Praise for saving Raleigh mansion, old department store, Durham cemetery

The people who restored a historic mansion and a former department store in downtown Raleigh were among those receiving awards for their preservation work in North Carolina last month.

Others included a group that restored Durham’s earliest surviving cemetery for African Americans and a contractor credited with saving some of the city’s finest old homes from neglect.

The awards were given by Preservation North Carolina, the private, statewide nonprofit that works to protect and promote important buildings and sites. Each year, Preservation NC honors people, organizations and businesses for injecting new life into historic places at risk of disappearing.

Among this year’s winners:

  • Tina Konidaris and Jeff Turpin, who restored the Andrews-Duncan House on Raleigh’s North Blount Street. The state had owned the house since 1972 and let it sit empty and consumed by mold and overrun with raccoons for a decade. The couple spent more than three years and millions of dollars painstakingly restoring the 10,000-square-foot home, which is both a Raleigh Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s now home to them and their six children.
  • Empire Properties, which bought and renovated the Efird Building on Raleigh’s Fayetteville Street into new office and retail space. Built in 1935, the building was home to the Efird’s Department Store until Hudson Belk took it over in 1959. The three-story building, designed in a subtle Art Deco style, was later home to the N.C. State Bar Association. The Efird Building runs through the block to Salisbury Street, where the retail space is occupied by the DECO Raleigh gift shop.
  • Friends of Geer Cemetery, for its work to restore and maintain a burial ground that was active from the 1870s until the 1950s and was the only public cemetery available to Durham’s African American residents until the city created Beechwood in the 1920s. Geer Cemetery had become unrecognizable when the friends group was formed in 2003 to reclaim it and to begin documenting who is buried there. So far, the group has identified about 1,650 people who rest at Geer Cemetery.
  • TurnLight Partners of Durham, which has stabilized and restored several homes and others buildings built between the late 1800s and the 1950s. Led by owner Ken Gasch, the general contractor has taken on projects no one else would touch, including a two-story, century-old grocery building on Holloway Street that lost its rear wall during a rare East Coast earthquake in 2011.
  • Michelle Michael, for her 30 years of historic preservation work. Michael was the architectural historian at what is now Fort Liberty, before going to work for the Town of Wake Forest in 2014. As a planner, Michael has beefed up the town’s historic preservation program by helping update standards for historic districts and local landmarks, creating walking tour apps and hosting archaeology and property owner workshops.

By Richard Stradling, The News & Observer

Click here to view the article online.