923 Washington Street.

The one hundredth in a series of posts highlighting buildings in East Wilson Historic District, a national historic district located in Wilson, North Carolina. As originally approved, the district encompasses 858 contributing buildings and two contributing structures in a historically African-American section of Wilson. (A significant number have since been lost.) The district was developed between about 1890 to 1940 and includes notable examples of Queen Anne, Bungalow/American Craftsman, and Shotgun-style architecture. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.

As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; Alonzo Coley house; bungalow with unusual hip and side-gable roof configuration and shed dormer; aluminum-sided; Coley was a carpenter.”

Alonza Coley also built the houses at 914 and 918 Washington Street. Per the “Statement of Significance” section of the East Wilson nomination form: “A colleague of [O. Nestus] Freeman‘s, Alonzo Coley constructed bungalows for black clients, as well as worked in a barber shop. He advertised himself as a “licensed architect” after completing a drafting course at the local black high school.”

In 1917, Alonzo Coley registered for the World War I draft in Wilson. Per his draft registration card, he was born 8 September 1890 in Pikeville, Wayne County; resided at 105 East Street; worked as a carpenter for Barney Reid “in the Town of Wilson;” and was single.

Alonzo Coley, 26, of Wilson, son of Christopher and Sarah E. Coley of Wayne County, married Pauline McQueen, 23, of Wilson, daughter of Anthony and Jenny McQueen of Roland, North Carolina, on 14 March 1918. Presbyterian minister H.B. Taylor performed the ceremony in the presence of Maud Battle, Laura Coley and Lula Lewis.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: on Washington Street, house carpenter Lonzo Coley, 29; wife Paulean, 26; daughter Elma, 6 months; sister Edith, 16; and boarder Bula Thompson, 17.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 923 Washington Street, owned and valued at $2000, building carpenter Lonie Coley, 35; wife Pauline, 34; and children Elmer, 10, Mary E., 8, Richard L., 7, Robert J., 4, and Pauline, 2.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 923 Washington Street, owned and valued at $800, carpenter Alonzo Coley, 50; wife Pauline, 46, cleaner at post office; mother Sarah, 71; and children Elma, 20, beauty parlor operator, Maratta, 18, Robert J., 14, and Pauline, 12.

Alonzo Coley died 2 November 1967 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 8 September 1890 to Christopher and Sarah Coley; lived at 923 Washington Street; and was a laborer. Informant was Pauline Coley.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2019.


    1. I am so excited to have learned that my family is now a part of history for years I stayed with my grandparents at 923 Washington St. and my aunt Alma‘s house around the corner to find out that my family is now in the history books is very excited I’ve told my grandchildren. How are used to take their mother and their uncle to visit my grandparents in Wilson North Carolina we also used to visit my Ike Alma Holly who lived around the corner now that I have this information in writing I can show them and they can explain to their children times we spent with my grandparents and their great grandparents and great aunts. I also remember the summers that all the grandchildren will be at grandmas and grandbabies house Robert Jay’s children Pauline’s children our most children Richards child And my mother Mary Etta 923 Washington St. was full of love and laughter I miss my grandparents proud to be a part of this family

  1. This is awesome information and I am so proud to be the great granddaughter of Alonzo Coley and see so much of our family history written here. I remember the many visits to 923 Washington Street when my great grandmother, Pauline, and my grandmother, Elma lived in this house. Thank you for those who took time to document this.

  2. I have many photos of our family home and this area of East Wilson to share. I was very surprised to read that this home was on the historical registry since 1988. I didn’t know this when the home was sold around 2003.

    This home is so rich with family history. This was also a very well to do neighborhood in the 1940’s. There were teachers, government workers, and a dentist in the neighborhood. Current United States Congressman GK Butterfield grew up on the corner and his father served the community as a dentist.

    I am so proud of my memories, as a kid living with my grandmother and great grandmother in the summers on Carolina and Washington Streets. Our grandmother, Elma, owned and operated a beauty shop in her home around the corner on Carolina Street. Our Pauline was the anchor of our family and both are deeply missed.

    My great grandfather, Alonza (not Alonzo) served in WWI along with his brother, Christopher Columbus Coley. Upon their return from honorable service, he made his home in East Wilson with Pauline. He built homes and owned a barber shop. She worked for the US Postal Service as a custodian for 29 years and only missed 1 day of work due to an epic snow storm. The descendants of Alonza and Pauline Coley have gone on to be good citizens and contribute greatly to their families and community. We are so proud of their legacy. We thank you for sharing this knowledge about our family and its history.

    1. Thank you, Katrina! I can be reached at blackwideawake@gmail.com. I’d love to feature your photos. I lived in the 1400 block of Carolina Street until I was 9 and have lots of great memories of the neighborhood. My goals for Black Wide Awake are not only to connect descendants with their ancestors, but also to shine a light on the rich history of East Wilson and the people and places of its heyday.

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