August 04, 2013

CHESTNUT HILL ~ A Neighborhood on the Cusp of Revitalization

820 S. Jackson Street ~ Chestnut Hill Neighborhood ~ $19K
In 2001, the City of Salisbury paid for a survey looking at adding potential historic districts to the 10 districts already in place. Chestnut Hill was named as one that would likely be eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Yet in early 2013, a scheduled demolition of houses at 812 and 814 S. Jackson St. gave everything a sense of urgency. Within a matter of weeks, a task force formed and efforts began in earnest to revitalize the Chestnut Hill neighborhood just south of Salisbury’s downtown.

The Chestnut Hill Neighborhood ~ Salisbury NC
Chestnut Hill is one of the earliest subdivisions in Salisbury. It grew out of the farm and large brick home of Samuel R. Harrison that was known as Chestnut Hill. The house, torn down in the 1960s, sat a distance back from South Main Street on a significant amount of land owned by Harrison. In 1892, the Dixie Land Co. purchased Harrison’s acreage and divided it into 103 lots. South Jackson Street and South Church Street were eventually extended and joined the new streets of Chestnut, Harrison and Johnson. Principals in the Dixie Land Co. included Salisbury notables such as John Steele Henderson, the Rev. Francis Murdoch and Napoleon Bonaparte McCanless. A working-class neighborhood developed in Chestnut Hill.
City of Salisbury Neighborhood Revitalization
The new task force, led by the Historic Salisbury Foundation and local church leaders, already has outlined steps to take in revitalizing the Chestnut Hill neighborhood. They include:
  • Re-establish the historic name of “Chestnut Hill.”
  • Place signs marking its boundaries
  • Research the history of the area and its buildings
  • Take immediate steps to save and rehabilitate houses so they are ultimately occupied
  • Seek grants for emergency rehabilitations and a revolving fund for endangered historic properties
  • Seek organizations and individuals to buy and rehabilitate properties
  • Contact current owners and offer plans for assistance, including selling if desired
  • Organize for and request grants for cleaning up, painting and repairs. 
This citizen effort is unprecedented in the history of Salisbury, as it brings together a wide variety of interests to encourage, assist, and help organize this neighborhood. The effort includes the non-profit historic foundation, leaders of four historic churches in Chestnut Hill, real estate professionals, small investors, the city of Salisbury, and bordering historic district neighborhoods such as Fulton Heights and the West Square. 

Meanwhile, Historic Salisbury Foundation took a first step bought options on three South Jackson Street houses, which are now vacant. The Foundation will try to find buyers for the 1930s-era houses with hopes they become owner-occupied, placing asking prices far below the current tax values. In keeping with the Foundation’s policy, they will sell these homes with covenants to ensure they retain their exterior character and are not demolished. 

The Foundation contacted Realtor ® Greg Rapp, of Wallace Realty, to list the properties, understanding that Greg has the area’s widest breadth of knowledge of historic and aging properties and Salisbury’s historic neighborhoods. (Greg Rapp recently sold the historic Stokes-Snider House, another Historic Salisbury Foundation.) A few weeks ago, these houses were history, but Greg Rapp will give the homes the sense of urgency they deserve. The three houses in the Chestnut Hill Neighborhood for sale on South Jackson Street are: 812 S. Jackson - $15,000; 814 S. Jackson - $17,000; and 820 S. Jackson - $19,000.

814 S. Jackson Street ~ Chestnut Hill ~ SOLD ~ G. Rapp
They were right! Greg listed the three circa early 1900s homes at 812, 814, and 820 S. Jackson St., and within weeks, Greg has 814 under contract. Greg sees this first sale as the catalyst for neighborhood revitalization. These homes need plenty of TLC, but the price is right for the right buyer to step in and grease the revitalization wheel turning. 

Mary 'Minnie' Steele Scales ~ Chestnut Hill
The Chestnut Hill neighborhood, which includes the city-owned cemetery of the same name, extends roughly between South Main and South Fulton streets from Thomas Street to the cemetery. South Jackson, South Church, McCubbins, South Main, Chestnut, Harrison and Johnson streets represent the main arteries. The Chestnut Hill Cemetery, at 1134 S Main St, Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina has as many as 1,259 listings. Members of the task force realize the importance of the Chestnut Hill Cemetery to the neighborhood. It’s much like a park, with many walking and running paths, besides holding monuments memorializing some of Salisbury’s most famous residents:

  • Blackmer, Sidney--b. July 13, 1895; d. October 6, 1973. Blackmer was a motion picture and television actor best known for his role in the 1968 movie "Rosemary's Baby"
  • Blackmer, Suzanne --Sidney's wife; actor; b. March 21, 1912 d. August 27, 2004. She made over 30 movies, (8) with the Three Stooges
  • Scales, Mary Steele--b. 1840, d. 1919. Great granddaughter of John Steele, U.S. Comptroller of the Treasury, 1796
  • Others were North Carolina Senators and US Congressmen 
Chestnut Hill Bungalow Undergoing Rehabilitation
People in Chestnut Hill have been talking about the need to revitalize the neighborhood for several years. People need to know the neighborhood is safe, well-lit, has good streets and sidewalks, and is a good place to raise a family. With that in mind, the Chestnut Hill community aims to establish a neighborhood watch program modeled closely after the one in nearby Fulton Heights, and a neighborhood association and working with the city to address streetlights and signs. HSF has already begun an inventory of every property in Chestnut Hill, researching property histories through tax records, photographing their conditions, and creating a folder for each one. 

Chestnut Street Home ~ Chestnut Hill
In looking at Sanborn maps from 1931, many of the properties are no longer there. But at least half of the tax records pulled so far show homes lived in by their owners, not renters. The neighborhood has roughly 150 properties, many turn-of-the-century cottages with rocking chair porches. Other historic properties also are on a track toward demolition in Chestnut Hill, and the task force has created a preliminary “blitz list” to identify structures most in danger. While the Historic Salisbury Foundation cannot save every endangered property, choosing key residences will go a long way in leading to other improvements. In addition to the homes the Historic Salisbury Foundation has optioned, several commercial buildings in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood would be natural choices for rehabilitation using federal and state historic tax credits, since up to 40 percent of the project costs could be eligible for reimbursement. 

S. Church Street Home ~ Chestnut Hill
With overwhelming support from historic preservationists, Salisbury’s City Council recently adopted the “long-awaited” Historic Preservation Master Plan, a 72-page road map for improving the city’s preservation programs and strengthening collaboration on preservation issues. The public spoke out not only to approve the document that was two and a half years in the making, but also to support revitalization efforts in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood, asking for a moratorium on demolitions in these areas and a new stabilization fund that would help rehabilitate historic homes and put them back into use. 

812 S. Jackson Street ~ Chestnut Hill ~ $15K
Historic preservation honors the past but more importantly, it embraces the future. Revitalizing Chestnut Hill will mean safety, security, and pride for residents, and help bring new people to that area, adding value to the properties and the neighborhood. Designation on the National Registry of Historic Places would benefit property owners on rehabilitation expenses by providing significant tax credits. 

If you are the right person, the person who relishes being a part of a holistic revitalization effort, the person who can purchase a home slated for demolition but worthy of preservation and rehabilitation. . . contact Greg Rapp at 704.213.6846 ~ your adventure is about to begin! One of these homes is already under contract…don’t wait! It’s an exciting beginning, and you can be part of it from the ground up! 

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