204 N Dillard Street
Owner: Keelee MacPhee
204 North Dillard represents one of the truly great success stories of historic preservation in Durham. Built during Durham’s manufacturing and tobacco boom in the late 1890’s, the two-story Queen Anne structure at the northeast corner of Dillard and Liberty was once the proud home of merchants and mayors, and part of Durham’s “Mansion Row”. Edward Hackney, elected mayor in 1881, lived here until his death in 1903, as did his grandson Charlie Markham, who held the office 100 years later.
In the late 1960’s Urban Renewal advocates set their sights on this area, intending to clear every structure in the neighborhood from downtown east to the railroad tracks. According to Open Durham, Charlie Markham helped galvanize efforts to protect the structures on the east side of Dillard and in the area now known as the Cleveland-Holloway National Register Historic District. Despite his efforts, by the mid 1970’s the Markham family properties at 204 and 206 North Dillard were the only surviving remnants of Mansion Row. All told, Markham family members lived in the house for nearly 80 years. Mr. Markham moved to a rest home in 2005, leaving his estate in the hands of Preservation Durham, who placed protective covenants on the property and offered it for sale.
Enter Keelee MacPhee, UNC graduate and plastic surgeon who honed her passion for preservation during her childhood in an 18th century home in New England. Dr. MacPhee found the house in horrendous condition, full of decades of accumulated trash and debris, water damage and mold. Squatters had taken up residence and entrepreneurial vandals had stripped away much of the home’s copper and begun to target its historic fixtures and woodwork.
Working with Eric Mehlman of Studio B Architecture, Dr. MacPhee embarked on a nearly 8 year renovation odyssey, living in the house nearly the entire time. A 1940’s addition was removed from the rear of the house, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems were replaced, and Dr. MacPhee spent countless hours stripping paint from the home’s ornate woodwork and wainscoting and repairing its plaster walls. For her tenacious dedication to restoring Durham’s finest remaining Victorian mansion, Dr. MacPhee is awarded a 2012 George and Mary Pyne Preservation Award.
Straw Valley, 5420 Chapel Hill Boulevard
Owner: Scott Bednaz
Before 15-501 was a four-lane thoroughfare between Durham and Chapel; before the construction of I-40 through the Triangle; and before Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Barnes & Noble, and parking lots dominated the intersection of I-40 and 15-501, two artists moved into a dairy farm at this location.
The year was 1959; the artists, Ormond Sanderson and Robert Black, were craftsman sculptors. Their goal was to use the farm and its scattered outbuildings to house their studios, home, gallery, and store. They transformed these buildings and the space between them into an eclectic, modern wonderland, pairing traditional crafts with Scandinavian and Japanese design elements.
The compound began with the existing farm buildings: a two-story house served as living quarters, a freestanding kitchen as a store, a blacksmith building as a studio, and a barn as storage. Mr. Sanderson and Mr. Black moved some buildings and dismantled others. They enclosed new areas, built additions and utilized salvaged materials from the farm and historic building elsewhere. From 1958 through 1969, the space was in constant evolution. Gradually the old blacksmith shop became the core of the primary residence and studio space, connected to other buildings by an enclosed courtyard decorated with Mr. Black and Mr. Sanderson’s sculptures and populated with farm animals. Highlights of the space included poured concrete, slate and salvaged pavers for flooring, etched glass doors in the living room created by Mr. Sanderson, cast cement and tiled fireplaces, and a dramatic butterfly roof that Mr. Black designed—all heavily influenced by contemporaneous modern and Scandinavian Design. As the venture thrived, the pair expanded by building a storefront and parking on 15-501, and renting out the space.
The artistic, multi-use campus continued for years until the completion of I-40 in 1984. This made access to the storefronts very difficult, and subsequently most of the businesses closed. With the construction of New Hope Commons and other shopping centers, Straw Valley was nearly entirely abandoned and fell into disrepair.
