Houses don’t come up for sale that often in Old Salem, but the Belo-Stockton House is available again for the second time in about 10 months. The previous owners put the house on the market last December and accepted an offer in three days. They were able to close the sale in less than a month, even with the intervening holidays. I guess the buyer had no trouble getting a mortgage. It was an LLC belonging to L.M. Baker Jr., the former chairman of Wachovia.
It’s almost irresistible to linger over our shared memories of Mr. Baker — for those too young to remember, he typically went by his nickname, “Bud,” which rhymes with “mud” — but let’s not let his presence distract us from this wonderful house.
Priced at $440,000 this time, the house has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms in 2,100 square feet ($210/square foot, right about the going rate for top-of-the-line historic houses in the most desirable neighborhoods). Pictures included in the listing suggest the interior and exterior are close to impeccable.
Two rooms in particular stand out. There’s a first-floor bathroom that might have been a bedroom originally. It’s dominated by a very large and ultra-modern shower that provides a striking contrast to the rest of the house. The other is the kitchen, which has been modernized while retaining the most characteristic features of its original design — a fireplace and open shelves instead of cabinets — to a far greater degree than usual in renovated kitchens. More details on the design and history of the house are below.
Digression: About “Bud” Baker
Winston-Salem residents and Wachovia shareholders will remember Baker — in fact, will never forget him — as the visionary genius who engineered the bank’s 2001 merger with First Union, the banking-industry equivalent to the Titanic’s maiden voyage. First Union had a well-deserved reputation for chaotic, risky and sometimes disastrous acquisitions. A more stable and respected bank — though, compared to First Union, who wasn’t? — offered more for Wachovia, but Baker stuck with First Union.
Some 1,300 Wachovia employees in Winston-Salem lost their jobs as a result of the merger. Baker, as you might expect, wasn’t one of them. He strolled away with $1.5 million-a-year retirement. He ultimately described the merger as “a brilliant strategic move that ultimately failed.”
The combined bank, naturally, took Wachovia’s much more distinguished name even though it was being run (into the ground) by First Union’s people. In its Wachovia disguise, First Union elevated its acquisition history from bad to catastrophic . So, when the markets collapsed in 2008, it was the once honorable Wachovia brand that suffered the most devastating and humiliating — and in true First Union style, chaotic — bank failure since the Depression.
313 S. Main Street, Old Salem
The Belo-Stockton House
- 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 2,100 square feet
- Price/square foot: $210
- Built in 1875
- Listed September 9, 2021
- Last sale: $385,000, January 2021
- District NRHP nomination: “… John Levin Belo constructed his house on the northern half of Lot 83 (brother of Edward Belo … 455 S. Main St.). The house is commonly associated with Tilla Stockton, a music teacher who taught lessons in her home and at Salem College.”
- “Set back from the street by a shallow yard with picket fence, the Italianate house is a one and one-half story common bond (5:1) brick building. The side gable roof (wood shingle) has open eaves with exposed rafter and purlin ends. There are two interior brick chimneys with corbelled caps.”
- “The symmetrical five-bay façade features a prominent centered entry-bay portico with chamfered posts and turned balustrade. It shelters a double-leaf door with large two-light transom and sidelights.
- “From a low concrete retaining wall at the sidewalk, three concrete steps lead to four wide wood steps which access the portico. Centered above the portico is a gabled wall dormer with narrow glazed doors set in a round arch, which open onto the flat porch roof. This basic configuration is repeated in simpler form on the rear elevation.”
- “First floor windows are large light four-over-four sash. The upper gable ends have four-over-four sash windows at the second floor level and are flanked by four-light casement attic windows. All sash windows are hung with louver shutters.”