Published: Dec 09, 2011 09:16 AM
Modified: Dec 09, 2011 09:16 AM
A home for all seasons
1950 Jim Webb design stands test of time
The Westwood neighborhood across South Columbia Street from UNCs medical center has some of the most diverse residential architecture in town. Building began there in the 1930s and, thanks to a few infill lots, continued through the late 1980s. Bungalows, Georgians, Cape Cods, Colonials, Contemporary, Traditional and Transitional styles dot the neighborhood. More than half of the homes were built before 1950. Another third were built between 1950 and 1959, and some infill homes sprang up between 1980 and 1989. Contemporary or modernist homes are few and far between, but there is one available now. Its a 2,588-square-foot home designed in 1950 by architect James Murray Jim Webb and completed in 1952 for Frances and Kenneth Brinkhous, a noted pathologist and research scientist at UNCs Medical School who passed away in 2000.Sited on an eight-acre tract of wooded hillside with Pritchards Creek at the base, the house at 524 Dogwood Drive is deceptively large, thanks to the slope, which allows a daylight, walk-out lower level that has 1,035 square feet and two of the homes three bedrooms. John Brinkhous, the only living son of Frances and Kenneth Brinkhous, says that he has fond memories of the house and especially the lower level where the kids bedrooms and recreation room were located.We moved into the house Christmas Eve 1952, when I was 8 years old, Brinkhous recalls. The varnish on the stairs was not yet dry, so we had to go outside and come in the front door to get to where the Christmas tree was.It was a very cool house, he said. I remember some of my friends were amazed that it had a dishwasher and garbage disposal. The electrical system, which is still in use, has a low voltage touch plate lighting system flip a relay and turn a light on. My dad lived in that house for 47 years and my mother for 50 years.Dr. David Thomas, the current owner, is a pathologist who studied under Dr. Kenneth Brinkhous. Thomas said he always had great respect for Brinkhous as a person and as an esteemed pathologist, and he was thrilled to be able to purchase his mentors former home. John Brinkhous generously passed on his fathers desk to Thomas and says that the close relationship Thomas had with his father was pivotal in the sale of the home to Thomas.Thomas made very few changes to the house. It still has its original kitchen, baths and windows even the front door is original to the house and all have been maintained beautifully. It is an architectural purists dream with the exception of one structural change: When he first purchased the home, Thomas had a wall removed between the main floor office (originally Dr. Brinkhouss office) and the master bedroom in order to enlarge the master. Otherwise the home is pretty much original (with exception of replaced appliances, roof, heating/ac and whatever else required replacing over the years to keep the house well maintained).The landscape design of the house has only grown lovelier over the years. Designed by Lewis Clark, who taught Landscape Architecture at the North Carolina School of Design from 1952 to 1968, the design allows light to bathe the front courtyard, car pad and patio. The house is close to the road, but very private. Even from the street, you cant see into the hallway. The kitchen and dining room looks out onto the patio and the area is fenced. The woods at the back and sides of the house provide total privacy, walking trails with native wildflowers, ferns, shrubs and a quiet stream at the bottom.My mother loved walking in the woods and looking at wildflowers, Brinkhous said. The property behind the house was originally owned by a fellow name of Brown, and he had a horse with a sled, and he would maintain our property and his, Brinkhous said. There used to be an old mill site with a waterfall adjacent to the property, where the kids would play, Brinkhous remembered. The hillsides also provided places to dig tunnels and a 50-foot natural mountain slide that is still visible from the 15-501 bypass.I probably wore out two pair of blue jeans sliding down that hill, Brinkhous said. And that was in summer, because in winter, neighborhood kids went sled riding on other hills in Westwood that were closer to the university, Brinkhous said. When they returned to the house after sledding, they could warm up in front of the big fireplace.The fireplace is just one part of the Bay Area Style that Webb was exposed to while working for a brief time under California architect William Wurster, according to Triangle Modernist Houses creator George Smart. Smart writes at www.trianglemodernisthouses.com that the style adapts the California Ranch to hilly sites with the use of raised basements and extends the living space into the homes natural surroundings by using porches, patios, balconies and carports. The informal style has cathedral ceilings and large open spaces because of the post and beam construction. Webb incorporated many of those elements into the house at 524 Dogwood, including the use of natural building materials to create fabulous built-ins, cork flooring and tons of privacy. The home is in very good shape with the roof and all other major systems in fine working order and not in need of replacement, according to Shelter Real Estate listing agent Amy Gilch (919-270-6852). The original and current owners have maintained it very well, Gilch said. It could use some updating, such as window replacements for energy saving reasons, but the house has great bones to work with and was built incredibly well with excellent materials, Gilch said. To see just how beautiful the house and grounds are, Gilch and photographer Kyle Ketchel of Visual Properties LLC and the Tour Factory created a video tour of the house, which can be viewed at HYPERLINK http://www.tourfactory.com/591589 www.tourfactory.com/591589.The Brinkhous home has been on and off the market since 2006, at which time it was listed at $2,400,000. Now that Thomas has permanently moved to New York City and the economy has faltered, the house and the eight acres upon which it is situated is listed at $648,000. Children living in this house would attend Carrboro Elementary School, Smith Middle School and East Chapel Hill High School.
Sally Keeney can be reached at email@example.com or 919-942-1027