Selma, N.C. — Would you live inside a vacant century-old church, with curtains of ivy creeping up a tall bell tower and tall, pointed arched windows?
With the cost of real estate skyrocketing in the Triangle, many are struggling to find or afford a new home. However, this historic 1908 church is for sale for just $175,000. Compare that with the median home sale price of nearly $400,000 in the Triangle area.
Selma Baptist Church sits on a prominent corner of the Selma Downtown Historic District, an iconic historic structure beloved by the surrounding community. However, for several years it has had very little ongoing maintenance, according to Cathleen Turner, regional director for Preservation North Carolina, who has been working to protect and sell the church.
“It’s been zoned to allow for mixed-use,” says Turner. “So whoever buys it could use the space for many different things — a restaurant in the sanctuary. An overnight boutique hotel upstairs. They could put residential units in the classroom spaces, or use it as office space.”
Inside the century-old Gothic-Revival church
Turner says the unique space is ideal for a preservation-minded buyer looking for a creative project. The stately masonry and architecture could provide a magical draw for visitors.
“The austere exterior…displays impressive Gothic Revival features, including a high pitch roof, corner bell tower entrance, buttresses with rusticated stone retails, and tall pointed arch windows,” reads the website description.
Inside a wide open sanctuary is a grand foyer, lit with pointed arch transoms over the doors and an Ecclesiastical Gothic chandelier. The website describes a “trio of pointed arch windows that bathe the interior with light.” At the far end of the sanctuary, the pulpit sits on a raised platform, decorated with classical elements. A lateral hallway leads to the pastor’s office and restrooms, and a “paneled staircase with turned banisters” leads into the upstairs space.
A three-story office and classroom building was added in 1948, which could be transformed into a residential or office space – or used as a unique boutique hotel experience in the midst of Historic Downtown Selma.
Increased growth and preservation in downtown Selma
While the purchase price is significantly lower than much of the real estate in the Triangle area, Turner says whoever buys the church will have to invest in repairs and upkeep. However, she says the historic structure comes with tax credits. She says the current growth in downtown Selma makes it a great time to invest in the town’s history – and future.
“Once we identify a preservation-minded buyer, the space will be subject to a protective covenant,” she says. “It’ll be protected from demolition or insensitive historic changes. Rehabilitation will need to observe its defined features, while allowing things to be modernized for current use.”
Turner says a lot is happening in downtown Selma right now.
“We have several projects underway, including the former Town Hall buildings, comprised of the former People’s Bank, the Quality Store, and House’s Grocery,” she says.
Developers rehabilitating the historic buildings for mixed-use developments are creating residential spaces on the second floor, with commercial use on the first floors.
The Selma Civic Center itself was created from the rehabilitation of a nearly century-old school gymnasium – a project that won them an award.
Turner points out that owners and developers may potentially receive a 20% federal income tax credit and a 15-25% state income tax credit for certified rehabilitation of income-producing historic structures.
As rental and real estate costs in the Triangle rise and huge companies like Apple and Meta bring jobs to the area, smaller towns like Selma, Sanford, Wilson and others are getting impacted by the growth – something the original Selma Baptist Church congregation could likely have never envisioned for their Gothic-Revival building.
However, as rapid growth takes over the Triangle and peripheral towns, Turner wants to make sure historic structures aren’t lost in the process. By revitalizing the former Selma Baptist Church, the historic character of the town remains strong, even as the future brings growth and change.
“It’s having a catalytic effect of positive activity in the downtown,” says Turner. “We look forward to seeing something amazing at the former Selma Church.”
To see more photos of Selma Baptist Church and learn more about its history, visit the Preservation NC website.
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