Since 2004, Preservation Greensboro has compiled a list of properties in which citizens have shown concern or voiced interest. Many Greensboro residents realize that the city continues to lose historic buildings and places at an alarming rate. Our historic resources are irreplaceable assets that tell the story of Greensboro’s history and development.
This list was developed to provide a proactive means of addressing these losses. Some sites face quite a challenge, and Preservation Greensboro can assist property owners in developing plans for properties that can result in win-win solutions.
This list of ten sites was compiled through conversations with citizens across the city, and incorporated discussions brought up during recent focus groups on historic preservation.
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. The campus was designed by the Philadelphia architecture firm Zantzinger, Borie and Medary (the same firm that designed the Philadelphia Art Museum of Rocky’s stair-climbing fame), and 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.
The complex was abandoned in 1990 when Pilot Insurance merged with Jefferson Standard, now Lincoln Financial of Philadelphia. When Painter Boulevard/ I-40 is rerouted adjacent to the property within the next two years, property values for this notable site will rise and likely encourage uses on the property that are not sympathetic to the historic fabric of the campus. Sympathetic and compatible development such as office, residential, or civic functions could preserve the campus for future generations to enjoy. Though additional infill development may be necessary, new construction could be screened from view in a manner that would not compete with the historic building or its campus.
Considered by some architectural historians to be the best preserved big-city downtown in North Carolina, South Elm Street could fall victim of its own success. The street contains a parade of buildings that chronicle the development of Greensboro, ranging from the 1883 Vernon Building (likely the street’s oldest) to Greensboro’s earliest skyscrapers, banks, and downtown’s signature railroad crossing. South Elm Street was recognized by the Secretary of Interior as a National Register Historic District in 1982, but designation only offers incentives to save buildings and does not monitor new construction or alterations through design review. For example, no ordinance is in place to prevent an out-of-town developer from buying several historic storefronts along South Elm Street and replace them with a parking deck and tower.
New development could irreversibly alter Old Greensbough’s character, the central element that is most popular with downtown visitors. A city-appointed committee is currently exploring the feasibility of standards for downtown Greensboro that could guide future development in a planned fashion.
The Albright House
Threat: Neglect and Demolition
West Friendly Avenue across from Belk’s at Friendly Center
One of the oldest residences in the city, the two-story frame residence features a notable two-story portico that includes tall columns; among the earliest Neoclassical features in Guilford County. Likely built in the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the Albright House has survived an earthquake, storms, and a Great Depression, but commercial growth in Greensboro is its greatest threat to its survival today.
The Albright House stands along a busy city thoroughfare across from a rapidly expanding commercial center, but careful planning and consideration may save this important site. If the building can relocated to another site and restored for use as a office space, it may get a new lease on life for the twenty-first century.
When the World War Memorial Stadium was dedicated in 1926 it became the first major memorial in North Carolina dedicated to those who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War; and it placed in service a building which has remained central in the civic and athletic life of the city to the present.
Built as a memorial to those who gave their lives in World War I, the stadium embodies our city’s unique character, personality, and history. Though a recent bond referendum was voted down on November 7th, civic leaders have long voiced support for the stadium as a place for amateur athletics. The stadium faces an uphill battle to secure funding for necessary upgrades and refurbishment, but allowing this public facility to continue to deteriorate can not be an option. The public and private sectors may need to pool resources to collectively assure this landmark’s future as modeled by the new First Horizon Park, but in the end, a memorial to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice is preserved for the enjoyment of future generations.
When Yardley Warner, a Quaker missionary from Philadelphia, purchased 34 acres of land just outside of Greensboro’s city limits in 1867, he established one of the most unique communities planned for African American freedmen in the country. Today, the J. C. Price School is all that is left of this chapter of Greensboro’s history. Much of the neighborhood was destroyed in the 1960s through urban renewal, and a modern subdivision and wide thoroughfares replaced humble homes, gardens, and community church.
The school was named for Dr. Joseph Charles Price (1854-1893), the son of a slave who served as a minister, lecturer, and founder and president of Livingstone College in Salisbury. Price School was constructed in 1922, which distinguishes the building among the oldest schools in the city. The school and its property have been purchased by Greensboro College to accommodate needs for expanded practice fields.
Greensboro’s oldest neighborhood, once considered “safe” by the city’s preservation community, is under mounting pressure for redevelopment. In spite of being the city’s first historic district, rising land values and poorly maintained buildings are steering some of the neighborhood’s early buildings towards destruction for new construction.
The Wallace family recently submitted plans for the removal of several 100-year old houses at the corner of Spring Garden and Mendenhall streets, while UNCG presses forward with plans to remove all houses remaining in the 200 block of McIver Street. Without attention and planning, College Hill will begin to decline as its historic resources are destroyed and replaced with modern construction.
Little appreciated by some, industrial history of the city holds the key in explaining how Greensboro grew to become one of the largest cities in North Carolina. Much of that industrial history can be found associated with the community of Pomona, which holds one of the city’s early cotton textile mills and an unusual railroad roundhouse.
Pomona was once a vast industrial complex that included a terra cotta works, a nursery, the mill and its mill village, but the mill and the roundhouse are the most tangible elements that remain standing today. Neglected by its current owner, the mill is in line to be destroyed for falling below city building standards. The roundhouse is currently used for scrap metal processing and enjoys no historic protection.
One of Fisher Park’s earliest residences, the Holleman House was constructed between 1905 and 1920 at one of the primary gateways to the neighborhood. The architecture of the house blends Queen Anne massing with Colonial Revival details, such as the Ionic porch columns, the second-story inset balcony, and unusual corner entryway. The house was been purchased by First Presbyterian Church, which is evaluating possible uses for the building. If plans do not include the house, the structure could be destroyed after a 365-day delay.
Bellemeade, like other historic center-city neighborhoods, contains buildings that represent a broad spectrum of Greensboro’s history, including the circa-1846 Weir House (Greensboro Woman’s Club), the circa-1895 Pickard House at 231 North Spring Street, and the 1896 Aiken House at 217 Cedar Street.
Unlike other neighborhoods on the fringe of downtown Greensboro, the Bellemeade neighborhood enjoys no protection from destruction of historic buildings or inappropriate new construction. If left unchecked, the entire Bellemeade neighborhood could be lost to private redevelopment within the span of ten years.
Since the earliest days of settlement, the family farm has been a vital image in Guilford County. As the main structures of farms, barns evoke a sense of tradition and closeness to the land that seems to diminish each year in our county’s rapidly suburbanizing landscape.
Historic barns are threatened by many factors. On farmland 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.
How did the story end?
In 2005, a number of Greensboro’s historic sites were threatened with destruction by a variety of reasons. Two years later, how did some of these stories end?
The Cascade Saloon
Threat in 2005: “The Cascade Saloon on South Elm Street was recently ordered to be destroyed by the city for safety reasons.”
Update in 2007: The building was designated by the city as a local landmark property, but restoration by the owner remains critical.
The Arbor House
Threat in 2005: “Preservation Greensboro supports plans for the retention of the historic building as a signature presence on West Market Street.”
Update in 2007: The Arbor House was destroyed in 2006 and a new building stands on the entire site.
The Albright House
Threat in 2005: “The two-story frame residence stands along a busy city thoroughfare across from a rapidly expanding commercial center.”
Update in 2007: Property owner Starmount Company is in negotiations to donate the house and land to the Junior League of Greensboro for use as their headquarters.