaeologists uncovered in 2004. Pottery fragments and projectile points date the encampment to the Middle Woodland Period, 800 BCE to 800 CE, making it one of the earliest known Indian sites in this region.

Projectile points from the Love House site, dating from 500 BC to 500 AD (UNC Research Labs in Archaeology)
Projectile points from the Love House site, dating from 500 BC to 500 AD (UNC Research Labs in Archaeology)

After the founding of the University of North Carolina in 1793, the land became part of the village of Chapel Hill. In 1811 or 1812, the University built what is commonly called the Second President’s House here for President Joseph Caldwell, who resided in it until his death in 1835. It was also the home of University President David L. Swain from 1849 to 1868. Fire destroyed the house on Christmas Eve of 1886, and much of the other archaeological artifacts discovered on the site may be debris from that event. In a filled well in the Love House yard, archaeologists found an array of household goods, including a brass candlestick holder, pipe stems, beer bottles, a spittoon, a Union officer’s button, and a toothbrush.

The year after the Second President’s house burned down, James Lee Love, an assistant professor of mathematics, leased the eastern half of the lot and constructed this house, which he called “The House of the Seven Gables.”

Cornelia Phillips Spencer (1826–1907)

Love had married into an auspicious Chapel Hill family and lived there with his wife, Julia (“June”) Spencer Love, and her mother, Cornelia Phillips Spencer. Perhaps the best known of the Love House’s many residents, Spencer was an influential writer and university booster, remembered for protesting the closure of UNC in 1871 and fighting for its reopening.

Mrs. Spencer left the Love House in 1894, rejoining her daughter’s family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Later owners added a wider porch and new rooms, and during the twentieth century, the University of North Carolina reacquired the property for faculty and staff housing. Cornelia “Spencie” Love, a granddaughter of Lee and June Love, resided in the home with her family from 1998 to 2003. They were its final residents. After being lovingly renovated and expanded in 2006 and 2007, this southern structure now houses the Center for the Study of the American South.

Today it is known as the Love House and Hutchins Forum, in honor of its first owners and their families as well as the family of James A. Hutchins Jr., a distinguished Carolina graduate from the Class of 1937 and a protégé of the eminent sociologist of the South, Howard Odum.