OK, it turns out there has been one classic million-dollar mansion sold in Greensboro this year, after all. And it’s a landmark. 415 Sunset Drive was apparently unlisted before it was sold last month.
The Thornton Brooks House comprises 6,800 square feet on 1.5-plus acres in the heart of Irving Park. Six bedrooms, six bathrooms and two half baths. It was built in the mid-1930s for the son of a founder of the Brooks, Humphrey, etc., etc., law firm. Brooks and his wife owned the house for 51 years. Recently, it has fallen upon hard times. It has been listed for sale eight times since 2008 at prices ranging from $4.3 million down to $2.3 million. It finally sold for $1.5 million.
Benjamin Briggs of Preservation Greensboro reports that Sam and Ashley Simpson have bought house and will restore it for family use. Benjamin says:
Some photos from better days, via realtor.com:
Here’s a segment of the market for classic homes in Greensboro that’s doing just about nothing this year: $1 million and up. Not a single classic home in that price range has sold (as far as my records show). Where did all the millionaires go?
The most expensive classic house sold in Greensboro this year is 607 Woodland Drive in Irving Park, which went for $999,000 in May. The bigger-than-it-looks, 3,400 square-foot home sold for a stately $312 per square foot. It was on the market three days before the owners accepted the buyer’s offer. Your results may vary.
A 1965 Edward Lowenstein classic, 210 Kemp Road in Starmount Forest is listed at $975,000 and is now under contract. The owners are probably smart enough not to be counting their chickens or money until the sale closes, but the indoor swimming pool alone makes it worth mentioning. It may be the bargain of the year: At 7,200 square feet on just under an acre, the price works out to just $135 per square foot, a fraction of what you’ll usually pay in Greensboro’s high-end neighborhoods.
Let’s Get That Checkbook Out
Those are spoken for, but you still have seven classic homes to choose from at $1 million and up in Greensboro and Guilford County. Take your time; buyers aren’t falling all over each other to grab them. Most have been on the market for a while. Realtors say it takes longer to sell houses in this price range, and the market seems intent on proving them right.
What millionaire wouldn’t want an English manor house on Sedgefield’s Donald Ross course? For $2.9 million you get a 1935 Cotswold Tudor, 10,000-plus square foot home with four bedrooms, four full baths and three half baths, plus dining room, den, library, sunroom with a bar, stone terraces, etc. The lot is 2.88 acres. It’s been on the market for almost two years.
I tend to avoid calling houses “historic” just because they’re old. Hillsdale Farm does have some local history attached to it, though: It was built in 1929 by Lunsford Richardson III (a son of the Vicks VapoRub inventor) and his wife, Margaret, on what was then a 2,800-acre site. Now it’s just a 13,500 square-foot home with eight bedrooms, six bathrooms and 27 acres of wooded land overlooking Lake Brandt. It’s been for sale at $2.875 million for just two months.
The most expensive classic home in Greensboro proper is an Irving Park brick Georgian with five bedrooms, five and a half baths and a five-car garage. It has been for sale at an uncompromising $1.79 million since March, the sixth time since 2011 that its current owners have put it on the market. It comes with a smaller piece of Greensboro’s entrepreneurial history: It’s owned by Martin Sprock, founder of Moe’s Southwest Grill (who now lives in Charlotte).
This 1937 house has been for sale since April at $1.785 million. At 4,600 square feet, it isn’t the biggest mansion you can find, but it’s not without distinction: With an opulent $388 per square foot price, it’s the most expensive classic home in Greensboro on that basis. The newly renovated home has a den/study with a wet bar, gourmet kitchen with a butler’s pantry, a master suite with a balcony and guest quarters above the garage. That’s where your chauffeur could live.
After Ayrshire, this 1928 gem is the most extravagantly designed among this bunch, a “massive Elizabethan-style dwelling with steeply pitched gables, stuccoed walls patterned in diamonds and squares at gables, all topped with distinctive tile roof,” the listing says. Its $1.69 million price is reduced from the original $1.899 million, making it the one of the few on this list that have been marked down.
For $1.295 million, a great example of how Greensboro’s elite lived 100 years ago: twin living rooms, a library, an English garden with patio and pergola, towering front columns and a neoclassical facade. Thoroughly renovated, beautifully landscaped, 5,200 square feet. Built in 1912.
