Friday, January 25, 2013 11:37 PM
Preservation efforts gain momentum
By Rochelle Moore | Times Staff Writer
Historic houses dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s are becoming popular to many investors across the United States who are making Wilson their home.
The Preservation of Wilson, which markets many of the houses for sale, continues to receive national exposure with several houses being featured in This Old House magazine. Houses that were part of the magazine’s Save this Old House section in 2010 and 2011 were sold and have since been preserved in Wilson. Preservationists hope the same is true for the James T. Wiggins House, at 208 N. Douglas St., an Italianate cottage that was built in 1872.
The house was featured in the magazine’s November/December issue, which has already generated hundreds of calls, with at least one from California and several from the North Carolina coast, said Kathy Bethune, executive director of the Preservation of Wilson. The house is in danger of being demolished and being sold for $1. The buyer will need to move the house from the property and can relocate it in Wilson or elsewhere.
"The response has been overwhelming, especially with a price of only $1 but the house must be moved.” Bethune said. "We are receiving calls and e-mails from everywhere with enthusiastic buyers wanting this wonderful old house in their own back yard.”
The Preservation of Wilson estimates that it could cost close to $50,000 to move the house, which may require the removal of the roof and the house may need to be cut in smaller sections. There will also be costs associated with the renovation of the house.
Bethune has had a strong response from people living along the North Carolina coast as well as other areas of the nation.
"I’ve had people from all over,” Bethune said. "We had one woman who wanted to take it to California. (The have been) a lot of people from North Carolina. I’ve probably gotten at least 300 calls.”
This Old House has increased exposure for many historic houses in Wilson, which preservationists are committed to revitalizing and retaining for their historic and architectural properties. The nonprofit organization lists houses on its website as well as on other similar websites, which tend to be viewed by people from all over the nation.
A writer with This Old House magazine contacted Bethune and wrote the magazine’s first Save this Old House feature on the Oettinger House, at 219 Broad St., a Greek Revival cottage built circa 1913. The house was featured in the magazine’s March 2010 issue as an endangered property. The exposure led to a sale several months later.
The writer, Keith Pandolfi, decided to visit Wilson during a road trip from New York to Florida in December 2010. His visit led to a tour of the area where he was able to see more houses and historic areas of the city. Bethune believes his visit has led to additional stories about endangered historic properties in Wilson.
"We have just been very fortunate,” Bethune said. "I don’t think he would have written the story on the second house if he didn’t feel the preservation energy and the potential for our historic properties.”
In June 2011, This Old House featured a second property, the Gold Harrell House at 304 Vance St., The Queen Ann style house, with close to 3,400-square-feet, was built circa 1884. The house also sold and is being restored.
The national exposure of Wilson’s historic properties has benefited the city, its historic neighborhoods and in fulfilling the goals of the Preservation of Wilson. The city has been appealing to historic home buyers for several reasons, Bethune said.
"A lot of people like North Carolina,” she said. "It’s a quality-of-life issue. We’re getting a lot of calls from people retiring. I don’t think without ‘This Old House’ we would have been able to do what we’ve done because that magazine has just brought the buyers market to us.”
The James T. Wiggins House is endangered and has to move because of a planned expansion of Carolina Family Health Centers. The house has to be moved by June or it could face demolition, due to the health center expansion, Bethune said.
Getting the house featured in the magazine took work and coordination, including the submission of factual data on the house and photos.
Lu-Ann Monson, city of Wilson preservation specialist, provided the historical background on the house in addition to specific architectural details. Many of the photos and several that appeared in the magazine were taken by Barton College students, under the direction of Gerard Lange, associate professor of art.
"Whenever possible, I try to arrange for students to earn professional experience in the community,” Lange said. "Twice now, my students have taken photographs for Preservation of Wilson and I hope to arrange more chances to work with this organization in the future.”
The Preservation of Wilson has seven properties it is listing for sale on its website. The organization has been able to assist with the sale of 12 properties in the city.
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