If you live in the UNC Charlotte area, you have probably driven by 1412 West Rocky River Road.
It’s near the intersection of Rocky River Road and Old Concord Road, next to Newell Presbyterian Church and across from the Newell Masonic Lodge.
Right now, the structure, which sits on about two acres of land, looks a bit dilapidated. But, if you are willing to explore its history, you may find a diamond in the rough.
According to a brief historical sketch of the property prepared by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, the house was converted from a cotton gin building in 1925. John Newell transformed the building for his daughter Rachel.
The house is described as, “Architecturally significant as a striking local example of an embellished farmhouse of the mid-1920s, especially noteworthy because of its incorporation of Craftsman style Bungalow elements ...”
The Landmarks Commission says materials, including windows, had been recycled parts from other houses in the area back then. John Newell was the principal founder of the Newell community and a person described as having outstanding social and political importance in Mecklenburg County.
Rachel Newell eventually married William Neill and they raised four daughters in the home. In 1964 Rachel Newell Neill sold the house.
It has had several owners and has even been used as a fraternity house for UNC Charlotte students. It has been vacant for about 10 years, according to Ted Alexander of the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina.
The vacant house has an uncertain future.
“We did consider the possibility of buying it for purposes of preservation, but it was not economically viable,” says Dan Morrill, consulting director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission. “I’ve found over the years that it is difficult to market these houses, because it’s a narrow market of people who want to take on that kind of project.”
Morrill says it is never too late, if someone is willing to spend enough money. Back in 2002 the Historic Landmarks Commission was interested in the house, but could not agree on a purchase price.
Earlier this year, a Newell-Neill family member approached Preservation North Carolina to try to protect the property. The sale price for the house is about $45,000.
Once the house is renovated it has potential to be designated as a local landmark which could mean a property tax benefit.
“Our goal is to have someone buy the property and rehab it over time,” said Ted Alexander, Western regional director of preservation North Carolina.
His organization has an endangered property program that protects, rescues or preserves property.
“Preserving this house could save an important structure that could even be nominated to the national register of historical places, which would qualify for a historic rehabilitation tax credit,” Alexander said.
However, some people who drive by this house everyday may have a different point of view.
There is a sign on the front door that says “unsafe.” Bulldozing it and building something new would always be an option. If an individual or organization had the money, the house could even be used for community meetings and events.
Time will tell which view wins. I’d love to hear your opinion.
There have been far too many cases of a wrecking balls and bulldozers taking out historical structures in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. But, preserving these structures will take more than just good will.