The James L. Fleming House stands on a large urban lot at the northeast corner of South Greene and West Third streets. Construction on the Fleming House began in 1901 and was completed in the summer of 1902. The lot was given to Loula White Fleming as a wedding gift from her father, Captain Charles A. White. Designed by the Knoxville, Tennessee, architectural firm of Barber and Klutz, under the supervision of a local contractor, C. B. West, for James L. Fleming, the house is a significant surviving example of Queen Anne architecture. A two-and-one-half-story frame residence, the Fleming House encompasses approximately 3,400 square feet on the main two floors and rests on a stuccoed brick foundation.
The property's most notable features are the elaborate cast iron supports, brackets, frieze and balustrade on the one-story wraparound porch, echoed in the cast iron fence outlining three sides of the lot. A standing seam metal roof with entrance gable covers the porch, a small section of which was enclosed on the south side and which was extend toward the rear on the north side for a handicapped ramp. A small curved plaque bearing the name "J. L. Fleming" ornaments each of the two cast-iron gates providing access to the property from the east and north. When the Fleming House was erected, the owner installed wiring for electricity and a water pump, even though these municipal services were not yet available, demonstrating the faith of James L. Fleming in the future of Greenville. In 1907, the house became directly involved in the origin and establishment of East Carolina University, which has been largely responsible for Greenville's growth from a small, rural town to a major, thriving city.
Restoration work was completed in late 1982, and the house was dedicated on December 16, 1982. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of ECU in 2007, the Fleming House underwent a complete renovation. The City of Greenville owns the house and leases it to the Greenville-Pitt County Chamber of Commerce. Through use as a residence, association with one of the state's leading educational institutions and home of a public service agency, the James L. Fleming House in Greenville continues to play an important role in the city's historical process.
James Leonidas Fleming (1867-1909) was active in the political life of Greenville and Pitt County, promoting progressive ideas such as city electricity and water works. In 1899, Fleming married Lula V. White and the two moved into the Fleming House in 1902. In 1904, Fleming, a law graduate of the University of North Carolina, was elected to represent the Sixth Senatorial District in the North Carolina State Senate. He was re-elected in 1906. In 1907, Fleming introduced a bill to establish and maintain a normal school in eastern North Carolina to be called East Carolina Teachers' Training School. The bill passed and, along with former governor Thomas Jarvis, Fleming secured the location at Greenville. The school grew into East Carolina University; because many of the planning sessions were held there. Unfortunately, Fleming's enjoyment of his home and the school he had helped create was brief. On November 5, 1909, exactly a month after the school opened its doors to students, Fleming died in a tragic automobile accident just outside Greenville. He left a wife with three children under ten years of age.