Adamsleigh: Demolition Appears Likely for A Great North Carolina Mansion ‘Not Fit for Today’s Lifestyle’

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Update: The philistines have torn it down.

Residents of Sedgefield report seeing crews from a demolition company at work in Adamsleigh, the renowned 30,000 square foot mansion in the golf course community. An article this week in the News & Record indicates that time may have run out for the fabulous house. Built in 1930, it stands with Graylyn in Winston-Salem and Hillside in Greensboro as one of the Piedmont’s grandest mansions. But its new owner wants to build a house, and Adamsleigh is in his way.

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Jason Harris: “It’s not fit for today’s lifestyle.”

The new owner is Jason Harris, a member of the family that owns FurnitureLand South. The News & Record and others have tried to reach him to find out his plans, but he hasn’t been returning calls lately. It’s easy to see why.  The home’s 13-acre lot would seem to provide plenty of room for a new house without tearing down a landmark. Adamsleigh is an irreplaceable piece of history for Sedgefield, for Greensboro and for the state. People who are doing great things usually want to talk about them.

Adamsleigh was built by High Point textile executive John Hampton Adams, one of the founders of Adams-Millis. It had been owned by his descendants since he died in 1935. Harris bought the property for $2.4 million in November 2018. The asking price was $3.895 million. It had been on the market for years.

“It’s not a home that I would want to live in,” Harris is quoted as saying in the News & Record. “It’s not fit for today’s lifestyle.”

Harris has a couple arguments for reducing the historic home to rubble, documented from earlier conversations. One is, basically, that the house was for sale for years and no one bought it so why not tear it down? Also, renovating it would be a monumental and expensive undertaking. It has no air conditioning, there’s asbestos in it, and it’s 30,000 square feet. And, of course, there’s “today’s lifestyle.” Such challenges have been overcome in the restoration of many historic homes, but almost anything can seem impossible to a man who doesn’t want to do it.

map showing lots in Sedgefield, with Adamsleigh on an unusually large one
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All of this begs the question of why Harris bought Adamsleigh. His brother lives next door, but I wonder if it has more to do with the small fortune Harris could gain from redeveloping 13 acres in the heart of Sedgefield. Adamsleigh has the Sedgefield golf course behind it and across the street. It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious golf course communities in the state.

The bigger the houses are and the more space there is between them, the less there is of a feeling of community. The more people lecture about “private property rights,” the less you hear about responsibility. The more money talks, the poorer the community is, even one as rich as Sedgefield.

Video by Jonathan Corbett

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Photo from Fox8
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Photo from TriadMLS

Click here for more Adamsleigh photos

The Adamsleigh Designer Showhouse

In 2013, the Junior League of Greensboro and Traditional Home magazine staged a designer showhouse. “Adamsleigh—a splendid Tudor-style manor house built in 1930 on grounds replete with tennis courts, a caretaker’s cottage, a pond, and two pools—set the style bar high; it challenged a mix of local, regional, and national designers to stretch, to dream big,” the magazine said. The event showed what people with vision and talented designers could do with the home. Traditional Home photos by John Bessler and Peter Rymwid.

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Sold: The 1900 Isaac Dunlap House in Bonlee, a $70,000 Bargain with Much Original Detail Intact

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There’s a lot of work to be done on the Isaac Dunlap House in Bonlee, but there’s also much in the house that couldn’t be replaced and is still intact. The house “has retained nearly every piece of trim, hardware, stunning multicolored glass sashes & original doors … deep baseboards, 5 panel doors, lacy brackets & elaborate sawn balistrades,” the listing said.

The house is in western Chatham County, 1875 Elmer Moore Road. It was bought for $70,000 last week. It has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 3,770 square feet (just $19 per square foot). The lot is 9 acres. It was built around 1900. It’s an amazing house with connections to an interesting time in the history of the area.

While the house is in poor condition, just look at what has survived all these years.

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Note that the roof and the foundation look relatively new. They’re the best investments previous owners could have made, and that’s much of the reason the house has held up so well for so long despite not getting much in the way of other maintenance.

The interior is just as promising.

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The kitchen looks to have received more updating than the rest of the house, which is sad for the kitchen but good for all the other rooms. It’s about what you might expect, though, and there appears to be plenty of room to work with.

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It’s a big old rambling place. Outside, there are a number of outbuildings and a pond.

