HISTORY OF THE SHER-HANNAH HOUSE
Ernest Herbert Lawrence (born 1874) and his brother Marshall V. Lawrence (born 1880) were both born and raised in Granville County, North Carolina. They attended the local schools and later E. H. attended the University of Kentucky Business College. By 1919, both were living in Durham and operating a wholesale company; the E. H. & M. V. Lawrence Company is listed as a wholesale miller in the 1919 city directory. Lots at the northeast corner of Forest (now Ottawa) and Queen Street were parceled by Oscar F. Wilkerson, owner of the Durham Construction Company, in 1919.The brothers acquired four of the five lots in 1923 and by 1928 the first residents were listed at 405 and 407 Ottawa, two small bungalows, mirror images of each other, that were clearly erected by the same person/firm.
It is unclear whether or not E. H. or M. V. had any background in construction. What the brothers did have was a family link to the Wilkersons and the homes may have been constructed as a gift to M. V. and his wife, Nettie Carver Wilkerson Lawrence. Nettie Carver Wilkerson Lawrence was sister-in-law to O.F. Wilkerson; her sister, Nannie having married O. F. Wilkerson. Nettie’s first husband Robert E. Wilkerson does not appear to have been part of Oscar Wilkerson’s immediate family, though they may have been related distantly. R. E. Wilkerson died in 1907, leaving Nettie with a daughter, Maxine Wilkerson. Around 1915, Nettie married M. V. Lawrence and in 1923, M. V. and his brother E. H. Lawrence acquired the land from the Durham Construction Company. It was during their ownership that the houses at 405 and 407 Ottawa Street were erected and rented to working class families.
The 1920 census lists M. V. and Nettie Wilkerson with her daughter Maxine and a three-year-old son, Marshall Vance Jr. By 1930, the couple had taken in a lodger and were living at 213 Liberty Street. The 1930 census, lists Ernest H. Lawrence at 616 Mangum Street with his wife Lillie and their four daughters Lelia A. (9), Anna France (8), Lillian E. (5), and Ernestine (an infant). At that time, he was listed as the proprietor of a Feed Store and his obituary notes that he operated the E. H. Lawrence Feed Store for many years and later the E. H. and M. V. Wholesale Company.
Residents of 407 Ottawa changed frequently in the early years, but from 1939 to 1954 the home was occupied by a single family. Morris Leonard and Gertrude Neuwirth Sher were one of the homes longest-running occupants. Morris was born in Russia, but immigrated to the United States; Gertrude’s parents were Hungarian, but she was born in New York City, which is likely where the couple met. The Henry B. & Flora G. Neuwirth listed as living in the house in 1939 and 1940, were Gertrude’s parents and the couple may have lived with her parents. The Neuwirth family must have enjoyed the neighborhood, as Pauline N. Bane (Gertrude’s sister) is listed with her husband Louis G. Bane at 405 Ottawa in 1940 and Eugene Neuwirth (Gertrude’s brother) is listed at 405 Ottawa in 1942. Morris was listed as the manager of the Wearing Apparel Bargain Store from 1942 to 1954, the time the family was living at 407 Ottawa. However, Morris suffered a series of losses while in the home, including the death of this wife to breast cancer in 1947 and the death of a nine-year-old daughter in 1950.
The Lawrence brothers operated the twin homes on Ottawa Street as rental units until 1951. Marshall V. Lawrence died in 1951, leaving his share of the company and real estate assets to his brother and shortly thereafter E. H. sold the four lots to the Depositors National Bank. E. H. Lawrence died in 1954 and the Depositors National Bank (later the North Carolina National Bank) sold the houses to T. E. and Charlotte M. Allen in 1965. T. E. operated the T. E. Allen and Sons insurance agency. Forest Street was changed to Ottawa Street in 1968. Eventually their daughter, Carolyn Miley Allen Browning inherited the property, operating it as a rental until her death in 2003.
Residents changed frequently from the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s. However, beginning in 1972 the home was occupied by siblings Mary Hannah and James Hannah, Jr. Mary was a waitress and James was listed as an employee of Goss Linoleum & Tile. Mary married Raymond Baskins, a waiter, in 1978 and until 2008 the three were listed alternately at the address, indicating that they all lived there together. Raymond Baskins died in 1993; Mary Hannah Baskins and James Hannah, Jr. remained in the home until 2008.
The house was fully renovated in 2009, utilizing restoration tax credits, and is now owner-occupied for the first time in its history.