There have been quite a few heroes who were born or lived in Greensboro — Levi Coffin in the earliest days; in the 20th century, Rick and Wes Ferrell, the A&T Four and Ron McNair; and more recently, Joey Cheek and Loretta Lynch, to name a few. Among the greatest were George and Bill Preddy, the World War II fighter pilots who grew up in Dunleath. George was a barnstorming pilot-turned-flying ace and totally fit the part with his Clark Gable mustache and brilliant smile. He was the top P-51 Mustang ace of the war, credited with 26.83 enemy air-to-air victories (including two shared victories). Younger brother Bill followed George into the European theatre. He, too, proved himself an outstanding fighter pilot and was honored as one of the liberators of Czechoslovakia.
Today, their family’s home at 605 Park Avenue is a beautifully restored little bungalow. Their father, George, was a Southern Railway conductor. He and his wife, Clara, had the house built in 1920; Clara sold it after his death 52 years later. Last week, It was put up for sale again. The owners accepted an offer in two days. The asking price was $199,900.
This 1910 duplex is the last trace of a residential neighborhood in the 100 block of the former East Lee Street. The address is 111-113 E. Gate City Boulevard, and the owners have put the house and its tiny lot up for sale for $1.06 million (yeah, I laughed, too). The lots on either side are vacant. The Union Square campus is across the street. The duplex is the only residence on Gate City Boulevard for blocks in either direction. It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1910, downtown Lee Street was overwhelmingly residential.
Prince Taylor bought a piece of land in Browns Summit from Ceasar and Jeannette Cone in 1903. It cost $164. The lot was described as “being lot no 1 Block C Ceasar Cone’s subdivision adjacent to the city of Greensboro.”
Prince built his house there in 1913, according to county records, but it may have been earlier (property records that old aren’t always exactly correct). He was a blacksmith, and he kept working until about 10 days before he died in 1953 at age 87. The home stayed in his family until his last surviving daughter sold it in 1987.
The house, at 4606 N.C. Highway 150 East in Browns Summit, is now scheduled to be auctioned July 1, 2021 at the Guilford County Courthouse. It was last sold for $115,000 in 2005. It has four bedrooms and one bathroom in 2,224 square feet. The lot is 1.15 acres.
Update: The owners accepted an offer three days after putting the house up for sale. It sold for its full asking price on December 18, 2020.
The way historic houses are selling these days, it’s no surprise that the Effie M. Anderson House went under contract just three days after it was put on the market. Designed by the esteemed Harry Barton, it has been designated a Guilford County historic landmark. And it has been beautifully restored by the current owners.
Older homes that are stripped of their historic character usually aren’t very interesting. It’s increasingly common for renovators to go the cheap route and drain the character from classic homes — installing vinyl siding, replacing original windows with slickly marketed “maintenance-free” ones, tearing out distinctive moldings, doors and floor plans for homogenized blandness.
From the outside, 803 E. Bragg Street in the Asheboro Community was something else again. And that’s putting it mildly. The house lost its historic character, but, for a while at least, it gained an attention-grabbing new look, one that turned out to be too much for even the owners.
Update October 13: The price is now $2,500 for the schoolhouse.
Update October 9: The price is now $500 each for the schoolhouse and the smokehouse. The other outbuildings are $100.
Brothers John and James McNairy looked at the schooling available to their children in Guilford County and decided it would be home-schooling for their kids. That term didn’t exist in 1911 when the brothers were thinking about it, and their solution isn’t one that most home-schoolers would consider today: They built their own schoolhouse and hired a teacher for it. They used the building as a school until 1920, when their youngest children completed their education.
The McNairy family schoolhouse still stands on a piece of what used to be the large McNairy farm in north Greensboro, and it can be yours to take home for $100$500 $2,500. The owner is working with the Preservation Greensboro Development Fund to relocate the schoolhouse and the McNairys’ old smokehouse, which also is available for relocation for $100 $500.
Update: The house sold for $342,750 on February 12, 2021.