For sale only since August, this 1925 Tudor classic overlooks the Greensboro Country Club golf course. For $1.295 million, you get 4,200 recently renovated square feet on a half acre, plus a two-bedroom, two-bath guest house attached to the garage (chauffeur). Powerball winners and other millionaires wouldn’t even blink at the $307 per square foot price.
Another $999,000 honorable mention
As long as we’re in the neighborhood, let’s at least drive by this 1948 Irving Park classic. It’s $999,000, reduced from its original $1.075 million. Formal rooms, a study, bonus room, front and back stairs, 4,200 square feet, large corner lot, attached two-car garage, etc. “Meticulously maintained for the discriminating buyer,” the listing says. But we would expect no less, wouldn’t we?
There aren’t too many Spanish Revival homes in Greensboro, so the few we have tend to stand out. That’s especially true for 307 S. Tremont Drive, a beautifully restored Sunset Hills home that went on the market last week for $224,900. The market is strong for houses in the older neighborhoods west of downtown; I’m a little surprised this house is still for sale after a week. That could change after an open house on Sunday.
The house has three bedrooms and one bath, 1,605 square feet. That comes out to $140 per square foot, right about at the median this year for Sunset Hills, though way closer to the bottom than the top. Six classic homes have sold for less and seven for more. Prices have ranged from $128 per square foot to $187.
The interior is beautiful, with hardwood floors, arched doorways, built-in cabinets and shelves, very nice radiator covers and a telephone nook. The front has a patio and pergola; a deck looks over the backyard. Next door is one of the most whimsical homes in Greensboro.
A similar house in Westerwood (not Spanish Revival, but similar in size, condition and price) was on the market for four days last month before the owner accepted an offer. Since mid-September, sellers of at least five other classic homes in older neighborhoods have accepted offers in less than a week. I’m not sure why 307 S. Tremont has taken longer than a week. Maybe it’s the dreary weather.
The historic Dr. Joseph McLean House in Sedalia has become one of the most affordable National Register homes you’re likely to find. The well preserved house has been on the market since February, most recently with 18-plus acres for $359,000. Now, the house and just 1.5+/- acres are available for $150,000. The rest of the acreage is still available with the house or separately. (The owner also is selling another 52-acre parcel nearby.)
The Greek Revival house has three bedrooms and one bathroom. It measures 2,040 square feet. It needs some work, but a new owner wouldn’t necessarily be taking on a major renovation. A walk-through this week showed the house is livable now. The exterior needs cosmetic work. On the interior, some of the rooms need painting, and the floors need refinishing. The kitchen and bathroom would benefit from updating, but they’re usable as they are. With a little creative thinking, a second bathroom might be added upstairs (preservation specialists with the the State Historic Preservation Office can provide assistance). The address is 6069 Burlington Road (U.S. Highway 70), in eastern Guilford County.
The McLean House was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. It took its present form around 1850.(Guilford County property records date the house at 1852; the National Register nomination is less specific.)
Dr. McLean was a physician, member of the state Legislature and all-around prominent citizen; the nearby town of McLeansville was named for him. The property had been owned by his wife’s family, the Whartons, since the 1830s.
“Apparently the house originated as a two-story log structure encompassing the current east rooms and center hall, where deep window and door casings reflect the log construction,” the National Register nomination states. “Around 1850 the dwelling substantially achieved its current appearance when it was overbuilt and enlarged with frame construction as the two-story, one-room-deep main block that is three bays wide, sheathed in plain weatherboarding, and covered by a low-pitched gable roof. The vast majority of the weatherboards are original and all are painted white.” (The nomination was written more than 20 years ago, so the extent to which the original weatherboards are still there would need to be confirmed.)
The house has remained in the McLean family until now. The current owner, Dr. John McLean, lives in Massachusetts. The family has largely maintained the home’s historic characteristics. “Overall, the Dr. Joseph A. McLean House retains a high degree of integrity,” the National Register form states. “The dwelling is particularly noteworthy due to the preservation of its interior finish as well as its plan. With the exception of the modernization of the north ell room as a kitchen around 1965, the interior is remarkably unaltered.” Two historic outbuildings stand close to the house.
