“Nina Simone was one of the most gifted vocalists of her generation, and also one of the most eclectic. Simone was a singer, pianist, and songwriter who bent genres to her will rather than allowing herself to be confined by their boundaries; her work swung back and forth between jazz, blues, soul, classical, R&B, pop, gospel, and world music, with passion, emotional honesty, and a strong grasp of technique as the constants of her musical career.”
Tryon is a little far afield, but here’s a preservation effort worth knowing about: The National Trust for Historic Preservation is staging a crowdfunding campaign to preserve Nina Simone’s childhood home in Tryon.
“Despite its rich history at the root of Simone’s legacy, her childhood home in Tryon sat vacant and neglected following previously unsuccessful preservation efforts. In 2017, when demolition appeared to be the only option, four New York-based artists rallied together and purchased the home so that it could be spared from the wrecking ball.
“Today, with the artists’ guidance, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, is working to develop a rehabilitation plan, perform critical exterior stabilization work, and identify future uses and protection for this National Treasure.”
The campaign has reached its initial goal of $25,000 and is on its way to a stretch goal of $50,000. It’s worth supporting.
Nina Simone Weekend in Raleigh: August 16-18
Also, the North Carolina Museum of Art is planning a series of events to recognize Simone’s talent, legacy and spirit. NCMA is producing the events in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, North Carolina African American Heritage Commission, North Carolina Arts Council, and Come Hear North Carolina (#ComeHearNC)
102 N. Main Street in Reidsville was once a grand house, but in a matter of weeks, it will be turned into a pile of rubble. The city started implementing a demolition order on the house this week. The move follows more than a year of inspections, hearings and efforts to get the owner to do something about the house.
Built in 1910, the house has six bedrooms, three bathrooms and just under 4,000 square feet. The current owner bought in 1991 for $46,000. The demolition ordinance, passed a year ago this week, says it is “dilapidated and unfit for human habitation and constitutes a public health, safety and fire hazard.” The owner received extensions of 90 days and 120 days. Apparently, all he did was try to sell the house for about a month earlier this summer (“Great fixer upper. Make an offer.”). Even at just $28,000, there were no takers. The city has filed papers with the state for asbestos removal; once the removal process is complete, likely in a couple weeks, the house will be torn down.
The house is no longer in a particularly viable location from a residential perspective. It faces one side of the city hall across the street. Only a few of the neighborhood’s original houses remain among the parking lots, commercial buildings and many vacant lots nearby. Still, the house appears to have been used for non-residential purposes before — there’s a brick sign in the front yard, and photos with the real estate listing appeared to show pews and a pulpit in one room. With repairs it could have been given a new purpose, preserving a piece of Reidsville’s history with a sustainable future. But that would have required an investment that the current owner appeared unwilling to make (he showed up at the hearing on the city’s complaint in July 2018 but presented no evidence, and it appears he subsequently made no effort to repair the house).
Homes like this one, and historic structures of all kinds, face a variety of threats. Changing land uses often make the original use of old buildings difficult or unsustainable today. But the biggest threat often comes from owners who have no regard for the value that historic properties offer both the owners themselves and the community.
[Update, July 18, 2019: The winning bid was $225,000.]
The property at 239 Arrowhead Road in Davie County has had connections to a few diverse figures in North Carolina history over the last 271 years. It is the subject of an online auction that will end with a live auction Thursday at 6 p.m. at the property. The auction will be live-streamed for online bidders. So far, the bid stands at $170,000. The house can be seen from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The house has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Period features remain. The current owners “meticulously refurbished the home, paying close attention to restoring the interior,” the listing says. Exterior work wasn’t quite as meticulous; the house now has aluminum siding. HVAC wasn’t a high priority, either. The first floor has two heat pumps. The second has window air-conditioners and electric baseboard heat; the third has no heating or cooling.
Some significant facts about the house are reported variously by different sources. The listing shows the size as 2,733 square feet. County records say it has 3,091 square feet heated and an additional 972 unheated. The listing shows the lot size as 5 acres; county records show it as 12 acres.
Varying dates of the house’s origin have arisen as well. County property records show the house as built in 1913, although historical information provided by the sellers suggests it’s about 100 years older. “The home was built in the same era as the Vogler house was built in Old Salem,” it says. The Vogler House was built around 1819.
The property has a Mocksville mailing address, but it’s actually well to the north, close to where Davie, Forsyth and Yadkin counties meet. It looks to be about halfway between Winston-Salem and Mocksville; Bermuda Run, Clemmons, Lewisville and West Bend are all nearby.
The property includes a barn, a large shed/hangar, an original 1800’s doctor’s office, a gazebo with a repurposed church steeple for a roof, multiple outbuildings and land for an airplane runway (shared with a neighbor, as is a road through the property).
The history of the property, as opposed to the house itself, goes back to 1748, the sellers say. It was part of a 565-acre tract on the Yadkin River granted by Lord Granville to Morgan and Martha Bryan. One of their grand-daughters, Rebecca, married neighbor Daniel Boone in 1756 (the couple lived in Davie County for 10 years before lighting out for the frontier).
