The Treasured Places Watch List is an advocacy and education program of Preservation Greensboro that promotes the importance of historic places and works with community partners to find solutions to challenges in proactive and cooperative ways. Recognition to the Watch List is not legally binding in any way, nor is the program considered to be a shame campaign. Instead, the list is composed of properties that have a high degree of community interest, and are threatened with destruction by redevelopment, facility expansion, inappropriate new development, or even neglect.
Preservation Greensboro’s mission is to build thriving communities by protecting and renewing our historic and architectural treasures. The Watch List was initiated in 2004 to help serve our mission. It has provided a spotlight for public forums, including newspaper, radio and television.
Preservation Greensboro was established by a group of determined citizens in 1966 who sought a community network that could advocate for historic places. In continuing this outreach, Preservation Greensboro assists property owners in understanding tools available for restoration and conservation of your historic property. Tools include generous federal and state tax credits administered through the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, as well as property tax deferral through designation by the Guilford County Historic Preservation Commission. Easement donations and property marketing are available through Preservation Greensboro’s Development Fund.
Our 2017 Watch List
Located at 427 West Friendly Avenue in downtown Greensboro, the Christian Advocate Publishing Company Building was among the earliest structures downtown recognized for significance in the city’s first historic architectural survey of 1976. Architectural Historian Ruth Little-Stokes wrote of the building in the survey “2-story brick commercial building with masonry main façade of dramatic Egyptian Revival design. One of the few examples of this popular commercial style left in North Carolina.” The building was completed in 1927 to designs by Greensboro-based architect Charles C. Hartmann, the designer responsible for many structures in the city ranging from the Jefferson Standard Building and the UNCG Quad to the Hillside Estate in Fisher Park. The Christian Advocate building is Hartmann’s only known example of Egyptian Revival design. The structure exhibits unusual details articulated in cast stone, including sumptuous lotus-designed pilasters with clawed feet at their base and topped with garland-and-shield entablatures.
Why Are People Watching? In early May, it was discovered a demolition permit was issued for the structure. On May 23rd, the Masonic Board unanimously approved a reprieve on demolition plans for six months while the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund seeks a capable and preservation-friendly partner for the project. Redevelopment plans could include an adaptive reuse of the plan utilizing federal and state historic preservation tax credits. The building is not yet listed on the National Register because the process for individual designation is voluntary. However, there is a strong possibility that the structure is eligible for designation and as a tax credit project.
Nelson Station at 903 Bluford Street overlooks the A&T campus to the south. Residences along Bluford Street were convenient residential sites for professors and administrators who built fashionable Craftsman bungalows and rectilinear Foursquares with generous front porches. Nelson Station is the oldest home on the street; built around 1903 as the home of Agnes and Walter Nelson. Mr. Nelson taught in A&T’s Mechanical Department. Their Queen Anne-style house features turned porch posts with sawn brackets. A block east is the Bluford-Jeffries House at 1007 Bluford Street. This handsome American Foursquare house was constructed in 1916 and features Prairie-inspired details and served as the home of Hazel and Dr. F. D. Bluford. Dr. Bluford was hired by A&T in 1916 where he quickly rose through the ranks to become President from 1925 until his death in 1955.
Why Are People Watching? Bluford Street began to change in the late twentieth century as homeowners retired or moved away and their homes were converted for rental use. Poorly maintained income-properties have increasingly been condemned and destroyed for parking or multi-tenant housing. As neighborhood land values continued to decline, A&T is taking the opportunity to expand its campus north across the street. The current campus master plan calls for the streetscape to be destroyed and replaced with green space. As the fabric of the street has already been demolished, a way forward for some key historic homes might include removing the remaining structures to empty lots on nearby properties. At the request of the owner, Nelson Station was designated in 2007 by the Greensboro City Council as a local landmark property, therefore, any changes to the property must first be approved by the Guilford County Joint Historic Preservation Commission.
