RALEIGH — After five years on the market and zero offers, a Raleigh house considered a modernist masterpiece sits vacant between a storied past and an uncertain future that may include demolition.
Paschal House, located on a nearly three-acre lot in the Country Club Hills area, is priced at $3.3 million. The owners, the three children of the late Dr. George W. Paschal Jr. and his wife Beth, the original residents, are accepting offers only for the entire property, including the house.
The home, built in 1950, is a prime example of modernist architecture in the Triangle, which has the third largest concentration of such houses in the United States, after Los Angeles and Chicago.
It does the cause good, renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright said when he visited the home, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After initially trying to find a buyer willing to spend money to restore their childhood home, the Paschal siblings have braced themselves for the possibility that a future owner may demolish the house, said Robert Paschal, an attorney and one of the owners.
Our first goal was to find the knight in shining armor, but then the realism kicked in, Paschal said. (Demolition) may be the outcome, but we dont quite know how to avoid it.
Beth Paschal moved out of the home five years ago after a chemical reaction dissolved the steel pipes and destroyed the homes heating system.
A developer may acquire a subdivision permit to create five separate properties in the land.
I cannot, in any way, figure out a scenario where you could subdivide the property and not destroy the house, said Marvin Malecha, dean of N.C. State Universitys College of Design.
The one-story house, totaling about 3,300 square feet, is one of several remaining in the area designed by modernist architect James Fitzgibbon. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994, but the designation would not prevent its demolition.
Local governments can issue stays of demolition, but the building lacks a city or state designation that would permit such orders, said Myrick Howard, executive director of Preservation NC.
Preservationists are worried about the homes fate.
It is still considered an iconic piece of architecture, Malecha noted. It will be a sad day if it is demolished.
A house becomes a home
The Paschals, transplants from Philadelphia, wanted to build a home in 1948 after purchasing three acres on what was then the outskirts of Raleigh, Robert Paschal said. Their neighbor, Henry Kamphoefner, the founding dean of the N.C. State College of Design, recommended architect James Fitzgibbon, then an associate professor at the college.
Kamphoefner is credited for bringing modernist architecture to the state by recruiting other specialists from around the world. He also brought distinguished guest lecturers, such as Wright, Buckminster Fuller and Mies van der Rohe.
The house, built with granite, wood and glass, features an atrium on each end as well as a long, flat roof. The house does not have stairs, per the Paschals request, and includes expansive windows to ventilate the house, which lacks air conditioning. The heated floors and sunken fireplace help warm the house in the winter.
The surrounding land provided an expansive space for children to play and included multiple gardens planted by the couple, Robert Paschal said. The home became a neighborhood gathering spot.
The house was truly a home for the family that lived there, said Raleigh architect Frank Harmon.
Although it was built 62 years ago, the home embodies a contemporary focus on sustainability, Harmon said. Harmon took his architecture students at N.C. State to the house every year.
I personally think this is, flat out, the greatest modern house in North Carolina, he said. You hear a lot about sustainability: using local materials, natural heating and cooling. And here is a building thats been doing it for more than 50 years.
The home, an anomaly among others in the neighborhood, also served as a social statement by the Paschals, who were politically progressive and opposed to racial segregation, Howard said.
George Paschal, as president of the N.C. Medical Society, pushed to end racial segregation among state physicians and allow membership of black doctors. He died in 1995.
Beth Paschal was a major patron of local arts and education throughout her life, serving as president of the N.C. Arts Society. She died in 2009.
Asked in 2007 about the possibility that her home could someday be demolished, Beth Paschal said, I try not to think of that.
Looking for a knight
Preservation NC had the option to sell the house for two years, prior to a sluggish housing market, and marketed it within the $5 million range to potential buyers interested in restoration.
The owners also placed advertisements in national newspapers, including The New York Times, Robert Paschal said. Some people expressed an interest in restoring the home, but changed their minds after consulting with professionals.
Howard estimates it would cost $300,000 to $400,000 to restore the house. Malecha, the dean of NCSUs design school, said the costs are a big hurdle.
It would be a very difficult property to sell, Malecha said. Im not sure anybody wants to put that kind of money into a house.