The Treasured Places Watch List is an advocacy and education program of Preservation Greensboro that promotes historic places with community partners with the goal of developing preservation strategies. Recognition to the Watch List is not legally binding nor is the program considered to be a shame campaign. Instead, the list is composed of properties that have a high degree of interest by the community and are threatened with destruction by redevelopment, institutional expansion, inappropriate new development, or even neglect. Although Greensboro has enjoyed a recent uptick in preservation projects ranging from textile mills to residential restorations, challenges remain in balancing private property rights with cultural responsibility.
Preservation Greensboro’s mission is to build thriving communities by protecting and renewing our historic and architectural treasures. The Watch List was initiated in 2005 to help serve our mission. It has provided a spotlight for public forums, including newspaper, radio and television. Of the ten properties featured on the 2019 list, seven are holdovers from the previous list, illustrating the complex and long-term attention that is needed to solve some complex preservation issues.
Preservation Greensboro was established by a group of determined citizens in 1966 who sought a community network that could advocate for historic places. In continuing this outreach, Preservation Greensboro assists property owners in understanding tools available for restoration and conservation of historic properties. Tools include generous federal and state tax credits administered through the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, as well as property tax deferral through designation by the Guilford County Historic Preservation Commission. Easement donations and property marketing are available through Preservation Greensboro’s Development Fund.
Our 2019 Watch List
1. Located in the heart of the suburban Sedgefield neighborhood, Adamsleigh is an estate featuring a sprawling 15,000 square foot manor house coupled with a caretaker’s cottage, a pond, two swimming pools, gardens, and other outbuildings. Greensboro’s grandest house was designed for clients Elizabeth and John Hampton “Hamp” Adams by Luther Lashmit, a talented architect of the Winston-Salem firm Northup-O’Brien. Though plans were finalized the week of the October 29th, 1929 “Black Tuesday” stock market crash, work on the opulent house 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 a weathervane.
Why Are People Watching? There is no law by which demolition of Adamsleigh may be denied. Preservation of the estate must grow out of awareness on the part of the owners that their property is a cultural asset to the community. In 2018, the property was acquired by Jason Harris, an owner of Furnitureland South near Jamestown. Rumors swirl on whether the new owner will focus on a preservation strategy for the property or destruction of the manor. Future use of the property also depends on sentiments within the Sedgefield neighborhood, which fiercely guards its low-density and residential setting. Some in the neighborhood are open-minded on creative preservation solutions such as an inn or conference center, and opportunities exist to combine state and federal Historic Tax Credits with local property tax abatements to restore the house to its original splendor – as has been done with comparable structures in Winston-Salem.
2. The Christian Advocate Publishing Company Building is located in downtown Greensboro at 429 West Friendly Avenue. The unusual building was among the earliest structures recognized for significance in the city’s first historic architectural survey of 1976. Architectural Historian Ruth Little-Stokes described the building’s façade as “dramatic Egyptian Revival design. One of the few examples of this popular commercial style left in North Carolina.” Constructed in 1927, the structure was designed by Charles C. Hartmann, a Greensboro architect responsible for significant structures in the city ranging from the Jefferson Standard Building and the UNCG Quad to the Hillside Estate in Fisher Park. Unusual details articulated in cast stone include sumptuous lotus-designed pilasters with clawed feet at their base and topped with garland-and-shield entablatures.
Why Are People Watching? In early May 2017, a pending demolition was delayed by the Masonic Temple Board to provide the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund time to identify a partner to devise a preservation strategy for the site. Today, the Fund continues to seek a partner interested in a Land Lease on the property. Redevelopment plans could include an adaptive reuse of the plan utilizing federal and state Historic Tax Credits. The building was listed to the National Register Study List in 2017 making it a likely candidate to be listed and eligible for use of Credits.
3. Nelson Station at 903 Bluford Street overlooks the NC A&T State University campus to the south. Nelson Station is the oldest home on the street; built around 1903 as the home of Agnes and Walter Nelson. Mr. Nelson taught in A&T’s Mechanical Department. Their Queen Anne-style house features turned porch posts with sawn brackets. It is an important and early structure that represents faculty housing associated with the nearby university and stands among the oldest African American historic sites in Greensboro. In 2007, the property was recognized as a Guilford County Landmark Property, an important designation that should illustrate the need to preserve and respect the site.
Why Are People Watching? Bluford Street began to change in the late twentieth century as homeowners retired or moved away and their homes were converted for rental use. Poorly maintained income-properties have increasingly been condemned and destroyed for parking or multi-tenant housing. As neighborhood land values continued to decline, A&T is taking the opportunity to expand its campus north across the street. The current campus master plan calls for the streetscape to be destroyed and replaced with green space. At this time the university has not included a preservation strategy in redeveloping the site.
