UNCG’s university quad, our classic American ballpark, Greensboro’s grandest house, and a mid-twentieth-century modern icon represent just a few of the diverse sites named to the Preservation Greensboro’s 2009 Treasured Places Watch List.
This list, released this week in Landmarks newsmagazine, profiles the Gate City’s most endangered historic sites. The 2009 List recognizes the diversity of architecture and the challenges in preserving places that help tell the story of Greensboro’s development, culture, and history.
Following similar initiatives in 2005 and 2007, the most recent compilation includes historic buildings that are threatened with demolition, neglect or abandonment.
The Watch List recognizes the importance of historic architecture in the city by spotlighting properties that have captured citizen’s interest. It is the organization’s hope that proactive solutions will be developed to preserve these challenging sites. “Preservation Greensboro facilitates the development of strategies aimed at addressing these threats and takes advantage of opportunities and existing resources” says April Kight, chair of the committee that assembled the list. The List was compiled through conversations with citizens across the city, and incorporated discussions brought up within neighborhood meetings.
“By working to find positive preservation solutions, we hope to report some positive outcomes next year,” according to Kight. Several historic sites named to the List have been preserved, including the Albright House on Friendly Avenue and the J. C. Price School off Freeman Mill Road. Other sites have been lost, including Arbor House in downtown Greensboro and the Cotton Mill Square complex near Pomona.
The UNCG Quad
The UNCG Quad consists of Shaw Hall, Bailey Hall, Hinshaw Hall, Jamison Hall, Coit Hall, Cotten Hall, and Gray Hall. Anchoring the western campus, it is a defining feature of the university both in terms of open recreation space with signature oak trees as well as the surrounding neoclassical residential dormitories. The complex was designed by Greensboro architect Harry Barton and was built between 1919 and 1923 to accommodate housing needs during a period of high campus growth. Throughout the past 90 years, the Quad has served generations of alumni who have lived on the UNCG campus.
What to watch for: In April 2009, the community was shocked by plans to consider the destruction of the Quad in order to make way for new housing. Preservationists, students, and alumni banded together at a public forum to express their alarm at the concept. Although a decision was to have been made about the project in early May, university administrators have decided to take a step back and carefully review the matter over the summer term. A decision could come as early as this fall.
South Elm Street/ Old Greensborough Historic District
Greensboro’s historic core could fall victim of its own success. Considered by some architectural historians to be the best preserved big-city downtown in North Carolina, the street features a parade of authentic and historic buildings that chronicle the development of Greensboro, ranging from the 1883 Vernon Building to Greensboro’s earliest skyscrapers, banks, and Art Deco buildings. South Elm Street was recognized as a National Register Historic District by the Secretary of Interior in 1982, but designation only offers incentives to save buildings and does not monitor new construction or alterations.
What to watch for: Exemplifying this challenge is the Cascade Saloon (pictured), a landmark property located at the rail crossing on Elm Street. Included on the inaugural Treasured Places Watch List in 2005, this property is slowly falling into disrepair due to a lack of upkeep and general maintenance. City officials, citing public safety concerns, have ordered the building to be repaired or alternatively demolished. A long court struggle has ensued between the city and the property’s owner. A win-win solution has been submitted by the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund that would see the restoration of the structure for commercial use. Until that plan is accepted, the future of this keystone property remains in doubt.
War Memorial Stadium
World War Memorial Stadium on Yanceyville Street was dedicated in 1926 as the first major monument in North Carolina dedicated to those who made the supreme sacrifice in World War I, and it has remained central to the civic and athletic life of the city to the present. In the words of mayor Edwin Jeffress, “The soldier boys … wanted something that would be useful; that would help develop mind and body; that would in this way be a perpetual memorial to those who have passed.” Although the stadium lost its primary occupant in 2004, it remains a useful athletic space for Greensboro. City officials have explored different means to see the facilities restored, including a public bond referendum in 2007, but the stadium has faced an uphill battle to secure funding for necessary upgrades and refurbishment.
