The one hundred-fifty-second 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.
Perhaps the oldest commercial structure in the District, the facade of the grocery’s parapet is spitting bricks out onto the sidewalk.
As described in the nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District, this building is: “ca. 1908; 1 story; Mercer’s Grocery; brick, parapet-front grocery; one of the major groceries in the district.”
513 East Green Street was originally numbered 518. Like all of the large grocery stores in East Wilson, none of its owners were African-American.
Jesse J. Amerson is the first known owner, commuting from his home on West Green Street nine blocks to the store.
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1908).
Four years later, the city directory showed Samuel D. Moody as the owner. Moody lived at 301 Pender, just beyond the Vance Street boundary between Black and white sections of Pender.
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1912).
Moody sold wood from a lot on the Green Street side of the grocery. Detail from Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C., 1913.
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1916).
Circa 1921, Larry Giles Boyette and Bernon S. Holdford took over the grocery and operated it together for most of the decade.
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1922).
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1925).
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1928).
The 1930 city directory shows that Boyette operated the store solo and had renamed it with his middle name, Giles.
Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory (1930).
However, this 1932 ad reverts to Boyette & Holford. [What curious exhortations — “Stop Hoarding!” “Put Your Slacker Dollars to Work.”]
Wilson Daily Times, 21 March 1932.
In the summer of 1940, Giles advertised Onslow County pork products. (I have not been able to determine if there was something special about ham and bacon from the Jacksonville area.) As we’ll see below, this iteration of Giles likely had a different owner than the earlier.
Wilson Daily Times, 20 August 1940.
In 1947, W.R. Lang and A.R. Lafferty filed a notice of dissolution of their partnership, which had operated Giles Grocery at 513 East Green.
Wilson Daily Times, 16 August 1947.
Per the 1950 city directory, the store continued to operate under the name Giles Grocery. In the 1957 directory, it was named Jim Mercer’s Grocery and remained known as Mercer’s for the next three decades.
In the mid-1980s, Harrell’s Grocery added 513 East Green to its small stable of corner groceries.
Wilson Daily Times, 21 January 1986.
However, the store was once again known as Mercer’s in the late 1980s and remained so until at least 2001.
Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, December 2022.