The previous listing for the house and acreage described it as having “potential for agritourism, SFR [single-family residential], or mixed-use/PUD [planned unit development] development.” The acreage has been envisioned as a subdevelopment for more than 20 years (the National Register nomination mentions it). Perhaps selling the house separately, and at a remarkably reasonable price, will allow this well-preserved piece of local history a better chance of survival.
The pending sale of 607 Summit Avenue could close any day, so now is a good time to look at the house and consider a future that Greensboro avoided. Without the protection of the city’s historic-district designation, there’s no telling how many historic houses in Dunleath and College Hill, especially, but in Fisher Park, too, would have met the same soul-killing fate.
Greensboro’s historic-district zoning overlay prevents single-family houses from being broken up into multiple units. The city’s design guidelines for historic districts prevent the kind of clumsy renovation that defines 607 Summit. Nothing can be done about bad pre-historic district renovations, like this house, but the city’s protection at least has prevented any more such hatchet jobs from eroding the historic character of the districts.
In an alternate universe where Greensboro did nothing to protect its most intact historic neighborhoods, grand houses in Alternate Dunleath, Alternate College Hill and Alternate Fisher Park are still being chopped up, thoughtlessly altered and stuffed with as many renters as possible. And so the neighborhoods’ property values haven’t soared and taken some of the property-tax burden off the rest of the city, as they have in our more fortunate universe.
When you look at houses like 110 Cypress Street in Dunleath (for sale at $229,500) and 214 S. Mendenhall Street in College Hill (recently sold for $338,000), you see the kind of houses and prices that would be rare in those neighborhoods, if they existed at all, without the historic district designation.
Who would invest hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) in a house like 106 Fisher Park Circle (for sale at $1.35 million) if landlords were boring into the neighborhood and liquidating its historic character in exchange for the maximum number of rental units?
Greensboro’s leaders in the ’80s had foresight and courage in allowing for the protection of the city’s three historic districts. That protection isn’t a silver bullet, striking down all threats to the districts’ historic character and vitality. But it has given College Hill, Dunleath and Fisher Park a future as thriving neighborhoods, offering greater quality of life, property values and value to the community than before they were protected. Regrettable remnants of the past, like 607 Summit and others, provide a striking reminder of the tangible value that historic preservation brings to Greensboro.
If you’ve ever wanted to restore a historic home to its glory, Greensboro and Guilford County are full of opportunities for you. A new page has been added to the website to list homes whose defining characteristic might be described as “needs work … needs TLC … renovation project … rehab project … diamond in the rough … gutted” or the more legalistic “offered with no representations or warranties as to property condition.”
For those with the skills, patience and more money than you think you’ll need, here are five of Greensboro and Guilford’s best renovation opportunities.
- 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, 5,790 square feet, 0.43 acre
- Built in 1914
- Listed September 1, 2017
- Last sale: $233,000, February 2017
- Note: The Leak House is being sold by the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund for a total historic rehabilitation. Click here for details on the rehabilitation agreement, preservation easement and application process. The deadline for applications
is Monday, October 2, 2017has been extended. Contact Preservation Greensboro for details (336-272-5003).
- $179,800 (originally listed at $194,800)
- 3 bedrooms, 1 1/2 bathrooms, 2,400 square feet, 2.18 acres
- Price/square foot: $75
- Built in 1908
- Listed February 2017
- Last sale: September 2009, price unavailable in online records
- Neighborhood: Near Grandover and Business 85
- Note: A Guilford County Landmark property. Includes a detached workshop with a large second-floor room and a dilapidated barn. Some rooms have been renovated, but most of the house needs work.
- 4 bedrooms, 1 bathrooms, 1,496 square feet, 2.33 acres
- Price/square foot: $100
- Built in 1931
- Listed September 6, 2017
- Last sale: 1949, no price available in online records
- Not owner occupied. Listing: “… maybe a rehab project or full tear down, will need new well and septic.” Listing includes no pictures of interior.
- 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2,022 square feet
- Price/square foot: $14
- Built in 1922
- Listed September 18, 2017
- Last sale: $14,000, April 2014
- Neighborhood: Asheboro Community
- Craigslist: “This house has been gutted … Tax Value $54,000 Asking Price 29,500 or BEST OFFER. Bring offers we are selling this one FAST!!! We also work with Realtors.”
- 2 bedrooms, 1 bathrooms, 1,016 square feet
- Price/square foot: $10
- Built in 1945
- Listed June 10, 2017
- Last sale: $34,000, January 1985
- Neighborhood: Eastside Park
- Note: You can’t beat the price.
