Sunshine Alley.

As noted in the earlier “Lost Neighborhoods” posts, downtown Wilson was once shot through with narrow alleys packed with the tiny double-shotgun dwellings of African-American tobacco workers. The whole of Sunshine Alley ran one and a half blocks between Tarboro and Mercer Streets, in the shadow of Liggett & Meyers’ tobacco warehouse and within a block of Planter’s Warehouse, Banner, Monk-Adams, Farmers, and Watson Warehouses. The neighborhood survived a 1924 fire, but by the end of 1928 it was gone — obliterated to make way for the massive Smith’s Warehouses A and B. (You can read a whole page about Smith’s in the nomination report for the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, but you’ll find no mention of Sunshine Alley.)

Here’s Smith’s in the 1940 aerial of Wilson, occupying the entire block bounded by East Jones, South Goldsboro, Hines, and Mercer Streets.

Today there’s nothing in this block but a Family Dollar store. Stand at the mouth of its driveway at Goldsboro Street. Look west:

Then east:

This was Sunshine Alley.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, September 2020.


    1. Sunshine Alley’s not on the 1913 map either. It was a short-lived “settlement” of cheap worker housing. All of the alleys seem to have come and gone before World War II as downtown lots became more valuable for commercial and industrial concerns. (By the way: Much of the Black side of Wilson was beyond town limits until after World War I and therefore wasn’t captured on Sanborn maps.)

    2. My grandmother, Alice DeBerry always said she was born in a house on Sunshine Alley, Feb 1921. Alice DeBerry was born to Handy DeBerry and Mollie Melton DeBerry. It shows up in some of the old directories as well. She always said her childhood home was adjacent/near where now Mrs.Beatrice Parks (deceased) home is now, and right before you get to St. Rose Church. Thank you for sharing.

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