CCHA Preservation Projects
Charles Manly Law Office
The Chatham County Historical Association owns and maintains the Charles Manly Law Office, located on Masonic Street in Pittsboro. The history of the office and its preservation is described here.
A Chatham County Native Son
Charles Manly was born in Chatham County in 1795, son of Basil Manly and Elizabeth Maultsby. After graduating with honors from the University of North Carolina in 1814 at the age of 19, he was hired as a tutor for the children of John Haywood of Raleigh. Manly also read law with Haywood and was admitted to the bar in 1816. In 1817 he married Haywood’s niece, Charity Hare Haywood, and settled in Raleigh.
Manly was elected reading clerk in the House of Commons in 1823 and was chief clerk for seventeen years. He also practiced law in Pittsboro, for soon after coming to the bar he was elected county attorney and must have traveled from Raleigh to discharge these duties, staying with his sister Louisa Thompson. Manly was elected Governor of North Carolina in 1848, serving one term.
Manly was a devoted supporter of his alma mater, serving as secretary-treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the University of North Carolina from 1821 until 1869, except for his years as governor. He died in 1871 and is buried in the City Cemetery in Raleigh.
The Manly Law Office
In 1842 Charles Manly purchased land near what is now SunTrust Bank on Hillsboro Street in Pittsboro, hiring local craftsman George Ellington to build a one-room structure that tradition holds is the same building now standing north of the Masonic Lodge in Pittsboro. Manly called his office “Fort Snug,” and it became a meeting place for area lawyers. He sold the property in 1857, and the building was eventually moved to the back of a lot on Salisbury Street owned by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Blair.
In 1965 the newly-formed historical society voted to accept the building from the owners, and to move and restore it as part of the county’s bi-centennial celebration, using furnishings loaned by Harvey Gunter, former Pittsboro resident and a benefactor of the Manly office. The structure has since been maintained by CCHA and serves as a small, but fine example of a nineteenth century office.
As with all old structures, the Manly Office requires periodic maintenance and repairs. It was repaired and repainted in 1995 under the direction of Wayne Kirts and in 2006 as an Eagle Scout project directed by Reid Montgomery. In 2007, with the aid of a generous grant by Harvey Gunter, the Office was fitted with period-appropriate green shutters. Painstakingly painted by Jane Pyle and Nancy Simons, and installed by Doug Cordaro and Carl Bigness—all CCHA volunteers—the shutters give the office a more finished look. Curtains made by Judith Peterson complement the exterior improvements.
In 2009, thanks to benefactor Harvey Gunter, the Manly Law Office roof was replaced with cedar shingles. This needed repair also restored the roof to a material more authentic to the period. In addition, repairs were made to rotting sills under both doors. Mr. Gunter also provided a bronze plaque for the front door recognizing Mr. and Mrs. Henry Blair’s gift of the building.
The office received additional improvements in 2011, when the Chatham Seekers, a local chapter of the Questers, volunteered to fund and oversee extensive repairs to the windows in the structure. The windows were completely rebuilt and rehung by Al Poland from Raleigh. CCHA is grateful for the Quester’s Chatham Seekers' efforts to make the office “snug” once again. In 2013 and 2014 the Questers funded the addition of a brick walkway and new iron handrails.
The Questers again provided assistance to the Manly Law Office in May 2015, when, through a grant from their state association and funds they raised, the chimney was moved back close to the building and was stabilized with new foundation support.
Additional repairs and a new coat of paint were funded by donations in 2017. We especially thank Dr. Herbert Goldston for his generous contribution to this effort. When workers were removing the old white paint they discovered a gray paint underneath and the decision was made to restore the office to the more historically accurate gray color. Painting has now been completed and the office has a fresh new look.
In 2022, the Manly Law Office’s doors no longer fit their openings and were no longer weather proof. An investigation showed that settling in the foundation was causing the door openings to change and that was, in turn, causing the door problem. The real need was to stabilize the foundation to keep the door openings from changing and then replace the doors. CCHA was able to stabilize the foundation in 2022 with the help of the Preservation Hill Questers (#1497). Now that the door openings are stable, we’re looking for funding for new doors and an ADA compliant ramp and sidewalk so everyone can enjoy going in the Manly Law Office.
The Manly Law Office is open for tours and by request to Museum@chathamhistory.org.
Photos show the Manly Law Office after it was freshly painted in 2017; the late Jane Pyle with Harvey Gunter in front of the office pre-renovations; roof being replaced with cedar shakes in 2009; office interior; Manly Law Office being moved to its current location on Masonic Street -- from Chatham Record 1965; plaque on office door; Charles Manly portrait.