The House at 415 S. Main Street (Part 1)
A Tale of Three Dentists
In the early 1970s, Roxboro had quite an infusion of young professional families moving in, including a couple of dentists and lawyers, businessmen and educators. Not only did they fill much-needed professional roles, but vacant old houses were renovated and given new life.
Over the past five decades, a house located at 415 S. Main Street has been the professional home of three capable dentists who have added to the well being and history of Roxboro.
According to the dictionary, “house” is defined as a building that serves as the living quarters for one or a few families, and “home” is defined as the place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household.
The house at 415 South Main Street ceased to be a home in the early 1980s when it was purchased from Frank Willson by Dr. Tom Alexander, who renovated it for his dental practice. The Willson family had lived there since 1907, when Charles Willson purchased the house from the Bradsher family, who may have built the house in the 19th century.
The first step in Dr. Alexander’s renovation process was to take away the wrap-around porch and enclose all but two of the nine exterior doors. This would be the start of a new location for three dental practices that would span the next 40 years.
When Dr. Alexander retired, Dr. Mary Bennett Houston followed him and practiced in the old house beginning in the fall of 2015.
When she decided to retire, Dr. Brian Swift moved in to carry on the tradition of small town dentistry.
Born and raised in Chapel Hill with a father as a dentist and a mother as a dental hygienist, Dr. Swift always knew he wanted to be a dentist. Evidence of this came in kindergarten when he assumed the role of the town dentist in a ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ assignment acted out for a parents’ night at the school. He remembered enjoying playing the role of town dentist so much that he carried this expectation with him as he grew. After receiving a bachelor of science in biology at UNC, he entered dental school there, where he served as class president for all four years and graduated with a doctor of dental surgery degree.
After graduation, Dr. Swift was ready to make that kindergarten play-acting an adult reality. But instead, he found himself bouncing around large corporate dentist offices in the Triangle and the Triad, where he would see patients only once or twice. Soon he began to hate this kind of practice, as it was far from the “town dentist” he had once played. At the same time, he was “scared of diving in and putting [his] name on the door” of his own practice. That is until he received a phone call from one of his professors at the dental school. It was similar to a phone call Dr. Tom Alexander received 50 years earlier. Dr. Houston was ready to quietly sell her practice, opening the door for Dr. Swift to become the town dentist he had dreamed of.
He said he discovered that he shares a similar philosophy of dentistry with the previous occupants, and was happy to move into the historic building in January 2022.
“The house is so cool,” he said. “I love history and would have been a history teacher if not a dentist. If these walls could talk, what stories they could tell. It is almost intimidating.”
Brian J. Swift, DDS, PA
415 South Main Street
Roxboro, NC 27573
A life-long resident of Person County, Norwood Walker loves discovering and sharing new and old stories about not only Person County but the surrounding areas that make up this exciting new region north of the Triangle and east of the Triad.