What to watch for: War Memorial Stadium suffers from deferred maintenance that has resulted in crumbling masonry, antiquated facilities, and an increasing number of safety issues. A comprehensive refurbishment is necessary to address these issues, and perhaps repurpose the facility for its next 100 years of service. This could be funded using a combination of public and private resources to assure that this landmark remain preserved as a memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the enjoyment of future generations.
Fisher Park’s Sacred Sector
Architectural historians have referred to the Fisher Park neighborhood as “one of the state’s premiere streetcar suburbs” with “remarkably varied houses” enhanced by prestigious congregations such as the “masterpiece” First Presbyterian Church. Descriptions of the Fisher Park neighborhood always include its institutions as well as its residential buildings. As components of the whole, its homes, religious buildings, parks, and cemetery contribute one of North Carolina’s most interesting neighborhoods.
What to watch for: As a true urban neighborhood that blends diverse architecture and streetscapes within the context of a busy city, Fisher Park can’t afford to lose its treasured places. One of the neighborhood’s earliest residences, the Queen Anne-style Holleman House (pictured), was constructed between 1905 and 1910 at a primary gateway to the community with an unusual corner entryway. The house has been purchased by a nearby church, which is evaluating possible uses for the building. If plans do not include the house, the structure could be destroyed. Preservation Greensboro is working with Partners for Sacred Places, a national organization that helps communities and congregations develop proactive and forward thinking plans for neighborhoods such as Fisher Park. By defining the community as a whole, and not limiting it to its component parts, new perspectives may be gained on ways to progress this historic neighborhood into the future.
Located in the Sedgefield neighborhood, Adamsleigh is a sprawling 15,000 square foot manor house coupled with tennis courts, a caretaker’s cottage, a pond, two swimming pools and other outbuildings. Greensboro’s grandest manor house and its surrounding gardens are for sale but their future remains in question. Adamsleigh was designed by Luther Lashmit, a talented architect in the offices of the Winston-Salem firm Northup-O’Brien for their clients John Hampton “Hamp” Adams and his wife Elizabeth. Though plans were finalized the week of the October 29th 1929 “Black Tuesday” stock market crash, work 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 weathervane.
What to watch for: Though the estate has been little changed since the 1930s, and a majority of decorative treatments, finishes, and fixtures remain from the original period of construction, the property is currently vulnerable to destruction for redevelopment for new homes. As the city’s largest house, opportunities exist to return the home to its splendor using government tax credits and abatements, but the home remains on the market years later.
The Masons have called this lodge their home since it was completed in 1928. Greensboro architect John B. Crawford designed the monumental stone façade that is evocative of a Grecian temple, complete with fluted engaged columns topped by curled Ionic capitals. Interior spaces incorporate elements of symbolism and ritual, such as the main meeting lodge – arranged along the lines of a traditional Masonic Hall – and the Scottish Rite Room containing theater-style seats centered upon an elaborate stage.
What to watch for: The Mason’s decided that it is time to sell their lodge, but downtown land is so prized that the building could be destroyed to make way for new development. Similarly, if the building is adaptively reused as residential units, the refurbishment could disfigure the great interior spaces beyond recognition. A suitable solution has been envisioned by the Community Theater of Greensboro to continue use of the spaces as theatrical and performance center, thus preserving the interiors and exteriors as they have been used for over 80 years. Although this is a perfect solution, funding must be secured to begin these ambitious plans.
Historic District’s Condemned Houses
In spite of more than a quarter century of protection through the city’s historic preservation ordinance, historic resources within Greensboro’s three designated districts remain vulnerable, and some are threatened with demolition. Although historic district designation has proven to stabilize neighborhoods, encourage reinvestment, and to increase property standards and values, the districts contain challenging problems that threaten their success.