Miraculously, Straw valley withstood considerable development pressure, and in 2007, Scott Bednaz purchased Straw Valley the intention of restoring the building and grounds. Mr. Bednaz wanted to continue the concept of Straw Valley as an artistic campus, using the storefronts for local shops, and the residence and courtyard for wedding and banquet facilities. Despite funding and investment setbacks, Mr. Bednaz has found tenants for the front storefronts and has stabilized and renovated the primary rear structures and courtyard with the help of Don Tise and Craig Carbrey of Tise Kiester Architects. Mr. Bednaz is dedicated to his vision for Straw Valley continuing as a creative gathering space, and it is evident in his careful preservation of Mr. Black and Mr. Sanderson’s residence. He has preserved the living and studio spaces, furnishing them with pieces from the original Straw Valley and period antiques. He has also preserved the courtyard spaces and sculpture while adding outdoor seating for a coffee shop and event space. Mr. Bednaz continues his plans to renovate more buildings on the property and expand the campus with plans for a boutique hotel, all the while telling the story of this unique place.
2513 W Club Blvd
Owners: Zab Johnson & Shad Todd
- 2012 Pyne Award – 2513 W. Club Bouevard
If anyone should know better, it’s Zab Johnson & Shad Todd. Five years ago, they ﬁnished the repair and restoration of a small brick house on Club Boulevard (which won a preservation award) where they were settled in with their family. Fast forward a few years, when a second child brought the need for a bigger place, and they went at it again. This time, Zab and Shad saw through the thick carpeting (in the bathroom, even!) and institutional green paint to the good bones of a large, 1920s brick bungalow. They have turned the house into a light-ﬁlled family home, with a gorgeous kitchen, comfortable new screened porch, and all of the historic character intact.
2513 West Club had belonged to the same family since the mid-1930s, and had not been updated since they purchased it. While the main public spaces were in fairly good condition, there were plaster cracks, knob-and-tube wiring, ancient radiators, and dank bathrooms to contend with. So the couple brought in David Arneson and Will Rhodenheiser of Center Studio Architecture for design, Sara Davis Lachenman of Four over One Design for preservation consulting, and Craig Fox as contractor to overhaul the house. When all of the obvious solutions did not seem quite right, they kept at it until the perfect plan surfaced: converting the former butler’s pantry into a new side entrance, with mudroom and laundry and putting a bright, sunny dining area on the former enclosed back porch. This arrangement allowed all of the original walls to remain, gave better access to the kitchen spaces, and brought light into the once-dark back of the house.
Other clever solutions include the distinctive old heating grates converted into the air intakes for the new, highly efﬁcient HVAC system. The original telephone niche still holds phones, as electrical outlets were added to create a perfect charging station. And they recognized that one spacious, shared bathroom on the second ﬂoor would meet their needs more than multiple smaller baths carved out of the eaves – closets were more important!
As with any construction project, plans are sometimes adjusted mid-stream. Zab’s vision of a painted wood ﬂoor in the kitchen (bright turquoise, please!), dissolved when she saw the lovely heart-pine ﬂoors under layers of linoleum. They decided to ﬁnish the ﬂoors more traditionally and paint the interiors of the upper cabinets turquoise instead. It provides a pop of color amongst the classic white cabinetry and marble backsplash.
Zab and Shad have once again proven their love of classic architecture and historic spaces, taking time on the details and highlighting the original features of this beautiful home.
813 Burch Avenue
Owners: Justine and Marc Sperber
The two-story hip roofed house at 813 Burch Avenue Built was built around 1907 for salesman Joshua Melvin, and occupied by one couple for nearly six decades. When contractor Miles Honeycutt purchased the property, he found much of its original fabric intact, including intricately carved newel posts, wainscoting, tiled fireplace surrounds, and high bead board ceilings in every room of the house – many hidden away behind drop ceilings. A 1920’s renovation had altered the front hall, adding some neo-colonial flavor to the turn-of-the century front hallway.
Honeycutt was approached by Marc and Justine Sperber, who convinced Miles to sell them the house he had begun renovating for himself. Sara Davis Lachenman of Four Over One design was brought on board as the designer.
While termites had caused structural damage to the kitchen, the most significant challenge facing the design team was finding a way to sensitively add modern bathrooms and systems to a home that had been built without indoor plumbing. A small two-story block was added to the rear of the house, with what had been an exterior window on the back of the house retained to share light between the new bathroom and the hallway.