Otto Zenke Studios
The Otto Zenke Studios building was constructed around 1966 to replace design studios located in the historic James Turner Morehead House. The historic Morehead House was demolished by the county for its expansion of Governmental Plaza, and the site of the Morehead House remains a parking lot today. Zenke constructed an impressive complex of studios, and embellished them with fine moldings and murals that remain inside the building today.
With the closure of Zenke Studios, the Regency Revival-style complex was acquired by the county in 1986 for use as the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office. Today, the County and Sherriff are proposing demolition of the building and replacement of the complex with a parking lot.
Why Are People Watching? Removal of the Zenke complex and its replacement with surface parking requires a relocation of the Sheriff’s office to new quarters. That relocation can be done for the efficiency of the Sheriff’s office. However, demolition of the Zenke complex could be averted if re-use opportunities could be identified that would provide the county with an additional revenue stream through a lease arrangement. A new parking will not add to the vitality of the Washington Street corridor; nor will it provide a welcoming entrance to our downtown by way of Eugene Street or Freeman Mill Road. However, the Zenke Studio structure is an impressive edifice that might catch the eye of a notable local law firm or legal counsel. If the building is to be lost, special attention must be directed at preserving valuable interior appointments such as murals by Douglas Riseborough, a well-known Canadian artist living in California who has works displayed worldwide.
Located in the bucolic Sedgefield neighborhood, Adamsleigh is an estate featuring a sprawling 15,000 square foot manor house coupled with a caretaker’s cottage, a pond, two swimming pools, gardens, and other outbuildings. Greensboro’s grandest house was designed for clients Elizabeth and John Hampton “Hamp” Adams by Luther Lashmit, a talented architect of the Winston-Salem firm Northup-O’Brien. Though plans were finalized the week of the October 29th 1929 “Black Tuesday” stock market crash, work on the opulent house continued without pause. Adamsleigh is the only known work of Lashmit in Greensboro. The eclectic Renaissance-inspired English Tudor style architectural theme includes a covered porte-cochere for arriving guests, a cylindrical stair tower topped by a conical roof, a classically-inspired entry-way to a flagstone terrace and lawn, and a stunning array of hand-forged wrought iron that graces windows, doors and a weathervane.
Why Are People Watching? Though the estate has been little changed since the 1930s, and many decorative treatments and fixtures remain from the original period of construction, the property is currently vulnerable to destruction in the absence of a wealthy benefactor interested in saving the house as a private residence. Instead, the path forward might be rethinking the property in a manner that respects its history but allows the house to generate the income needed for major expenses associated with upkeep. As one of the city’s grandest homes, opportunities exist to return the house to its splendor by combining local, state and federal tax abatements and credits. Creative reuses have seen the preservation of comparable structures in Winston-Salem and Durham. Perhaps Sedgefield is ready to join that list.
College Hill neighborhood
The College Hill neighborhood is among the earliest in the city, with oldest structures dating to the 1840s. Although the heart of the neighborhood has seen strength in recent years, the commercial fringe of the district remains vulnerable to erosion. Three houses between McIver and Tate Street along West Market Street have recently been considered for demolition and replacement with commercial buildings. The Paylor House at 1107 West Market Street is likely the oldest of the group. Built around 1908, it features a hipped cross gable roof, a break-away bay window, and a broad porch. The Herndon House at 1109 West Market and the Trogden House at 1111 West Market also hold the historic edge of the neighborhood with distinctive architectural details. To-date, those plans have been placed on hold, but similar initiatives have emerged elsewhere in the district. Four houses currently on the market at South Mendenhall and Spring Garden streets are currently for sale right, and they remain vulnerable to plans for demolition and redevelopment.
Why Are People Watching? The Collage Hill neighborhood already enjoys a mixed-use zoning, and these properties could see continued use as office or residential multi-family units. Such income-producing uses are already conducive to use of federal and state historic preservation tax credits. Here, preservation can be considered an attractive amenity to a prospective developer of these projects as a part of an urban “infill” development to cater to nearby student populations. Retention of these character-defining structures in the neighborhood could contribute distinctive enhancements to the entire neighborhood.
