About the Historic Nissen House
In the summer of 2008, the Lewisville Historical Society learned of plans to tear down the c. 1876 George Elias Nissen House to permit commercial development. With the help of the Town of Lewisville and the support of citizens who cared about historic preservation, the LHS collected funds and had the house moved on January 1, 2009 to a town-owned site nearby the original location of the house. Since then, the LHS has been hard at work gathering the funds necessary to complete restoration work on the house and repurpose it for community use.
The unique architectural features of the house include the combination of Greek Revival and Italianate styles with a rural simplicity: The exterior has three large front gables (with the middle gable suggestive of the Italian villa tower), while the design symmetry, interior two-panel doors and overall austerity of design connects the house to the Greek Revival style. It’s one of the few surviving examples of this design in the region. There are eight fireplaces in the original structure (4 upstairs, 4 downstairs), with space at the rear of the house originally for a traveler’s room and servant’s quarters, now occupied by the kitchen, baths and storage room (see floor plan for layout of rooms).
The total square footage of the interior of the Nissen House is 2979 sf, with 1735 sf on the first floor and 1244 sf on the second level. There is a full-height attic above the second floor, and the ceiling height in the historical rooms is 9 ft 10 in.
At this time, the only area that has been restored and has public access is the first level of the house. As funds become available, the second level of the house will be restored and opened for offices of the Lewisville Historical Society and office rental space for other non-profits.
The prototype for the design of the Nissen House was apparently a house built in Greensboro in 1856, the Dunleath (Dunleith) Mansion, which was lost to demolition over 60 years ago. The Dunleath was designed and built for Judge Robert P. Dick, possibly by architect and builder W. S. Andrews. Twin houses nearly identical to the Dunleath were built in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. in the 1850’s, the Dunedin and the Thorwood, and they may also have served as inspiration for the design of the Dunleath and Nissen Houses. The Dunedin and the Thorwood Mansions were also lost to demolition some time ago.
The dating of the Nissen House has proven difficult: The only specific date assigned to the building of the Nissen House has been 1876, given in oral testimony by an older resident of Lewisville in the 1940’s. However, in 2016 representatives from the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office examined the joinery in the house (which includes the use of wooden pegs), and believe that it may have been constructed earlier, perhaps as early as the 1850’s, possibly by George Elias’ father, John Phillip Nissen. The earliest deed found so far connected to the house shows George Elias Nissen as the owner. Attempts to date the house through dendrochronology have not been productive.
Currently, the first floor of the Nissen House is open as rental space with a very special atmosphere for many types of uses: Meetings, small receptions, family reunions, retreats, catered meals, small weddings, teas, educational presentations, etc. The décor of the house recreates the warm and inviting atmosphere of a mid- to late 19th-century rural North Carolina home, and is also equipped with a modern catering kitchen and bathrooms and up-to-date technological capabilities. All public areas of the house are handicapped accessible.
About the Lewisville Historical Society
The Lewisville Historical Society (LHS) was founded in 1991 in response to many expressions of interest in area history by local citizens. Its purpose is to discover, collect and promote the preservation of Lewisville history and preserve its historical landmarks.
The LHS presents bi-monthly programs, organizes historical walks and tours, places historical markers throughout the community, carries on an oral history project and maintains a large archives collection. The Society offers many opportunities to the public to participate in the work of its various committees and to act as volunteers at the Nissen House. We hope you’ll come join us!
If you're interested in joining the Lewisville Historical Society, or would like more information about it, please contact Merrikay Brown at (336) 766-5842.