180 years of history
College Hill was designated as Greensboro’s first local historic district in 1980. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places (PDF) in 1993. The district’s period of significance is 1837 to 1941. Most of the neighborhood was built out from the 1890s to 1930s. 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 (PDF).
College Hill’s first homes were built in the late 1830s and 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. Two of the neighborhood’s antebellum houses are still standing.
Later, the area came to be called “the West End,” as it was Greensboro’s westernmost neighborhood. It 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.
For more than 30 years, the neighborhood prospered. A mix of grand houses and modest bungalows were built. By 1897, a small business district began to appear at Spring Garden and South Mendenhall streets. It included Greensboro’s first A&P store (now College Hill Sundries). Wafco Mills, a grain mill, opened in 1905.
By 1899, St. Mary’s Episcopal Chapel was established on Walker Avenue. It remains today as the Episcopal campus ministry. In 1900 the Spring Garden Street Methodist-Episcopal Church, now College Place United Methodist Church, opened. The Presbyterian Church of the Covenant was established in 1906, and in 1914 its current church was built, designed by prominent Greensboro architect Harry Barton. The Greensboro Primitive Baptist Church opened on Tate Street in 1909. All three churches continue to operate today.
In the 1920s the Tate Street business district was born as businesses began to gradually replace homes around the intersection of Tate Street and Walker Avenue. The General Greene Service Station on Tate was the first to open in 1925, followed soon by a Piggly Wiggly at 950 Walker Avenue. By 1929 Tate and Walker hosted those businesses and two drug stores, a second gas station, a second grocery store, a sandwich shop, a tea shop, barber shop, hosiery store, shoe store, a shoe repair shop and a dressmaker.
The West End was one of Greensboro’s most successful neighborhoods. Beginning in 1929, though, the Depression dealt it a severe blow, and the next several decades weren’t much better. Many homeowners lost their homes and were replaced by absentee landlords. Large houses were divided into apartments and deteriorated severely. Some were torn down. What had been a premier neighborhood 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 new authority granted to cities by the state legislature.
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, both of which were nearly lost. Historic status was a key to the redevelopment of Wafco Mills as condominiums.
The city designated College Hill as a redevelopment area, and many deteriorated homes were condemned and resold at minimal prices 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, does the disinterest of absentee landlords. Nevertheless, the City of Greensboro and College Hill’s homeowners are making progress throughout the neighborhood as College Hill’s revival continues.
National Register of Historic Places
The College Hill neighborhood was designated as a National Register Historic District in 1993 (click here to read the nomination). 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.
Two College Hill properties are included in the register in their own right — the Bumpas-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.
Other Greensboro historic districts
Local preservation organizations
The Preservation Greensboro Development Fund is an independent revolving fund that preserves and rehabilitates historic structures through property acquisitions and partnerships. It was instrumental in saving the Bumpas-Troy House and partnered with the neighborhood association and City of Greensboro to save 919 Spring Garden Street, the Carrie and Charles Angle House.
Preservation Greensboro Inc. operates Architectural Salvage, a great resource for historic renovation. It also operates a museum at Blandwood Mansion, a National Historic Landmark on Washington Street, just east of College Hill. The museum focuses on the family of Gov. John Motley Morehead and on 19th century decor and furnishings.
- Greensboro Historic District Program
- 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 (NCGS § 160A-400.1 through 400.15)
- 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