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

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Update: The Willis House sold for $524,095 on August 2, 2017.

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.

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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500 S. Mendenhall Street: One of Greensboro’s Best Queen Annes

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Update: The house sold for $274,500 on June 23, 2017.

How can this house be on the market again? In the past six years, 500 S. Mendenhall Street has been put up for sale three times without success. Now it’s available for a fourth try, this time priced at $285,000 ($110/square foot). Which would seem a rock-bottom price for a Queen Anne gem.

The house has been divided into three apartments, but a previous listing noted, “Appraiser suggested if $10K spent could convert back to single family dwelling and per sq ft would increase.” It sits on a prime corner lot in College Hill on Mendenhall at Walker Avenue, directly across from the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant. It was built in 1900.

It was clearly a favorite of Marvin Brown, author of Greensboro: An Architectural Record:

“One of the best examples of Queen Anne style in Greensboro, it features a complicated picturesque roofline and wall planes, complete with two full-height cutaway bays and an an angled corner fringed with scrolled brackets. Its wraparound porch is fancifully finished with turned posts, brackets, pendants, balusters and spindles.” (Page 352)

That’s a pretty complete package of Queen Anne detail and whimsy. It appears to be in quite good shape, and it’s priced to move. Perhaps this time it will.

Note: The Zillow listing shows the house as 2,291 square feet, but the county tax record shows it as 2,587, which I suspect is more accurate. That’s the figure I’ve used as the basis of the per-square-foot price.

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The Kellenberger Estate: A National Register property now on the market

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Update, September 29, 2017: Miramichi was taken off the market without a sale.
Update II, April 6, 2018: The property is listed again.

“The Kellenberger Estate is significant in the history of Guilford County, North Carolina, as an uncommon and largely intact example of a property transformed from a vernacular nineteenth-century farm into a country estate in the Colonial Revival and relaxed, naturalized style popular in the 1920s.”

National Register nomination

Miramichi, the Kellenberger Estate near McLeansville, was put on the market last week at an asking price of $849,000. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994 in recognition of both the house and its remarkable 32-acre grounds. Its period of significance was 1921-44.

kellenberger 2.jpeg“It is the landscaping for which Miramichi is best known. The estate is dominated visually by the impressive naturalized landscape of native and exotic trees, shrubs, and flowering plants, many of which kellenberger 3.jpegremain in remarkably intact condition today,” the property’s nomination states. The landscaping was designed and planted from 1921 through 1944.

Included on the grounds are two stone grottos fed by kellenberger 5.jpegsprings (previously a “hog waller”), a curvilinear pool, a lake and dam dating from 1915 and picnic areas. A boathouse and swimming pool were built around 1930. A small log outbuilding and tenant house date from around 1925 and 1930, respectively.

The house experienced a transformation of its own. “The house was created by the Kellenbergers, beginning about 1921 using an existing vernacular log farmhouse as the focal point, and continuing into the 1940s with a series of alterations and additions,” the nomination states.

“The house was remodeled in two stages, the first beginning in 1922 when the Kellenbergers moved into the farmhouse, still without electricity, running water, or central heat. It appears from oral history, documentary photographs, and architectural evidence that the house, originally one-story-with-loft, was made one-and-one-half stories by the addition in the early 1920s of the two dormers. A rear shed was removed and replaced with an addition containing a library and kitchen. … One-story gable-roofed additions were added to the east side to house kitchen and service areas. A second expansion, this one in the 1930s or 1940, consisted of the current frame two-story addition to the back of the house considerably larger than the log house, with rows of-large windows and glazed double doors so ‘we can have the out-of-doors with us.'”

John Kellenberger (1886-1973) was a businessman who came to Greensboro in 1911 from Pennsylvania. He was a successful furniture, real estate and finance executive. May Latham Kellenberger (1893-1978) was born in New Bern; the family moved to Greensboro in 1904, and both of her parents became prominent in business and civic affairs. Together, the Kellenbergers figured among the city’s leaders for five decades.

“Anyone who considers the development of Greensboro from town to city in this century must reckon with the broad influence of John A. Kellenberger. … His interests ranged over the cultural spectrum and his life expressed an ideal of service to community and church … [He] was prominent in the city’s life for more than 60 busy and fruitful years. His influence extended far beyond the city he adopted as his home in 1911. In partnership with his wife of more than 50 years … Mr. Kellenberger demonstrated in his life and benefactions a love of history, a sense of the beautiful in music and the arts. and a devotion of religion.”

— The Greensboro Record, August 12, 1973

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900 Forest Hill Drive: A rare bit of flair in a ’50s split level

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Update: The house sold for $238,000 on May 12, 2017.

