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

2019 List of Endangered Historic Properties Includes ‘Greensboro’s Grandest House’

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Adamsleigh, one of North Carolina’s most remarkable homes, now has an owner who may choose to tear it down.

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 most notable property on the list may be Adamsleigh, the colossal 15,000 square foot mansion in Sedgefield. It was bought last year by Jason Harris, an owner of Furnitureland South. “Rumors swirl on whether the new owner will focus on a preservation strategy for the property or destruction of the manor,” Benjamin Briggs of Preservation Greensboro writes.

Here are some of the other historic homes on the list:

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East Greensboro’s rich collection of Mid-Century Modern homes: “Though still remarkably intact, these resources are fragile and endangered because their importance is not widely known and celebrated in Greensboro.” Preservation Greensboro and the City of Greensboro are working on that.

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The three structures on the Southside Triangle Block: “As the neighborhood surrounding these important buildings has been redeveloped, lack of investment in the structures has resulted in severe deterioration.”

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Nelson Station, 903 Bluford Street, an important early example of N.C. A&T faculty housing and one of the oldest African American historic sites in Greensboro: “As neighborhood land values continue to decline, A&T is taking the opportunity to expand its campus north across the street. The current campus master plan calls for the streetscape to be destroyed and replaced with green space.”

The entire list is worth reading: Preservation Greensboro’s 2019 Watch List

Classic Homes of the Week: 2 Mid-Century Modern Houses at Opposite Ends of the Price Spectrum

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1611 Longfellow Street in O. Henry Oaks, a modest little Mid-Century Modern classic

[Update: 1611 Longfellow sold for $95,000, a $6,000 premium to its asking price, on May 15, 2018. 105 Falkener Drive sold for $312,000 on August 13, 2018.]

Most people tend to think of Mid-Century Modern as a high-end home style with exalted prices, found in exclusive neighborhoods like Irving Park and Hamilton Lakes. That’s often true, but not always. Two mid-century modern homes have come up for sale in Greensboro recently, and one does fit that profile. The other certainly doesn’t.

Every now and then you find a smaller, more basic Mid-Century Modern home in an affordable neighborhood. 1611 Longfellow Drive is an excellent example. Built in 1956, it has three bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms, 1,175 square feet. It came on the market at $89,900, $77 per square foot, last week (the day after I posted a blog entry about classic starter homes — this would have been a great one to include). It’s in O. Henry Oaks in east Greensboro, a nice 1950s neighborhood of brick homes.

It has the classic mid-century look — horizontal, angular, unadorned (look at those floors, though) — but it’s simpler architecturally and smaller than the high-end masterpieces that get so much attention (well deserved). The N.C. Modernist website suggests the design may have come from a plan book.

It’s by far the most interesting house for sale under $100,000 right now.

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Meanwhile, in another part of town …

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105 Falkener Drive in Hamilton Lakes, the rich cousin of 1611 Longfellow

… there’s 105 Falkener Drive in Hamilton Lakes, also relatively new on the market. It’s priced at $357,000. Three bedrooms, two bathrooms — not that much different from 1611 Longfellow, so far — but more than twice the size (2,574 square feet) and on a much larger, wooded lot. Built in 1958, it started out as a more luxurious house, and it’s been suitably renovated by the current owners. As high-end homes go, it’s a good buy at $137 per square foot.

Mid-Century Modern is not for everyone. A lot of people don’t find it especially comfortable, cozy or homey. It’s an aesthetic for people who think in terms of aesthetics. That’s why there were thousands of brick ranches and split-levels built in the ’50s and ’60s for every Mid-Century home. But if the style suits you, Greensboro is a good place to find it, and not just at the high end.

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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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