3307 Gaston Road is one of Edward Lowenstein’s “Commencement Houses,” the three homes designed by Lowenstein and his students when he taught at the Women’s College (which had become UNCG by the time this one, the third, was built). Two of the houses still stand, and this one in Sedgefield is now for sale at $765,000.
The house is a Mid-Century Modern classic. The entrance hall has a 17-foot high wall of windows. There are large windows throughout the house, an open staircase and minimal ornamentation. At the back, a second-floor deck provides a view of the Sedgefield Country Club golf course. The house sits well back from the street in a forested landscape. The kitchen is modern but maintains its strikingly 1950s look.
The 1965 Commencement House has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms in 4,088 square feet ($187/square foot). The lot is 1.6 acres on the second fairway of the golf course. Various rooms offer views of other holes on the course. The house is for sale by owner, so it shows up in few online listings. For more on the house, click here for the home’s website.
Lowenstein and the Commencement Houses
The Commencement Houses involved two of Greensboro’s major creative figures of the 1950s. Gregory Ivy was a significant character in the history of the Women’s College as the innovative founder and chairman of the department of art. He also founded what is now the Weatherspoon Art Museum. Edward Lowenstein was originally from Chicago and graduated from MIT. He had come to Greensboro, his wife’s hometown, in 1946 to launch an architecture practice. It quickly became a success. Lowenstein was a brilliant architect, and it couldn’t have hurt that his mother-in-law was Laura Weill Cone, a major Greensboro civic figure and wife of Julius Cone (he worked with his older brothers Moses and Caesar in the family business). In 1957, Ivy engaged Lowenstein with a typically bold idea: to teach an undergraduate design course that would entail the design and construction of a house.
“Twenty-three female students designed a house, oversaw its construction, and decorated the resulting structure, dubbed the Commencement House by the University’s public relations office,” N.C. Modernist relates. “The Greensboro Daily News proclaimed the house ‘as modern as tomorrow,’ hailing the women who designed it as pioneers, reporting that ‘they are the first pupils outside the schools of architecture to attempt the complete designing and building of a house.'”
Lowenstein and another class of students built a second house in 1959. The third and final Commencement House was built with 22 students in 1964-65, the Herbert and Nancy Downs Smith House in Sedgefield. Herbert was general manager of Cummins Diesel Carolina. Nancy was with WUNC-TV.
“Nancy Downs, hostess for the WUNC-TV show Potpourri, had covered the 1958 Commencement House and had her eyes on being the next Commencement House client,” N.C. Modernist says. The Smiths owned the house until 1986.
For more on the house and Lowenstein, click here for the home’s website.
3307 Gaston Road, Sedgefield, Guilford County
The Herbert and Nancy Downs Smith House
also known as Commencement House III
- 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 4,088 square feet, 1.6 acres (figures per county)
- Price/square foot: $187
- Built in 1965
- Listed April 5, 2022
- Last sale: $359,000, October 2009
- Neighborhood: Sedgefield