The NC Japan Center is located in the Spring Hill House at 705 Barbour Drive, Raleigh, North Carolina, as part of NC State Centennial Campus. The house is a registered historical building, built around 1815 in the Georgian style as the main house of a plantation. It stands on a rise southwest of downtown Raleigh and the name refers to a spring of water arising at the foot of the hill.
The first residence on this site was a smaller house, built in the 1700’s for Theophilus Hunter, Sr., an early leader in Wake County and the city of Raleigh. He served in North Carolina’s House of Commons, was an officer in the Colonial Militia, and acted as judge, surveyor, tax assessor, and city commissioner. Colonel Hunter died in 1789 and is buried behind the house in Wake County’s oldest marked grave.
At Col. Hunter’s death, much of the 2,500 acre plantation passed to his son, Theophilus Hunter, Jr., who developed the property to a total of 5,000 acres by his death in 1840. The younger Mr. Hunter had the present Spring Hill House built around 1815 as a wood frame structure on a foundation of stone, brick, and mortar. Lumber was cut at the Hunter’s saw mill by plantation slaves; floor beams visible in the basement show adze marks from hand finishing. A one story extension to the rear jointed the new house to that built for Col. Hunter. That original residence burned in the 20th Century, leaving the 1815 building to stand alone.
In 1864 the Hunters sold the house with 160 acres to Sheriff William Henderson High. Several thousand federal troops which occupied Raleigh in April 1865 at the end of the Civil War camped around the house, and the Spring Hill House was likely used to billet officers or as an office by the military. Sheriff High’s family resided in the building until 1872 when he sold it and the farm lands to William Grimes for use as a summer house. The widowed Mrs. Grimes sold the house and land in 1908 to the State Hospital and the Spring Hill House belonged to Dorothea Dix Hospital until January 2001, when it was transferred with 128 acres to the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University. The NC Japan Center moved into the building in June of 2001.
The Spring Hill House has undergone changes during its two centuries of existence. For example, it lost the second story of its original two storied, Doric columned porch, and the south wall lost two external chimneys and a direct entrance to the large parlor. It has also benefited from major repairs, including a major structural overhaul in 2000-01 and a complete exterior repaint in 2019. It is an honor for the NC Japan Center to carry on its services in this beautiful building, so closely linked to the history of North Carolina.