Posted by: rcieri | August 2, 2009

From desolation to destination: Burlington’s historic mill village lives again

Before Preservation North Carolina acquired this home in Glencoe Mill Village in 1997, it was completely uninhabitable. The house had no remaining windows or doors, and it was overgrown with brush. (Photos submitted.)

Before Preservation North Carolina acquired this home in Glencoe Mill Village in 1997, it was completely uninhabitable. The house had no remaining windows or doors, and it was overgrown with brush. (Photos submitted.)

by Rachel Cieri, May 12, 2009

Before the 1950s, it was a booming mill town. By the 1980s, the neighborhood was the scene of drug deals and homeless squatters. Now Glencoe Mill Village, located about five miles north of Burlington, is the home of a charming and diverse community that has added $10 million to the local economy.

Myrick Howard, executive director of Preservation North Carolina, has seen the change from the beginning. Preservation North Carolina, a private non-profit organization, began considering the area in the 1980s but saw its challenges as simply too large to overcome.

“At that point, it was way bigger than we could have handled,” Howard said.

Today, the same home has been renovated by its new owner. While much of the home is now made of new materials, it retains its original structure and character. An addition on the back makes the home more livable.

Today, the same home has been renovated by its new owner. While much of the home is now made of new materials, it retains its original structure and character. An addition on the back makes the home more livable.

In 1995, the group completed the restoration of a mill village in Edenton, N.C., that saw tremendous success.

“The houses sold extremely well,” he said. “We thought maybe we could try again.”
Glencoe Mill Village was vacated in the 1950s, after the cotton mill started by James and William Holt became defunct in 1954.

When they first bought the property, Preservation North Carolina found the houses in extremely poor condition. Out of the 32 houses still standing in the village, only one was legitimately occupied.

“When I say extremely poor condition, I’m used to dealing with vacant houses and renovations,” Howard said. “Some had no windows. Some had porches lying on the ground. One had fallen completely off its foundation. One had an oak tree that had fallen in the middle of the roof.”

The organization began selling the properties for about $30,000 each, but the price amounted more from the value of the land and infrastructure than from the home on the land.

“The difference between a lot with a house and a lot without a house was almost nothing,” Howard said.

Even with the desolate conditions of the homes and the neighborhood, the properties flew off the market. Preservation North Carolina set up stringent restrictions for the changes that future homeowners in the village could make to their houses, which gave buyers confidence that the neighborhood would stay quaint and charming.

Houses in Glencoe Mill Village cannot be expanded beyond 30 percent of their original size, and the materials from which the houses are built must all be the same.

“All the houses there look alike,” Howard said. “Fifty years from now, we want it to still have the feeling of there being a lot of uniformity.”

In fact, there are 14 identical houses still standing.

Similarly, all the new houses that are built in the village must look like the rest. Preservation North Carolina is trying to keep the neighborhood’s historic significance rather than change it altogether. There is only one lot in the entire village that has not been sold.

The insides of the houses, though, are a different story.

The owners of the houses were responsible for completing each of the renovations themselves, and in return they were given North Carolina tax credit.

Many of the owners have personalized their homes to fit their needs, giving the houses’ historic characters a modern twist. One house even features a bathtub as the centerpiece of a bedroom.

On Saturday, May 16, the village will offer an open tour for visitors to see the changes in this now bustling neighborhood. The draw here was the community feel that can be hard to come by in modern neighborhoods.

“Villages can be charming,” Howard said. “They’re walkable and street-oriented. They’re modest in size, but it’s a nice layout.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: