NC’s Pioneering Black Architects Get National Attention

Recent Past Preservation Network features notable North Carolina heroes. 

May 4, 2011 (Durham, NC) – The Recent Past Preservation Network (RPPN), a national organization preserving historic buildings and sites from the last 50 years, featured Triangle Modernist Houses.com’s recent series on early NC black architects.  The feature covers a five-page spread in the Spring 2011 edition online magazine RPPN Bulletin.

Entitled “Triangle Modernist Houses Honors Pioneering NC Black Architects,” the article discusses how the award-winning non-profit organization and its founder, George Smart, were inspired to launch the series during Black History Month this past February.

“African American men who followed their hearts into architecture before 1970s did so despite great resistance from both society and their own industry,” Smart told RPPN.

“Today there are many black architects in North Carolina, but before 1970 it was another story, and not a nice one. The field of architecture made choosing the profession nearly impossible for minorities. In North Carolina, there were almost none for decades.”

The RPPN article includes a list of 17 architects featured on the Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) website thus far, and some photos of those architects’ work.

In contrast to the relative cloak of obscurity under which those pioneering architects practiced, the RPPN article notes some of the very prominent black architects practicing in North Carolina today, including Loeb Fellowship winner Phil Freelon, FAIA, founder and principal of The Freelon Group in Durham, and Harvey Gantt, FAIA, principal partner of Gantt Huberman Architects in Charlotte, former Mayor of the City of Charlotte, and the man for whom The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte is named.

“It means so much to have a national resource such as RPPN recognize these important men in North Carolina’s design history, past and present,” Smart said recently. “A spotlight for them in RPPN’s Spring Bulletin is indeed an honor.”

To view the article, go to www.recentpast.org and click on the photo of the Bulletin.

To view the TMH archive “Pioneering Black Architects in North Carolina,” visit www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/ncblack.htm.

About RPPN:

The Recent Past Preservation Network promotes preservation education, assistance, and activism through the medium of new technologies, to encourage a contextual understanding of our modern built environment. The Network assists preservationists by providing an open community platform for the development and revision of practical strategies to document, preserve, and re-use historic places of the recent past. In carrying out its mission, RPPN engages in  a wide variety of activities of a charitable and educational nature. For more information visit www.recentpast.org.

About Triangle Modernist Houses:

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is an award-winning, 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007 devoted to archiving, preserving and promoting modernist architecture in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill “Triangle” region of North Carolina. It has since grown to feature modernist houses and their designers statewide and includes an archive of national and international modernist architects. TMH continues to catalog, preserve, and advocate for North Carolina modernism by hosting popular modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present. For more information visit www.trianglemodernisthouses.com. TMH also maintains an active Facebook page.

SAVED: National Alert Saves Endangered NC Modernist House

The Carr House, 1958.

February 7, 2010 (DURHAM, NC) – Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH), a non-profit organization dedicated to archiving and preserving modernist residential design, is pleased to announce that the endangered 1958 Carr House has been sold to new, appreciative owners. This masterpiece of mid-century modern architecture was originally designed by architect Kenneth Scott AIA, for John and Binford Carr.

When the 2337-square-foot house went on the market last fall, TMH founder and director George Smart issued a national alert to find a buyer who wouldn’t tear it down.

“Immediately I knew this house was a prime target for the bulldozer,” Smart said. “It was an older house on a large lot on a golf course, coupled with an empty lot next door – the perfect storm for a McMansion and a tragedy for a uniquely beautiful house in near-perfect shape.”

The hidden terrace

TMH issues alerts when a potentially endangered house goes on the market rather than wait while it sits empty – sometimes for months or years.  “By doing so, we gain critical time,” Smart noted, “time that dramatically increases the chances of finding a buyer who wants the house, not just the property.”

Smart describes the house as “straight from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian playbook. From the carport, a door opens onto an enclosed, private terrace and garden. Sliding glass doors open to the interior where large windows at the back of the living space overlook the golf course. A hall leading to the bedrooms also features a glass wall with exterior views.”

Natural wood and brick walls throughout the house “exemplify master builder Frank Walser’s work, adding warmth to the modern lines and volumes of the interior,” Smart said.

Besides its architectural significance, the house’s private garden and surrounding property still feature the work of master landscape architect Lewis Clarke, FASLA, who taught at the NCSU School of Design under Dean Henry Kamphoefner.

Interior view

The Carrs, the only owners of the house, listed the property with Susan Peak of Peak, Swirles & Cavallito of Durham last fall. Smart and Peak immediately collaborated on local publicity, held an open house for TMH supporters, linked the home’s MLS listing to TMH, and posted a collection of black-and-white images from the late 1950s. The next step was a national news release on the house’s availability, including to the Recent Past Preservation Network.

Smart hoped a buyer who truly appreciated the beauty and historic importance of Kenneth Scott’s design would come forward before a developer grabbed the land and discarded the house. Six months later, he got his wish.

“The new owners love what they’ve bought,” he said. “They split ownership of the adjacent empty lot with a neighbor, so that will never be built on. And they plan a small but respectful addition in the coming year. This preservation story couldn’t have ended better.”

Smart also noted that the new owners have expressed interest in getting the house listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information on the Carr House and architect Kenneth Scott, go to www.trianglemodernisthouses.com/scott.htm.

For more information on TMH and to see other modernist houses for sale in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill region of North Carolina, visit www.trianglemodernisthouses.com.

About Triangle Modernist Houses

Triangle Modernist Houses (TMH) is a 501C3 nonprofit established in 2007 to restoring and growing modernist architecture in the Triangle. The award-winning website, now the largest educational and historical archive for modernist residential design in America, continues to catalog, preserve, and advocate for North Carolina modernism.  TMH also hosts popular modernist house tours several times a year, giving the public access to the Triangle’s most exciting residential architecture, past and present. These tours raise awareness and help preserve these “works of art” for future generations. Visit the website at www.trianglemodernisthouses.com. TMH is also available on Facebook.