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The house was built by Isaac Dunlap, timber entrepreneur and a co-founder of the Bonlee community. He also was a founder of the Bonlee and Western short-line railroad, which he and his brother built to haul their timber. Dunlap’s timber salesmen rode around the country free through a customary reciprocal agreement with other railroads. When the head of a much bigger line discovered the Bonlee and Western was just 10 miles long, he wanted to cancel the arrangement. Dunlap reportedly told him his line might be short, but it was just as wide as any other.

Restoration Project of the Week: Dongola House in Yanceyville, “the Most Pretentious Farmhouse of the Piedmont”

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dongola stairs.jpgThe number of grand old houses in Caswell County is amazing, and Dongola House is one of the real gems. “The home is considered the most monumental house in Caswell County and one of the grandest in the Piedmont,” the N.C. State University Library says (Rare and Unique Digital Collections). “Dongola is a two-story, L-shaped brick home, with a tall portico of four Doric columns composed of stuccoed brick.” Multiple internet sources report that some envious person also called it “the most pretentious farmhouse of the Piedmont.”

Dongola stands at 336 W. Main Street in Yanceyville. It’s for sale at an unpretentious $109,000. “Many people believe it will take a fortune to refurbish this palatial home – we have quotes for everything and it will take less than $100K,” Preservation North Carolina says. The organization holds protective covenants on the house. Sadly, there are no current photos of the interior available. There’s a large collection of undated photos on Flickr.

Dongola was built in 1832 by tobacco planter Jeremiah Graves, whose family owned most of what is now Yanceyville. “Tradition has it that he found a name on a map in his Bible showing ‘Dongola’ as a place on the Nile River,” the invaluable Caswell County Historical Society reports. Also known as the Dongola Graves House, it’s a manageable 2,881 square feet on 1.86 acres. I couldn’t find anything listing the number of bedrooms. The county property card says there are four bathrooms, but it also says the house was built in 1965. Dongola now is part of a 15-acre tract owned by an LLC based in Washington state.

“The last of the Graves family to live in the house (Robert Sterling Graves) donated the home and plantation lands to the NC Baptist Association for development into an assisted living facility that served the community well for many years,” the historical society wrote in 2006.

“Since the early 1990’s this property has been owned by various investors in the film industry who have added sound studios that have been used for film production, social events, and a community ministry.” The dream of a film studio in Yanceyville appears to have produced more bankruptcy filings (at least three) than movies (none found on the Internet Movie Database). A more modest dream, like simply restoring one of the Piedmont’s great houses, certainly seems more feasible.

Preservation North Carolina listing

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Photo from the Library of Congress, Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South

Rosemont, 506 W. Hunter Street in Madison: A Grand Old 1911 Mansion, $429,000

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Rockingham County has more than its share of great old houses, and Rosemont in Madison is one of the grandest. The imposing Queen Anne is set well back from a quiet side street on an acre of land at 506 W. Hunter Street. It’s for sale at $429,000.

The 1911 house has four bedrooms and three bathrooms. With 4,800 spacious square feet, Rosemont’s price comes out to a remarkably reasonable $89 per square foot.

The exterior, including the clay-tile roof, could use a little cosmetic work, but the interior is immaculate. A grand porte-cochere stands at the left end of the house, and a large solarium is on the right.  In between are nine fireplaces, hand-laid parquet floors, leaded-glass windows and pocket doors. The property also includes a detached apartment and two-car garage.

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As you might expect, Rosemont’s builder was quite the prosperous fellow. Nathaniel Macon Pickett owned the Madison Building Supply Company and was a co-owner of the first car dealership in town. His collection of more than 300 books was used to establish the first public library in Madison. Pickett was born in 1871 and died at age 58 in 1929. He was originally from Chatham County.

His wife, Cora Johnson Pickett, was born in Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1874. She was a school teacher and a charter member of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She outlived her husband by almost 40 years, dying at age 93 in 1968.

Listing for 506 N. Hunter Street, Madison

Help Restore Nina Simone’s Childhood Home: A Crowdfunding Campaign by the National Trust

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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)

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Photo by Nancy Pierce

102 N. Main Street: Time Runs Out for a Decaying Mansion in Downtown Reidsville

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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.

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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.

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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.

July 18 Auction: A Davie County Property with Connections to Daniel Boone and other More or Less Historic Figures

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[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.

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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.

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