The Shaw House at 111 Arden remains a mystery to many in Greensboro. It was most likely built for Judge Thomas J. Shaw, a Superior Court Judge appointed by North Carolina Governor Craig. The house was apparently built in 1914-15 by Shaw, and as-such it is one of the earliest estates in Greensboro, predating both the nearby Sunset Hills and the College Park neighborhoods. The structure is composed of stone in a Colonial Revival composition featuring shed dormers and a service wing. It is currently owned by BB&T Bank.
Why Are People Watching? The Shaw House is not the first estate to fall into bank ownership. The Hillside estate of Ethel and Julian Price in Fisher Park fell into ownership by the Bank of America before being sold to purchasers with preservation-oriented plans. The Shaw House could see a similar sale, with hopes that a preservation-minded buyer would see fit to complete a considerate restoration of the house. Perhaps additional information on the history of the house will inspire such action – everyone loves a great story!
Pilot Life Insurance Campus
The monumental offices at the former Pilot Life Insurance Campus at 5300 High Point Road in Sedgefield were designed in 1928 by the Philadelphia architecture firm Zantzinger, Borie and Medary (image, top). They was constructed along the lines of North Carolina’s Tryon’s Palace in New Bern, and relate to the bucolic context of its contemporary – the Tudor-style Sedgefield Golf and Resort community located across High Point Road. The complex stands as one of the best examples of early suburban corporate architecture in North Carolina. The campus was abandoned in 1990 when Pilot Life Insurance merged with Jefferson Standard, now Lincoln Financial of Philadelphia.
Why Are People Watching? The complex was listed in our inaugural Watch List in 2004, but was removed when Kisco Senior Living acquired the property for reuse as a full-service community in July 2008. Kisco worked through Teague, Freyaldenhoven & Freyaldenhoven Architects & Planners, LLP in Greensboro to stabilize the building and arrest the legacy of deterioration that vexed the property since 1990. In the meantime, Kisco’s strategic plans no longer include the property and the site is for sale again. Now that West Gate City Boulevard has been rerouted west of the property, land along that thoroughfare will likely be developed for commercial uses. However, sympathetic and compatible redevelopment of the historic complex for use as office, residential, or civic functions would preserve the campus for future generations to enjoy. Any additional infill development may be necessary, but new construction could be screened from view in a manner that would not compete with the historic building or its campus.
Southside Triangle Block
Bounded by Martin Luther King Jr Drive to the east, East Gate City Boulevard to the south, and Murray Street to the north, the Southside Triangle block contains three significant structures. At 336 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive stands the Hodgin House, a Neoclassical Revival-style house erected by Mrs. John Hodgin in 1912. Though the original Ionic columns have been replaced by steel struts, the building retains a high degree of integrity and restoration potential. Next door is the old Friends Meeting House, known recently as Skeen’s Chapel. The Neoclassical Revival sanctuary was erected in 1909 for a cost of $15,000. Also on the block is the 1888 Cyrus Pickett Frazier House, relocated in 1988 from 313 West Washington Street by the Guilford Revolving Fund. It located at 200 Murray Street. All three structures are architecturally significant, and all three are suffering from disinvestment.
Why Are People Watching? As the neighborhood surrounding these important buildings has been redeveloped, lack of investment in the structures has resulted in severe deterioration. Today, the buildings stand in stark contrast to surrounding newly restored and newly constructed buildings. Reinvestment sources would most likely come with new ownership. If owners are not able to keep up with necessary maintenance, sale of the property would be a logical path forward to see that the buildings are not lost to the process known as “Demolition by Neglect.” Any redevelopment plans must include preservation of the buildings to avoid dilution of the National Register Historic District status of the neighborhood.
The dapper Art Deco Showfety’s Building has remained standing as structures around it have fallen to the wrecking ball. Likely built in 1941, the structure at 116 East Market Street has stage presence in the form of a simple scalloped storefront of poured concrete panels and patterned brickwork. It was purchased by Showfety’s and Harry Flint in 1972, around the time the 13-story King Cotton Hotel across Davie Street was imploded. As Greensboro’s downtown begins another building campaign, a parking deck is planned for the location to serve new structures. The building, it seems, is slated for demolition.