The Sperbers and their highly skilled team have prepared this house for the next one hundred years –stabilizing and preserving its historic fabric, while adding modern amenities and systems with a careful hand and light touch.
Neighborhood Conservation Awards
614 Queen Street – “the middle house”
Owners: Jessie Gladin-Kramer & Matt Dudek
- 2012 Neighborhood Conservation Award – 614 N. Queen Street
Matt Dudek & Jessie Gladin-Kramer are braver than most. Living in the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood for many years in a house they’ve gradually ﬁxed up, they watched bad landlords neglect properties, ignore tenants’ needs, and abandon houses to boarded windows and squatters. When a former boarding house just around the corner came up at auction, they decided to do something about it and embarked – sight unseen – on a remarkable project. Jessie and Matt merged preservation and affordability by using a light hand and good design, and Preservation Durham is happy to give them a Neighborhood Conservation Award.
They purchased the Middle House – one of a row of bungalows built as rentals in the early 20th century at auction. The three matching houses are set absurdly close and have suffered a gradual decline together, despite being owned by different landlords. Matt and Jessie wanted to keep the house as a rental and make sure it was still affordable while transforming it into a safe and healthy place to live.
Every construction process is a series of discoveries, and this house was no exception, from the ﬁrst day they owned the property, when they arrived with a crowbar to get in, to their discovery of ﬁre damage in the dining room during demolition. The early plans called for bath and bedrooms on the basement level, but it turned out the ﬂoor was laid directly on the dirt and could not be built out at a reasonable price. But the original ﬂoor plan was still intact behind some extra walls, and original details like beaded board ceilings, two mantles, and single wood window in the back bathroom gave some clues as to how to move forward.
The house now stands out between its two matching neighbors with big windows and a bright paint job. A new tenant adds her own brightness with her love of all things orange, decorating the original and salvaged mantles with garlands of fruit. Matt and Jessie have contributed to the ongoing rebirth of Cleveland-Holloway with this lovely renovation, and Preservation Durham is happy to give them a Neighborhood Conservation Award.
508 Ottawa Street
Owners: Quinn & Galen Williams
- 2012 Neighborhood Conservation Award – 508 Ottawa
Quinn & Galen Williams, with their growing family really liked the idea of living in a big old house, but the ones that were already done were too expensive or not quite right. In contrast, 508 Ottawa was so cheap they could basically buy it outright – so what if it needed everything? Launching into the project, they hired Sara Davis Lachenman of Four over One Design and chose Riverbank Construction as contractor, and thought, how hard can it be?
The house has quite a history – it was built as a one-story house around the turn of the 20th century, then had a second story added in 1928 to make it a duplex. It stayed a rental for the next eighty years, until it was a complicated warren of little rooms, with partially boarded windows, layers of drop ceilings, and the most depressing shade of beige paint. Dingy and falling apart, it was put up for sale and sat on the market for years as Cleveland-Holloway started turning around. Every potential buyer walked through it and left, stumped by how to transform it.
The biggest puzzle was the ﬂoor plan: given that it had never been a single-family, two-story home, the two interior staircases were not original to the home and felt like tunnels. Not once, but twice, back porches had been added to the rear then enclosed. Rooms had been turned into kitchens and bathrooms to squeeze more out of the place. The front porch had two doors, no windows, and an upside-down picket fence installed as a railing. It was, without a doubt, ugly.
Taking the leap that they could grow to love this place, they put together clues like an original sidelight at the front and unusual framing between the two stories to arrive at a reasonable, livable plan. During construction, extensive termite damage was discovered – but so were original beaded board ceilings and lovely wood ﬂoors that had been long hidden. From a gracious stair hall at the front of the house to a breakfast nook, mudroom, and sunroom at the rear, the house now works for their whole family. Galen and Quinn are thrilled with the result and their decision to jump.
Of course, while juggling the renovation project, which was full of questions to answer and decisions to be made, they were also expecting their third child – who was born a month after they moved in. So much for making it easy!
