Historic Spencer Love House in Old Irving Park being torn down

Teyah Glenn (WFMY News2)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A historic Irving Park home is being demolished.

Crews began demolishing the mansion just after 8:30 on Wednesday morning.

All day, there was a constant flow of neighbors and people stopping by to get their last glimpse of the home.

One of them was Kerrie Ellison, who lived in that neighborhood.

” I was devastated and I was actually I was in tears,” Ellison said. “My husband thought I was crazy because I was crying so much when I saw that it was coming down.

She made a post about it on Facebook, and many are sharing their memories both online and as they drive by the house, saying it’s an iconic piece in the neighborhood.

“I just made this post just to say how sad I was,” Ellison said. “People are really sad, outraged, and dumbfounded. A home like this is rare and to lose it, it’s just heartbreaking and it affects our whole city. It affects our entire city this is history. This is history in it, and if we wipe away all of our history, and what do we have, what do we have left?”

Kathryn McDowell is the Community Outreach Director for Restoration Greensboro.

She said this history is rich in the home. It was known as the J. Spencer Love House.

It is named after the founder of Burlington Textiles, who originally built and lived in the home.

McDowell said the house was built in the 1930s and is considered one of Greensboro’s historic homes.

“He purchased the property early on in the 1930s, with construction beginning somewhere at the beginning of 1936,” she said. “He lived in the house for a few years before he and his wife divorced by 1940, and then by 1941, the house was sold to its second owner.

McDowell said the house is historic for a multitude of reasons.

“One, because Spencer Love is such a prominent businessman in the area, two, it’s a mansion, three, it’s in Irving Park, which is enough for another historic area of other big moguls and tycoons and things like that, for not only Greensboro, but for the United States and also, the way it’s designed, it’s a colonial revival brick house with a Flemish bond,” She said. “It was designed by a local architecture firm here in Greensboro, specifically by William Holleman, who continues to design other houses in Irving Park, as well as houses in Pinehurst, and then bigger buildings on the women’s college campus and even A&T’s campus. So, it’s prominent for its architecture and its original owner, as well as the proceeding owners after the Loves. So, after the Loves purchased it, we also have Benjamin Cone, one of the Cone boys living there, and then its more recent prominent owner is the Hunters.”

Other notable residents of the Spencer Love home include Benjamin Cone, Cone textile heir and former Greensboro mayor, and Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, former ambassador to Finland and founder of marketing agency Pace Communications.

The house was recently sold to developer Roy Carroll for 4-and-a-half million dollars after it was on the market for 5 years.

“It’s a great property and I remember being in high school right and driving right by this property and just loving it and everything and when an opportunity came for us to possibly purchase the property we had hoped to renovate it,” said Carroll.

Carroll said ultimately, they found that was not a feasible option to meet the family’s needs.

“I spent a lot of time, a lot of money, studying the house to renovate but the fact it’s functionally obsolete, it is not economical to renovate the house and it’s small rooms, low ceilings, and what we’re going to build back is going to be better,” he said. “I know people are concerned and upset, I get all that, but if people just calm down a little bit we haven’t done anything in Greensboro halfway, the Carroll companies, we’re not gonna do this halfway.”

Carroll intends to preserve the picturesque, scenic trees on the property and to undertake the responsibility of protecting the iconic feel and aesthetic of the Irving Park neighborhood.

“There are five structures and this is a compound,” he said. “There is more than 3 acres and the only thing we’re tearing down right now is the main house and we’re going to try and save every tree on the property.”

Neighbors said they hope he keeps the same historic look.

“I just hope that what the new owners build is of the beauty, the elegance, the stature of what was here, so that in 100 years when their home has been sold to other people, that someone won’t want to come along and bulldoze it,” said Ellison.

Carroll was allowed to tear down the home.

The home itself is not listed in the National Registered Historic District, but it is in a historic neighborhood. Only two homes in Irving Park are protected from demolition as per the National Register of Historic Places, but the Spencer Love house is not one of them.

“Irving Park was put on the National Register in 1994. That goes into doing the histories of all the houses,” said McDowell. “This is a document that anybody can look up online, actually. If you ask us, we get there a little faster. It’s a history that contributes your house to the national district. You can have a national district and then you can have an individual house, also listed on the National Register. ”

McDowell said there is a common misconception that being on the National Register saves your building.

All it does is increase the value of the area, which is good for homeowners, and then you get a tax credit to fix things like the roof and porch.

“One of the legal ways in order to make sure that a home is never just demolished is a preservation easement which is basically a legal agreement between the owner of the house and the holder of the easement,” said McDowell. “The holder of the easement can be like our local preservation Greensboro Development Fund which is a local volunteer organization that holds easements, or it can be on a state or national level. So we also have preservation North Carolina, which holds easements and they are a 50-year-old organization staffed and holds who I think last time I counted are a couple 100.”

This is starting the conversation in the neighborhood on how to avoid this from happening again.

Preservation Greensboro said homeowners can put an addendum restriction in the contract when selling and once the house is sold, there is nothing that can be done.

Carroll was allowed to do what he wanted to do in the house.

Preservation Greensboro said that neighborhoods that see a historic home for sale and are worried it will get demolished are the eyes and ears. Report it to Preservation Greensboro so it can work to put restrictions on the house before it’s sold.

“It is sad to see this Love House coming down but it’s also sad to see houses in White Oak New Town coming down or Westerwood or any other neighborhood that’s not the big grand mansions that Irving Park is,” said McDowell. “That is one of our goals is it’s not just Irving Park. It’s not just Sunset Hills, it’s White of Newtown, it’s millhouses, it’s our downtown a historic district.”

“I want to get that out to the world because our neighborhood is so unique,” said Ellison.

 Roy Carroll also released this statement:

As we have stated, the interior of the house was built for a 1937 lifestyle with a configuration that did not meet the needs of how we live in our homes today. Many elements of the house would not be deemed adequate by current inspection and planning requirements. As sentimental as many people may feel about this home, it did not make economic sense to renovate the main house, which is most likely why it sat on the market for several years before this sale. The process of rebuilding is common in Irving Park to create a current home with modern conveniences, safety features, and efficient systems.

We appreciate that Ms. Hunter has strong personal attachments and family memories at the home. However, she knowingly decided to sell the home. She engaged with professional agents to represent her in listing and marketing the home, and ultimately signed a contract to sell the home without conditions or restrictions. Ms. Hunter made the decision to sign the sale agreement without knowing or questioning the buyer or their intentions. No representations were given by the buyer or requested as to buyer’s plans for the home. Once Ms. Hunter became aware of the identity of the Carroll family as the buyer, which occurred after she signed the contract, she never requested nor did we share with her any plans that we had for the home. Ms. Hunter had every right prior to signing the contract to deed restrict the property to limit the potential for the main house to be torn down. She also had the ability to seek protections for the main house on the Historic Registry. Neither was done, so the buyer and subsequent buyers have the right to do as they wish to the house. It seems disingenuous for a seller to so publicly express sellers’ remorse after cashing a multi-million-dollar check.
It was a great property in the past, and we plan to create a property that will be great for generations to come.