A Durham, NC, house that’s crossed the line between fact and fiction is on the market again.
The home at 1810 Cedar St. was a fictional set in the 1990 movie “The Handmaid’s Tale.” However, it’s more well-known as the site of a notorious death that was the focus of the true-crime documentary “The Staircase.”
Built in 1940, the Colonial is listed for $1.9 million. It measures 9,429 square feet and sits on 3.4 acres in the Forest Hills neighborhood.
In 1990, the stately residence was used as the Commander’s house in the film adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel. The movie starred Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway, and Natasha Richardson, yet its theatrical release was a flop.
A couple of years later, novelist Michael Peterson and his girlfriend, Kathleen Atwater, moved in to the five-bedroom, six-bathroom home. The couple proceeded to marry in 1997.
All was calm until the evening of Dec. 9, 2001, when Kathleen died.
Peterson said he was out by the pool, and when he finally went inside at about 2:30 a.m., he found his wife at the bottom of the back staircase in a pool of blood. He told authorities she was drunk and fell down the stairs.
Authorities didn’t buy his explanation and charged Peterson with murder.
Shortly after his indictment, Peterson allowed French documentary filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade to interview him, his kids, and his attorneys. Many of those interviews took place in this home.
In 2003 Peterson went on trial, which was documented by de Lestrade. Following one of the longest trials in North Carolina history, a jury found Peterson guilty and a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
His lawyers appealed the verdict, and the conviction was eventually overturned in 2011.
Hearings began for a new trial, but Peterson entered an Alford plea in February 2017. (Under this guilty plea, the criminal defendant does not admit the act, but admits that the prosecution could likely prove the charge.)
“The Staircase” (13 episodes) is available on Netflix. It tells the story from the viewpoint of Peterson and his defense team.
Following the initial filming and Peterson’s conviction, the home was sold for $640,000 in July 2004. In July 2008 it was sold for $1.3 million to psychic and medium Biond Fury.
Fury had a cable TV show in New York City and said he had never heard of the Peterson case and knew nothing of the home’s history. Over a decade later, he’s now ready to part with the home.
The home has undergone recent renovations and has 19 total rooms.
There is a grand staircase in the front entryway (not the one Kathleen Peterson fell down) as well as a library and game room on two levels. None of the listing photos shows the back staircase, where the body was found.
The kitchen is large with an eating area and island. The primary bedroom has its own wing.
The grounds feature wrought-iron gates and a slate patio with an outdoor fireplace. There is a two-car garage.
The house was built by architect George Watts Carr for John Adams Buchanan, who wanted a large and stylish house to express his station in life.
The Buchanan family lived in the home until 1960, and four of the family’s five daughters were married there.
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