The City of Gibsonville has issued a demolition permit for the Joseph Bason Whitsett House, an 1883 mansion built by the patriarch of the nearby town that bears the family’s name. The Whitsett House is on the north side of U.S. 70 just east of N.C. 61; the address is 7241 Burlington Road. It’s easily recognizable by the cellar built into a hill at the front of the property.
The property was bought in January by Ardmore Gibsonville LLC, a unit of Ardmore Residential of Greensboro. The Business Journal (paywall) reports the company plans to build 335 apartments on the site. A Gibsonville city official confirmed today that a demolition permit has been issued for the house.
North Carolina’s brilliant mid-century Modernist houses are frequently endangered and often torn down, largely because buyers, sellers and realtors often do not realize the importance of how to identify, preserve and protect these livable works of art. You can’t save something if you don’t know where it is and why it is important.
This tour supports NCModernist, an award-winning nonprofit digital archive for owners, students, journalists, researchers, real estate agents, historians, preservationists, architects and architecture fans to protect and preserve the state’s Modernist houses. With documentation on over 5,000 houses, NCModernist is an unrivalled resource for Modernist research and preservation.
Update: By March 1, three of these houses were under contract.
The best place in the Triad to find an affordable starter or smaller home these days may be in the area’s smaller towns (actually, this may always be true). Here are five move-in ready bungalows and cottages priced under $200,000 and two more priced just a bit more.
The houses are spread out from Mount Airy to Ramseur. All but one were listed since January 1. They were built between 1900 and 1948. One is a stone cottage, one has remarkable brickwork. One is now an Airbnb short-term rental, none are restoration projects. Several have pretty substantial lots, up to just under an acre.
Update: Eight of the houses had sold by March 30, 2023. The other owner had accepted three offers but all had fallen through by the end of March. Two of the houses were put on sale again at higher prices within three weeks of their closings.
Is something going on? The real estate market slowed to a crawl late last year, but it looks like spring might be quite a bit busier. Nine historic homes listed since January 30 are already under contract. The properties include a stately $950,000 home in Winston-Salem’s Buena Vista neighborhood and a $50,000 restoration project in Thomasville, a 1918 bungalow in Greensboro’s Fisher Park Historic District and a 1972 Mid-Century Modern home at the Bermuda Run Country Club.
Twenty-two homes have been added to the site in the last 10 days, so it’s not like everything out there is being grabbed up in just a few days. But the pace does seem to be picking up, right in the middle of winter. Here, in no particular order, are the nine new listings suddenly spoken for:
Update: All 13 houses were sold on April 28, 2023, for a total of $2.21 million. The buyer is a landlord that owns 30 other properties in Greensboro.
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.
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.
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.
A sign of the times: 137 N. Spring Street in Winston-Salem was listed for sale January 21. The price was $499,000. The sellers accepted an offer four days later. The sale then closed in 16 days. The buyers paid $552,500, more than 10 percent above the asking price.
It’s a great house — built in 1906, located in the Holly Avenue Historic District, beautifully designed and impeccably restored. Still, though, that sale went through at nearly the speed of light in terms of home sales, and even just a few years ago that almost ever happened. Now, it does. A $1.6 million mansion in Greensboro’s Irving Park went from listing to closing in 10 days this month, also selling at a premium to the asking price.
The town of Whitsett was named for the Whitsett Institute, a school for boys founded by the son of early settler Joseph Whisett. The family homestead has stood in the small eastern Guilford County town since 1883, but it may need some luck to remain standing much longer. The house and its surrounding 11 acres are for sale at $1.3 million. A hopeful sign: The owners have listed it as a residential property, even though it has been used as a financial firm’s office for many years. A less hopeful sign: They’ve also listed it as a commercial property, “11.3 Acres of Improved Commercial Land for Sale”:
“Prime development opportunity along the I-40/I-85 corridor in the fast-growing E. Guilford and W. Alamance market,” the listing reads. “Two properties consist of an office building on 11 acres and a vacant tract of 67 acres. Highest and best use is mixed use residential consisting of apartments, townhomes and SF lots.”
And, oh, by the way, “Beautiful Victorian House built in the 1880s is currently used as office.”
212 Florence Street is a little worse for wear after more than 100 years. Still, its Craftsman features are intact, and now it has a chance for a new lease on life. The Preservation Greensboro Development Fund is seeking a buyer to restore the house to its original use as a single-family residence. It was divided into three apartments decades ago.
It’s a great opportunity for anyone who would love to restore a historic home. And as a contributing structure in the National Register Fisher Park Historic District, it’s eligible for historic-rehabilitation tax credits. The house will be sold subject to a rehabilitation agreement and a preservation easement to ensure the structure and its distinctive features are returned to good condition and converted back to a single-family residence.