Jeff Towne, longtime College Hill resident and landlord, died Tuesday April 26 in Columbus, Ohio. He was 92.
He split his time between 933 Carr Street and a retirement community in Columbus. He had made multiple trips back and forth this year, always driving and always by himself. Jeff had maintained a residence in Greensboro for more than 60 years, but Guilford County records list his mailing address as the Columbus residence.
He had been in declining health for several years. A neighbor said Jeff was hospitalized in Greensboro last month. His family then had him transported to a hospital in Ohio. A memorial service was held in Columbus last week.
Jeff had no family in Greensboro. He is survived by a sister, Joyce Towne Gross, who lives in the same retirement community in Columbus, and a niece. He had been a close friend of Jim Clark of 935 Carr Street, who died in 2017.
Louis Jefferson Towne III was born in Kent, Ohio, on November 30, 1959. He was a graduate of Ellet High School in Akron and the University of Akron, where he received a degree in engineering. He served two years in the U.S. Air Force. He received a master’s degree from Stanford University, apparently while in the Air Force. In Ohio, he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and Rubber Maid Inc.
Jeff came to Greensboro around 1959. The city directory that year listed him as a traveling salesman living in an apartment on Chestnut Street in Dunleath. In subsequent years, he was listed as a salesman and manufacturer’s agent.
In 1962 and 1963, the L. Jeff Towne Company was listed in the city directory, also at an apartment on Chestnut Street. The directory said its business was auto accessories. During those years, the directory listed Jeff’s residence as Akron, Ohio.
Jeff had a long history in College Hill. He bought 305 Tate Street in 1969, the first of several rental properties he owned in the neighborhood. When he died, county records listed him as the owner of six houses in College Hill (921, 930, 931 and 933 Carr Street; 705 Morehead Street; and 305 Tate) and five elsewhere in Greensboro.
Jeff also had a long history with the city’s Redevelopment Commission, Minimum Housing Standards Commission, and the code and zoning enforcement agencies. County records show that at least twice he averted demolition of houses he owned at the last minute after long avoiding or ignoring repair orders.
He bought 217 Tate in 1975, selling it in 1982 to the Redevelopment Commission. The agency
found it too deteriorated to repair and demolished it due to fire damage [correction, May 2, 2022]. (The current house there was built by contractor Gary Jobe in 1985.)
In 1978, Jeff bought one of the most historic homes in College Hill, 911 W. McGee Street, the Walker-Scarborough House, built in 1855. Six years later, Jeff was issued a court order condemning the house and ordering him to surrender it to the city. It has since been restored.
The fate of the houses still in his name is unknown. Three of the College Hill houses continue to have tenants; three are empty. 931 Carr and 705 Morehead are condemned. The status of 933 Carr is unclear; it, too, was condemned in recent years, although Jeff continued to live there when he was in Greensboro.