One of the oldest surviving homes in the N.C. Piedmont is only a short drive up the road from Charlotte, in Granite Quarry - a few miles east of Salisbury. The Michael Braun house is a handsome two-story rock home completed in 1766. Known by locals as the Old Stone House, it's the oldest home in Rowan County and the county's only surviving structure from Colonial times.
Granite Quarry is about 45 miles from Charlotte, less than a one-hour drive.
Take I-85 North to Exit 76, in Salisbury. Bear right and go east on U.S. 52 approximately four miles. In Granite Quarry, take the first left after the stoplight (Lyerly Road). Drive a half mile; the house will be on the right.
To see and do
Michael Braun (pronounced "Brown") emigrated with his parents from Germany to Philadelphia in 1737. In 1758, Braun traveled down what was to become known as the Great Wagon Road to the N.C. backcountry. A wheelwright by trade, he bought land in Rowan County and in time established himself as a large planter.
The house he had built for himself and his family took several years to construct, and, when the work was done, the names of Michael and his first wife, Margareta, were carved in stone on the front of the house. Below their names is a line bearing the numbers and the inscription "10 Pe-Me-Be-Mi-Da 1766." The letters are thought to be an abbreviation for a Biblical phrase, "My undertaking is completed, thanks be to Christ." The numbers refer to the month and year - October 1766 - when the stone house was finished. The letters also match up with the first two letters of the names of five of Braun's children.
Despite its sturdy construction, the house had fallen into severe disrepair by the time it was acquired by the Rowan Museum in the late 1950s. It underwent an extensive six-year restoration.
The home's first floor exemplifies the simple Quaker floor plan popular in Pennsylvania. Two rooms on the left feature corner fireplaces that share a common chimney; on the right is a spacious "great room" with a narrow, rectangular room at the back. At the extreme right as you face the house is the attached kitchen. The most striking feature of this room is the massive, 8-foot-wide fireplace. The second floor is largely unfinished, offering a revealing look at the interior construction. One finished upstairs room served as a bedroom, likely a guest room for travelers when the house was used as a stagecoach stop.
The house museum showcases many interesting furnishings, including a large German "kas" (wardrobe) in the great room, a rare candle-making "carousel" in the kitchen, and a weaving loom on the second floor that, as far as anyone knows, is original to the house. Also displayed are portraits of King George III and Queen Charlotte, Braun's original land grant, and a map of North Carolina printed in 1795 (one of the first printed in the United States).
Additional artifacts include items unearthed during recent excavations under the kitchen. Among them: a 1740s half penny, clay marbles and a gun lock. The most memorable item might be the antique Bible box with a swastika carved on its lid: Until it became the symbol for Hitler's Third Reich, the swastika was commonly used as a sign of good fortune.
Michael Braun was married three times and had 12 children. A family graveyard is located across the road from the house.