South Elam Avenue between Walker Avenue and Spring Garden Street has a couple of two-story Victorians standing up among the bungalows that line the street. 808 South Elam is the larger of the two at just under 3,000 square feet, and its $355,000 price tag ($121/square foot) makes it an outstanding value in Lindley Park.
Built in 1900, the house has four bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms. Its most distinctive exterior features are a wrap-around front porch and a remarkably deep backyard (the lot is 0.81 acre.). Inside, the large kitchen and bathrooms all have been updated well. The house has a den, five fireplaces, a workshop, a covered deck at the back and a detached three-car carport.
808 South Elam is toward the Spring Garden end of the street, still an easy walk to the restaurants at Walker and Elam. It’s even walkable to the Greensboro Coliseum in good weather. Many Lindley Park homes have sold quickly this year, and $121 per square foot for a move-in-ready, doesn’t-need-updating house is a great price.
The house will be open Sunday, September 17, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
At least 18 classic homes in Greensboro and Guilford County have sold for more than their asking prices this spring and summer. That’s 17 percent of the 107 sales that I’ve tracked, a nice sign of strength for the local real-estate market. In many cases, the premium was a token amount, but, still, getting anything over asking price is worth celebrating.
Below are the eight that drew the biggest premiums (in dollars, not necessarily in percentage). They’re in the city and the county, in the more expensive neighborhoods you might expect and some lower priced neighborhoods as well. A couple could be classified as starter homes.
Oddly enough, there also have been at least four low-end rentals that have sold at a premium. It would seem as if there are way more than enough of those to go around in Greensboro, but a rental house on Elwell Avenue was listed at $31,200 and sold for $35,500. Smaller premiums were paid for houses in Glenwood, Piedmont Heights and, again, on Elwell Avenue (what’s up with Elwell Avenue?).
1504 Edgedale Road, Irving Park: + $68,000
- Sold for $717,000 on July 24 (listed at $649,000), 10.5% premium
- 3 bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms, 2,835 square feet
- Price/square foot: $253
- Built in 1938
- Listed May 16, 2017
- Last sale: $450,000, August 2000
There have been a good number of high-end houses available in Irving Park this year (still are, in fact), but there must have been something special about 1504 Edgedale.
2959 N.C. 62 East, Liberty: + $25,000
- Sold for $145,000 on August 24, 2017 (listed at $120,000), 21% premium
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,400 square feet, 1.4 acres
- Price/square foot: $104
- Built in 1929
- Listed May 2, 2017
- Last sale: October 1996, price not available in online records
- Note: Property is in Guilford County but has a Liberty mailing address.
What makes a property sell at a premium? Right price, right place, good timing. And perhaps some intangibles that don’t show up in the property records.
5510 High Point Road, Sedgefield: + $9,100
- Sold for $209,000 on September 5 (listed at $199,900), 4.5% premium
- 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, 2,711 square feet
- Price/square foot: $77
- Built in 1941
- Listed April 19, 2017
- Last sale: $225,000, April 2013
The owners accepted an offer about two weeks after listing it, but then had to wait four months to close. But for $9,100 over the asking price, why not? Sweet location: The house is on the little cut-off section of High Point Road that was bypassed by the rerouted Gate City Boulevard.
305 S. Elam Avenue, Lindley Park: + $5,250
- Sold for $255,000 on August 30 (listed at $249,750), 21% premium
- 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 1,642 square feet
- Price/square foot: $155
- Built in 1926
- Listed June 24, 2017
- Last sale: $200,000, November 2005
Nice little house. Great backyard for kids.
1603 Roseland Avenue, McAdoo Heights: + $5,100
- Sold for $120,000 on May 26 (listed at $114,900), 4% premium
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,032 square feet
- Price/square foot: $116
- Built in 1937
- Listed April 11, 2017
- Last sale: $112,000, June 2009
That second bathroom is a killer feature in a starter home like this.
2312 Fortune Lane, Guilford Hills: + $5,000
- Sold for $130,000 on June 21, 2017 (listed at $125,000), 4% premium
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,220 square feet
- Price/square foot: $107
- Built in 1940
- Listed May 9, 2017
- Last sale: $85,000, June 1995
- Neighborhood: Guilford Hills
Again, a starter home with two bathrooms. This one apparently had been a rental (it wasn’t owner occupied), but the property record now shows this as the new owner’s address.
