Historic status requested for Waynesville homes

By Mary Ann Enloe | Dec 06, 2012

The owner of the imposing brick house and property at the corner of Waynesville's Main and Walnut Streets is asking the town's governing board to declare it and the house next door to it as historic landmarks.

Local historic designation is being sought by Charles F. McDarris for 28 and 52 Walnut Street.

McDarris grew up in the big two-story home known to old-timers as the Stringfield place.  He is seeking the same historic designation for the large house next to it that many remember as a rest home.

The Cary attorney inherited the properties upon the death of his parents District Court Judge Charles "Mac" McDarris and Ethel Hayes McDarris.

The land underneath the ornate 1922 Dr. Samuel Stringfield house on the corner is as important historically as any in Waynesville.

The town's founder, Col. Robert Love, built his house there in the early 1800s only to see it burned to the ground by Yankees during the War Between the States.

As they cut a swath through Waynesville, Kirk's Raiders also torched the nearby jail which had been constructed on property donated to the county by Love.

Love was a key figure in the carving out of Haywood County from Buncombe County in 1808.    Dr. Samuel Stringfield and his brother Dr. Thomas Stringfield were sons of Love's granddaughter, but the doctors didn't inherit their property.

Each bought lots in Spread Out for their stately homes — Dr. Samuel's on the corner and Dr. Thomas's next door.

Spread Out was the neighborhood in Waynesville that is still listed on some maps. In the Local Historic Report, Spread Out is defined as "a compact, well-defined residential neighborhood containing a good collection of substantial Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, and Craftsman dwellings intermixed with more modest bungalows, Period Cottages, and Minimal Traditional houses."  The structures stayed in the Stringfield family until 1960.  After changing hands a couple of times, the more ornate of the two houses was purchased in 1965 by Judge and Mrs. McDarris for their family home.   Mrs. McDarris, along with her sisters Pearl Hayes and Lina H. Padgett, bought the adjoining Dr. Thomas Stringfield house to be used as a nursing home.  It remained a nursing home until 2000.


Current owner Charles F. McDarris recently retrofitted both structures to accomodate offices, including the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce. According to the proposal submitted by McDarris to Waynesville's Historic Preservation Commission — the first step of the designation process — his goal when renovating was to maintain both the architectural and cultural significance of both properties.

The Commission voted unanimously to submit the proposal and the accompanying Local Designation Report by Acme Preservation Services of Asheville to the N. C. Dept. of Cultural Resources, State Historic Preservation Office.

The proposal received a positive report from the state in letters to Waynesville Planning Director Paul Benson concerning both houses:  "We concur that the property is worthy of consideration as a landmark.  Displaying an eclectic mix of Colonial Revival and Arts and Crafts styles, the house in addition retains a high degree of historic integrity on both the exterior and the interior,"  the letters said.

Ann Melton, Waynesville Historic Preservation Commission member, is pleased about the  prospect of having the two homes on the local historic list:

"I'm thrilled to have a property owner come forward asking to do this," Melton said.  "It is my hope that this designation happens and that it prompts others to seek the same thing for their property."

Such local historic designation carries restrictions as to what can and can't be done to the property, including obtaining approvals before it can be sold. One of the advantages to the owner is an annual 50 percent deferred reduction in ad valorem property taxes for as long as the property meets the criteria.

To secure the tax reduction, an application would be made to the county tax collector.  Should the property's status change, the owner could be responsible for recapture penalties.

The Samuel Stringfield/McDarris property is on the tax books for $724,500.  The Thomas Stringfield/Rest Home property next door is valued at $751,800.

A state-required public hearing on the local historic designation for both properties is scheduled for 6 p.m., Dec. 11  in the board room of the Waynesville Town Hall.