The phrases “split level” and “one of a kind” almost never go together. Creativity and flair were of little interest to the great bulk of homebuyers in the ’50s and ’60s. 900 Forest Hill Drive is an exception.

This 1955 split level offers a break from ’50s conformity. The sloping roof gives it an altogether different profile from typical split levels. Even though the interior displays the familiar smaller windows and lower ceilings of post-war style, the home’s horizontal fireplace and built-ins are a break from split-level blandness as well.

The home’s appeal is enduring. The current sellers bought it in 2000 from a couple who had owned it since 1959. It went on the market Friday with an accepted offer in hand. If that deal should fall through, it probably won’t be long before another is in hand. The $237,900 asking price works out to a modest $117 per square foot.

The details: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2,034 square feet, .71-acre lot, Hamilton Forest neighborhood. Last sale: $179,000, June 2000.

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Offers coming quickly in Irving Park, Sunset Hills, Lindley Park

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607 Woodland Drive, asking $999,000, $312/square foot, offer accepted in three days

The spring home-buying season has gotten off to a fast start, particularly in Irving Park, Lindley Park and Sunset Hills. Two Irving Park homeowners have accepted very quick offers.  607 Woodland had been on the market for three days; the asking price of $999,000 works out to an impressive $312 per square foot. 1104 Sunset Drive (asking $569,000) had been on the market just four days before an offer was accepted.

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309 Woodbine Court, asking $394,900, $159/square foot, offer accepted in two days

In Sunset Hills, we have eight current pre-1950 listings, and six of them went under contract in March. 309 Woodbine Court ($394,900) accepted an offer in two days; 1808 Rolling Road ($400,000), seven days; 2206 W. Market ($618,000), nine days.

In Lindley Park, we have six current listings; four went under contract in March. 2611 Sherwood Street ($164,900) had been on the market two days; 803 Longview Street ($264,000), three days; and 2514 Walker Avenue ($225,000), 34 days.

Elsewhere:

  • The hot item in College Hill has been townhomes in the Wafco area. Four came on the market between February 22 and March 16; all four were under contract by March 27.
  • Listings are at premium in the historic districts. Aside from the townhouses under contract, College Hill has only two houses and a Wafco Mills condo on the market. Just four Fisher Park houses are listed, and two are under contract. An offer was accepted on 700 Magnolia Street ($195,000) after two days on the market. In the newly renamed Dunleath Historic District, only four houses are the market, all smaller homes priced $175,000 or lower.
  • The market for classic mansions in Sedgefield is tight and moving at a pace as stately as the homes themselves. Only three older homes are on the market, all at least 4,000 square feet and on the market at least nine months. Prices range from $425,000 to $2.9 million.

Four classic Greensboro homes currently for sale will be open April 1-2

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306 South Mendenhall Street: $355,000, a 1922 College Hill classic. Open Sunday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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3605 Kirby Drive: $299,900, extensively renovated this year in Starmount Forest. Listed on Friday. Open Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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305 South Chapman Street: $299,900, an elegant 1930 Sunset Hills charmer. Open Sunday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
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1808 Independence Road, Kirkwood: $259,500, extensively renovated. Listed on Thursday. Open Sunday 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

 

 

A Guide to Vintage Homes For Sale in Greensboro

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Introducing GSOHistoricHomes.com

Greensboro homebuyers looking for the character and quality of older homes no longer have to search through the hundreds of McMansions and subdivision homes in MLS or Zillow listings to find the classic homes they seek.

GSOHistoricHomes.com brings together real estate listings for pre-1950 homes in Greensboro’s three historic districts, vintage neighborhoods, and the smaller towns and communities in Guilford County.

Highlights of current listings range from an 1852 home on the National Register of Historic Places and a $2.9 million 1935 mansion to affordable fixer-uppers suitable for first-time home buyers.

In addition to Greensboro’s three historic districts — College Hill, Fisher Park and Summit Avenue/Charles B. Aycock — the site includes pages for the classic neighborhoods of Irving Park, Lindley Park, Sedgefield, Sunset Hills and Westerwood. Listings are also included for older homes in other neighborhoods throughout the city. Current listings feature homes in the Asheboro Community, Clinton Heights, Glenwood, Lake Daniel, Latham Park and Southmont neighborhoods.

In Guilford County’s smaller towns and communities, many older homes come with acreage. Listings on the site now include homes in Gibsonville, Julian, Monticello, Pleasant Garden, Sedalia and Whitsett.

Listings are drawn from a variety of sources. Listing agents are encouraged to email their listings of pre-1950 homes in Greensboro and Guilford County to the website. There is no charge to be listed.

GSOHistoricHomes.com is independent and not affiliated with any company or nonprofit. It was created by David Arneke, a longtime resident of College Hill.