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Cornelius News

Cornelius couple envisions new life for Cedar Grove mansion

Feb. 12. By Dave Yochum. A wife and husband team from Cornelius is spearheading an effort to preserve Cedar Grove, the historic home on Gilead Road which was once the center of a significant plantation.

Abigail Jennings and Randolph Lewis

Cornelius residents Abigail Jennings and Randolph Lewis have joined with the seventh-generation owner, Torrance Banks, to form Torrance Preserve LLC, with the mission “to preserve and share Cedar Grove and the surrounding properties.”


The new partnership plans to fully restore and rehabilitate Cedar Grove and decorate the home in 19th-century style with original furnishings from the Torrance family along with curated antiques. Although the current intent is to keep the home as a private residence, they plan to open the home for tours, events and luxury accommodations.

In addition, they are working to connect the property with the surrounding historic properties to establish a history and nature destination. The project is expected to take around two years.

Nearly 250 years of history

Built of brick made on the Cedar Grove plantation by James Torrence—over the course of 250 years, the family name changes from Torance, to Torrence, to Torrance—the Greek Revival mansion is adjacent to the Hugh Torance House and Store.

Both sit on property purchased by James’ father Hugh Torance in 1779.

According to the Mecklenburg County Historic Landmarks Commission, Hugh Torance and his son James accumulated a “substantial tract of land and by 1840 owned over one hundred slaves; a concentration of wealth that was not common for this area.”

Honor all who contributed

“We especially want to tell the stories of all who contributed to Cedar Grove, and honor all hands that built this home and worked this land. There is something very special about being here that makes history come alive and humanizes the individuals that lived here.” said Jennings.

Jennings, the president of Cornelius-based Lake Norman Realty, said Cedar Grove is in very original condition which means a substantial investment is needed to preserve it and make it truly livable for the 21st century.

The vision

“When I met Torrance Banks and learned more about the rich history of the home and surrounding land, I thought, ‘if I could write the future for this amazing property, what would it be?’ Randolph and I started dreaming, and when we shared our thoughts with Torrance, he was very happy to be part of the next chapter for his family’s homeplace. His parents, Dick and Belle Banks, put their heart and soul into restoring the property, and we’re excited to continue their work to rehabilitate the property and share this important historic landmark with the greater community,” said Jennings.

Property details

The main parcel that includes the 1831 mansion is assessed at $357,800 by Mecklenburg County, but the restored value is incalculable.

The store parcel, assessed at $216,300, is also priceless in terms of history. A mercantile business was operated out of the building from 1805 until 1825, making it the oldest standing store in the state.

Cedar Grove sits on one acre, buffered by a 4-acre tract owned by the State, and flanked by Mecklenburg County-owned land to the north and south. The McDowell Creek Greenway and Carolina Thread trail are planned to run to the west of the property in the future. Torrence Preserve LLC hopes to establish partnerships with the State and County to connect Cedar Grove with the historic store and ruins surrounding the home to create an interpretative history and nature walking trail.