Golden Belt Mill Houses
Developer: Scientific Properties
Contractor: Acanthus Construction
- 2012 Neighborhood Conservation Award – Golden Belt Houses
Scientific Properties is perhaps best known for their successful rehabilitation of the Golden Belt mill complex, a 2010 winner of Preservation Durham’s Pyne Award. This fully-occupied campus, once home to Julian Carr’s Golden Belt Manufacturing Company, a turn-of-the-twentieth-century company that manufactured packaging for tobacco products, now houses lofts, retail, office space, galleries, and events. Following the completion of this project, Gary Kueber, Chief Executive Officer for Scientific Properties, turned his attention to revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood, which was once company-built housing for mill workers.
To this end, Scientific Properties has either renovated or newly constructed nine houses in the Golden Belt Historic District since 2007. The new construction is sensitive to the existing historic buildings and neighborhood fabric as a whole, and only vacant buildings and land have been redeveloped. In order to stretch their resources as far as possible across the neighborhood, Scientific Properties’ has focused their renovations on only the exterior, or “shell,” of these buildings, leaving the interiors an open canvas for prospective homebuyers. This unorthodox strategy reveals Mr. Kueber’s commitment to increasing home ownership in this neighborhood.
Like most of the existing historic houses in the Golden Belt area, the renovated houses were company-built from 1900 through the 1910s as worker housing in styles typical across North Carolina. Golden Belt Manufacturing sold these modest houses to workers in the 1950’s and the neighborhood continued to have strong ties to the factory even after the final closure of the mill in 1994. Vacancy rates rose, home ownership fell, and teardowns became frequent by the time Scientific Properties undertook the rehabilitation of the factory complex.
Most of the properties purchased and renovated by Scientific Properties had been vacant for years and were in a state of advanced neglect. Most needed extensive foundation, framing, door, window and siding repairs and replacement, and some also required roof replacement and rebuilt porches. Where possible, Scientific Properties undertook limited interior renovations, and they completely renovated the interior of one home.
While there is still work to be done in this neighborhood, the shell renovations have helped jump-start a trend of renovating the existing modest frame houses for owner occupancy or affordable rentals. To date, Scientific Properties has sold four of the six renovated houses: 1005 Morning Glory Avenue (a 2011 Preservation Durham Neighborhood Conservation Award Winner), 1003 Worth Street, 1102 Wall Street and 1008 Franklin Street. Homeowners have completed the renovations in these houses, and they are currently owner-occupied. Two houses, 1102 Taylor Street and 1007 Morning Glory, are currently on the market.
403 N Queen Street, duplex
Owners: Michael and Emily Fee
Contractor: Ken Gasch
Realtor: Tim Hock
- 2012 Neighborhood Conservation Award – 403 N. Queen Street
In the spring of 2008, a bulldozer sat waiting to demolish a small duplex on North Queen Street in the Cleveland-Holloway Neighborhood. The 1930’s structure was in a state in severe neglect: an add-on porch was not properly fastened to the house, allowing water to run directly into the sub-floor. Termites had consumed the rear third of the frame building. The entire front band joist, piers and skirt would require replacement. In a neighborhood witness to many similar neglect stories, yet also to a growing number of successful preservation projects, it was hard to imagine how such a small house in such an advanced state of decay could be saved.
That is when Cleveland-Holloway resident and experienced renovator, Ken Gasch, stepped in and convinced the owners to sell him the building rather than tear it down.
A typical example of Depression-era, multi-family housing constructed across Durham, Mr. Gasch restored the Craftsman-style duplex by rebuilding much of the foundation, framing, and deteriorated woodwork. He removed the add-on porch, and repaired and repainted the two symmetrical entrances and porches. Keeping the original six-over-one wood windows, nine-light exterior doors, bracketed eaves, gable vents, and German siding, Mr. Gasch rehabilitated the nearly mirror image duplex floor plan with a double sided, shared brick chimney and mantle on either side. Each of the 750 square foot, one bedroom units received completely new kitchens and bathrooms while retaining the original arched openings and millwork, as well as the overall footprint of the building.
During this extraordinary transformation, realtor Tim Hock sold the home to Michael and Emily Fee who supported the remaining renovations. Currently the Fees occupy one side of the duplex, while renting out the other side.
