Suggs’ Greensboro dealings.

D.C. Suggs’ real estate speculation was not limited to property in his hometown.

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Brown Flats, 195-201 Lyndon Street, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Greensboro’s Lyndon Street Townhouses, also known as the Brown Flats, were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Per pocketsights.com, “This series of townhouses is rare in Greensboro, where the urban prototype did not gain popularity before apartment houses with shared interior common halls grew acceptable. The four units remain among the few such townhouses in the state.

“The structures were likely built by Brown Real Estate Company, which had offices at 109 East Market Street. The firm was operated by Sample S. Brown, who was involved in several large transactions that transformed the city in the first decade of the twentieth century. At first, the flats were rented to white collar workers such as George Phoenix, clerk for the Southern railroad; rates in 1907 were $15 per unit.

“In 1919, the flats were acquired by Dr. Daniel Cato Suggs. Dr. Suggs was considered one of the wealthiest black men in North Carolina, and possibly the South. A native of Wilson, he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (B.A. and A.M.) and Morris Brown University (Ph.D.) before beginning his career as a professor in the public school systems of Kinston and Asheville. He married Mary Nocho of Greensboro, daughter of educator Jacob Nocho, in 1902. In 1917 he was elected the President of Livingston College in Salisbury. He maintained his residence in the city until his death.”

The nomination form for the townhouses provides details of Suggs’ real estate activity in Greensboro:

“The failure of the townhouses to attract higher-class tenants was probably due to their location at the eastern edge of downtown, almost up against the tracks of the Southern Railway beyond which were the black neighborhoods of east Greensboro.  Their almost immediate transformation to working or lower middle-class housing was likely due to the construction of working-class black housing immediately to their rear along the railroad tracks in 1907 or 1908. These one-story shotgun duplexes, which no longer stand, were built by Daniel C. Suggs, a black teacher and entrepreneur, on an alley named after him (Sanborn Map Company, 1907 and 1913; Greensboro City Directories).

“Suggs had started to acquire property on the east side of Lyndon Street, on all three sides of the townhouses lot, early in the decade (Guilford County Deed Book 184, Page 240; Deed Book 186, Page 681; and Deed Book 230, Page 350, for example). Although listed in city directories as a teacher, Suggs was also an entrepreneur. He owned and lived in a large, two-story frame house at the southeast corner of Lyndon and East Market streets [a site currently occupied by a row of mid-century commercial buildings, one of which houses Uhuru Book Store], two doors up from the townhouses. A block to the west, at 239-245 East Market Street, he owned the Suggs Building, a three-story brick commercial building which housed a variety of black businesses, including a restaurant, a tailor shop, and a drug store (Greensboro City Directories; Sanborn Map Company 1919.)

“Suggs’ impact on the townhouses was to extend beyond any effect his construction of the houses on Suggs Alley may have caused. In 1919 S.S. and Helen G. Brown sold them to him, which gave him possession of the all of the property on the east side of Lyndon between Washington and Market streets and the tracks (Guilford County Deed Book 330, Page 465). Surprisingly, until 1928 the tenants in the townhouses continued to be white. During these years, Suggs was almost certainly one of the only black landlords in Greensboro who had white tenants. Ironically, in 1929, a year after the building’s tenants shifted from white to black, Suggs and his wife, Mary, defaulted on their mortgage and the townhouses came into the hands of a white owner, Mrs. Lottie Hughes Wallace (Guilford County Deed Book 634, Page 83; Greensboro City Directories). Since 1929, the townhouses have generally continued to be rented to low and  lower-income African-Americans.”

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Sanborn fire insurance map, Greensboro, N.C., 1919.

Image courtesy of Google Maps.

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