The William and Irma Kampschmidt House is an interesting example of the architectural diversity of West Greensboro’s early years. West Market Terrace and adjoining neighborhood Westerwood were built out largely in the 1920s and ’30s, a time when home-buyers valued distinctiveness and style. The Kampschmidt House has both.
A brick, double-gabled bungalow, it sits at 1405 Fairmont Street, two blocks removed from busy West Friendly Avenue and just a couple blocks from Lake Daniel Park. There’s not another house like it in the neighborhood (or probably the rest of Greensboro). West Market Terrace is largely boxed in by the park and Josephine Boyd Street, which eliminates its streets’ use as cut-through drag strips. It’s a quiet corner of Greensboro but still close to UNCG and downtown.
Greensboro’s most expensive neighborhood just experienced a little jolt of activity. A pair of million-dollar-plus historic homes were sold on consecutive days last week. The prices on both were remarkable, even for Irving Park. And the sales were fast: One house hadn’t been listed for sale; the other had been on the market for a single day before the owners accepted a full-price offer.
Those sellers are making it look easy, but in recent years it hasn’t been unusual for Irving Park’s most expensive classic houses to sit for months or years before they sold. If they sold. In the past three years, five houses priced $700,000 to $1.7 million have been withdrawn without sales, and two others have been sold at a loss. During the same time period, 21 others have sold, generally after being on the market a few weeks to as long as five years.
Update: The owners accepted an offer four days after putting the house on the market. It sold for $290,000 on December 4, 2020.
The Morton House, 1332 W. Friendly Avenue, is older than Friendly Avenue itself. When the house was built in 1918, there must have been a road, but it’s not clear from the City Directory whether it had a name (Gaston Avenue, which later became the downtown part of Friendly, didn’t extend that far). Later, it was called West Market Place and then Madison Avenue before Friendly took its current form. This week, the house went up for sale at $290,000. It’s a gorgeous Craftsman, very well restored.
Lindley Park and Sunset Hills get a lot of attention as beautiful, historic neighborhoods, and rightly so, but there’s a largely overlooked neighborhood right next to them that has some beautiful and vastly more affordable historic homes. The Brice Street neighborhood has been almost overrun by low-end landlords because of its proximity to UNCG, but you can find some fine homes there as well. When they come up for sale, the trick is getting to them before Greensboro’s voracious “real estate investors” do.
If you were looking for Odell Byerly’s house in Sedgefield back in the ’60s, you would have found 5703 Anson Road eventually and maybe would have guessed, correctly, that this must be the place. The one with the big columns, like the big columns that made Byerly’s Antiques an I-85 landmark for 40 years.
The Byerly House is a classic Colonial Revival. It’s gracious, rather formal and big — 4,600 square feet. It’s for sale now for $650,000.
There aren’t usually too many houses for sale in Dunleath. Lately, though, there’s been a little burst of activity, with four houses coming onto the market from late July through late August. All four sellers accepted offers within days. And five other Dunleath homes have sold this summer as well. It’s not so unusual that houses are selling quickly in Dunleath, just that there are so many at once. Has Dunleath ever been a hotter neighborhood?
Some houses seem to have potential buyers just lying in wait, ready to pounce as soon as the for-sale sign goes up. 210 Isabel Street is one. It was for sale for two days before the owners accepted an offer. It was just sold in 2018, and then it took three days.
Buying a house is like finding someone to marry. You only need one, but the possibilities are limited to those available at the moment. And it often seems like all the good ones are taken. You could wait your entire adult life for some to become available. Others are out there again every few years. Here are current examples of each type (houses).
Florence and Camille Kivette might have stood out anywhere, but in a small town like Gibsonville there couldn’t have been any way to miss them. For decades. The blue Cadillac and the big parties, the grand house out on the edge of town and Elon College — the sisters loved them, and they weren’t shy about what they loved.
