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Historic Rosenbacher House changes hands again

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Journal photo by Walt Unks -- 3/14/14 -- Arches are featured in the arcade or parlor room in the front of the first floor of the historic Rosenbacher House at 848 W. Fifth Street. (Walt Unks/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Joe Williams and his wife, Jodi, knew they’d found an awesome place to operate their business when they saw the Rosenbacher House.

“We were just riding around West End looking for something that might be an option and just happened to come up on this property,” Joe Williams said.

The couple didn’t think they could ever afford such a grand dwelling, but they were happily surprised to find that its price had dropped drastically from about $399,000 to $225,000. In 2007, the asking price for the house was $864,000.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Williams said.

848 West Fifth LLC, owned by the Williamses, recently bought the historic landmark.

The couple plan to renovate the building and move the headquarters of their commercial general contracting firm, LMI Builders Inc., to the second floor.

The house’s first floor will be leased out to other businesses.

“We’re offering a build-to-suit lease for the first floor,” Joe Williams said.

Built in 1909 in the neo-classical revival style, the house is on a stretch of West Fifth Street known as Millionaires’ Row. The two-story weather-boarded house has 5,500 square feet.

The house is white and has a blue porch ceiling.

“The most striking features to me is the ornate Corinthian columns and the front porch,” Williams said. “The capitals on the Corinthian columns are what are amazing to me.”

Jodi Williams’ favorite part of the property is its courtyard, which has trees and bushes for privacy and a fountain.

“The courtyard sold it for me,” she said.

Her hope is that it might be used one day, as it was in the past, for events like wedding receptions.

The Rosenbacher House’s front doors open into an ionic-columned arcade/parlor.

The dining room has high paneled wainscoting, a turquoise tiled fireplace and the original turquoise wallpaper borders. There is a chandelier with a Tiffany shade and an elaborate mantel of tiger oak.

The house was built by Carrie Rosenbacher, widow of Sigmund Rosenbacher. The Rosenbachers ran Rosenbacher Brothers, which was one of the finest department stores in Winston-Salem. The Rosenbacher family owned the property until 1975, when they sold it to Joe and Lorna Hutchins. The Williamses’ company bought the house from Lorna Hutchins.

Over the years, the house was home to several businesses, including an antiques shop, a hair salon and Michael’s Restaurant.

The Williamses say the space they plan to lease now would work now for any general business, including a salon, tea room and photography studio, as well as attorney, architect and design firms.

LMI Builders, which has eight employees, currently leases a 1,400-square –foot office in downtown Winston-Salem on West Fourth Street across from Foothills Brewing, but will move to the Rosenbacher House.

“We’re leasing and we wanted to own a piece of Winston-Salem,” Joe Williams said of the planned move.

The firm also has an office in Lexington that will remain on Brown Street in that city.

The expansion is expected to allow the company to eventually add more employees.

“We’re growing very fast,” Williams said.

LMI Builders has done a number of projects in Winston-Salem, including District Roof Top Bar and Grille, Ziggy’s night club, and Mission Pizza Napoletana. It is currently working on the Big Winston Warehouse project on North Trade Street and will soon start on Bailey Park at East End, at the corner of Fourth Street and Patterson Avenue.

The Rosenbacher house has 39 paved parking spaces, which is quite a lot of surface parking for downtown Winston-Salem.

Some of the parking is currently being leased to Wells Fargo employees.

“It provides some income during the restoration phase,” Williams said.

General maintenance work is underway on the outside of the house, which has a lot of rotten wood, water damage and peeling paint.

The Williamses are in the process of applying for state and federal historic tax credits for restoration work on the house.

“We’re not doing anything that would require a building permit as of yet,” Joe Williams said.

Once the couple gets through the tax credits and building permit processes, they plan to start working on the inside of the house.

“A full historical preservation restoration is what we’re working on,” Joe Williams said.

LeAnn Pegram, historic resource officer for the Forsyth County Historic Resources Commission, said that the Rosenbacher House is designated as a Forsyth County Local Historic Landmark.

It is also a contributing property within the West End National Register Historic District, which means it is listed on the National Register.

“The Rosenbacher House is one of the finest neo-classical revival style houses in Winston-Salem,” Pegram said. “We are very excited that it is going to see new life. It’s a wonderful property — interior and exterior.”