700 Magnolia Street, Fisher Park: + $4,500
- Sold for $199,500 on April 27, 2017 (listed at $195,000), 2% premium
- 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,680 square feet
- Price/square foot: $119
- Built in 1900
- Listed March 1, 2017
- Last sale: June 1975, $15,500
The seller accepted an offer two days after putting it on the market.
2509 Sherwood Street, Lindley Park: + $4,000
- Sold for $263,000 on June 6, 2017 (listed at $259,000), 1.5% premium
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,850 square feet
- Price/square foot: $142
- Built in 1939
- Listed April 28, 2017
- Last sale: $232,000, May 2010
Another nice little house that demonstrates how popular Lindley Park is these days.
The badly neglected 4,000 square-foot house has been vacant for 10 years. Its most prominent features now are the temporary supports propping up the front porch. The fund acquired the house in February through a foreclosure sale.
The property will be sold subject to a rehabilitation agreement and a preservation easement. Further information and an application form to be considered as a potential buyer are available from the fund. The application deadline
is Monday October 2, 2017 has been extended from its original date of October 2. Contact Preservation Greensboro for details (336-272-5003).
“The rehab agreement will outline the scope of the project along with a timeline for completion,” according to Benjamin Briggs, executive director of Preservation Greensboro. “This will guide restoration planning and assure that the house will be completely restored. The easement will guide future restorations in terms of design and materials. It will prevent inappropriate alterations to the design and destruction of key architectural features such as mantels and moldings, and will be attached to the deed for the property.”
County tax records list the date of the house as 1914. The listing shows four bedrooms and four bathrooms. It also gives the square footage at 5,700, which appears to include the unheated attic.
Preservation Greensboro’s Greensboro: An Architectural Record describes the house:
“The circa-1914 Georgian Revival-style house of Leak, assistant secretary of the Cone export and Commission Company, is dominated by three pedimented dormers, a heavy modillion-block cornice, and a Doric portico and side porch topped by ballustrades.”
The Preservation Greensboro Develoment Fund is a sister organization to Preservation Greensboro. It works as a “revolving fund,” a pool of capital created and reserved for historic preservation activities with the condition that the money be returned to the fund to be reused for similar activities in the future.
Properties sold through the Fund hold preservation easements to protect their significant architectural features. The Fund has assisted in the restoration or conservation of properties in College Hill, Southside, Cedar Street, Fisher Park, Glenwood and Irving Park. It also has assisted in planning projects in the Summit Avenue and Southside neighborhoods. It has served other Guilford County communities, including High Point and Whitsett.
(Information from Preservation Greensboro was used in this post.)
If you want to buy a great big piece of Greensboro history, you can’t go much bigger than Hillsdale Farm: a 13,500 square-foot home and 27 acres of wooded land overlooking Lake Brandt. It’s yours for $2.875 million.
The property includes the mansion with eight bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half baths, and an indoor pool; greenhouse; playhouse; bathhouse; water tower; five-car garage with five-room apartment; and a very long driveway. The property also includes a 1/6 share of the very private Richardson Lake.
Hillsdale Farm has been designated a Guilford County Landmark, which merits a 50 percent reduction in property taxes. Its current tax valuation is $1.896 million.
The house was built in 1929 by Lunsford Richardson III (a son of the Vicks VapoRub inventor) and his wife, Margaret. It was designed by nationally known architect Richardson Brognard Okie of Philadelphia. “Okie’s Colonial Revival designs were notable in that they applied materials and design features of colonial period structures into new building construction,” Benjamin Briggs of Preservation Greensboro has written.
“The resulting structures often appeared to be centuries old, when in fact they incorporated all of the conveniences and spatial uses required of mid-twentieth century families such as modern kitchens, private bathrooms, laundry rooms, garages and walk-in closets. Okie used several design techniques to assure the illusion of history, such as rambling floor plans that appeared to have been added organically through time, massive masonry chimneys, and fine hand-carved woodwork.”
Hillsdale Farm left the Richardson family’s holdings more than 30 years ago, and its original 2,800 acres have been pared down to a more manageable 27. But the house still has the look and feel of one of Greensboro’s most notable historic homes.