The last of College Hill’s originally African American-owned homes is sold for the first time

1110 w. mcgee under renovation seen from the street

1110 W. McGee Street, the Booker-Benton House, built in 1923

1110 W. McGee Street has been sold for the first time since it was built in 1923. The Booker-Benton House is one of just two pre-1980’s houses left on the block. The area was once a rare African-American neighborhood in otherwise all-white west Greensboro.

“After the Civil War, African-American citizens sought to avoid high costs of land by living in the area alongside and behind the white-owned homes of South Mendenhall Street.  Some of these early residents purchased land from Cyrus P. Mendenhall, once mayor of the city and a Quaker. Others rented their homes. …

“During the Jim Crow Era of racial segregation, black residents in the neighborhood began to decrease in numbers as renters and homeowners relocated to traditional African American neighborhoods such as East Greensboro. Their modest College Hill homes were sometimes destroyed to make way for larger white-owned homes. By the 1970s, less than ten structures with African American associations remained in College Hill. All but one of those structures were razed to make way for condos by the Greensboro Redevelopment Commission in the early 1980s. The Booker-Benton House is likely the sole survivor.”

Benjamin Briggs, Preservation Greensboro

Sisters Mattie and Louie Booker bought the lot in 1919 and by 1923 were living in the house. “The Craftsman-style bungalow was stylish, incorporating a theme of Asian architecture that is exemplified in the low-pitched roofline, wide overhanging eaves, and exposed structural timbers such as rafter tails and knee braces,” Briggs wrote in 2017. “The sisters shared ownership of the house until their deaths. Louie Booker married Oscar Benton in 1935, and the house remains in the Benton family today through Oscar’s son Ted.”

Ted was the last family member to live in the house. He moved away a few years ago, and the house has been vacant since. An LLC called Signature 31 bought it last month for $60,000 (property records indicate the heirs of Maggie Bridges retain a 12 percent stake in the house). They are making significant renovations and have applied for a certificate of appropriateness. The Historic Preservation Commission will hold a public hearing on the application Wednesday July 31, 4 p.m., at the Melvin Municipal Building, Plaza Level Conference Room.

Signature 31, a family-owned company, owns eight properties in Greensboro; the others were purchased between August 2015 and January this year. The four owners of the firm live in Summerfield and Wrightsville Beach. The family operates two other LLCs — Lehrer Properties, which owns 10 houses in Guilford County, and Creative Property Equity Corp.

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