Holding on to history is something Raleigh does well, and on Saturday, the city's curious were invited to tour four landmark buildings that are being restored and repurposed.
The Raleigh Historic Development Commission opened the old Nehi Bottling Plant on Hillsborough Street, the Lewis-Smith house on Blount Street, the Gethsemane Seventh Day Adventist Church on Person Street and a funeral home turned industrial bank—turned-Ashley Christensen venture on Salisbury Street, to the public to tour.
North Carolina's Historic Preservation Tax credits made the restoration of all four of these buildings possible. However, the Legislature allowed these credits to lapse on Jan. 1, endangering the restoration of historic buildings throughout the state.
Since 1998, the state provided a 20 to 30 percent credit to investors who agreed to follow guidelines for restoration laid out by the state's Historic Preservation Office. Combined with a 20 percent incentive from the federal government, investors could recoup a large chunk of the cost involved in restoring old houses and buildings.
A petition to bring the tax credit back is circulating, and Gov. McCrory has said he supports resurrecting it. Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, has already submitted a bill proposing new tax incentives for developers, and legislators are expected to address the issue in the upcoming legislative session. But conservative lawmakers, who favor lowering the tax rate overall, may decide against reviving the tax incentive. This will likely discourage investors, and cities such as Raleigh that are brimming with old buildings. Instead of finding new life, the historic structures could be left to languish once again.
Prolific and eclectic Raleigh architect William Henry Dietrick designed the minimalist building, which was erected in 1937. James Goodnight, son of billionaire SAS-founder Jim Goodnight, purchased the 10,000-square-foot building in 2013 for $590,000. Raleigh architect David Maurer restored the building, replacing a second floor and installing pyramid skylights as well as imported black Carrera glass, popular during the period, but now no longer produced, around the building's entrance. After obtaining trademark rights from the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Goodnight commissioned local artist Luke Buchanan to recreate the original RC Cola mural on the building's side. The building is available for lease.
Built in 1910, finished in 1920, and purchased by Goodnight in 2012 for $700,000, the 13,000-square-foot building has served as a funeral home and a bank before being restored by Maurer's company. In the 1970's, then-owner Raleigh Industrial Bank covered the blockish building with a stucco façade, which Goodnight, banking on receiving Historic Preservation tax credits from the state, stripped away, restoring the onetime eyesore to its original character.
This year, Raleigh chef Ashley Christensen will open the suitably named Death and Taxes, a restaurant, bar and event space. The building, with its creepy vault in the basement which will serve as Christensen's wine bar, is said to be the most haunted building in Raleigh. Maurer tells a story about a representative from the Triangle Paranormal Society fainting upon entering from all the supernatural energy. Visitors say they have heard strange voices and footsteps in the building and a young girl, the daughter of a broker, reported a pleasant conservation she had with a "nice man" only she could see.
The Lewis-Smith house was built in 1855, based on a Greek Revival-style design in the Asher Benjamin pattern book. Originally on Wilmington Street, the 2,800 square-foot home belonged to the prominent Lewis and Smith families and was converted to state offices in the 1970s, when it was moved to its current location on Blount Street. Former U.S. Sen. Josiah W. Bailey once owned the Blount Street lot where the house now sits. The local real estate firm Hobby Properties purchased the Lewis-Smith house in 2012 and Clearscapes architecture firm restored it for Hobby to use as its corporate office.
Built in 1920, Gethsamane Seventh-day Adventist church was one of the first such churches in the state built for a black congregation, which worshipped there until the 1980s until it outgrew the space. The church was rented to various groups until April 2011 when it sustained damage from the April 2011 tornado and was subsequently condemned by the city.
Developer Phuc Tran bought the building in 2012 for $125,000. He wants to rezone the property to potentially use it for a restaurant; his case goes before the city Planning Commission this week. The identity of mason who built the stucco-block church is unknown. Each of the church's blocks is unique, studded with several pieces of quartz hand-pressed into a concrete coating.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Colorful past, promising future"