John Hamilton Cosby was a prominent citizen and well-respected tobacconist in Danville and was head of the firm of J.H. Cosby & Bro. when he built the Victorian home at 936 Main Street. It’s unclear exactly when the home was built, perhaps 1895, but it may be safe to presume his marriage to Mary Wilson Lewis in January of 1887 had something to do with it. The location of the home presumably has to do with his sister, Jane Elizabeth “Jennie” Cosby. Jenny married Charles M. Sublett who built the house at nearby 878 Main Street for her in 1874.
The Cosby marriage produced four children, though it only lasted a decade before Mr. Cosby died in 1897, the result of what appears to have been a rather voracious outbreak of influenza that took his niece just five weeks previous. Before the end of February 1897, three other family members would die, including his sister and her husband.
By 1909 the house changed hands and was purchased by another prominent tobacconist Sydney Rutherford Dula who, along with his two brothers, moved here in 1890 from Henderson, North Carolina. His wife, Gabriella Hart Dula was best remembered as the founder of the Danville Garden Club, which began a tradition of touring the city’s finest homes and gardens, her own not excluded, and which was featured in numerous newspaper articles of the time. She passed away in October of 1928 and two years later, in July of 1930, Mr. Dula died of a stroke.
Following the deaths of the Dulas, the house was conveyed to Thomas Arthur Fulghum and his wife, Louelette. They lived in the house for about five years, during which time they lost their nineteen-year-old son to a car accident. Two others, fellow students from the University of North Carolina, were also killed and another was seriously injured when Fulghum swerved off the road to avoid a passing vehicle and lost control.
The house was then acquired by Dr. and Mrs. John T. Daves who moved to Main Street from Forest Hills. Their purchase in 1935 for the sum of $17,250 was described as one of the largest local real estate deals made in Danville at that time. During their tenure, Mrs. Daves reported a robbery including eleven hams and several middlings stored in the attic as well as a wrist watch, a diamond ring, and a pearl necklace.
In 1940 the house became a convent for the Society of Christ our King, a Catholic community founded in Greenville, North Carolina, in 1931. From the house, the Society ran a school for disabled children until 1946, when they moved to 80 acres of farmland on the outskirts of the city.
The next to own the house was Dr. Arthur R. Hosking, a chiropractor, who, just out of college, had worked for a few months in Roanoke before moving here. His early years were a struggle, as most people didn’t recognize Chiropractic medicine as a legitimate medical practice. Not many years before Dr. Hosking opened his office, the discipline was essentially illegal. While the state of Virginia made allowances for a chiropractor to practice with a license, it made no provisions for obtaining that license. That changed in 1928 but it was many years later before Chiropractors were allowed on the medical board. Mr. Hosking was one of the first to be elected to that position. By the time he retired in 1978, Dr. Hosking was a well-respected and much love practitioner of the art.
The house was next acquired by surgeon Dr. William S. Ogden, who resided next door at 944 Main Street. The main floor was used for his practice while upstairs rooms were rented to college students. Dr. Ogden sold both of his properties to Dr. James R. Evans and his wife Stephanie Conrad in 1986. Evans used 936 Main for his dental practice until December 2008.
It was only as recently as 2010 that the house has been reverted to its proper use as an elegant and stately home.