College Hill was designated as Greensboro’s first historic district in 1980. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. The district’s period of significance is 1837 to 1941. The most typical styles of architecture are Queen Anne, Colonial Revival and Craftsman. Click here for a map showing the district’s properties and boundaries.
College Hill’s first homes were built in the 1840s adjacent to then-new Greensboro College. “Piety Hill” was Greensboro’s first neighborhood, nicknamed for its proximity to the Methodist-affiliated school and the many clergy members who lived here. It also came to be called “the West End,” as it was Greensboro’s westernmost neighborhood. Most of the neighborhood was built out from the 1890s to 1930s. The area was annexed into the city in 1892.
Also in 1892, the Normal and Industrial School for White Girls (later the Women’s College of the University of North Carolina and now UNCG) opened adjacent to the West End. In the following years, the neighborhood prospered. The Tate Street business district was established, as was a smaller one at Spring Garden and South Mendenhall streets, which included Greensboro’s first A&P store (now College Hill Sundries). The College Place United Methodist Church, Greensboro Primitive Baptist Church and Presbyterian Church of the Covenant were founded. It was one of Greensboro’s best neighborhoods.
The Depression dealt the West End a severe blow, and the next several decades weren’t much better. Many of the large houses were divided into apartments. Some were torn down. What had been a premier neighborhood lost its status, deteriorated, devolved almost into a slum.
By the late 1970s the neighborhood and the city realized the historic and cultural value that was being lost. College Hill was designated as historic district in 1980 under relatively new authority granted to cities by the state legislature in the 1970s.
The designation has reversed the decline of the neighborhood and spurred the preservation of many of the neighborhood’s oldest homes, including the two remaining 1840s homes. Historic status was a key to the redevelopment of Wafco Mills as condominiums.
College Hill was designated as a redevelopment area, and many deteriorated homes were condemned and resold to homebuyers who agreed to restore the properties.
The neighborhood and the city continue to work together to restore what again is a vibrant, lively neighborhood. Property values have risen dramatically, benefiting the city’s tax base and easing the tax load of the rest of the city.
College Hill remains a work in progress. Demand for property near UNCG makes the threat of destructive redevelopment a continuing challenge. So, too, is the disinterest of absentee landlords. Nevertheless, the city, Preservation Greensboro and College Hill’s homeowners are making progress throughout the neighborhood as College Hill’s revival continues.
National Register of Historic Places
The boundaries of the National Register district are slightly different from the city’s historic district. As a result, Greensboro College and Wafco are within the city historic district but outside the National Register district.
The two College Hill properties included in the register in their own right are the Bumpass-Troy House and Wafco Mills.
Guilford County landmarks
The county’s preservation board serves as a historic landmark commission. College Hill properties designated as county landmarks are:
- The Bumpas-Troy House, 114 South Mendenhall Street,
- The Effie M. Anderson House, 303 South Mendenhall Street,
- Greensboro College Main Building, 815 West Market Street,
- The Sparger-Harrison House (exterior & lot only), 1007 West Market Street
- Wafco Mills, 801 West McGee Street,
- The Walker-Scarborough House, 911 West McGee Street, and
- The Wilson-Andrews House, 102 South Mendenhall Street.
Historic district design guidelines
The historic district designation itself is a zoning overlay that limits the changes that can be made to properties in the neighborhood, such as a prohibition on dividing single-family homes into apartments.
- Most exterior renovations and additions must conform to the city’s Historic District Manual and Design Guidelines.
- Before beginning work, a Certificate of Appropriateness from the Greensboro Historic District Program is required. Many smaller projects can be approved at the staff level. Larger projects require approval of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.
- Examples of work requiring a COA: Placement of satellite dishes, installing fences, cutting down mature trees (those of at least 4 inches in diameter at breast height).
- Examples of work that do not require a COA: Changing the paint colors of a house, minor repairs when original materials and features are maintained.
- The historic district manual can answer most questions. The staff of the Historic District Program, Mike Cowhig and Stefan-Leih Geary, can answer the rest.
Municipal Service District
College Hill property owners pay a Municipal Service District fee along with their property taxes. The fee pays for such neighborhood improvements as a continuing streetscape and landscaping project in the city right of way. Projects have included:
- The neighborhood’s old-fashioned street lights,
- Additional historically appropriate street lighting to eliminate dark spots throughout the neighborhood,
- The pergola on South Mendenhall Street at Walker Avenue,
- Signs identifying the neighborhood on Market, Spring Garden and Spring streets,
- Sidewalk trash receptacles,
- A security fence on Oakland Avenue along the railroad tracks,
- Part of the cost of the Spring Garden Street median, and
- The granite cornerstones and plantings at many corners throughout College Hill.
MSD funds also were used for the 2013 College Hill Tree Inventory.
Other Greensboro historic districts
A supporter and ally of the historic district is Preservation Greensboro Inc. It promotes historic preservation throughout the city and operates Architectural Salvage, a great resource for historic renovation.
- Greensboro Historic District Program
- Preservation Greensboro Inc.
- Guilford County Historic Preservation Commission
- North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office
- Preservation North Carolina
- Local Historic Property Designations in North Carolina
- National Register of Historic Places
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
- North Carolina Historic Preservation Law
- Character of historic district defined, NCGS 160A-400.3
- Designation of historic districts, NCGS 160A-400.4
- Historic Preservation Commission, NCGS 160A-400.7
- Powers of the Historic Preservation Commission, NCGS 160A–400.8
- Certificate of appropriateness required, NCGS 160A–400.9
- For further statutes relating to historic districts, see North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 160A — Cities and Towns