A 1955 Mid-Century Masterpiece in Greensboro, $1.099 Million

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Mid-Century Modern never generated any great mass appeal among mainstream home buyers. It’s too out-there for the typical family. And you won’t find a Mid-Century home much further out there than 3905 Henderson Road in Greensboro’s remarkable Hamilton Lakes neighborhood. The house is for sale at $1.099 million. The price has been reduced a bit since it was listed (originally $1.195 million), but it’s still $384 per square foot, a rather breath-taking price for any type of house in Greensboro.

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The 1955 home has everything you think of with Mid-Century design — lots of glass that brings the indoors and outdoors together, modern materials, sleek lines, flat roofs and an ultra-clean, uncluttered look. More than 60 years after it was built, it still looks as “modern” as the day it was finished. The house has 4 bedrooms and three bathrooms, 2,886 square feet on a lot of 0.4 acre.

Designed by Thomas Hayes for his college roommate, it’s known as the Will and Diane Howard House (Hayes and Howard went to N.C. State). “Their home featured a flat roofline and solid wood and brick exterior walls that alternated with voids of glass,” Benjamin Briggs of Preservation Greensboro wrote. “Interior spaces were austere, featuring areas of terrazzo and carpet coupled with masonry and textured walls. Unusual details include clerestory windows located between ceiling joists and a copper hood above the fireplace. True to the style, public spaces are logically separated from private as the form of the house is dictated by the function of spaces. Form follows function.”

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The Howards sold the house in 1967. Eventually, it fell on hard times, so hard it was included on the N.C. Modernist endangered list in 2013. Then, it was bought and restored by the current owners, Liz and Mike Felsen. The house “has been completely restored to its former glory w/open floor plan, sleek lines, walls of glass, original terrazzo floors, 6 outdoor terraces & 2-story Casita. Completely rebuilt by Gary Jobe [a prominent Greensboro builder], preserving almost everything in the original 1955 plan,” the listing says.

The reconstruction addressed “long-term challenges related to materials, drainage, and sustainability,” Briggs wrote. “It retains its original H-shaped plan and honors the scope, scale and materials of the initial design.”

The casita was a later addition, beautifully complementing the original. It could serve as a mother-in-law suite, if you have a really sophisticated mother-in-law.

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Mid-Century Modern continues to have an enthusiastic following. We’ve tracked 18 sales of Mid-Century homes in the Piedmont this year, and six sold at or above their asking prices. The Howard house is the most spectacular of the recently available Mid-Century homes in the area. There are few chances to buy such a remarkable example of the style.

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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

Historic House of the Week: The Twitchell-Gallaway House, an 1824 Federal-Greek Revival Mansion in Madison, $259,900

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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.

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There’s wavy old glass in the windows, a feature a smartphone’s camera doesn’t quite capture.

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 …”

107 w. academy street light-ceiling.jpgGiving 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.

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One of the two bathrooms is at the end of the front hallway.
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The front parlor has a seating area and work space for one of the owners.
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Watch your head going into the kitchen. The dining room’s interior window looks into the breakfast nook.
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The dining room fireplace

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The microwave and dishwasher are neatly tucked in on the left.

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The spacious basement bathroom

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