THE BUILDER

EUGENE

GULLEDGE

Often times people will spend a great deal of energy telling you how important they are.  And then there are people like Euguene Gulledge who simply show you.  Greensboro as of yet, has not produced a builder to match his success.

Gene Gulledge is a name those who know quality building know well. Inducted into the National Housing Hall of Fame in 1979, Gulledge lived an extraordinary life with tremendous contribution to his community, his country and the entire home building industry, growing from builder to Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C.

As the head of Superior Construction Company, which he built with his brother, Gulledge was a stickler for quality. Feeling entirely too many builders were providing homeowners with shoddy work and less-than quality care, he gathered Greensboro's top builders to form the Greensboro Builders Association, serving as its first president.  That effort would find him also developing the North Carolina State Home Builders Association, and then National Home Builders Association where he served all major positions.  The NAHB honored him in 1964 with the honor of Outstanding National Representative.

Together with Keeling architect Jaroslav Kabatnik, Gulledge won many awards for their homes. American Home magazine honored them several times for building the best homes in North Carolina. One of those awards was for a home they built together in 1958, "Best Home for the Money." Research continues to confirm that winning home is 117 Keeling W.

A powerful force in the housing industry, Gulledge was the driving force behind the associations, national policies of the industry that stand still today.  

THE EARLY YEARS

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

YEARBOOK PHOTO
 

1937, Charlotte, NC

Eugene Gulledge was born December 27, 1919 in New Orleans, Louisiana on an emergency stop on a road trip from his mother's hometown of Charlotte, NC to Port Arthur, Texas where his father would open a machine shop.

 

Historic records show him still living in Texas at the age of 10 and later moving with his family back to Charlotte.  After graduating high school he immediately started work as an office assistant and production inspector at Southern Frictions Materials Company.

A remarkable man whose vision for his industry was exceeded only by his humble demeanor and his engaging personality.”


Mike Carpenter, NC Home Builders Association (2011)

QUICK FACTS

1957

  • Founded Greensboro Builders Association

  • President Superior Construction Co.

1958

  • Built 177 Keeling West at same time he built famous GSO Commencement House 

1959-1960

  • Won "Best Home for the Money" Award two years in a row by American Home Magazine in partnership with Kabatnik

1963

  • Founded North Carolina Home Builders Association

1965

  • Member of inaugural City Government Committee of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce

1969

  • Became president of National Association of Home Builders

  • Appointed Commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration

1969-1973

  • Appointed Asst. Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development under Secretary George Romney and President Richard Nixon

THE MOVE TO GREENSBORO

The National Archives at Atlanta, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; WWII Draft Registration Cards for North Carolina, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 144

In 1940, Gulledge married a young Mormon woman from Greensboro, Ruth Stevens. Her family introduced them through an invitation to their church. Gulledge became a Mormon and eventually president of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, a role he would hold for seven years before leaving to start the Greensboro Builders Association in 1957.

In the early 40's he enlisted in the Navy where he fought in World War II as Electronics Technician's Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class, or ETM2 for short.  It's in his draft registration we first get a glimpse as his appearance.

 

After the war, Eugene intended to join his brother-in-law and become a mechanic.  Instead, he teamed up with his brother to construct a building on Greensboro's Battleground Avenue.  He sold that building vowing, according to the San Antonio Express (9-25-69), that if he could sell one building, he could sell another.  In 1957, he created the Superior Construction Company and started the building career that would elevate him to a level of importance no Triad builder has yet matched.

PROLIFIC PARTNERSHIPS

Following the end of World War II, an explosion in housing development took off in Greensboro. It happened at a time when Gulledge was perfectly positioned to capitalize on not only the strength of his well-respected Superior Construction, but the power and talent of the great architectural minds around him. 

His desire to protect a homebuyer from getting shoddy work or ripped off from builders with ill intention, Gulledge pulled together some of Greensboro's best builders to form the Greensboro Builders Association on September 16, 1957, becoming its first president. To memorialize his excellence, the GBA salutes the best in building with the Eugene Gulledge Award for Distinquished Excellence, the highest honor the association awards.

You can't talk 1950's architecture without a mention of the great Edward Loewenstein, a six-foot-four force who created some of Greensboro's most notable structures.  And Loewenstein found a great match in Gulledge. During the late 50's and early 60's, it was their collective effort that brought one of the most groundbreaking projects of the time, The Commencement House--a home designed and built at the same time, with the same architect who created the Thomas Edgar Sikes House.

