In FengSway, HearSway

As population growth continues, three local residents have come together to advocate for preserving the buildings that make Moore County special; everything from sprawling mansions to everyday homes, soon-to-be retired schools, and commercial structures.

Started in November 2019, The Pines Preservation Guild currently exists only as a social media movement. But, the group has bigger goals.

Who is behind the Guild? 

The Pines Preservation Guild was started by Leslie Brians (a designer, self-proclaimed “preservation + architect nerd” and recent appointee to the Southern Pines Historic District Commission); Grace Crawford (of Crawford Modern); and Ashley Johnson (who is currently restoring a 1910 Dutch Colonial).

We asked Leslie Brians, Guild spokesperson, the questions below. Her answers were edited for length and clarity.

A midcentury modern recently highlighted by the Guild. This one happens to be for sale.

What does the Guild hope to Accomplish? 

Short term: Our social media presence serves as a space to bring awareness to at-risk historic properties, share potential preservation projects, teach preservation technique and philosophy and inspire people to become involved in policymaking. 

Long term: We want to create a local network, or guild, of building and real estate professionals that support, educate, and advocate techniques and methods appropriate for the preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of historic properties in the Sandhills. Historic homeowners can then access that network and be automatically linked to these professionals.

The circa-1950 Mayfair Building, apartments on May Street

What inspired the Guild’s creation?

In 2015 we moved to Southern Pines from Charlotte, a place that became filled with so much congestion and over-development that we couldn’t wait to leave. In the five years we’ve been here, we again are seeing the writing on the wall for the loss of what makes an area unique.

It seemed like every time I drove down May Street, a bulldozer had taken down another small post-war cottage or another turn-of-the-century building had been gutted. Historic buildings tell a story of values, environment, and pride, but when they’re demolished or gutted to match latest trends, the result is destroyed communities and priced-out residents.

“My husband Jim and I started flipping houses in the Sandhills area in 2015, but started to question the ethics of it all,” said Grace Crawford. “Putting in finishes that appealed to the market instead of what was right for the home itself was tough for us. Instead, we’ve started a residential construction company whose primary goal is to partner with families who want to renovate their homes with the intention of leveraging vintage design for modern day standards.”

The Guild calls Buggytown Coffee which occupied a 100-year-old mechanic’s garage without making major structural changes, an example of successful “adaptive reuse.”

What is Something You Wish More People Knew about Historic Preservation?

Preservation isn’t just about saving our big mansions or the sprawling estates. Preservation is about preserving communities and the values they embody: the everyday homes, the commercial buildings, the open spaces, the thoroughfares. One building lost ends up turning into a hundred buildings lost, which turns into communities lost. 

There’s no such thing as a teardown and the greenest building is the one already built. Preservation is being able to see that, as opposed to just seeing something old that needs to be replaced.

OK, But Isn’t This Easier Said Than Done?

I think a lot of people think, “Oh, well, that’s going to be what I do when I retire. Or, we don’t have the time or the energy to do it.” All three of us in the Guild have children under the age of 5. So we know that this is a gift we want to give our children — they’re going to be growing up in a home that has lasted for generations before them and if treated properly, will last for generations after us.

Do You Have Any Passion Projects?

We like to highlight a wide variety of buildings. Recently, we did a series highlighting the historic Moore County School buildings and their uncertain futures — specifically, the Southern Pines Elementary school building complex. It has so much potential to be adaptively reused in a way that enhances the Southern Pines community and continues to give back to the neighborhood and town as the school has for generations.

The Moore County Board of Education recently denied a request to negotiate with Moore Montessori over the Southern Pines Elementary School Campus, deciding instead to sell the property through an upset bid process.

Moore Montessori is currently appealing that decision to the Moore County Board of Commissioners. Read more from The Pilot here.

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