403 North Queen Street provides a precedent for the preservation of modest rental housing within revitalizing neighborhoods. Too often, small duplexes are converted to single-family homes before considering whether retaining two units may also be a financially and socially beneficial option for investors and the neighborhood at large. Preserving this duplex has not only increased owner-occupancy, but also provided an affordable rental in the Cleveland-Holloway neighborhood.
1814 Vale Street and 1909 & 1912 Carden Alley
Owner: Denise Harrison
- 2012 Neighborhood Conservation Award – Carden Alley
“Affordable, Historic, Urban Living.” That’s how Denise Harrison describes both her home in East Durham and her philosophy for rehabilitating two other homes just two blocks away.
In 2007, Denise relocated to Durham from Washington D. C. and immediately started looking for a house that she could buy outright and rehabilitate on a budget. Drawn to the affordable historic homes in the newly designated East Durham National Register Historic District, she purchased a two-story house at 1814 Vale Street. Denise set out to make the house livable with a small budget and a short timeline, a process that naturally lent itself to saving as much existing fabric as possible. In addition, Denise made a point to utilize local and small businesses for materials and labor whenever possible. She repaired the existing tin roof and wood siding and gave the house a fresh coat of paint to increase its curb appeal. Inside she repaired holes in the walls, refinished the floors, installed new systems, rehabilitated the fireplace, and installed high-end cabinets in the kitchen.
When her work required her to travel overseas for an extended period of time, Denise leased the house on Vale Street. When she returned, she turned her attention to several homes on Carden Alley, just one block east. She purchased the house at 1909 Carden Alley, moved in, and got straight to work, once again expending as little time and money as possible, but more importantly repairing and replacing only those elements that were truly beyond repair and retaining the historic elements (and in some cases the historic quirks) that make the house so warm and inviting. Working within the existing footprint of the one-bedroom house, Denise replaced the roof and building systems, refinished the hardwood floors, tiled the kitchen and updated the bathroom.
While working on 1909 Carden Alley, the house across the street at 1912 Carden Alley became available. Worried about what might happen to the house, and to her investment in the house at 1909 Carden Alley, Denise purchased 1912 Carden Alley, leased the completed house at 1909, and moved across the street, starting the process all over again. She’s been in the house at 1912 Carden Alley for several months now and is still gradually replacing the vinyl windows with wood and updating the building’s systems. However, with interest in two additional houses on Carden Alley, it is clear Denise will not be finish until her entire block has been saved.
1001 W Trinity Avenue
Owners: Sarah and Clay Musser
- 2012 Green Building Award – 1001 W. Trinity Avenue
Built in 1924 along what was then the northern edge of a “suburb near Trinity College”, the bungalow at the southwest corner of West Trinity Avenue and Gregson Street is a recipient of Preservation Durham’s inaugural Green Award.
One of a number of identical bungalows built as housing for Liggett and Myers employees, the 1-1/2 story frame structure features 12 over 1 windows, a wide front dormer with a shed roof, a front porch enclosed by a low shingled wall and square columns, and appropriately – a striking green and white paint scheme. A typical pre-Depression, Trinity Park bungalow, the house was leaky, peeling, and outdated when the Musser bought it in 2004. Mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were obsolete, and a neglected roof had allowed water damage to the original plaster walls.
The Mussers built an adjacent carriage house with an upstairs apartment, where they lived throughout the 18-month renovation. While raising their newborn son and pursuing an advanced Theology degree at Duke University, Sarah somehow managed to undertake a top-to-bottom renovation in a way that was consistent with her family’s ethos of environmental stewardship and care for others. Along with their contractor Steve Jolley – also a theology PhD – Sarah scoured Habitat Stores and architectural salvage yards for appropriate flooring, fixtures, doors, windows, hardware, tile and countertops.
Brimming with green features almost too numerous to mention including a geothermal heat pump and solar hot water, spray foam insulation and a sealed crawl space, low flow faucets and dual flush toilets, rainwater harvesting and rain gardens, the project achieved Energy Star Certification. Achieving a HERS index of 73, the house is nearly 30% more energy efficient than one built to the current codes. Factoring in the embodied energy of the materials and labor involved in creating the home in 1924, the Musser’s home is truly green, and truly deserving of Preservation Durham’s inaugural Green Award.
