At its 54th Annual Meeting, Preservation Greensboro celebrated highlights of the past year by spotlighting ten activities that epitomize our organization’s coolest projects.
1. Preservation Strategic Planning
In 2019, Preservation Greensboro provided strategic support to community partners seeking assistance in preservation. The past year included a partnership with the East White Oak School, a fascinating landmark erected by the Cone family around 1916 to serve children of African American mill workers. Today, the school, located at 1801 Tenth Street in northeast Greensboro, serves its surrounding neighborhood as a resource center for young people. Preservation Greensboro worked with the school in securing grant funding in the amount of $35,000 through two area foundations.
Preservation Greensboro also assisted the Sternberger Artists Center at 712 Summit Avenue in attaining a grant for updated mechanical systems. Built as the home of Sigmund Sternberger and his sister Rosa Sternberger around 1926, the Venetian-style house serves as an artist’s center coordinated through Arts Greensboro. Preservation Greensboro also supports the ambitious plans of the Magnolia House Motel, located at 910 Gorrell Street, as owners restore the former Green Book hotel that hosted guests such as Ray Charles, Ezzard Charles, Ruth Brown, Ike and Tina Turner, Joe Tex, Little Willie John, Satchel Paige, and Jackie Robinson. The organizations board and members keep us in touch with opportunities to establish new community partnerships.
2. Watch List Wins
Preservation Greensboro maintains a biennial Treasured Places Watch List that serves as a focus of our advocacy work and provides an opportunity to partner with our sister organization, the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund. A few examples from our 2017 list include the Christian Advocate Publishing Company Building at 427 West Friendly Avenue that remains available for redevelopment opportunities, and the Judge Shaw House at 111 Arden Place which has enjoyed a complete restoration. Other projects remain a focus of our time and attention, including preservation of the Pilot Life Insurance Campus at 5300 High Point Road in Sedgefield, and the Southside Triangle centered around the historic Hodgin House at 336 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. New challenges in 2020 could include affordable housing and the c.1830 Washington Jefferson McConnell House located on Washington Street.
3. Introducing Blandwood’s Morehead Collection
The narrative of Blandwood continues to grow and evolve, with the addition of a pianoforte and new art. The last few years have seen unprecedented additions to what is recognized as “the Morehead Collection”, including an early portrait of Morehead, embroidery by Eliza Lindsay, a mahogany Mixing Table, and silver candlesticks. However, the past year witnessed the arrival of the original 1827 family piano and a set of four paintings by William Frerichs. These items exponentially expand the significance of the Morehead Collection within the context of decorative arts in North Carolina, and raise the profile of Blandwood in our state’s history. In response to our new narrative, we have worked with benefactors to see to the care of several items. Our Mixing Table is currently at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware receiving highly skilled care and study. We have had a selection of pieces restored, and we are collecting funds to see the reupholstery of pieces in the West Parlor in original black horsehair fabric. Topping off these additions, Judith Cushman Hammer is serving as editor of a new publication “Governor Morehead’s Blandwood: A History & Catalog” that will profile twenty-five selections from the Morehead Collection.
4. Inspiration from Afar
We enjoy learning from other places, and our members are often inspired by art, architecture, and history through travel. With our travel partner Adeline Talbot at Studio Traveler, we explored two very different cities in 2019: Detroit and London. Detroit is a city experiencing reinvention, and like Greensboro, it is redefining itself through redevelopment of underused and abandoned buildings, by leveraging a history of manufacturing, and by opening opportunities for underemployed young people. London is also a city of change, with a highly developed heritage tourism industry that may be the most inspirational in the world. How can one not leave the incredible museums of London and not be inspired to set new goals with Blandwood, walking tours, and creative work environments?
5. Our City is Amazing!
Greensboro is a city filled with fascinating history, amazing architecture, and incredible neighborhoods. Our greatest challenge is to convince Greensboro residents that they live in a great city, so we help introduce residents to their city by offering free walking tours of historic neighborhoods. We have been offering seasonal walking tours for 16 years and have added new tours to our repertoire including A&T State University, Bennett College for Women, and Grimsley High School. In addition to our walking tours, our Tour of Historic Homes & Gardens is in its 10th year. Last year’s historic homes tour in Lindley Park will be followed in May by a tour of loft housing and historic houses along South Elm Street and Southside. Why keep our city a secret? Help us spread word that Greensboro is an amazing place by joining our tours!