In 1840 the property was sold to Dr. John Patillo Clingman, who built the medical office. If the Clingman name is familiar, it’s because of his more prominent brother, Thomas. Nicknamed “Prince of Politcians” (for reasons not obvious), Thomas was a pre-Civil War congressman and U.S. senator and a Confederate general. After the war he measured mountains in western North Carolina; Clingman’s Dome is named for him.
Since the Civil War, when the Union Army occupied the place, history has left the house alone. The current owners bought it in 1980. Davie County’s online records don’t go back that far, so the price is unknown.
There are some remarkable houses for sale in Reidsville and Rockingham County, and 312 S. Main Street in Reidsville may be the most impressive of them. A Queen Anne of high style, beautifully preserved, it would be a standout in any neighborhood.
The house was built in 1890. It sold for just $80,000 in 1995, so the current owners must have done a significant amount of work on it over the years. And they’ve done it beautifully.
The house went on the market last week, listed at $300,000. It has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, 3,626 square feet (an extremely modest $83/square foot). The lot is just under a half-acre. The interior features leaded glass, unpainted woodwork and paneling, and elegant fireplaces.
The bedrooms are spacious, and two have bathrooms en suite.
There’s a guesthouse in the backyard with a kitchen, fireplace and full bathroom.
Trees in the front yard provide a surprising amount of screening from the street. Two small brick offices are across the street, housing a doctor and an insurance agency. The immediate neighbors are First Presbyterian Church to the left, and this little bungalow to the right:
The Dr. J.V. Dick House in Gibsonville is a simple, elegant Queen Anne with a wrap-around porch and front gable. It’s big but not huge, stately but not stuffy. And it does have some history.
The latest chapter began two years ago when longtime preservationist Jerry Nix bought the house and began renovating it. It was a broken down wreck after being empty for more than 15 years. He finished earlier this year and put the house on the market in June. It’s priced at $400,000. It has four bedrooms and two and a half baths. It’s a 2,784 square-foot house ($144/square foot) on a 0.98-acre lot. The address is 515 Church Street.
The renovation kept the period features — pocket doors in the living room, arched doorways, four fireplaces, exterior shutters that still close — while updating the kitchen and bathrooms. The backyard has a large brick patio and a two-car detached garage.
The house was built in 1912 by Dr. Julius Vance Dick and his wife, Blanche Rankin Dick. Dr. Dick practiced in Gibsonville from 1907 until his death in 1941, with a couple years away while serving as an Army surgeon during World War I. He was quite the civic leader — a town alderman, director of the Bank of Gibsonville, member of the American Legion and Masons. After he died, Blanche lived in the house until the mid’50s. From 1959 to 2000, it became the Bartlett Funeral Home.
“The Bartletts did a fair amount of work to the house for its conversion to a funeral home,” The Times-News recalled earlier this year. “A portion of the porch was enclosed, and several interior walls were knocked out to make room for a chapel and visiting area.
“An 1,800-foot addition at the rear made space for services such as embalming. The new portion also included an office and a showroom for coffins.”
There’s no sign of all that any more. Long after the funeral home closed, a tree fell on the addition; the restoration included eliminating about 1,000 square feet of it. The only indication that a business of any sort was there is the expanse of asphalt where the lawn should be one side of the driveway. A new buyer might well want to get rid of that parking area, but otherwise the house is ready to become a home again.
Calling the Twitchell-Gallaway House a “mansion” may not completely do it justice. It has the pedigree of an antebellum mansion, but it’s smaller and less formal than a true, sprawling exemplar of the type. It’s more comfortable, affordable and comes with a lot less overhead.
Located at 107 W. Academy Street in Madison, the house has 3,465 square feet and a 0.4-acre lot, both figures quite at the low end of the mansion scale. At the current price of $259,900, that comes out to $75 per square foot, modest even by the standards of the Piedmont’s smaller towns. Surprisingly, it has been for sale for a year and a half.
The house is a highlight of the National Register’s Academy Street Historic District. The district’s nomination classes it as a “pivotal” structure: “Buildings or properties that are individually outstanding, historically and/or architecturally, and stand as a visual or historic landmark in the community.”
From the outside, it’s an imposing home, an austere structure in the Federal style sitting on a rise above the road. “The oldest house in the district, the 1824 Twitchell-Gallaway House in the Federal-Greek Revival style, constitutes on the exterior the only representative in the district of the Federal style; at the entrance and throughout the interior is some of Madison’s finest detailing in the Greek Revival style,” the district’s nomination states. (Note: Other sources give 1832 as the date of the house.)
“This dwelling, commissioned by town founder Randall Duke Scales for his daughter Elizabeth upon her marriage to Joseph Twitchell, commands a prominent site at the crest of the Academy Street hill. The house is the only nineteenth-century brick structure in the district and one of only two such structures in all of Madison …”
Giving the house further historic stature is woodwork is attributed to the legendary Thomas Day (although the 1980 National Register nomination for the district doesn’t mention him). “In contrast to the exterior, Greek Revival is the sole distinguishing style of the interior,” the nomination says. “Molding with deep channels and corner blocks inscribed with circles embellish all of the doors and windows. The molding of the surrounds is most plastic in the west parlor where they also are decorated with carved anthemion motifs; these motifs also appear on the mantelpiece and in panels beneath the windows in the parlor. Elsewhere the molding of the surrounds is shallower and the mantles simpler in design, except for the delicate east parlor mantlepiece with Ionic columns.”
