On October 15th 2019, the Greensboro City Council designated the Groome-Shevel Building at 532-534 South Elm Street a Guilford County Landmark property.
Landmark designation means the community recognizes the property is worthy of preservation because of its special significance in local history. Any substantial changes in design, materials, and appearance to the property is subject to the design review procedures of the Guilford Preservation Commission. Demolition may be delayed, but not denied.
Built in 1897, the three-story brick building features Italian Renaissance architectural details including a storefront topped with a pressed metal dentil cornice, banded granite window sills and lintels, and a pressed metal entablature with a modillion cornice. Oversized two-over-two windows are symmetrically arranged across the façade. The well-preserved storefront features a leaded glass transom once ubiquitous along South Elm Street as a method to refract light into retail shops. The building is one of a family of similar façade designs along South Elm Street that share a brick and granite composition. Others in the family include the 1896 Jones Building (Natty Greene’s) and the 1896 Cascade Saloon (Christman Building).
The handsome building was erected by Rev. Pinkney Lafayette Groome (1853-1907), a native of southern Guilford County in close proximity to Groometown Road. Rev. Groome was active in the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church. He travelled extensively and wrote two books, the topic of one being his travels in the Holy Land.
Interestingly, applicant historians Samantha Smith and Rebecca Lowe discovered the Groome-Shevel building is historically linked to several businesses that serve as touchstones to Guilford County’s business history. In 1898, the L. Richardson Drug Company wholesale and manufacturer of pharmaceutical drugs was started in the southernmost storefront (534). At the time there were only five wholesale drug companies in North Carolina. The company produced Vic’s VapoRub. In 1899, Max Shevel and Jacob Goldstein established a furniture store on the northernmost storefront (532). The men were part of a growing Jewish business community that formed in Greensboro in the 1890s. In 1902, the building’s second floor was the location North Carolina’s first Coca-Cola bottling company.
The owner and applicant for designation is Andrew Zimmerman. As a structure recognized to contribute the Downtown Greensboro National Register Historic District, the project was eligible to apply for use of Historic Tax Credits. Project architects Lindsey Architecture of 125 South Elm Street developed plans that were approved by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service as a “Certified Restoration”, thereby accessing federal and state tax credits towards restoration work in 2017.
On the exterior of the building, storefront doors, brass window trim, and marble facings were preserved or replicated. Non-historic paint was removed from exterior doors and trim and windows were repaired or replaced with like materials following National Park Service guidelines. Inside, floors were structurally reinforced and existing doors were retained. Beadboard ceilings, pressed-metal ceiling tiles, and exposed brick walls were integrated into the design. Contemporary appointments include an elevator, all new mechanicals, and fire suppression systems.
The building now houses four businesses, including Antlers and Astronauts gift shop (532), Downtown Greensboro Inc. advocacy organization (534), Emisare, Inc advertising agency on the second floor, and RLF Communications public relations on the third floor.
Designation allows a tax deferral of up to 50% of the annual Guilford County property tax assessment of building. The deferral remains in place unless changes are made to the building without permission of the Guilford Preservation Commission, an appointed committee of Guilford County residents and historians. If changes are made without approval, three years of deferred taxes can be levied. This program has been available in Guilford County since 1980 when it grew out of the Bicentennial Celebrations in 1976. The Groome-Shevel Building is the 102nd such property recognized in the county.
Historical information derived from historians Samantha Smith and Rebecca Lowe.
Written by Benjamin Briggs
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