Why Are People Watching? The structure might not be the biggest or fanciest in downtown Greensboro, but in a city filled with pragmatic Presbyterians and Quakers, the structure fills its role on the streetscape well. Many wonder if the City will demolish the building, or will the building be retained to preserve the pedestrian oriented streetscape of retail and commercial storefronts long East Market and South Davie streets. Why not simply preserve the façade and “embed” it into the new parking deck? This would keep the architectural interest of Market Street and provide a location for a new business that could contribute to the vibrancy of our center city.
Southern Railway Passenger Depot
In July, 1898, the firm D. Getaz & Company of Knoxville, TN was awarded the contract to build a new Southern Railway Passenger Depot. The building is constructed of a brick provided by the Washington Hydraulic Pressed Brick Company of Alexandria VA, with brownstone trim. The building spans 160 feet along the North Carolina Railroad-owned, Norfolk Southern-leased trackage that connects Washington DC and points north to Atlanta and points south. The structure once sported a spectacular roofline of clay tile with protruding dormer windows and a conical tower. The building was modernized with a flat roof after the passenger depot was moved to East Washington Street in 1927, and has since been used as offices for Norfolk Southern Railroad.
Why Are People Watching? Despite its designation to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 as part of the Downtown Greensboro Historic District, it is considered an obstacle to expanded rail travel by the North Carolina Rail Road and is rumored to be slated for demolition. The North Carolina Rail Road and Norfolk-Southern hold the keys to saving or demolishing the 120-year-old depot. If inspiration is needed, look no further than the adaptive re-use of the Cascade Saloon sitting opposite the depot across the tracks. The project reveals the potential of such a project to contribute to the downtown tax base and to serve as one of Greensboro’s most distinctive buildings.
Preservation Road Rules
A blend of property rights, history, architecture, and real estate development, historic preservation can be a complicated issue. More than 50 years of laws and a rapidly evolving tax code can be confusing to anyone who don’t work in the profession on a regular basis. Below are a few tips to help in understanding preservation here in Greensboro.
National Register designation does not necessarily prevent demolition. The designation can help in mitigating projects that involve federal approvals and funding (such as road construction and cell towers), but private property owners can demolish a National Register property with nothing more than a demolition permit. Designation is an honor, and allows owners to utilize preservation tax credits, but it cannot be used to prevent demolition.
Local designation has more conditions, but it cannot be used to prevent demolition…either. Local governments here in North Carolina, such as cities, town, and counties, may form citizen commissions to review changes to the appearance buildings and neighborhoods. Approval of changes are issued as “Certificates of Appropriateness” by these citizen commissions. However, state law denies these commissions the right to deny demolition. Demolition may be delayed, up to 365 days, after which point, it may proceed.
Without a legal intervention to demolition, except in rare cases in which a site can be determined to be of significance on a statewide basis, preservationists are best served by appealing to pragmatic and beneficial approaches rather than combative terms. Sugar always works better than vinegar. Members of the preservation community can make historic property owners aware of the advantages of taking the preservation route as an alternative to demolition.
North Carolina’s preservation tool kit is the envy of some states. In addition to federal tax credits for income producing buildings, North Carolinians enjoy state tax credits of both income-producing and non-income producing properties such as their home. In addition, state law provides for counties to participate in a property tax deferral program that can reduce annual property taxes up to 50%. These tax credits and deferrals can provide enough economic leverage to encourage property owners to restore, and not demolish their historic structures.
In some cases, demolition may be denied successfully when a property owner has donated a preservation easement on a property. An easement gives jurisdiction of architectural features, or a façade, to a holding party such as a non-profit organization. This strategy has been used successfully in the environmental movement, but after 40 years of popular use in the United States it remains beyond the scope of work of many preservation organizations. Preservation Greensboro has had an active easement program since 1988, and it stands among the earliest organizations to provide the service.