What to watch for: This challenge is illustrated in Fisher Park, where neighbors are concerned about the lack of maintenance and apparent deterioration of the house at 910 Magnolia Street (pictured). Already, an accessory building to the rear of the property has been order to be destroyed, but the house remains an opportunity for restoration. In the Aycock historic district, a Dutch Colonial home at 111 Cypress Street has fallen under the jurisdiction of housing code enforcement. Recently, inspectors ordered demolition of the residence…a measure that has been delayed by Greensboro’s Historic Preservation Commission for one year.
In the College Hill Historic District, residents recently saw the destruction of a craftsman-style home on McIver Street. Formerly used as a fraternity house, the building was left nearly derelict before being purchased by UNCG for demolition. Greensboro’s historic resources are finite, though its historic districts have seen strong growth in value and reinvestment over the past 30 years. Legal tools should be instated to create a safety net for historic resources located within the historic districts as a way to maintain all property values and continue to encourage reinvestment by private citizens. Once the historic fabric of our historic neighborhoods is lost, it can never be regained.
In 1957, twenty three young women from Greensboro’s Woman’s College (today UNCG) oversaw the construction of a house at 2207 North Elm Street. In the process, the students learned about load bearing construction, material qualities, and the challenges posed by new, state-of-the-art technology such as dishwashers, garbage disposals, and aluminum wiring. Upon completion, North Carolina’s First Lady Mrs. Luther Hodges, cut the ribbon to the futuristic house.
The event was covered by the Daily News and broadcast on WUNC-TV. Local attention leveraged national coverage when McCall’s Magazine reviewed the project in the November 1958 issue, in which the house was proclaimed a “real honey of a home.”
What to watch for: The Commencement House was sold as a private residence upon completion, and served as a single family home for 50 years. However, in November 2006 the property was purchased by an investor who submitted a rezoning application in late 2008 to allow medical offices on the site. After residents of surrounding neighborhoods balked at the idea of commercial development, the developer bargained to redevelop the site for as condos – sans the Commencement House.
For the time being, even those plans have been shelved. Neighborhood organizers predict redevelopment plans will re-emerge as the economy picks back up. At that point, the city could again face the loss of its 1958
The Pilot Life Insurance Campus
Returned to the list from 2005, this monumental office complex stands as one of the best examples of early suburban corporate architecture in North Carolina. Located on High Point Road in Sedgefield, the campus was designed by the Philadelphia architecture firm Zantzinger, Borie and Medary (the same firm that designed the Philadelphia Art Museum of Rocky Balboa’s stair-climbing fame). The site represents an unusual chapter in office development in our state by being designed in 1928 along the lines of a grand Georgian English manor house.
What to watch for: The complex was abandoned in 1990 when Pilot Insurance merged with Jefferson Standard, now Lincoln Financial of Philadelphia. Plans for reuse of the site for a retirement community unveiled last fall looked promising, but to-date, the primary buildings within the complex remain unrestored. Until the project witnesses clear progress in the form of construction and investment in the former headquarters, the future of the site will remain uncertain.
Guilford County is fortunate to have a strong agricultural history that extends to the Colonial Period of American history. Historic barns like the well-preserved barn on Carpenter Road (pictured), are a part of that story. Many types can be found across the county, ranging from early log barns to immense, frame dairy barns of the twentieth-century. These structures provided a safe haven for harvested crops and hungry livestock for generations. Barn-builders erected structures that represent the diversity of the county, ranging from a Pennsylvania “Bank Barn” in Quaker-oriented Jamestown, to double-crib-style barns built by farmers of German background in the eastern part of the county, and grand dairy barns (image, top).
What to watch for: Historic barns are threatened by many factors. Farmland around Greensboro and High Point is being developed for subdivisions and near cities; barns are often seen only in decay, as land is removed from active agricultural use. In some regions, barns are dismantled for lumber, their beams sold for reuse in living rooms. Further threats to historic barns and other farm structures are posed by changes in farm technology, involving much larger machines and production facilities, and changes in the overall farm economy, including increasing farm size and declining rural populations.