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James Taylor's childhood home in Chapel Hill sold at auction

Guests examine information about James Taylor's childhood kitchen as a part of the tour of the recently auctioned home.
Guests examine information about James Taylor's childhood kitchen as a part of the tour of the recently auctioned home.

The property on the 600 block of Morgan Creek Road, which has an estimated value of $1.5 million, was sold on June 29 through AuctionFirst, but members of the public could tour the home on July 9. Sarah Sonke, CEO of AuctionFirst, said the buyer is a UNC graduate who loves modernist houses and appreciates James Taylor but was won over in the end by the two dozen acres located so close to UNC’s campus.

According to the tour guide materials, Trudy Taylor, mother of James Taylor, designed the house in the style of a Japanese inn. George Matsumoto designed and began the project but was fired by Taylor when their visions for the home differed. Durham architect John Latimer was hired to finish the house. The Taylors divorced in the early 1970s, and the house was sold in 1974 to Jim and Pat Johnston.

When James Taylor and his brother Livingston Taylor got old enough to play music seriously, Judy Taylor wanted the boys to have their own space to do so outside of the house. Latimer then designed the “clubhouse,” with two bedrooms for the two brothers.

The home is designed to be low-maintenance and efficient for active children, and each Taylor child’s bedroom on the lowest floor had access to the outdoors without disrupting the other rooms. Natural light streams through the home’s large windows and bounces off hardwood floors and walls.

James Taylor lived in the home through high school and references Morgan Creek, which runs through the home’s property, in his song “Copperline.”

Sonke said while people normally assume auctions are for run-down properties, the owner of a property often chooses to auction for transparency and efficiency’s sake. The Beatles’ homes were sold to fans at auction, she said.

“Marketing for an auction is very aggressive,” Sonke said. “The whole purpose is to not only get people who love modernist houses but James Taylor fans (as well).”

North Carolina Modernist Houses (NCMH) is a nonprofit that aims to digitally archive, preserve and promote residential modernist architecture.

George Smart, executive director of NCMH, said he has been working with an agent on auctioning the Taylor home for around two months and that the new buyer has agreed to preserve the home’s architectural style.

Chapel Hill resident and interior designer Barbara Clare toured the home Saturday.

“I love architecture, and this is history — Chapel Hill history,” she said.

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