Florence Olga Kivette Childress, born in 1917, and Marjorie Camille Kivette, born in 1920, both were graduates of Elon. They lived together almost their entire lives, even during Florence’s marriage (sadly shortened to just five years by the death of her husband, an Air Force captain). They held huge parties, led the town’s parades and drove their blue Cadillac to Elon for football games, plays and frequent meals in the dining hall.
Update: The three properties are listed separately as of December 15, 2020, all for $325,000. That results in a relatively routine price of $118/square foot for 704 Spring Garden and a wildly high $184/square foot price for each of the other two.)
It’s hard to know what to make of the offer that appeared in local real-estate listings on Friday: Three adjoining houses on Spring Garden Street for sale together at $975,000. All are rentals. 704 Spring Garden is a classic 1900 College Hill home, long ago divided into three apartments. 700 and 702 Spring Garden are single-unit houses, relatively new and essentially identical — built on long-vacant lots in 2003, four bedrooms, four bathrooms, 1,736 square feet each.
The $975,000 price comes out to a head-turning $157 per square foot. There are a couple ways to put that into perspective. Twenty-five College Hill rental houses have been sold in the past five years. Only seven have topped $100 per square foot, the highest being $121 (211 S. Tate Street, then a single-unit rental and now owner-occupied). The 15 multi-unit rental properties have ranged from $63 per square foot to $120 per square foot. So the Spring Garden trio’s owner is looking for a premium of more than 25 percent above the priciest College Hill rentals.
Or consider that owner-occupied houses in College Hill sell at consistently higher prices than rentals, and in the past five years, only two out of 42 have sold for more than $157 per square foot. So, the Spring Garden 3 also are priced at a premium to 95 percent of the owner-occupied houses sold in College Hill since 2015.
On the surface, then, the price of the these houses is well out of proportion for College Hill rentals. But a deeper look shows … what? What could make these three houses worth $975,000? There’s no way to tell from the listings. They contain no interior photos of any of the houses, so if there’s something wonderful inside, the seller isn’t letting on (but why would there be in three rental houses?). The exteriors are OK, not as bad as many rentals but nothing special. The location is no better than that of dozens of other such houses in the neighborhood. Are 21st century houses more brilliantly designed than 100-year-old houses? Are they made of superior building materials? Are they in better condition? Do they have more character? No, no, not necessarily, and no.
Who knows what goes on in the minds of “real-estate investors” (as landlords fancy themselves these days)? Maybe someone with more money than sense will snap these houses right up. Whatever the deal is, good luck.
Surprisingly Pricey Home Sales in Recent Years
Just because a house is listed at a way-high price doesn’t mean it won’t sell. There have been a few conspicuous outliers among College Hill home sales in recent years.
There’s the truly weird 2018 sale of 619 South Mendenhall Street for $420,000 ($145 per square foot). The only house in College Hill that’s sold for more since 2015 was the Bumpas-Troy House, 114 South Mendenhall Street, built in 1847 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That sale was for $425,000 in 2016.
When 619 South Mendenhall was sold in 2018, it had barely survived a disastrous renovation. Five years earlier, the owners started adding a third story without bothering to get a certificate of appropriateness. The city caught up with them and halted work, but not before the entire roof had been removed. For months, only a leaky tarp protected the house from a rainy autumn and winter while the owners wrangled with the Historic Preservation Commission, finally accepted a compromise plan, changed their mind, appealed the plan they themselves had accepted to the Board of Adjustment, lost, and finally had to settle for the compromise. They had bought the house for $135,000 in 2012. And then, astoundingly, they were able to sell it for $420,000 in 2018. Less astoundingly, when the house was sold again this year, the sellers had to take a loss of about $70,000. (The 2018 buyer was an out-of-state LLC with no idea about the local real-estate market.)
On a square-foot basis, the most expensive College Hill house sold in recent years (and maybe ever) hardly looks the part. 611 Joyner Street is sweet little bungalow, just 1,186 square feet. It sold for $129,900 in February 2018. A swift five months later, after what must have been one heck of a renovation, it sold for $222,000. That doesn’t sound like much, but long division tells us it’s a brilliant $187 per square foot. If all rentals in the neighborhood could get that kind of renovation, we’d be Irving Park.
