Open House: 707 Blair Street, a Lowenstein classic on the National Register of Historic Places

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There’s an open house at a classic Lowenstein home in Irving Park on Sunday (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.). The James H. and Anne B. Willis House, 707 Blair Street, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its retention of character-defining Mid-Century Modern features. Built in 1965 and designed by the Lowenstein-Atkinson firm of Greensboro, it has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and 3,000 square feet. That comes out to $194 per square foot, a relative bargain in Irving Park. [Update: The price has been reduced to $550,000, $179/square foot, as of June 7, 2017]

The Willis House would be distinctive in any neighborhood, but especially so in this one.

“The long, one-story, front-gable-roofed, Modernist dwelling differs in architectural character and orientation from the neighboring predominately traditionally styled homes … These residences stand closer to Blair Street and Hammel Drive than their rear lot lines, contributing to a regular façade rhythm and allowing for large back yards. The Willis House siting, dictated by the lot’s topography, is reversed. The residence occupies the 0.7-acre lot’s southwest corner and is screened on all sides by either vegetation or wood fences. Deciduous and evergreen trees fill the front yard’s slope, providing privacy, while landscaped beds along the dwelling’s perimeter contain woody shrubs and perennials. … The wooded setting and sloping grade continue on Blair Street’s opposite side, as the City of Greensboro maintains a 2.6-acre wooded tract flanking a creek that is part of the approximately four-acre Nottingham Park.”
— from the National Register nomination

The current owners, Thomas and Sara Sears, bought the home from the Willises in 2002. They completed a restoration in 2003 and a renovation in 2014 that maintained what the nomination calls “exceptional” interior integrity.

“Only a small number of Greensboro residences are truly Modernist in design, and each stands out in neighborhoods of more traditional houses. … The low, horizontal residences blend in with their settings, reflecting the influence of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian House: economical and efficiently-planned buildings constructed of natural materials. Expansive windows and natural materials facilitate continuity between interior and exterior spaces. Common interior features include expressed structural components, radiant heating, passive cooling, cork and stone floors, wood wall and ceiling sheathing, and built-in furniture.

“The Willis House exemplifies the application of the same principles, which were more mainstream by 1965, in a cost-effective yet stylish residence. Its long, low form is typical of mid-twentieth-century dwellings, but its orientation with a broad, front-gable, secondary elevation facing the street is less common.”

It’s a remarkable house and a remarkable opportunity to own a piece of mid-century history.

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