The house has four bedrooms and two baths. The rooms aren’t remarkably large. The dining room easily holds a table for 10, and the bedrooms are roomy. But everything about the house is on a pretty normal scale, with one exception. The doorway from the dining room to the kitchen appears to have been designed for hobbits. It’s about six feet high at best. The kitchen and a breakfast nook are in a modest 1995 addition at the back of the house.
The most striking room in the house may be the basement. Originally the dining room and kitchen, it now serves as a family room. With exposed floor joists above and a brick floor, it’s a particularly informal, comfortable room. It opens out to a patio. The basement also has a full bathroom and a semi-enclosed bar area.
Madison is a small town (population 2,246 in the last census) in western Rockingham County. U.S. highways 220 and 311 run through it, making the town about 30 minutes by car from downtown Greensboro and about 40 to downtown Winston-Salem. It’s a reasonable commute if you’re looking for the quiet of a small town and home with real historic stature at a relatively affordable price.
In the early decades of the nation’s history, Caswell County was one of North Carolina’s most prosperous and prominent counties. Long beyond living memory, though, its fortunes crashed. Now, about all that’s left of its glory years are some truly impressive houses, scattered here and there from Camp Springs and Cherry Grove up to Milton and Semora.
The Moore-Gwyn-Ewalt House in the Locust Hill area is a beautiful example of Caswell’s glorious past — 6,226 square feet of Federal-style elegance on 200 unspoiled acres. The house was built in 1790; considerable square footage is in the form of two well-designed wings built in 1995. It was listed June 1 at $1.75 million. The address is 5869 U.S. Highway 158. Situated southwest of Yanceyville and close to N.C. 150, it’s within a relatively easy commute to Greensboro.
“The severe exterior appearance of the Moore House contrasts with the rich Federal motifs which appear throughout the interior,” the National Register nomination states. “The treatment of the raised basement of the Moore House as a visually integral feature of the structure by means of matching exterior architectural detail is atypical of Caswell County and is one of the major factors in the imposing appearance of the house. The Moore House is one of the best preserved and most handsome houses of the Federal era in the northern Piedmont of North Carolina.”
The house sits well back from the road. It has four bedrooms and three full and two half bathrooms. There are nine fireplaces, eight wood-burning and one with gas logs. The beautiful moldings and mantels are well displayed in the listing’s photos, several of which are below. The property includes formal boxwood gardens, a fenced garden, a pool and a pond. Near the house, a screened-in summer house stands between the two fireplaces of the original detached kitchen, which burned in 1942. An early 19th-century saddlebag cabin, originally slave quarters, serves as a guesthouse. The 1995 additions by the current owners were built with the approval of Preservation North Carolina, which holds a preservation easement on the house.
The property was listed to the National Register in 1973 through the efforts of then-owner Miss Annie Yancey Gwynn. According to the nomination, tobacco planter Samuel Moore bought the land in 1785, and the house is believed to have been built around 1790. Moore at one time owned at least 1,000 acres in the area. Although the real-estate listing notes the local lore of the house possibly having been designed by Thomas Jefferson, the National Register nomination doesn’t mention him (spoil-sport historians).
In the 1850s, the property was owned by George Swepson, son-in-law of Bartlett Yancey, one of the grand figures in Caswell’s history. (Swepson later became a Reconstruction-era bigshot and namesake of Swepsonville in Alamance County, where he built a textile mill. Sadly, he came to ruin in a railroad-bond scandal.)
Rufus Stamps bought the property from Swepson in 1858, and it remained in his family until 1942, when Annie bought it. The house hadn’t been lived in for 25 years and was being used as a barn. She restored it and got it onto the National Register. She lived there for many years; she died in 1985 at age 94, God bless her.
Annie was born in Caswell County in 1891 and attended Greensboro Female College, now Greensboro College (her last name is sometimes reported as “Gwyn”; although her middle name was Yancey, I couldn’t find any genealogical connection between her and Bartlett Yancey). She worked as a school teacher and then trained as a nurse. Annie served as an Army nurse in France during World War I and later worked as a nurse in Washington.
“On a visit to Caswell County in 1942 she bought a 179-year-old house that had been her ‘dream house’ since early childhood,” according to The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, edited by Jeannine D. Whitlow. “The house was then almost in ruins. Much work was needed to restore the old Moore-Gwyn House.
“Upon retirement from nursing, Annie Yancey Gwyn came back to her native Caswell County and her ‘dream house’ and with vigor and vitality she started the task of creating a home out of the ancient ‘crone’ of a house. With some hired help she attacked the jungle of weeds and honeysuckles, mountains of junk, and started restoring the three story old brick house and the tenant houses. After many years of hard work and tender loving care she made a monument of beauty and memories from a scrap pile.”