4. The Strauss House at 220 South Eugene was purchased by Moses Strauss from Emma Morehead and Julius Gray in 1885. The architectural features of this house, including a center-hall floor plan with rear chimney stacks and staircase with a landing, could substantiate a mid-1880s construction date. Strauss was an early Jewish merchant in Greensboro who invested in a series of income-properties around West Washington at South Eugene streets. In the 1952, the property was acquired by designer Otto Zenke for use as his showroom. Over the next 20 years, Zenke expanded the showroom to include studio and office space. Since 1986, the complex has been the home of the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.
Why Are People Watching? Proposals have pondered the destruction of the Strauss House and Zenke Studio complex for replacement with surface parking. A new parking lot will add little to the vitality of the Washington Street corridor and will not provide a welcoming entrance to our downtown by way of Eugene Street or Freeman Mill Road. With stunning interior appointments and murals, the Strauss House and Zenke Studio structure could serve as an impressive landmark for our city center. In a downtown awash with surface parking lots, perhaps this landmark property is not the best site for expanded parking.
5. The Zenke family has been pioneering preservationists in Greensboro for over half a century. In 1950, Virginia and Henry Zenke purchased the c.1830 Washington Jefferson McConnell House located on Blandwood Avenue and reinterpreted the design of the house in the mode of contemporary preservation initiatives. In 2009, the family relocated the McConnell house 100 yards to a position facing Blandwood. That effort created a pedestrian-scaled streetscape along West Washington Street where only parking lots had previously existed.
Why Are People Watching? The Zenke family continues to own the McConnell House on Blandwood Avenue, but find themselves challenged in maintaining the property. The house remains an important landmark for the city, and the site is critical to the view-shed from Blandwood Mansion across the street, but development pressures loom over the site. If the property is redeveloped, will the McConnell House be saved as part of development efforts – either in situ or relocated in a nearby historic neighborhood?
6. The Lindley Farm House was built around 1905 along the lines of a simple vernacular farmhouse. In 1912 the farm was sold to the Coble family. In the early 1940s, the roof of a handsome gambrel roof barn was relocated to a site just north of the house by German prisoners of war housed at Greensboro’s Overseas Replacement Depot. During the mid-Twentieth century, the simple house was adorned with mass-produced cast iron, perhaps inspired by architecture of New Orleans.
Why Are People Watching? Friends Homes has acquired the Lindley-Coble Farm and plans an expansion. The barn is of particular note through its prisoner of war history, but studies have found that moving and adaptively reusing the structure could be a financial challenge. Nonetheless, Friends Homes has offered the house and barn to Preservation Greensboro for relocation, if a new site and funds can be identified. With no solutions to these challenges, the window of opportunity for this project is rapidly coming to a close.
7. The monumental office Pilot Life Insurance Campus at 5300 High Point Road in Sedgefield, which opened in 1928, was designed by the Philadelphia architecture firm Zantzinger Borie and Medary with local representation by Harry Barton. It was constructed along the lines of North Carolina’s Tryon’s Palace in New Bern and stands as one of the best examples of Colonial Revival corporate architecture in North Carolina. The campus was abandoned in 1990 when Pilot Insurance merged with Jefferson Standard, now Lincoln Financial of Philadelphia.
Why Are People Watching? The complex was listed in our inaugural Watch List in 2005, but was removed when Kisco Senior Living acquired the property for reuse as a full-service community in July 2008. Kisco worked through Teague, Freyaldenhoven & Freyaldenhoven Architects & Planners, LLP in Greensboro to stabilize the building and arrest the legacy of deterioration that vexed the property since 1990. Kisco has placed the site on the market once again. The property is suitable for sympathetic and compatible redevelopment of the historic complex for use as office, residential, or civic functions that would preserve the campus for future generations to enjoy.
8. Bounded by Martin Luther King Jr Drive to the east, East Gate City Boulevard to the south, and Murray Street to the north, the Southside Triangle block contains three significant structures. At 336 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive stands the Hodgin House, a Neoclassical Revival-style house erected by Mrs. John Hodgin in 1912. Though the original Ionic columns have been replaced by steel struts, the building retains a high degree of integrity and restoration potential. Next door is the 1909 Friends Meeting House, known recently as Skeen’s Chapel. Also on the block is the 1888 Cyrus Pickett Frazier House, located at 200 Murray Street. All three structures are architecturally significant, and all three are suffering from disinvestment.
Why Are People Watching? As the neighborhood surrounding these important buildings has been redeveloped, lack of investment in the structures has resulted in severe deterioration. Today, the buildings stand in stark contrast to surrounding newly restored and newly constructed buildings. The condition of the Hodgin House was come to the attention of the City which has authority to order demolition for exceeding minimum standards. If current owners are not able to keep up with necessary maintenance, sale of the property would be a logical path forward to see that the buildings are not lost to the process known as “Demolition by Neglect.” Any redevelopment plans must include preservation of the buildings to avoid dilution of the National Register Historic District status of the neighborhood.
