07/06/09 — Best-Mangum house gets new owners

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Best-Mangum house gets new owners

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on July 6, 2009 2:10 PM

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The Best-Magnum House on South John Street has been purchased and is slated for renovation.

The Best-Mangum House on South John Street is a piece of Goldsboro history, and though the patchwork Victorian-era home has been empty for years, life is stirring again under the tall magnolia tree that shades its wide porch.

Robert and Victoria Clark of Michigan bought the house in May from the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. and are already beginning the long process of appraising and evaluating the structure and repairing the damage done by long years of neglect.

Renovating a historic house has always been a dream of Mrs. Clark's, and the fascination with restoration runs in her family. Her own father often worked with old homes, and would have loved the Best-Mangum property, she said.

"I didn't want to see it demolished, that was my biggest thing, they were going to demolish it," Mrs. Clark said.

Once renovations have progressed to a certain point, the Clarks and their four sons, Trevor, Justin, Stephan and Brandon plan on moving into the house and staying there. Far from selling the home after restoring it, they want to make it a family residence and plan on remaining in Goldsboro for many years to come.

"We want to be able to pass this down from generation to generation," Mrs. Clark said.

The family first heard of the property when looking online for a historic home to renovate. They had briefly considered moving to North Carolina before, but it wasn't until they found the Best-Mangum property listed on the Preservation North Carolina Web site that it became a certainty. The house itself was the big reason they decided to move to the state, Clark said.

Now the family is living with relatives in Zebulon and traveling to Goldsboro every week to begin the long chain of decision-making that, if everything goes according to plan, should return the Best-Mangum house to its full glory within the next three to five years.

For the next six months, they will focus on evaluating which parts of the architecture are original and which are not. Most of the 7,888-square foot, three-story house was built in the 1890s, and the rest was added later in different decades, resulting in the property's current appearance.

The Clarks hope to return the home to its original state, which will mean working with the PNC and other experts to determine what stays and what is slated for demolition. In the meantime, they are exploring the foundations under the house and finding more than just old wood and the occasional shed snake skin.

"We're finding artifacts from the '40s," Clark said.

So far they have discovered a pair of vintage claw-foot tubs, which they hope to use in two of the house's bathrooms once work is completed. They even found a piano secreted away behind a now-demolished interior wall.

Three-quarter-inch oak floors, antique ceramic electrical fittings and large archways are just a few of the other period details that the Clarks have found in the Best-Mangum property. They have also managed to recover some of the original stained-glass windows, now removed and carefully stored for safekeeping, and they hope to salvage and re-use wood from the house to complete the renovations and keep the house as historically accurate as possible.

Even more than 100 years have not significantly damaged the bare bones supports of the house, and the timbers are stable, despite a few termite problems. Assessing the foundation and securing the roof line are two of the first priorities, Clark said.

"We got down there last week just to take a look at the foundation," he said. "Whoever did the foundation did a great job."

The king studs, two by fours that run the entire length of the home from foundation to roof, and other features are largely intact, and previous owners have already gutted the inside down to the bare support beams. So far, it appears the house is largely stable, a testament to the construction methods and effort that originally went into the property.

"Whoever built the home had money, there's no question, and I think that's why you see them now, because they're so well-constructed," Clark said.

Part of the difficulty in making decisions about the roof is that the house was not built in a single piece. The original structure was occluded by later construction.

"We can't do the roof line until we figure out what's got to come down," Clark said.

Although it will be years before the house is wired for electricity and plumbing is installed, the Clarks are already thinking about the layout for the interior rooms and even exterior paint colors. They are not certain what colors they prefer yet, but they definitely won't be keeping the current yellow and green color scheme, Clark said.

And Mrs. Clark hopes to have a music room and would like to dedicate the large room beyond the main entrance as a tribute to both the home's original grandeur and one of her own favorite hobbies: dancing.

"In the end, I can envision a ballroom with the hardwood floors and beautiful columns and oriental carpets and the whole nine yards," Mrs. Clark said.

The property was listed for purchase at $20,000, according to the PNC Web site. Before all is said and done, however, the family expects to put much more money into repairing it.

"It was a steal, but in some people's minds it's not going to be a steal because by the time you're done, you've put a quarter of a million (dollars) in it," Clark said.

They hope to keep costs down by doing as much of the initial work as they can by themselves, little by little, but could indeed put upwards of $250,000 into the Best-Mangum house. They have already called in experts to evaluate everything from the roof line to the doorknobs, and the preliminary results are exciting, Clark said.

"There's significant architectural value," he said.

And though there are years of work ahead of them, the Clarks are certain they are ready for the challenges.

"We lived in Michigan all our lives, and it's just time for a change, that's how we saw it. We know this is going to be a lifestyle for a few years, and you know, we're ready for it," Clark said.

The Best-Mangum House is one of about a dozen historical properties in Downtown Goldsboro owned by the DGDC and sold to new owners for restoration. It was built in 1894 by M.J. Best and later owned and renovated by Dr. Vernon Mangum.

The DGDC is currently offering for sale about two dozen other historic properties in Goldsboro.