6. Loving Our Landmarks
At Preservation Greensboro, we try to put the fun back into fundraising through neighborhood gatherings called Love-A-Landmark parties. The slogan “Love-A-Landmark” was a bumper sticker campaign the organization originated in the 1980s, but we have commandeered it to brand our neighborhood meets in historic homes. Initiated in 2010, we have gathered in some of the most intriguing landmarks in our city. Last February, we celebrated historic preservation in the fascinating Dunleath neighborhood with a celebration in the home of Mindy Zachary, a 1906 home known as Tar Heel Manor. In the fall we explored the Tudor-style Priddy House in Sunset Hills hosted by Susan McMullin. In November we gathered in the historic Leak House in Fisher Park, restored by Shelley and Jeff Segal after being saved by the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund. Thanks to all who volunteered and attended, without your support Preservation Greensboro would not exist.
7. Promoting Preservation
We facilitate historic preservation across our city, not just as preservation cheerleaders, but by serving as a resource for area realtors, home buyers, and developers who need direction and advice on the use of historic tax credits, on finding skilled labor, and in learning the implications of governmental listing. The organization is an advocate for a groundbreaking study of African American Mid-Century Modern architecture in East Greensboro that will commence this month. We function as a promoter, facilitator and reference desk, blending economic development with community planning and arts and culture. In other cities, this task is managed by governmental bodies, but here in Greensboro, it is also provided through the staff of Preservation Greensboro…as a private nonprofit organization that makes connections builds a network.
8. Historic Tax Credits Extended
On November 1st, 2019, Governor Cooper signed into law HB 399, which extends our state historic tax credits (HTCs) to January 1, 2024. As you may recall, credits were to sunset at the end of 2019. These are not grants. Credits may be applied to certified projects and compensate expenses associated with certified restoration work. Guilford County provided a strong bipartisan voice for this bill. Special thanks to our local bill sponsors, Rep. Jonathan Hardister [R] and Rep. Cecil Brockman [D] for their leadership in keeping historic tax credits alive in North Carolina. We thank Guilford County Senators Gunn, Tillman, Garrett, and Robinson; and Representatives Clemmons, Quick, and Faircloth for their support!
If you are excited to see growth of credits on the federal level, please ask your US Senators and House Representatives to Co-sponsor the Historic Tax Credit Growth and Opportunity Act (HR 2825/S 2615). Key provisions of the bill include increasing the credit from 20 to 30 percent for projects with rehabilitation expenses of less than $2.5 million; creating greater flexibility for nonprofit organizations to access HTC benefits; and allowing HTCs to be transferred through a certificate for small transactions less than $2.5 million.
9. Salvaging the Best of the Past
Architectural Salvage of Greensboro has entered its 23rd year of service to the community and continues its reputation as the go-to source in North Carolina for reclaimed building materials such as doors, flooring, windows, and the occasional “what in the world” piece. That would describe the large, ornate cast iron window frames that were recently donated and are truly glorious. Our sales remain strong, we recorded our third best year, and we saw over 500 volunteer hours dedicated to the cause. Looking forward, this year we might focus on our showroom at 1028-B Huffman Street in East Greensboro. This will include enhanced relighting and we could always use help with merchandising our showroom. If these are things you would like to help with manually or financially, we would appreciate the help!
10. Kicking off Living Trades Academy
Inspired by Nancy Finegood and her work with the Michigan Historic Preservation Network (MHPN), we have begun to explore the Living Trades Academy (LTA). In 2018, MHPN launched a nine-week job training program to teach unemployed and underemployed young people building skills related to the restoration of historic structures. The program worked to supply local contractors and craftspeople with specially trained workers skilled in traditional trades like wood window restoration, plaster repair, and masonry. In Detroit, LTA participants earn an income while learning energy efficiency, material reuse, and appropriate methods for working on older buildings. They will also receive small business development coaching through the Build Institute and a Lead-Safe certification. Perhaps Preservation Greensboro can start a similar program in the Gate City by working with area foundations, local restoration contractors, or developers who will recruit successful graduates. We will hear more on this shortly.
Preservation Greensboro will likely pursuit a program inspired by the Living Trades Academy here in Greensboro to help solve employment challenges and to rebuild a heritage trades workforce.
Preservation Greensboro contributes a key role in the growth of Greensboro’s economy and vitality through tourism, reinvestment, and place-making. With diverse initiatives that help you to restore, explore, and connect with your community, Preservation Greensboro provides a voice for revitalization, improved quality of life, and conservation of historic resources for future generations. Are you a member yet? Learn more about Greensboro’s only member-supported preservation organization by exploring our website or joining our Facebook page. Please join us today!