It's not the house on the corner. We've all seen that for five years -- the two-story duplex in the shadow of the new jail, sitting on steel beams and white oak timbers like a pickup on concrete blocks.
I've become used to that.
No, what I see these days is the hand-painted sign perched on the porch's roof. It reads: "Save The Zenke House. Google It."
But they don't have the money, and without a tenant and a firm business plan, they can't get a loan to pay for improvements that could cost well north of
Attorneys, organizations, even
But those discussions tanked.
In the meantime, the city has waited. It gave the Zenkes more time to bring the duplex up to code because the city wanted the house saved.
But the city is done waiting. Its next move? Demolish the Zenke duplex.
That would be painful to see.
The house has good bones and nice big rooms, enough for seven offices. But it's also the Zenke name, a name linked to the city's history, beauty and architecture.
Start with the Zenke Three:
From the 1950s until the early 1980s, they ran an interior design business that turned homes into showplaces in
Moreover, Henry and Virginia helped make historic preservation a local priority. They helped create Preservation Greensboro, the nonprofit organization that now spotlights and saves the city's architectural history.
Nearly 50 years ago, Henry and Virginia -- and dozens of others -- helped raise
I wrote about Blandwood on Sunday, and as I sat in Blandwood's ornate front parlor last week, reading newspaper articles yellowed by age, I ran across the names of Virginia and
Then, I'd look outside -- down a sloping hill, past a canopy of stately oaks to a hand-painted sign, a sagging chain link fence and a jacked-up house across from the most historic structure in the county.
It's the city's most bizarre sight.
"When people complain, I feel like telling them, 'Take a number. Get in line,' '' says Chris, 49. "We're the first complainers."
Henry died in 2001. He was 83. Virginia is now 89. Their children are doing what they can to save the house where their family ran the business for a quarter-century until the duplex's move.
Chris and Ginia are the family's second generation of designers, and they're the stewards of the family's legacy. But city officials and elected leaders are frustrated because they say they don't see any action from siblings they describe as uncompromising and stubborn.
That brings us to today -- and a possible solution.
He has big ideas: Create a nonprofit group, involve the art departments from 10 of the Triad's colleges and universities, and have a place where students can showcase their art and learn the business side of making and selling art.
The name of his nonprofit:
But can SALT save the Zenke house?
Elected leaders are worn out with Chris and Ginia. But the SALT plan is a town-gown collaboration that could sway political will. Me? I drive by that jacked-up house, see the hand-painted sign and think of what was.
Or maybe, what could be.
(c)2014 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.)
Visit the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.) at www.news-record.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services