Four historic landmark designations have been submitted from the Guilford County Historic Preservation Commission for designation to the Greensboro City Council. Each property represents major themes of Greensboro history including education, industry, and architecture.
Landmark designation is a voluntary process and is initiated by the property owner. Applicants are responsible for compiling architectural and historical narratives that document the significance of their property for review by the Guilford County Preservation Commission. Those properties that are recommended to Greensboro City Council and approved may enjoy an annual property tax reduction and are required to submit to a design review process for alterations or additions. Properties that are recognized often represent high integrity of materials and design, narratives of social history of Guilford County, or unique feelings or associations of place. To date, 105 properties have been recognized across Guilford County since the program was initiated in 1980 as a legacy of the nation’s bicentennial celebrations.
In southeast Greensboro, the Haithcock House at 815 Pearson Street was nominated for its early associations with Greensboro development and its rare architecture. The two-story frame house was likely erected as a speculative investment by developer Edward Payson Wharton around 1890. Designed in the Italianate style, the house was built at a time when Pearson Street was a middle-income enclave populated by small business owners and entrepreneurs. Lucy Ann and Spencer Samuel Haithcock purchased the newly constructed house in 1891. Haithcock was a pharmacist and a grocer.
Recently, the house suffered from disinvestment and was brought to the attention of the city’s minimum housing authority. Kelly Sigle and George Maple acquired the vacant property in 2014 and commenced a meticulous restoration of the house, including removal of substandard additions and retention of early period details such as pendant porch moldings, arched mantels, and an elaborate stair with an original newel post.
In College Hill, the Hackney-Foust House showcases Greensboro’s early Quaker history as well as the formative history of UNCG. Located at 921 Spring Garden Street, the two-story frame house was likely constructed in 1904 for Priscilla B. Hackney, a widow who served as an officer in the North Carolina Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers). Among her volunteer services with Quakers was a role on the Committee for the Suppression of Liquor Traffic, an early prohibition initiative. In 1907, Sallie and Dr. Julius Foust acquired the property as their home. Dr. Foust was a pioneer educator in North Carolina at the turn of the twentieth century and he is best remembered for his twenty-four-year role as president of UNCG (1907-1931), and as director of NCA&TSU.
The house is a well-preserved example of Late-Victorian architecture with irregular Queen Anne massing blended with Neoclassical ornamentation. It was purchased in 2016 by Barefoot Development Group. The company completed a thorough restoration of the house as income property in 2017, earning the project an award from Preservation Greensboro the following year.
In the Southside neighborhood of downtown Greensboro is the Blue Bell Company Plant Building. Located at 620 South Elm Street, the landmark is a cornerstone of Greensboro’s historic downtown and serves as a touchstone to the Gate City’s textile heritage. The large industrial complex was built in three distinct phases between 1921 and 1927. The first occupant and namesake was the Blue Bell Company, a denim overall company that held a role as a national leader in work clothes and blue jeans under trade names such as Big Ben, Casey Jones, and Wrangler. With a workforce composed primarily of women, the company grew to be among the best-known companies in North Carolina and remains a corporate leader in Greensboro today.
The complex borrowed from innovative industrial architects including Albert Kahn of Detroit by utilizing a steel reinforced concrete structure to allow for an open floor plan. The building was designed by Greensboro’s Harry Barton and it was constructed by W. P. Rose, with structural steel supplied by Greensboro’s Carolina Steel and Iron Company. Andy and David Zimmerman acquired the property, long known as Old Greensboro Gateway Center, and completed a $10 million tax credit restoration that adhered to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. In 2020, the project was cited with an award by Preservation Greensboro.
In the Fisher Park neighborhood just north of center city Greensboro, the historic Leak House was the fourth property proposed for landmark status. Located on what was once known as Greensboro’s Gold Coast for its pricey residences, the property at 909 North Elm Street was erected for the influential Leak family. The house was cited as the only documented example of work of architect J. H. Hopkins by archived floor plans and represents a family influential in textiles and civic circles.
Constructed in 1913 in the Colonial Revival style of architecture, the three-story brick house was home to Minnie and Frank Leak. Frank was employed as a bookkeeper at Cone Export and Commission Company before his promotion to secretary-treasurer in 1930. Minnie served as Greensboro’s Girl Scout commissioner and YMCA board president. Their daughter, Mary Lyon Caine, served as the first president of Preservation Greensboro in 1966. The current owners and applicants are Shelley and Jeff Segal, who operate a legal office in the structure. In 2020, the project was recognized with an award by Preservation Greensboro.
All four properties were approved by the commission for recommendation to the Greensboro City Council for future designation. All four nominees were deemed to have sufficient integrity, historical significance, and distinctiveness to be honored with the designation. Inquiry’s may be made to the Guilford County Planning Department for further information.
Special recognition to Heather Fearnbach, Fearnbach History Services, Inc (Winston-Salem NC); Samantha Smith, Gate City Preservation, LLC (Greensboro NC); and Annie Schentag and Kerry Traynor, kta preservation specialists (Buffalo NY) for their research as consultants in documenting these four historic properties.
Written by Benjamin Briggs
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