Bird’s eye view.

“During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the cheap cost of printing lithographs coupled with the pride of small towns laid the foundation for the success of artists who specialized in hand drawn panoramic birds-eye view maps of American cities. The idea behind the panoramic birds-eye view was to draw the town at an oblique angle from an imaginary vantage point in the air, from the viewpoint a bird would have flying over the city. Although the scale of certain buildings were exaggerated to make the town more visible, the accuracy and attention to detail was otherwise so meticulous that each building was almost an exact copy of its real world counterpart down to the number of windows it possessed. There were numerous artists that gained popularity during this period. One such artist was Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler, known more by the name printed on each of the maps he completed, T.M. Fowler.” From Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler, Pennsylvania State Archives, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us

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In 1908, T.M. Fowler issued a bird’s eye map of Wilson. Drawn from the perspective of, say, a hawk floating above what is now Barton College, the map focuses on the town’s most prosperous districts. The Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road slices across the top left corner of the map, however, and beyond the track — Black Wilson.

Though none of the district’s buildings were highlighted on the margins of the map, a close examination reveals several that are immediately identifiable. At (1), looming over the 600 block of Green Street, is the turreted home of postmaster-cum-real estate developer Samuel H. Vick. At (2), at the corner of Green and Elba Streets, Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church. At (3), Calvary Presbyterian Church. At (4), Darden and Sons funeral home. At (5), First Baptist Church. At (6), Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church.

Continuing across the top of the map — headed southeast on the ground —  at (7), down Stantonsburg Street, the Colored Graded School, and (8) the stemmeries and tobacco factories of Little Richmond.

In 1908, little of East Wilson was inside city limits, which did not extend much beyond Pender Street or the tobacco factory district. Thus, many of the houses and other buildings depicted in Fowler’s fabulous map, including the graded school and all of Vick’s neighborhood, were not surveyed in the Sanborn fire insurance map produced the same year.

Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, North Carolina (1908).

2 comments

  1. Wow! Great work. I have that map in my office, and the school was hiding in plain sight!

    In looking at the 1922 Sanborn map you sent me on Oct. 2, 2017, it looks as if the school may be just after the point where modern Pender Street and Stantonsburg Road fork. Is that the way it looks to you? There are some unsightly concrete block apartments at that location now. Could that have been where the school was located?

    I need to put my boots on the ground and go to the corner of Rountree and Stantonsburg, then walk back toward the fork about 250 feet to see how that looks. Can you think of anyone of your friends in Wilson who might recall the building and where it stood? I want to make sure of the location before I write the text and order the marker. At $ 2100/each, there are no “do-overs” on these markers. Ha!

    B. Perry Morrison, Jr. Attorney and DRC-Certified Mediator (Superior Court) Morrison Law Firm, P.L.L.C. P.O. Box 2046 4612 Nash Street North Wilson, NC 27894-2046 (252) 243-1003 (252)243-1004 (fax) http://www.nccomplaw.com

    This email, and any attachments thereto, is intended only for use by the addressee(s) named herein and may contain legally privileged and/or confidential information. If you are not the intended recipient of this email, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this email, and any attachments thereto, is strictly prohibited. If you have received this email in error, please notify me immediately and permanently delete the original and any copy of this email and discard any printout thereof.

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