Preservation in Greensboro
The preservation movement has been active in Greensboro since 1887, when the Guilford Battleground Company was organized to preserve the Revolutionary War battlefield just north of the city. Other early projects in the city included the preservation of the Weir House on North Edgeworth Street for use as the headquarters of the Greensboro Women's Club in 1921, and the adaptive reuse of the campus of First Presbyterian Church on Summit Avenue for the Greensboro Historical Museum in 1939.
Efforts to establish a city-wide preservation organization began in 1951 when mayor Robert Frazier, concerned by the alarming loss of anti-bellum houses in the city, initiated efforts to preserve Blandwood Mansion on West Washington Street. His action led to the creation of the John Motley Morehead Commission by State Legislature in 1959 to preserve Blandwood. Though the Commission was not funded, fundraising towards the acquisition of Blandwood began in earnest with the incorporation of the Greensboro Preservation Society in 1966. Although the organization was to promote historic architecture throughout the city, their primary concern was the immediate preservation of Blandwood.
Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, preservation in Greensboro revolved around raising funds to restore and interpret Blandwood as a museum. With the restoration of the Blandwood Carriage House, replanting of the property's gardens, and refurnishing of the mansion well underway, the house opened for tours in the nation's bicentennial year, 1976.
Enthusiasm for historic preservation grew quickly in Greensboro in the late 1970s and early 1980s, encouraged by generous national tax credits and a rising interest in the city's Victorian-era architecture. A flurry of National Register designations that represented the city's early commercial, industrial, and residential architecture included the Jefferson Standard Building in 1975, Wafco Mills in 1979, the Bumpass-Troy House in 1977, and the Green Hill Cemetery Gatekeeper's House in 1979.
Greensboro's first locally designated historic district was established in the College Hill neighborhood in 1980. Other local districts soon followed, including Fisher Park in 1982 and Aycock in 1984. Also in 1980, the Guilford Historic Preservation Commission was created to recognize important landmark properties throughout Guilford County.
Growing awareness of the city's diverse heritage within the preservation community led to a broad range of National Register listings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including African American sites and mill villages. The celebration of Greensboro's rich history included the A&T College of N.C. Historic District in 1988, South Greensboro Historic District in 1991, Bennett College Historic District in 1992, L. Richardson Memorial Hospital in 1992, and White Oak New Town Historic District in 1992.
With the renaming of the Greensboro Preservation Society to Preservation Greensboro Incorporated in 1993, initiatives celebrated architectural history in ways that expanded the scope of architectural conservation. Author Marvin Brown wrote Greensboro: An Architectural Record. The 1995 publication documented historic sites throughout Greensboro and expanded understanding of Greensboro's growth and architectural resources. Governor Morehead’s 200th Birthday Celebration in 1996 provided an additional spotlight on Greensboro's successful preservation efforts, and community support led to the preservation of Dudley High School in 2002.
Advocacy for modern architecture, downtown redevelopment, and neighborhood support are key concerns of Preservation Greensboro. Inclusiveness and holism, two terms borrowed from the environmental movement that describe a community as a whole and more than the sum of its elementary parts is used to describe modern preservation efforts. Projects have included assistance in developing the Aycock Neighborhood Master Plan in 2002, partnerships with other organizations to accomplish the Radical Renewal makeover project in downtown Greensboro, exploration of future uses for War Memorial Stadium, and development of a community preservation plan to guide new growth in the future.
Today, economic incentives in the form of tax credits and abatements are a key component of Greensboro's preservation movement. The days of generous government grants to fund preservation projects are long gone, but developers and homeowners find federal and state tax credits generous and easy to work with. These "tax act" projects are administered through the North Carolina State Preservation Office, including both income and non-income producing properties. In addition to tax credits, Guilford County offers an historic property designation program that accompanies a 50% property tax deferral. This deferral, which has no expiration date if guidelines are adhered to, assists property owners in upkeep and maintenance of their historic properties.