9. Greensboro has a wealth of Mid Century Modern resources located in East Greensboro, many of them designed by African American architects. Although Urban renewal in the early 1960s destroyed much of Greensboro’s earliest black-owned neighborhoods, several practicing architects affiliated with NC A&T’s School of Engineering designed residences in progressive designs in neighborhoods aligned along South Benbow Road. Commissions represent trailblazing architects including Edward “Blue” Jenkins, William Streat, Gerard Gray, and Clinton Gravely, all of whom progressed design standards in Greensboro. The Benbow Park neighborhood features modern tract housing by developer Joe Koury.
Why Are People Watching? Though still remarkably intact, these resources are fragile and endangered because their importance is not widely known and celebrated in Greensboro. Pioneering architectural historians such as Eric Woodard have revealed many remarkable treasures in the community, but more work is needed. To that end, in 2019 the City of Greensboro applied for state funding to complete a comprehensive survey of Greensboro’s African American architectural heritage. If granted, the project will be a first step in listing properties to the National Register of Historic Places.
10. In July, 1898, the firm D. Getaz & Company of Knoxville, TN was awarded the contract to build a new Southern Railway Passenger Depot. The building was constructed of a brick provided by the Washington Hydraulic Pressed Brick Company of Alexandria VA, with brownstone trim. The building spans 160 feet along the North Carolina Railroad-owned, Norfolk Southern-leased trackage that connects Washington DC and points north to Atlanta and points south. The structure once sported a spectacular roofline of clay tile with protruding dormer windows and a conical tower. The building was modernized with a flat roof after the passenger depot was moved to East Washington Street in 1927 and has been used as offices for Norfolk Southern Railroad. It is now empty.
Why Are People Watching? Despite being listed to the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Downtown Greensboro Historic District in 1980, it is considered an obstacle to expanded rail travel by the North Carolina Rail Road and is rumored to be slated for demolition. The North Carolina Rail Road and Norfolk-Southern hold the keys to saving or demolishing the 120-year-old depot. If inspiration is needed, look no further than the adaptive re-use of the Cascade Saloon sitting opposite the depot across the tracks. The project reveals the potential of such a project to contribute to the downtown tax base and to serve as one of Greensboro’s most distinctive buildings.
Updates from 2017
A few entries have changed from 2017. The dapper Art Deco Showfety Building, built in 1941, was destroyed earlier this year to make way for a parking deck. The Shaw House at 111 Arden in the Sunset Hills neighborhood was purchased by Kristi and David Ciener last year. It was most likely built for Judge Thomas J. Shaw in 1914-15 as one of the earliest estates in Greensboro. The Cieners are restoring he house for their family.
Preservation Road Rules
Historic preservation must balance private property rights with history, architecture, and real estate development. More than 50 years of laws and a rapidly evolving tax code can be confusing to those who don’t work in the profession on a regular basis. Below are a few tips to help in understanding the challenges of preservation here in Greensboro.
National Register designation does not necessarily prevent demolition. The designation can help mitigate the scope of some projects that involve federal approvals and funding (such as road construction and cell towers), but private property owners may demolish their National Register property with nothing more than a demolition permit from the city. Designation is an honor and allows owners to utilize preservation tax credits, but it is not a tool to prevent demolition.
Local designation has more conditions, but it cannot be used to prevent demolition, either. Local governments here in North Carolina, such as cities, town, and counties, may form citizen commissions to review changes to the appearance of buildings and neighborhoods. Approval of changes are issued through a “Certificates of Appropriateness” by these citizen commissions. However, state law denies these commissions the right to prevent demolition. Demolition may be delayed, up to 365 days, after which point, demolition may proceed.
Without legal intervention to demolition, except in rare cases in which a site can be determined to be of significance on a statewide basis, preservationists are best served by promoting pragmatic and beneficial strategies rather than combative stances. Sugar always works better than vinegar. Members of the preservation community can make historic property owners aware of the advantages of taking the preservation route as an alternative to demolition.
North Carolina’s preservation tool kit is the envy of several states. In addition to federal tax credits for income producing buildings, North Carolinians enjoy state tax credits of both income-producing and non-income producing properties such as their home. State law also allows counties to participate in a property tax deferral program that can reduce annual property taxes up to 50%. These tax credits and deferrals can provide enough economic leverage to encourage property owners to restore, and not demolish their historic structures.
Preservation easements may be the most effective legal tool to prevent demolition of an historic property. An historic preservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement, typically attached to the property deed, that protects significant components or details of a property. An owner grants an easement to a holding party, such as a non-profit organization, which has the authority to enforce the restrictions stated int he easement. These restrictions, which vary with each property, could prohibit significant alteration or demolition. The easement generally runs with the title when the property is sold and thus can protect a property in perpetuity. Preservation Greensboro has had an active easement program since 1988, and it stands among the earliest organizations to provide the service. Preservation Greensboro has had an active easement program since 1988, and it stands among the earliest organizations to provide the service.
Written by Benjamin Briggs
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!