A Victim of the 2008 Crash, Sold at a Loss: A 1921 Mansion in High Point, $700,000

Tudor Revival (left) and and Colonial Revival (right) rub shoulders at 603 Hillcrest Drive in High Point’s Emerywood neighborhood.

The Conant-Praigg House was sold in April, almost four years after being put up for sale and almost three years after the owners gave up and took it off the market. It was finally sold without being listed publicly again. There are at least a couple reasons why it was a particularly difficult sell. One was a quirk of history.

Even in the hottest sellers’ market in recent memory, the sellers took a $150,000 loss on the house, and that was after owning it for 13 years. They had bought it, sadly, just two weeks before the 2008 real-estate market crash (they paid $850,000 in September 2008). Home prices have recovered overall, but, all these years later, there are still an unfortunate few houses that have been left behind.

The April sale, though, was the second in a row in which the sellers took a significant loss. The 2008 price was $50,000 less than the price paid in 2006. Prices may have peaked before the crash, but there’s another issue at 603 Hillcrest Drive.

The 5,700 square-foot house is in High Point’s historic Emerywood neighborhood, home to a number of beautifully designed mansions (the neighborhood also is part of the Uptown Suburbs Historic District). April’s $700,000 price comes out to $122 per square foot. An Emerywood house comparable in age and size, the J. Ed Millis House (1926, 5,200 square feet), recently sold for $1 million, $191 per square foot.

The Conant-Praigg House was built in 1921 as a Colonial Revival. Later, it gained a massive Tudor addition. The National Register nomination for the historic district doesn’t provide an exactly glowing description, calling the house “grossly enlarged … nearly unrecognizable from its original Colonial Revival style.” National Register nominations tend not to be works of architectural criticism; they pass along unfortunate changes like cheap vinyl replacement windows as matter-of-factly as they do original features like batten doors. So words like “grossly” jump out a bit.

From the outside, the Conant House may not be the most elegant mansion in a town that has no shortage of grand old historic houses. And that’s too bad, because the interior, from floors to ceilings, looks like a million dollars.

The Conants and the Praiggs

The first owners appear to have been Lawrence W. Conant and Dorrit VanAllen Conant (1901-1995). He was a consulting engineer who first appears in the city directory in 1928. Lawrence Wickes Conant (1898-1979) was born in Paris to Walter Herriman Wickes and Bertha Elise Conant Wickes (they were married in London in 1897). Lawrence’s mother, aged 19, and a twin brother died in childbirth. His father died when Lawrence was nine years old.

Lawrence may have been adopted by his mother’s family, which would explain why he bore her surname rather than his father’s. The Conant family operated the F.H. Conant’s Sons furniture factory in Camden, New York.

Lawrence graduated from MIT and at age 24 published a book, Tackling Tech: Suggestions for the Undergraduate in Technical School or College. In 1936, he and Dorrit sold the house and moved to Washington. One of their sons, William Wickes Conant (1926-2013), followed Lawrence to MIT and a career in engineering, but not in the furniture industry. He was a satellite engineer with NASA.

The Conants sold the house to advertising executive Noble Todd Praigg Sr. (1884-1963) and Frances Rose Sernett Praigg (1985-1981). Between them, they owned the house for 37 years. Praigg was both a practicing adman a prominent editor in the advertising field. His books include Advertising and Selling and The Advertising Yearbook for 1925.

603 Hillcrest Drive, High Point
The Conant-Praigg House
listing withdrawn June 30, 2018

  • Sold for $700,000 on April 19, 2021 (originally listed at $875,000)
  • 7 bedrooms, 5 1/2 bathrooms, 5,716 square feet, 0.44 acre
  • Price/square foot: $122
  • Built in 1921
  • Listed May 2017
  • Last sale: $850,000, September 15, 2008
  • Neighborhood: Emerywood/Uptown Suburbs Historic District
  • Note: The property sold for $900,000 in 2006.
    • Listing: “2 laundry rooms. In law suite w/a full kitchen & its own separate entrance. … Stone Courtyard w/an outdoors kitchen, SS grill, granite countertops, fireplace and a hot tub.”
    • District NRHP nomination: “This one-and-a-half-story, side-gabled, Tudor Revival-style house is significantly altered and grossly enlarged, making it nearly unrecognizable from its original Colonial Revival style.
    • “The house is five bays wide and double-pile with a two-story, front-gabled wing on the right (west) elevation that constitutes the original Colonial Revival-style house. It has a stone veneer with faux half-timbering at the second-floor level of a projecting, front-gabled bay and on a shed-roofed dormer on the left (east) end of the facade and hip-roofed dormers on the right end of the facade and on the projecting, front-gabled wing.
    • “It has double-hung vinyl windows with vinyl casement windows in the dormers. There are projecting bay windows with leaded glass casement windows on the projecting front-gabled bay and front-gabled wing.
    • “A pair of fifteen-light French doors near the center of the facade have fixed fifteen-light sidelights and a four-paired transom. The batten door is sheltered by a front-gabled porch supported by square posts with diagonal braces and with exposed trusses in the gable.
    • “There are a series of shed-roofed sections on the right elevation and a hip-roofed dormer and octagonal projecting bay on the rear (south) elevation. Low stone walls encircle the property and define the circular drive at the front.”