photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

Until she closed on her home in Greensboro’s Lindley Park neighborhood, Margaret Winslow had never heard the term “possum-trot house” (one with a breezeway through the center), much less “informal duplex.” What she bought, she says, was a “train wreck” of both — a single-story structure built between 1913 and 1916, with no central air or heating and walls closing off parts of the living area. Of her decision to gut the 1,500-square-foot interior, she says, “I had to arm-wrestle with my contractor” because he thought that digging deep might not be worth it.

It was worth it. Hidden behind layers of cheap wallboard were the original beadboard walls — ceilings, too. Hardwood floors waited to be discovered and refinished. Behind one wall was the original brick fireplace, which has become an architectural focal point. Together with doors and furnishings that Winslow scavenged or inherited, those features landed the house on Preservation Greensboro’s annual tour.

Margaret Winslow’s home features an original wooden sign promoting her great-grandfather’s business. photograph by Stacey Van Berkel

The heart of the house is the renovated kitchen, whose cabinets and windows are in keeping with the home’s original feel. Also original? A wooden sign from the 1920s, advertising Winslow’s great-grandfather’s Edgecombe County business: E.C. Winslow’s Horses and Mules. Beside the lettering, a cartoon horse laughs silently, all these decades hence. Because when it comes to history, and challenges, and contractors, we all know, like Winslow, that whoever laughs last …

Preservation Greensboro’s Tour of Historic Homes & Gardens will be held on May 16. Call (336) 272-5003 or visit

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Susan Stafford Kelly was raised in Rutherfordton. She attended UNC-Chapel Hill and earned a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College. She is the author of Carolina Classics, a collection of essays that have appeared in Our State, and five novels: How Close We Come, Even Now, The Last of Something, Now You Know, and By Accident. Susan has three grown children and lives in Greensboro with her husband, Sterling.