One Greensboro non-profit is trying to preserve the city’s history, one building at a time

 Manning Franks (WFMY News2)

GREENSBORO, N.C. — This past week, the controversial demolition began of the J. Spencer Love Home in historic Irving Park. Greensboro developer, Roy Carroll, recently purchased the property from former owner and business woman, Bonnie McElveen-Hunter.

“It is a big stab at our heart. We always get super upset when that happens but it also kind of sends us into a flight mode of okay, let’s gather all the history we can on the house now that it’s come down,” said Kathryn McDowell, the Community Outreach Director for Preservation Greensboro.

For Preservation Greensboro, the second-oldest preservation organization in all of North Carolina, the demolition of the historic home was a gut-punch, but by that point, there was nothing to be done.

“People have this misconception that you can bring us in at any point and save a building, but that’s unfortunately not how it goes. We are a nonprofit, we are not a dictator, we have no legal stance, as much as we would love to. If a property owner wants to tear it down, they want to tear it down. They can do that,” McDowell said.

Preservation Greensboro was originally established back in 1966 when three separate preservation entities merged into one, from there they have been attempting to, for lack of a better word, preserve the architectural history of Guilford County.

“Our mission is twofold. One, it is to save the history that we have here. While it’s saving the built history, obviously it also saving the built history saves the social history behind it as well…. The second part of our preservation leg is education, and educating people on the built history and educating people that the most economically friendly house or building that that exists is the one already standing,” Said McDowell.

The non-profit acts, at its core, as a resource for the community. From playing the role of historians, researchers, educators, they routinely put on many hats. However, preserving a building is not just about preserving the structure itself.

“So, we’re big architecture buffs. And it’s not just in working to save the buildings. That is a big portion of what we do. But it is also to document the history that we have through architecture here. So, we’re also saving the community history by saving and researching the buildings,” said McDowell.

And while the Spencer Love House is going down, Greensboro has something to be proud of.

“I think another misconception or at least something that we get see on our way that people like to post on our Facebook all the time, is that we’re losing our history, our architectural history left and right, and that we’re losing all of our stock and historic houses, well, Greensboro actually has a very large stock of original buildings. And you go to Charlotte, or other cities that do the same thing, but don’t have necessarily a 50-year-old established organization to back all the saving,” encouraged McDowell.

Currently, Preservation Greensboro acts out of the historic Blandwood Mansion in Downtown Greensboro and will continue, as a non-profit, to promote the preserving of the city’s history.

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