Renovation Project of the Week: An 1885 House That’s Being Overrun by Its Own Landscaping

Update: The listing was withdrawn October 25, 2019.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.

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Yikes. Nothing subtle about Issue No. 1. Aside from the nightmarish vegetation, though, this stately old place doesn’t look so bad. It was built in 1885 and has four bedrooms, three bathrooms and 2,148 square feet. The lot is 1.2 acres. The few rooms shown in the poor photos with the listing do suggest the house could use some work, though who knows what the rest of it looks like. It’s on the west side of Summerfield toward Oak Ridge.

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At $165,000, the price comes out to $77 per square foot, which is toward the high end of the scale for a house that needs substantial renovation unless the electrical, plumbing, foundation, etc., are OK and you’re looking for a house to make your own in one of Guilford County’s more upscale little towns.

Listing for 3311 Oak Ridge Road

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The Oldest Inhabited House in Greensboro (Probably) Was for Sale for a Few Days This Month

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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.

The oldest-house claim is hard to prove, maybe impossible, but no one has suggested a reasonable alternative (as Benjamin Briggs explains here).  It was built downtown (the address is unknown). The house was moved to Westerwood, possibly around 1931, the first year the Greensboro City Directory shows a residence at 409 Hillcrest. This undated photo from Preservation Greensboro appears to have been taken while the house was still downtown:

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Today, the house is elegantly updated with 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and 3,418 square feet. The price is $415,000, a relatively modest $121 per square foot. It has a finished basement and a detached two-car garage with a 12-by-24 room above it. There’s a porch off to the right side of the front. The back of the house has a deck along with a spacious yard (the lot is 0.34 acre).

Hillcrest is a quiet, out-of-the-way street toward the western end of the neighborhood. Oldest in town or not, the Paisley House is beautifully preserved and in a lovely setting, one of Westerwood’s real treasures.

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Listing for 409 Hillcrest Drive

810 Cypress Street: A Newly Renovated 1920 Dunleath Classic, $319,000

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There’s been a conspicuous shortage of homes for sale in the Dunleath Historic District lately, so 810 Cypress Street is a rare find. It was sold 10 months ago and thoroughly renovated. When it was sold, it looked like this:

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810 Cypress received a dose of good taste inside as well. It has four bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and 2,398 square feet ($133/square foot). It’s across the street from Swann Middle School. The house was built in 1920, pretty much the heyday of Dunleath. Its big front porch makes it an ideal venue for Dunleath’s signature event, the annual Porchfest.

If you’re interested, don’t dawdle. The last couple well restored houses in Dunleath have sold quickly — one in three weeks and one in four days (that was the house next door, the gorgeous 808 Cypress Street).

Listing for 810 Cypress Street

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Two Classic Greensboro Houses and Their Spacious Lots May Be Too Much for Developers to Resist

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.

4201 Pineneedle Drive

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4201 Pineneedle Drive was built in 1903 in what is now the Summit Hills neighborhood between Summit Avenue and U.S. 29 in northeast Greensboro. It’s an attractive little farmhouse with two bedrooms, one bathroom and 1,416 square feet. The listing provides no pictures of the interior and only one of the exterior. One of the few significant details provided: It has no heating or air conditioning systems.

The house sits on 3.76 acres. The price is $169,900, which comes to $120 per square foot or a little over $45,000 per acre. I don’t know how that compares to prevailing land prices in northeast Greensboro (tax appraisal on the land is $63,000 total, for what that’s worth), but $120 per square foot sounds high for a house in that area with no HVAC.

The description of the property focuses on the land: “Beautiful and serene land located on the edge of the city. House is sold AS IS and will not qualify for FHA/VA loans. Would be a great property to develop.” Beautiful and serene now, at least. The 3.76-acre lot may make 4201 Pineneedle an attractive development prospect in an area that looks like this (the property is highlighted; click for a larger view):

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The lot is in the middle of what was a 17-acre tract owned by William Archie Smith, who died in 1949. He passed it on to his eldest son, John, who left it to his six surviving siblings in 1982. They divided it into 18 lots. One of John’s sisters, Nora Mae Smith Maness, bought four of the lots for $5,500 in 1982 (numbers 1, 1A, 16 and 16A on the plat). That property is now 4201 Pineneedle Drive. Family members still own 10 of the other 14 lots.

Nora Mae died in 2010 at the age of 88 (having long outlived her two husbands by 63 and 39 years, respectively). Now the property is being sold by her estate. Her son, who may not have much of a sentimental attachment to the old homestead, owns a house right across the street. Beyond the lack of HVAC, who knows what the condition of the house is. All you can say for sure is that it’s endangered.

5204 Michaux Road

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5204 Michaux Road is far across Greensboro, near the corner of Battleground Avenue and Old Battleground Road. The house sits nicely off the street on 2.34 acres (per county property records). It was built in 1925. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms and 1,346 square feet. The exterior is attractive, with a stone foundation, distinctly different from the subdivision houses around it. The price is $175,000, $130 per square foot.

Again, the only photo with the listing is an exterior shot. The narrative description, provided here in full, doesn’t give a buyer much to go on: “This property is sold AS IS.” It does have heat and air conditioning, though.

