Sold: A 1920 Craftsman Bungalow in Greensboro That Might Best Be Called The Nina Riggs House

The Craftsman bungalow at 506 N. Mendenhall Street is a standout on one of the most interesting blocks of one of Greensboro’s most interesting neighborhoods. It was sold recently for $650,000, more than twice its price 12 years ago. In its 102-year history, the home’s most notable resident may have been one of its most recent.

Westerwood was built out mostly in the 1920s and ’30s, just west of downtown on the north side of Market Street. The neighborhood is notable for its consistently attractive and diverse architecture. The majestic Double Oaks mansion stands near the head of North Mendenhall, with a collection of more modest bungalows, foursquares and a few Spanish Colonials and Prairie-style homes, many quite striking, arrayed down the rolling streets toward Lake Daniel Park. There’s even an outstanding Mid-Century Modern mansion overlooking the park on East Lake Drive, well hidden among the tress on what was probably the neighborhood’s last lot to be built upon.

506 N. Mendenhall is an impeccable and relatively large 1920 bungalow with a recently added two-car garage that includes a new master suite behind it and an additional room above. The windows are particularly interesting, mostly nine-over-one, with a set of similar nine-pane casement windows on three sides of one bedroom (the addition has harmonious but less elaborate four-over-ones).

The first floor has lost a wall, creating a more open family room and kitchen. The house has four bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms in 3,233 square feet. That comes out to $201 per square foot, a price almost unimaginable in Westerwood before the current market run-up. The lot is spacious third of an acre.

Nina Riggs

Unless there’s a more lyrical identifier, like “Double Oaks,” houses tend to be named after their original owners, sometimes along with another notable or long-tenured owner. But 506 North Mendenhall may be known from now on simply as the Nina Riggs House. She and her husband, attorney John Duberstein, bought the house in 2010. Much has been written and deserves to be read about Nina Riggs. Her spare Wikipedia entry:

Nina Ellen Riggs (March 29, 1977 – February 26, 2017)[1] was an American writer and poet. Her best known work is her memoir, The Bright Hour,[2] detailing her journey as a mother with incurable breast cancer. It was published shortly after her death. The book received critical acclaim.[3][4][5][6] Riggs also contributed an article to New York Times series Modern Love.[7]

“Riggs was born in San Francisco, California.[1] She was the great-great-great granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson.[4] She received a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master of fine arts degree in poetry from UNC at Greensboro.[1]

“Riggs was married to John Duberstein, an attorney with whom she had two sons. They lived in Greensboro, North Carolina.[1]

The footnotes offer a sample of the praise she and her work received, God bless her.

The First 43 Years

Oliver Leslie “Ollie” Grubbs (1881-1957) and Alice White Grubbs (1887-1964) bought the property in 1920 and were listed at the address in 1921. Ollie was a real-estate lawyer and an official of Southern Mortgage Loan & Land Company. They lost the house to foreclosure in 1928.

Jane Gilkeson Wilson (1889-1979) bought the house out of foreclosure in 1930 and owned it for 33 years. Her name alone was on the deed, although the name of her husband, Lawrence White Wilson (1887-1951), was on the mortgage along with hers. They had been married since 1912. Lawrence was a salesman for the Greensboro Motor Car Company, which sold Buick cars, GMC trucks and Frigidaire appliances (GM owned Frigidaire from 1919-1979).

Jane sold the house in 1963, and there’s a curious contrast between the two deeds. On the 1930 deed, Jane was identified as “Jane G. Wilson” with no indication of her marital status; on the 1963 deed, she was “Mrs. L.W. (Jane Gilkeson) Wilson, Widow.” So, in 1930 she was an individual in her own right, but in 1963 she was defined by her relationship to her husband. That’s a curious regression.

506 N. Mendenhall Street, Greensboro

  • Sold for $650,000 on May 11, 2022 (originally $675,000)
  • 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms, 3,233 square feet, 0.34 acre
  • Price/square foot: $201
  • Built in 1920
  • Listed March 11, 2022
  • Last sale: $300,000, November 2010
  • Neighborhood: Westerwood

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