814 Vickers Avenue
Owners: Stewart & Loralie Bible
- 2012 Green Building Award – 814 Vickers Avenue
On the surface, the rehabilitation of the c. 1904 Beard-Cobb House at 814 Vickers Avenue is your typical ‘large house – long neglected and divided into apartments – now lovingly restored’ preservation story. But in this case, it pays to look below the surface. Literally. And on the roof as well!
When Stewart and Loralie Bible purchased the two-story house in 2007, they weren’t planning on “greening” it. They simply saw the inherent value in a house constructed over 100 years ago with “locally sourced materials and locally applied craftsmanship”. The couple planned to maintain it as a duplex during the renovation so that they would have an additional source of income, eventually reinstalling the interior staircase that had been removed and converting it back to a single-family house. They set right to work peeling back the layers, including vinyl siding over the original wood weatherboards, asphalt shingles over a standing seam metal roof, and paneling over the interior plaster walls. They were able to retain the siding, but the roof had been damaged beyond repair so they installed a new metal roof with low-profile solar panels placed carefully between the seams on the south elevation of the building. With the existing HVAC nearing the end of its life, they took advantage of state and federal tax incentives to install a geothermal system with greater energy efficiency than a standard heat pump, lower maintenance costs, and no exterior equipment to install.
In addition to the challenge of completing most of the work themselves, the couple navigated the local Historic Preservation Commission review and the application for the state Rehabilitation Tax Credits. Yet, their biggest challenge was the “five years of dust and the strain of living in a construction zone.” However, through the process, the Bibles have come to think of their house as a billboard for energy efficiency with the solar panels as a way to advertise the efficiency of the house and indeed, the house drew quite a bit of attention when it was featured on Preservation Durham’s Old Home Tour in 2009, with several neighbors following suit and installing geothermal systems.
Wright’s Automatic Machinery Company Building, 921 Holloway Street
Preservation Durham presented a 2012 Advocacy Award to local resident Donald Yarboro for his work documenting a largely forgotten story of the Bull City in wartime. Yarboro has been researching and saving materials related to Wrights Automatic Machinery Company, a local business that contributed to World War II weaponry and, later, the Space Race.
Wrights Automatic outfitted U.S. Navy warships with gunfire-control systems in the 1940s. Postwar, the company built precision instruments for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Wrights Automatics’ tiny motors and other components went into the Saturn V rockets that sent U.S. astronauts to the moon. Later, the company designed and built instruments for joints in the Space Shuttle’s robotic arm.
Wrights Automatic dates back to 1893. It distributed and later built packaging machines for tobacco, food, and other products. As World War II got underway in Europe, the company was working in the old wooden Yarborough Mill on Calvin Street near its intersection with Holloway. It began pursuing war-related government subcontracts early in 1941. Within months, the Defense Plant Corporation erected a more secure factory on the lot, fronting Holloway Street. The new plant reflected its defense industry origins: the brick-and-concrete-block building could double as a bomb shelter, and the bands of glass-block windows lit the interior while obstructing views inside. A fence encircled the property. Patrols staffed the tiny guardhouse at the gate twenty-four hours a day.
In 1943, the company won an Army-Navy “E” award for excellence in war equipment production. The prize drew national attention. A ceremony held before a capacity crowd at the National Guard Armory on Foster Street was broadcast nationally on the radio. The event filled the local papers for days.
Mr. Yarboro, a Durham native, bought the property soon after the company left Durham in 2005. His father had worked in the plant for thirty years, beginning after the war. He has cleaned up the building and site, scraping old paint off the glass block and giving the building a fresh exterior coat. Mr. Yarboro is organizing a small museum within the building, which also houses his storage company and a Durham Police substation. He has been collecting oral histories from former employees, and a few years ago, he hosted an employee reunion. He has listed the building in the National Register of Historic Places and had it named a Local Historic Landmark. By preserving this one building, Yarboro hopes keep alive the story of the workers and work of Wrights Automatic.