The Lowenstein-Gulledge partnership brought about many of the areas notable commercial and residential designs including the Squires House (1958), Hinsdale House (1959), Hollar House (1962), as well as the Smith House in Sedgefield (1965) and the Hyman House on Kimberly Drive.

L-R: Edward Loewenstein (Architect), Eugene Gulledge (Builder), and believed to be Jaroslav Kabatnik (Architect).  The supervisors of Greensboro's Commencement House study the blueprints in 1958. This photo appeared in a Commencement House feature published in McCall's Magazine.  Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, UNC-G University Libraries 

 COMMENCEMENT HOUSE 

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Click arrows to view images, click image to enlarge.  Images courtesy of Martha Blakeney

Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, UNC-G University Libraries 

In partnership with Women's College, now known as UNC-Greensboro, Ed Loewenstein and Eugene Gulledge helped spearhead this project that garnered national attention while breaking new ground.

In a novel experiment, 23 female art and home economics majors designed and supervised the building of brick and cypress tri-level home as part of their architecture class and interior design courses.  As a part-time architectural instructor, Loewenstein guided the women while Gulledge oversaw the construction. Gulledge asked they design to house an imaginary family with three children.  He encouraged the students to be practical while creating new and pioneering ides of layout and design.

 

In a 1958 Alumnae News article on file in the Blakeney Hodges Special Collections of UNC-G Libraries, the students made note of the two sets of restrictions placed on the ladies, one set from Loewenstein concerning "such things as the family income, number of people to live in the house." The other restrictions from Gulledge, "the more difficult of the two," who required the house be one that could be sold on the Greensboro housing market.  

They broke ground on the home March 11, 1957 and competed the work at 2207 North Elm Street in time for the grand opening May 29th. The house was 3,250 square feet of living area was featured in the November 1958 issue of McCall's Magazine. The house was recognized with a Duke Power "Live Better Electrically" Gold Medallion for its hidden innovation of all aluminum wiring, the nation's highest award for electrical excellence.

PASSION MEETS PURPOSE

As Jarsolav Kabatnik transitioned from the Lowenstein firm to join Gulledge at Superior Construction, the two formed a partnership that would win awards over the next several years, including "Best House for the Money" by American Home Magazine for 1958 and 1959 projects.  As of this writing, which homes they won for are not yet clear.  However, given timing, it is highly possible one of those homes included the Sikes House on Keeling W.

 

It is this period that finds Gulledge's star beginning to soar from local builder to a state and national housing force with which to be reckoned. While continuing to build homes, he became very active in the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, working to attract companies in other states to the Greensboro area.  He became very active in local city budgeting and policy making with roles within the Chamber and other government entities. 

 

With a passion for bringing homeownership to low-income earners, he is responsible for dozens of homes and housing projects in Greensboro's lower east side, marrying his dedication to quality construction with a passion for bringing substance and security to the people of his area.

 

In 1963 he founded and became the first president of the North Carolina Home Builders Association, later ran for Greensboro City Council and also rose up the ranks of the National Home Builders Association, a group that would tap him president in 1969. He served as a member of the advisory committee for the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, served on the steering committee of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Low-income Housing and was a member of the Greensboro Housing Commission. 

FEDERAL EXPERTISE

President Richard Nixon's first Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Michigan Governor George Romney, would initiate a reorganization of the Department. Predisposed to strong executive action, Romney embraced the goal of stimulating housing production and energetically implemented the new FHA low-income housing programs inherited from the Johnson administration, a focus right up Gulledge's alley.

Secretary Romney placed Gulledge, president of the National Home Builders Association at the time, in charge of the Federal Housing Administration. And to emphasize the point, he also named him Assistant HUD Secretary for Housing Production. With first-hand knowledge of the obstacles home builders faced, Gulledge reorganized the FHA, streamlined the approval process and set production goals for the 50-some local FHA offices around the country.

In 1973, Nixon declared a moratorium on the housing and community development Gulledge worked hard to advance, prompting Romney to offer his resignation. Both men tapped to replace Romney and Gulledge would have no experience in housing, marking a turning point in housing policy.

 

Through this time and years after, history finds Gulledge traveling the nation, speaking at various state and national events, testifying before special committees on various housing subjects and continuing his original love of real estate development as a private citizen in the Virginia suburbs of D.C.

He would later retire in Glendale, Arizona where he died August 14, 2011 at the age of 92.

COMMENTS / QUESTIONS

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