The property was listed Thursday, September 5, and the owner accepted an offer over the weekend.

It’s in a more densely developed area than Summit Hills. The house is surrounded on three sides by subdivisions, although the two-acre-plus lot provides good privacy. A large assisted-living facility is right across the street (nicely screened with landscaping). The adjacent shopping center includes a Harris Teeter, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and more.

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The lot for 5204 Michaux was the back corner of the James Davis farm, which was seven miles north of Greensboro when it was subdivided in 1925. The plat for the 39-acre farm shows an asphalt highway running along the east side; presumably, that’s now Battleground Avenue. The shopping center, assisted-living home and much of the neighboring subdivision were all part of the farm (5204 Michaux is Lot 25). The Davis homestead is long gone; it stood on five acres at the corner of Battleground and Old Battleground. 5204 Michaux appears to be the last trace of the past in the area.

616 East Lake Drive: A Spectacular Mid-Century Modern in Westerwood, $725,000

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The for-sale sign went up at 616 East Lake Drive last Wednesday. The sellers accepted an offer by Saturday, and all I could think was, “What took so long?” Even at a relatively high price (for Westerwood) of $725,000, it’s no surprise the house went off the market so quickly. It’s one of the most impressive mid-century houses in Greensboro.

The Mary and Norman Jarrard House was built in 1969. It was designed by Jarrard himself, a professor of English at N.C. A&T. It has five bedrooms and four bathrooms spread across three levels (I think — the listings and property records show it as one level for some reason; it’s been a few years since I was in it, but I recall three) and 3,874 square feet ($187/square foot). It sits atop a relatively steep slope high above the street and the Lake Daniel Greenway, well hidden by trees. The challenging, wooded lot made it a much better candidate for a mid-century design, which emphasized blending in with the surroundings, than a traditional approach.

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The landscaping is impressive, particularly around the swimming pool (saline, heated). There’s a koi pond as well.

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Large windows and sliding glass doors open up the house to the outdoors. Earth tones throughout the house complement the setting. Skylights add even more light. On the top level, an open floor plan brings the living room, dining room and den together without sacrificing the intimacy of the various rooms.

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Additional decks, including one on a lower level, provide additional outdoor space.

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The driveway comes up from East Lake Drive, but you can also reach the house through an alley from the corner of Lakeview Street and Crestland Avenue.

Listing for 616 East Lake Drive

631 Scott Avenue: A 1905 Lindley Park House Featured on This Year’s Tour of Historic Homes, $369,900

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Photo courtesy of Preservation Greensboro

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.

The Cartland House has four bedrooms and two baths. It’s unusually large for Lindley Park, 3,142 square feet. The price, too, is outsized for the neighborhood at $369,900; by my count, only five pre-WWII Lindley Park houses have sold in the $300,000’s in the past two and a half years, out of 43 total. But the price works out to a modest $117 per square foot, way at the low end of the range for the neighborhood. The lot also is larger than average, 0.36 acre.

“The two-story frame house is typical of Greensboro residences of the first decade of the twentieth century,” Benjamin Briggs of Preservation Greensboro writes. “Simply detailed, the Late Victorian form is characterized by a hipped roofline and a projecting hipped wing. This wing, with exterior access, might have served as an office. Decorative features are staid, including a deep cornice with boxed eaves, nine over nine windows, and a half-width front porch. Interior details curiously hint at an early construction date, such as capped door and window trim, a square stair newel post, and six-panel doors.”

Scott Avenue is a quiet side street, but the house is just a couple blocks from the Walker and Elam intersection, home of Bestway grocery and various restaurants, bars and other contributors to Greensboro’s quality of life.

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The 1925 Harry Barton House in Hamilton Lakes, $1.65 million

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Few architects have been as historically prominent in Greensboro and across the state as Harry Barton. For more than 20 years until his death in 1937, he designed several of the Greensboro’s most notable buildings, including the UNCG Auditorium, the Quad and others on the campus; the Guilford County Courthouse; the Cone Export and Commission Building; First Presbyterian Church and the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant; and World War Memorial Stadium. His home designs ranged from the elaborate Italian Renaissance style of the Sigmund Sternberger house at 710 Summit Avenue to the relatively simple Effie M. Anderson House at 303 S. Mendenhall Street.

When he designed his own home, he created a classic. 104 Kemp Road West is a Mediterranean mansion sitting on Benjamin Lake in Hamilton Lakes. Barton had it built in 1925. For the first time since 1976, the home is for sale. The listing price is $1.65 million.

It’s a spectacular house, 4,000 square feet of impeccable design and high craftsmanship. It has four bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms. The roof is Italian tile. The lot is 0.65 acre. Overlooking the lake is a separate gym with a steam shower and hot tub. The price comes out to $410 per square foot. On a square-foot basis it’s probably the most expensive historic home now available in Greensboro and one of the most expensive in the Triad. Why not?

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Listing for 104 Kemp Road West

More about the Harry Barton House

Harry Barton on North Carolina Architects & Builders, A Biographical Dictionary