The number of historic homes for sale has contracted sharply in recent months, along with the rest of the market, but one still robust category is National Register properties in Guilford County. There are three for sale, and 204 E. Railroad Avenue in Gibsonville is by far the most affordable. At $425,000, the price comes out to a modest $120 per square foot.
“The Francis Marion Smith House, erected in 1898, is the most stylish and impressive residence in Gibsonville surviving from the 1890-1910 period that witnessed the town’s major growth,” its National Register nomination says. “The two-and-a-half-story frame house combines elements of the Colonial Revival and Queen Anne styles, including an elaborate program of classical trim and turned ornament.”
Not surprisingly, given its location and date, it’s associated with the Whitsett Institute and family, arguably the most prominent family of its day in eastern Guilford County. “It is one of three notable late nineteenth and early twentieth residences associated with the Whitsett Institute, a boarding secondary school and junior college in the Whitsett community near Gibsonville. The three houses (one of which has already been listed in the National Register) are among the finest houses combining Colonial Revival and Queen Anne style elements in eastern Guilford County.”
The Wray-Rainey-Webster House was the home of two major 19th-century leaders in Reidsville. Now for sale at $350,000, it’s a significant and well preserved piece of history in Reidsville’s Old Post Road Historic District and National Register historic district. The address is 716 S. Main Street.
“Believed to be one of the oldest houses surviving in the district, this two-story frame residence has changed hands more than most of the pivotal houses, and its original location was some one hundred yards to the south on the present site of the Hugh Reid Scott [House],” the district’s Nation Register nomination says. The Honorable Mr. Scott owned the house for a time, as did John Webster, congressman and crusading editor of Webster’s Dollar Weekly.
Some historic neighborhoods and rural communities are fortunate enough to still have buildings that once housed corner grocery stores or other retail businesses. The buildings come up for sale occasionally, and there are now four historic properties for sale in the Triad that feature former stores as homes or outbuildings. For the most part, there are relatively few available details about the structures themselves and the businesses they housed. But there are at least a few facts known about all but one.
2401 Urban Street in Winston-Salem was built to be a neighborhood grocery store with an apartment upstairs. 400 W. Main Street in Reidsville may not have been designed with a residence in mind, but it has provided a location for a business and a home for its owner as far back as 1959. The Robert G. Mitchell Store in Wentworth was built in 1900 and is barely standing, an unsound building with no heat or electricity. At 3405 Maple Avenue in Burlington, the tiny old store behind the house is a mystery.
Greensboro landlord James Dutton owned 13 rental houses when he died last month. All have been put up for sale at once with a total asking price of almost $5 million. Nine are in the College Hill Historic District. All were built between about 1896 and 1926, and all were originally single-family houses, split into apartments decades ago. Except for two houses on North Cedar Street, they’re close to UNCG.
Among them are relatively simple Queen Annes, Queen Anne-Colonial Revivals and Foursquares. One suffered a fire in 1992, leaving only the exterior intact; the interior had to be entirely rebuilt (that was before James Dutton bought it). Some were previously owned by Dutton’s parents, Herman Clarence Dutton and Agnes B. Dutton, going back as far as 1939. Two were bought in 2021.
The houses are listed for sale separately. Any could be returned to single-family residences, and many could be very impressive. Most of the prices are relatively high for restoration projects, but they’re also high for rental properties in their respective neighborhoods, particularly considering Dutton’s evident, decades-long disinterest in maintenance and investment. Only two of the houses have central air conditioning, according to county property tax records (and at least one already had it when Dutton bought it). Eleven of the 13 are painted white. Some are listed with more apartments than bathrooms, according to county records; some bathroom additions may not have been reported for property-tax purposes.
The Holt family is one of the most prominent in the history of Alamance County and of North Carolina as well. Charles T. Holt was a third-generation member of the textile family, and the mansion he built is quite the monument to the Holts’ stature.
“The Charles T. Holt House, the most ornate nineteenth century mansion in Alamance County, is located in the town of Haw River overlooking the Granite Mills complex, on twenty-five acres of lawn, grazing pasture, and farm land,” the property’s National Register nomination states.
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.
I’m not sure what the cutoff is for “affordable” these days when it comes to buying a home. What I do know is that older homes are becoming more unaffordable every day, like every other sort of home. So it caught my eye when a little group of at least relatively affordable homes popped up this week. They’ll probably sell quickly — one already has, in a single day — but their appearance on the market does confirm that such houses exist.
None of these appear to require major restoration work. They’re all essentially move-in ready, as far as one can judge from the listings. They’re mostly smaller places in smaller towns. For the moment, at least, these look like the best opportunities for buyers looking for affordable historic homes in the Piedmont Triad.
It’s a sign of the times that the Haywood House went up for sale May 8, and the sellers accepted an offer four days later. Nineteenth-century mansions that need “a little updating and TLC” can linger for months before just the right buyer comes along. But these are still not ordinary times, and the Haywood House is no ordinary home.
Built in 1802, it’s a Classical Revival mansion with four monumental columns out front. It has four bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms (one with a fireplace in what must have originally been a bedroom) in 4,330 square feet (per county records; the listing shows 4,800). That divides out to a very modest $81 per square foot. The once-sprawling grounds have been reduced to a manageable 10 acres. The property is a few miles east of Mount Gilead in the Uwharrie National Forest. The address is 2989 Thickety Creek Road.
The Ernest Nissen House is one of the most striking and historic homes in the Waughtown-Belville Historic District, and this is the entire description in its new for-sale listing: “PROPERTY HAS NO PERMANENT HEATING.” May St. Joseph protect it, because the owner and listing agent don’t appear to care much what happens to it.
The house is associated with the Nissen family and the more than 100-year history of the Nissen Wagon Works just down the street. It’s listed at $189,900. It needs cosmetic work, but a surprising amount of interior detail has survived.
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.