Also high up on College Hill’s all-time most expensive list is 817 Rankin Place. In 2016 it went for a still wow price of $389,000, $173 per square foot. It’s an infill house, built on another long-vacant lot in 2005. It also has an apartment above the garage, so that’s something. But it originally sold for just $250,000 in 2005. Eleven years later — even after the biggest real-estate bust in modern American history — it had appreciated 56 percent, a reminder that the right price for a house is whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
For purposes of comparison, consider …
Seven of the Finest College Hill Homes Sold Since 2018
Update: The listing was withdrawn October 25, 2019.
It’s often hard to know exactly what you’re seeing just from the for-sale listings of houses that need renovation. From the foundation to the roof, there’s no telling what trouble awaits until you get a thorough inspection. With that in mind, take a look at 3311 Oak Ridge Road in Summerfield.
Yikes. Nothing subtle about Issue No. 1. Aside from the nightmarish vegetation, though, this stately old place doesn’t look so bad.
Update: The house sold for $415,000, its full asking price, on November 6, 2019.
The Paisley House, 409 Hillcrest Drive in Westerwood, may be oldest house in Greensboro that’s still a residence. It was listed for sale on October 4; the sellers accepted an offer on October 8. A quick deal like that isn’t uncommon in Westerwood, one of Greensboro’s most attractive neighborhoods, especially now when so few homes are for sale there. What is uncommon is that the house is so much older than the neighborhood. The Paisley House was built in 1820; Westerwood was developed about 100 years later.
Residents of Sedgefield report seeing crews from a demolition company at work in Adamsleigh, the renowned 30,000 square foot mansion in the golf course community. An article this week in the News & Record indicates that time may have run out for the fabulous house. Built in 1930, it stands with Graylyn in Winston-Salem and Hillside in Greensboro as one of the Piedmont’s grandest mansions. But its new owner wants to build a house, and Adamsleigh is in his way.
Two interesting old houses turned up for sale in the past couple of weeks with a disappointing element in common: Both owners appear more interested in selling to developers than to homeowners. Each of the properties has a bit of acreage, and both are in areas that have been developed with subdivisions in the past few decades. Losing them would eliminate pieces of Greensboro’s historic character from once-outlying neighborhoods where little of that quality remains.
Every year, Preservation Greensboro creates a “Watch List” of local historic homes and buildings that are in danger of being destroyed. Some are saved, like the remarkable Shaw House at 111 Arden Place, rescued last year by new owners who are renovating the one-time hunting lodge in the College Park neighborhood. Others aren’t, like the Art Deco Showfety Building, which was sacrificed for construction of a parking deck.
This year’s list includes several iconic homes along with the Pilot Life office complex in Sedgefield, the Southern Railway Passenger Depot on South Elm Street, and one of the few Egyptian Revival office buildings in the state.
The Lydia and James Cartland House is one of the earliest in Lindley Park. Built in 1905 across the street from its present location, the house crossed the street sometime in its first 20 years. Today, it’s nicely restored and a beautiful example of its time period and its neighborhood.
207 North Park Drive is a Fisher Park classic, a Craftsman bungalow with beautiful stone columns. Built in 1912, it overlooks the park on one of the neighborhood’s finest streets. It sold last week for $398,900, its full asking price and a pretty impressive number considering it’s not quite 2,000 square feet. That comes out to $206 per square foot, up near the top of the range for the neighborhood and way above what many Fisher Park houses have sold for recently. The house was on the market just over a week before an offer was accepted.
Even at that price, though, the sellers took a loss. They bought the house for $399,750, and that was 12 long years ago. It’s not a big loss, less than $1,000 (but don’t forget the real estate agents’ commission, likely 6 percent — almost $24,000). Still, how could such a fine house in Fisher Park fail to appreciate in 12 years? The answer: The house was bought in September 2007, only a year before real estate crashed. The pre-catastrophe market was just about at its peak.