For sale: An unusual house at an address with a forlorn history

square, two-story brick house

919 Carr Street, now for sale for a remarkable $299,000

919 Carr Street is a real eye-catcher, a squat little brick bunker built decades after its neighbors. First-time visitors to Carr Street always ask, “How did that get there?” It’s not that the house is ugly; some people don’t care for its looks, some do. It’s just so out of place. Built in 1961, it may not be a great example of Mid-Century Modern architecture, but its almost square design, flat roof and second-floor balcony give it a distinctive look.

The house has been an Airbnb for a few months. It went up for sale last week at a wildly inflated $299,000. A sign of the times, for which you can thank the City Council, the house is priced far out of reach of anyone except short-term rental operators (the owner claims it can turn over $300,000 a year). The price comes to a staggering $277 per square foot. That’s an Irving Park price. For comparison, several of College Hill’s best preserved houses have been sold in the past two years at a maximum of $194 per square foot, including 212 S. Mendenhall Street, 213 S. Mendenhall, 303 S. Mendenhall and 915 Spring Garden.

919 Carr has had only four owners since 1909, but it has also had one of the most unfortunate histories in the neighborhood. There was an earlier house on the lot as far back as 1909, when the property was bought by Emily Stewart, a widow. She used it as a rental until 1914, when she lost it in a foreclosure. It was bought then by another absentee owner, Robert Ruffin King Jr. an attorney. He rented it out until around 1950 or ’51.

Then something happened. It’s not clear what, but the address wasn’t listed in the city directory after 1950. There are no newspaper reports of the house burning, but, one way or another, it wasn’t there any more (if it had been sitting empty, the directory would have listed it as vacant). King held onto the property until he died in 1960.

the same house, with a large pile of debris in the front yard

Undergoing renovations in 2019

In 1961, J.D. and Therry Deal bought the lot from King’s children and built the existing house for their young family. J.D. was with Kansas City Life Insurance and later was a salesman for Rhodes Furniture. They moved away from Greensboro about five years later. It may have been the only time in 115 years or so that either of the houses at 919 Carr were owner occupied. The Deals held onto the house, though, renting it out for more than 50 years until selling it in 2019.

Their agents appeared to have essentially no standards for maintenance or for the tenants they put into the house. The last tenants under the Deals’ ownership were fine, a very nice family that managed to tolerate the decaying little house for two or three years. But for at least 25 years, the house had seen more tenants than you could keep track of, each seemingly worse than the last. A remarkable number had to be evicted. There were the two college boys who never took their garbage to the curb. For months they just dumped it beside the house in an ever-growing pile that they covered with a tarp until neighbors called the city. They were evicted.

And the hoarder who crammed the house full of what mostly appeared to be garbage. On the infrequent occasions when she would throw something out, she did so literally, tossing bags of garbage off the balcony onto the front yard. She was evicted, and it took weeks to clean the place out.

Then there was the woman who moved in but didn’t actually live there. She would show up during the day occasionally, and each time, moments after she arrived, someone would visit her, driving up in a car with state-government license plates. After a few months, a notice was posted on the door, notifying the tenant that she had violated her probation. She may have gone to jail before she could be evicted.

The badly deteriorated house sat empty for months before the Deals decided to sell it. The new owner bought it for next to nothing, $70,000. It wasn’t listed publicly for sale. To his credit, he did a thorough renovation. He says he spent $150,000 fixing it, which included extensive repairs after his first couple tenants left (he initially leased it as a conventional rental).

919 Carr Street

  • $299,000
  • 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, 1,080 square feet, 0.16 acre
  • Price/square foot: $277
  • Built in 1961
  • Listed July 7, 2023
  • Last sale: $ 70,000, November 2019

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