History of Highgate
Highgate is one of the oldest and most beautiful of Greensboro’s architectural treasures. This grand lady celebrates her 209th birthday this year. If her walls could talk she would be able to share stories of Greensboro and its residents through the best and the worst of times. There have only been six families that have owned and loved this special estate. The house is rich in history that has been passed on from family to family at the time of sale so between that and public records, there is much known about her history.
The land on which Highgate sits was originally owned by the University of Georgia as the original site for its campus. In 1809 James H. Nickelson bought the lots from the trustees of the U.G.A. He built the mill directly behind the house, and in 1810 the first part of the house, which consisted of two rooms, one above the other was built. These rooms today serve as the dining room below and a bedroom above, which still have the smaller door and fireplace that are original to the house. Around 1840 the Nickelson’s built onto the house. Rooms were added on both floors, as well as a staircase in the center hall. The house then became a standard two over two with center halls on both floors.
The money from the mill enabled the family to add on once again from the front of the house in the Greek Revival style complete with pillars. The house then became a four over four and was considered a southern manor. The Nickelson’s were able to keep the home in the family thorough the Civil War, however, it suffered due to the lack of manpower since all the slaves were gone and there was no money for repairs. The mammies’ quarters from that era are still on the property.
In 1888 the trustees of the deceased James B. Nickelson sold the house to James “Ed” Armor and his wife Carrie. The house at this point was practically in ruins. The Armor’s hired an architect to rebuild it in the French version of Victorian, called La Belle Epoque. It was then that the current kitchen and butler’s pantry off the formal dining room were added. All the fireplaces were converted to coal burners and all the stained glass in the house was commission by the Armor’s from Germany in circa 1890. The beautiful wrap around veranda was also included from that major remodel.
The house was sold again September 15, 1908 to Colonel “Jimboy” James Davison, a lawyer and his wife Annie Dell. Colonel Davison died during the flu epidemic of 1921 and his wife sold the house and property to Mary Leila Mill, the new mill, circa 1880. It was purchased as a residence for the mill’s general manager Mr. G.R. Brook Sr. and his family. They resided until April of 1946.
Mr. Ed Higdon, a lumberman and his wife Mary purchased the house in 1946 and moved in with their five sons, Wilie, Lonnie, Ronnie, Jim (retired Atlanta commissioner) and Lynn. Ronnie Higdon bought the house from the estate of his mother and lived there with his wife Kay until 2001, when the present owners purchased the house from the Higdon family.
They immediately set about the daunting task of restoring the property to the elegance of the 1890 renovation. While adding the pool and patio, they found the brick foundation of the original separate kitchen from 1810. The entire 2.3 acres of gardens were also added at that time.