Group works to get Nissen House in Lewisville on National Register of Historic Places

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Kiger Family in front of the Nissen House, circa 1900. (Courtesy of Lewisville Historica)

LEWISVILLE, N.C. — Since saving the Nissen House from certain destruction nearly six years ago, the Lewisville Historical Society continues to scramble for money to pay for a restoration bill that it estimates will cost nearly $600,000, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

The society received good news on that front earlier this month when the Lewisville Town Council agreed to contribute $45,450 to the Nissen House Fund to pay for grading that must be done for the house to be considered for a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

To be considered for the National Register, a site must be placed on a study list by the State Historic Preservation Office. Though inclusion on the study list is no guarantee, it’s an important step that typically leads to a spot on the National Register, said Susan Linker, a member of the Lewisville Historical Society.

“This would be a great honor for the town of Lewisville,” Linker said of a possible designation for the structure.

In March, a team from the state visited the Nissen House and recommended some grading work to the front area so it would more closely resemble how it looked when it was built in 1876.

Before the house was moved from its old location on Shallowford Road, the porch and ground were nearly even, with just a few front steps. The house was moved in 2009 to a sloping spot at the intersection of Arrow Leaf Drive and Lucy Lane, just a few hundred feet away, with a drop-off that would need about seven or eight front steps. Steps have never been added at the new site.

“People have commented that it is awkward looking up on the hill, and it is,” said Mary Gaines, a member of the Lewisville Historical Society who is involved in the house’s restoration.

The state team also recommended improving a drainage area in the front yard and removing some vinyl siding.

Other than those areas, the state seemed to view the house favorably, Gaines said.

“They are very enthusiastic about the historical value of the house,” she said.

Once those changes are made, members of the historical society say, they believe the state will include the house on the study list to be submitted for inclusion on the National Register. A formal application must also be submitted.

The town council agreed to pay for the improvements, bringing its total contribution to the Nissen House to $80,700.

As part of that resolution, the town said the historical society will not be eligible for additional money from the town until the town’s contribution represents no more than 15 percent of the total estimated cost of the project.

The historical society also hopes to raise money during its Antique Road Extravaganza at the new Carillon Assisted Living Center at 1165 S. Peace Haven Road on Sept. 6.

Modeled on the popular Antiques Roadshow on PBS, the event will include two professional appraisers who will evaluate a range of items including vintage furnishings, artwork, family heirlooms, jewelry, silver, textiles and ceramics. Weapons, military memorabilia, gold, coins and stamps are among the items that will not be appraised.

Tickets are $25 each with a free appraisal. All proceeds go to the historical society’s Nissen House Fund. Refreshments will be served.

Linker said that Carillon approached the town of Lewisville with an interest in partnering on a community project. The Nissen House project was recommended.

“It’s like giving a contribution to the Nissen House and getting a free appraisal,” Linker said.

Members of the historical society have been hard at work at fundraising since 2008 when it learned that the house, one of the town’s landmarks, was going to be torn down after two dentists who bought the property determined it was too expensive to renovate the house for their new offices.

The historical society secured funds and the backing of the town to move the house near Lewisville Elementary School, with the goal of turning it into a community center.

Built in 1876 by George Nissen, the three-story house is noted for its Italianate and Greek revival architecture, one of the few remaining examples of that architecture in Forsyth County. It has eight large rooms and eight fireplaces.

Members of the historical society are eager for the momentum that the new changes will bring.

“We very much feel an obligation to try not to create a public eyesore in this community,” Linker said.