Lewisville looks forward to keeping history alive: Nissen House becomes stand-alone nonprofit with new board, new endowment and big plans

Published 12:10 am Thursday, February 15, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Jim Buice

For the Clemmons Courier

History is what it is, but in Lewisville, something new is in place with the Historic George Elias Nissen House that could help keep the days of old more alive than ever going forward.

Andy Kelly, one of 11 members of the historic house’s new board of directors, gave a presentation in last Thursday night’s Lewisville Town Council meeting with an announcement that the house is now a stand-alone nonprofit with the official name of Historic Nissen House Inc.

The board’s 2024 action plan and long-term vision call for the house to serve as the Lewisville History Center, and in addition to that, Kelly reported that a new endowment has been established with the Shallow Ford Foundation to steward gifts and resources for the future.

The George Elias Nissen House, which was built in 1876, has been a focal point in the town from a historical perspective for years. It was actually on the verge of being bulldozed about 15 years ago before a groundswell of local support from citizens and the town led to raising $150,000 to move it from Shallowford Road on Jan. 1, 2009, a block away to its present location on nearby Arrow Leaf Drive near the intersection of Lucy Lane.

Efforts have continued over the years to raise funding, including restoring it, through help from donors, grants and various other means to keep it afloat — leading to plans to open it to the public as a rental venue before shifting to a new nonprofit group to take it over, run it and own it while actually spinning it off from the Lewisville Historical Society.

Along with announcing the current news, Kelly provided a fascinating history lesson on the roots of Lewisville.

“The new board of directors envisions the Nissen House becoming not only a showcase of the home and its period pieces but also a history for the Town of Lewisville,” Kelly said. “With the objective of keeping the rich history of the area alive, there will be information available for all the historic Lewisville landmarks and events. Those include Great Wagon Road, The Shallow Ford State Historic Site, the many ferries crossing the Yadkin, Old Nick’s Distillery (once one of the largest in the country), early Lewisville churches and schools, etc.

Kelly said that the board is hopeful of opening the facility with regular hours soon, but for those interested in a tour or to schedule an event for less than 50 people to contact Merrikay Brown at 336-287-6421 or Susan Linker at 336-945-5123.

Kelly added that for those wanting to help the effort of preserving local history, donations can be made to the Nissen House endowment or general fund on the Nissen House or Shallow Ford Foundations websites. 

In a business item on last Thursday night’s meeting, the council approved a contract with Waste Management for solid waste and recycling services in the amount of $1,432,145.

Town Manager James Ayers said that the contract is for five years and renewable for two, two-year renewal options if agreed upon by both parties.

Ayers said that this agreement represents the town’s single biggest contract for services to residents. He added that the town received four proposals, with one nonresponsive, and the quotes were rather close.

“As reported last month to council, the town was negotiating a contract with the highest-rated firm, which turned out to be our current provider, Waste Management,” Ayers said.

Mayor Mike Horn added despite inflation and the soaring costs of doing business that the town has not had an adjustment in the tax rate in 20 years.

“We’ve been lucky because as the town has grown it’s allowed us to be able to absorb a lot of the rising costs, but those of you have been around in 2020, 2021 and 2022 know that the pandemic changed everything and accelerated costs,” Horn said. “Just as a reference point, the increase in this contract accounts for about 3 cents on the tax rate. So you can see how quickly increases like this put continual pressure for us to be good stewards and to squeeze every penny we can out of the budget.”

In other items from last Thursday night’s meeting, the council:

  • Heard that the annual retreat will be held Friday night and Saturday morning at the Mary Alice Warren Community Center.
  • Called for a public hearing for the next meeting on Thursday, March 14, at 6 p.m. regarding a rezoning request by Michael Todd, 903 Forge Way, to rezone property from RS-20 to RS-9. In the planning board report, it was stated that the intent of the request is to allow for smaller lot dimensions, and that if approved, a portion of the property would be sold and combined with a neighboring property. Also as part of the analysis, town staff is of the opinion that the request is consistent with the town’s Comprehensive Plan for the area and complements the uses in the surrounding neighborhoods and properties.
  • Recognized resident Judi Burkhart as “I’m One of the Reasons Lewisville is a Great Place to Live.”