Maybe it’s time to take another look at Eden. I drove up there recently to visit the Central Leaksville Historic District, particularly to take a drive-by look at 527 Patrick Street. Gorgeous neighborhood, gorgeous house, and amazingly affordable. After an afternoon wandering around town, I came away wondering if the town might be the Triad’s best undiscovered place for affordable historic homes.
County records list 527 Patrick as being built in 1920, but that would be way late for a Queen Anne like this. The historic district’s National Register nomination gives a more likely 1886 date. The house has three bedrooms and three bathrooms in 2,456 square feet. The listing’s pictures show the house to be in very good condition. The lot is 0.57 acre. It’s priced at $219,900, $90 per square foot. That’s a fabulous price compared to what a similar house would cost in, say, one of the historic districts in Greensboro or Winston-Salem.
There are only four National Register properties for sale in the Piedmont right now (that I know of, at least, plus one under contract), but they represent a wide variety, particularly in size and price. There’s the small and unforgettable Villa Fortuna in Reidsville, just 1,500 square feet and $99,900 (needs some work). And then there’s Boxwood Lodge in Davie County, 9,300 square feet and $3.45 million (needs nothing but your $3.45 million).
Boxwood was built in 1934 and has been a B&B since 1995. The listing says a $5 million renovation was completed in 2007. The house is set on 51 mostly wooded acres near the Yadkin River, It has eight bedrooms, six full bathrooms and two half-baths in 9,304 square feet (according to county records). That comes to a remarkable $371 per square foot. But, then, it’s a remarkable house.
Update: The house sold for $131,000 on June 26, 2020, $13,000 over the asking price. The owners accepted the offer May 30, two days after putting the house up for sale.
Caswell County has some of the grandest antebellum mansions in the state. The John Johnston House is something quite different and more rare. “Though members of the Johnston family were prominent in social and economic affairs in Caswell County from the eighteenth century onward, the significance of the house derives less from the specific historical contributions of its occupants than from its representation of a class of plantation residence that has rarely been preserved,” the home’s 1997 National Register nomination says.
The Jennings-Baker House, also known as Villa Fortuna, is one of the most affordable National Register properties you’re likely to see. Accordingly, it also needs more work than most National Register properties. It’s not a complete wreck, though, and some of its charm has stood up to the years very well.
The brick exterior is notably elaborate. The National Register nomination calls Villa Fortuna a distinctive and vernacular mix of styles — Gothic Revival, Italianate and more — that were popular in the mid-19th century. The current real estate listing says it’s simply “the perfect blend of unpretentious elegance and a rustic urban farm,” although even an urban farmer might want more than the villa’s half acre.
Update: The auction didn’t result in a sale, and the jail was taken off the market in December 2019. The other two houses were sold in the summer of 2020.
Davie County’s original jail was built in Mocksville in 1839, three years after the county was established. Now it’s the centerpiece of an online auction of five properties all on the same downtown corner. Prospective buyers can bid on the properties separately or all of them together.
The jail is the centerpiece. It housed the county’s most armed and dangerous for 70 years and then became a residence. The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. In 2001 the current owner bought it and converted it to office use.
Update: Amazingly, the house didn’t sell until July 2020, for $172,500.
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.