Six years ago, the state’s Realtors Association paid $1.5 million for one of Raleigh’s grandest old homes – a Second Empire beauty on Blount Street, practically next door to all legislative actions.
It cost even more to renovate the 1870 mansion, known as the Heck-Andrews House and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It had stood empty and largely neglected by its last owner: the state of North Carolina.
But now that the home is relaunched, some of the 55,000 members of the NC Association of Realtors have begun to point to its uglier past and question their own role in dealing with it.
A Confederate Colonel
Jonathan McGee Heck, for whom the house was built, fought as a Confederate colonel, identifying so strongly with the Southern cause that he left his family in what is now West Virginia and joined the rebels in Richmond.
He then served in the Virginia legislature during the Confederacy, purchasing the raw materials to make weapons for the Southern Army. In the years after the war, having become a successful businessman, he and the Hecks moved to Raleigh and built their ornate home on what was to become one of Raleigh’s prestigious blocks.
So, a century and a half later, some real estate agents in North Carolina, especially its black members, are wondering how they fit into their organization’s flashy Raleigh office.
“I don’t think people of color like walking in places that are named after people who have a racist Southern history,” said Monique Edwards, broker at NC Living Realty. “I don’t know. For me, it really becomes a conversation about how organizations buy things and how they move forward with properties that are stigmatized.
‘We can’t change the past’
In a statement sent Thursday by CEO Andrea Bushnell, NC Realtors said it has been addressing racial inequities in housing for decades through fair and affordable housing policies. The Heck-Andrews House is in close proximity to state lawmakers, allowing the group to continue its work on behalf of homeowners.
“Like many historic properties across Raleigh, this property also has a history that ties it to part of the Southern Confederate past through some of its many previous owners,” the statement read. “While we cannot change the past, we are committed to recognizing this history and those within our industry who have broken down racial barriers to help realize the dream of homeownership.”
Raleigh has publicly wrestled with its own Confederate past in recent years, watching the state take down three Confederate monuments on the grounds of the Capitol in 2020.
Last year, Cameron Village dropped its longtime name and became known as the Village District, cutting ties with its namesake slave owner. The nearby Post Office quickly followed suit, as did the Cameron Park neighborhood.
The downtown statue dedicated to Josephus Daniels, the former white supremacist publisher of The News & Observer, fell in 2020, and the college named after him was replaced by Oberlin.
Fannie Heck, owners of historical markers
Local historians do not believe that Heck owned slaves, having been a young lawyer and real estate buyer before the war and an urban businessman afterwards, focusing much of his attention on attracting investors to the town. new North Carolina.
The historical marker outside the house is not dedicated to Jonathan Heck, but to his daughter Fannie, who was instrumental in women’s missionary work.
Realtors note that North Carolina owned the mansion for many years while it was in poor condition, and its ties to the rebels were also not mentioned there. Monuments aside, they said, this story will need to be addressed over and over because it lives in every building of a certain age.
For Charlotte realtor Anthony Lindsey, the question comes down to whether a group the size and scope of NC Realtors will deal with Confederate ties constructively and positively.
Do the members even know about it, he asked, especially those outside of Raleigh? Does the organization feel motivated to address its new office’s Confederate past, given the state’s push for social and racial justice?
“For me, the core concern is, ‘What do members know about this story and what do they think about this membership?’ he asked. “Where are the people? Or do they care? Maybe they don’t care. I would find it troubling if they didn’t care. I find it disturbing that I don’t know that the organization has done a very good job of educating members.
History will tell.
This story was originally published June 23, 2022 2:37 p.m.