Wilson Advance, 4 May 1893.
- William Woodard
Wilson Advance, 4 May 1893.
N.C. Mutual Life Insurance affiliate Home Development Company was a major player in East Wilson real estate in the mid-twentieth, buying and selling distressed properties by the dozens. Below, a plat map the company recorded in 1944 for two lots on Viola Street between C.E. Artis at 308 North Pender and Sadie Joyner at 609 Viola.
The house at 607 Viola Street was demolished in the early 1980s. There has never been a house on the second lot.
Plat book 4, page 13.
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Church Alton (c; Hattie) lab h 607 Viola; Church Helen (c) maid Cherry Hotel H 607 Viola.
In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Clark Saml (c; Cath) h 607 Viola; Clark Martha (c) dom h 607 Viola.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 607 Viola, at $16/month rent, Catherine Clark, 42, born in S.C., hospital cook; husband Sam, 52, born in Georgia; granddaughter Martha Clark, 15, born in S.C.; grandson Willie McGill, 6, born in N.C.; and two roomers, Talmage Smith, 21, and Roy Maze, 26, both orchestra musicians. [Orchestra musicians?]
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 607 Viola, at $6/month, Nora Farmer, 28, tobacco factory hanger, and lodgers Maggie Smith, 23, also a hanger, and Lester Parker, 28, highway laborer. Also, at $8/month, Charlie Williams, 42, service station attendant; wife Ellen, 38, laundress; son David, 23, tobacco factory laborer; and niece Eloise Tarboro, 18, servant.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city director: Williams Chas (c; Ellen) porter G Duke Ricks h 607 Viola
Wilson Daily Times, 23 September 1985.
I offer the photo above not for the East Nash Street parking lot ribbon-cutting, but for the rare view of three early 20th-century houses on Smith Street. Smith Street is not located in the East Wilson Historic District, nor was its single block included in the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse District, though it lies just behind East Nash and Pettigrew Streets. Its mid-section once densely packed with working-class housing, Smith Street is now completely cleared.
A 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson shows that the first two houses are 517 and 519 Smith Street (formerly Zion Alley). The house at right, 521, does not appear and was built between 1922 and 1928.
(The parking lot was built on the site of houses and shops at 527, 529, 531, and 533 East Nash Street and 514 and 516 Smith Street.)
The 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists domestic Lula Hill at 517; domestic Jane Taylor at 519; and cook Minnie Smith at 521.
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 517 Smith Street, renting for $10/month, widow Emma Bissette, 30, and lodgers Mattie Coleman, 22, and John Harington, 34. At 521 Smith, at $16/month, widow Minnie Smith, 37, cook, and lodgers Elnora Norflet, 24, laundress; Davie Shoulders, 26, painter; and Alfreter, 6, and William E. Norflet, 4.
Samuel H. Vick owned 517 and 519 Smith Street and lost them with dozens of other parcels of land in a forced sale in April 1935.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 517 Smith Street, renting at $9/month, Ardelia Currie, 66, washing; son Garfield McMillan, 53, farm delivery for retail grocer; roomer Albert McPhail, 21, dishwasher at the Elite Cafe; granddaughter Ardelia McWorsins(?), 26, maid; and roomer Sara Gregory, 24, laborer. At 521 Smith, renting at $10/month, Luther Newsome, 50; wife Helen, 30; and children Mildred, 15, Beulah, 13, Luther, 1, and Donnell, 2 months.
In 1942, Elex [Alex] Currie registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 30 May 1898 in Robeson County, N.C.; lived at 517 Smith Street, Wilson; was an unemployed odd jobs laborer; and his nearest relative was Ardelia Currie, 517 Smith Street.
Ardelia Wearring died 13 July 1943 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 29 years old; was born in Robeson County, N.C., to Garfield Mills and Alice McCary; was married to Sam Wearring; lived at 517 Smith Street; and was buried in Rountree cemetery.
Ardelia Currie died 23 August 1943 in Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was 60 years old; was born in Robeson County, N.C., to Hardy Curwell and Laura Jane Smith; worked as a laundress; was widowed; and lived at 517 Smith Street. She was buried in Rest Haven Cemetery, and Alex Currie was informant.
The 1947-48 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory lists factory worker Rosa Hicks at 517 Smith; Victoria Lane at 519; and Jack and Addie Vail at 521. Vail operated a grocery store at 315 Elba Street.
An auctioneer advertised 521 Smith Street for sale in the spring of 1948.
Wilson Daily Times, 16 April 1948.
Wilson Daily Times, 17 July 1958.
Wilson Daily Times, 16 February 1944.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 707 Vance, Andrew Pierce, 55, nurse at home (usually barber); wife Lossie, 55, in hospital; daughters Alice, 35, and Hester, 27; sons Boise, 29, cafe [cook?], and Binford, 14; daughter Ruby, 19, “cook school;” and grandchildren Randolph, 9, and Montheal Foster, 7, and Mickey Pierce, 1.
Samuel Randolph Foster registered for the World War II draft in Durham, N.C., in 1945. Per his draft card, he was born 19 February 1927 in Wilson; lived at 403 Henry Street, Durham; was a student at Hillside High School; and his contact was Sam Foster, 403 Henry Street. He was 5’7″, weighed 141 pounds, with brown eyes, black hair and a birthmark in the bend of his right arm. [In fact, per his birth record, Foster was born in 1931 in Wilson to Samuel Foster and Hester Pierce, which would make his age consistent with that in the Times article. In other words, Foster was 14 years old when he was inducted into the Army at Fort Bragg in September 1945.]
To stand at the intersection of Goldsboro and Spruce Streets, looking northeast, is to see Wilson much as it looked in the 1920s. Several early tobacco factories operated in this area, and the surrounded streets were lined with the small houses rented to African-American factory laborers.
At left, the two-story brick building, in its original cast-iron form, was Dibrell Brothers Tobacco Factory and Re-Ordering Plant and, by 1922, was the warehouse of tobacco brokers Monk-Adams & Company. The rail line, originally a spur of the Norfolk & Southern Rail Road, is visible in the detail of the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map below.
The low brick building at the right of the photo contained the office and tobacco storage and drying areas of the British-American Tobacco Company’s facility. The water tower at the far end of the block above can be seen on the map below as a small gray square with a blue insert near the corner of Spruce and Spring [now Douglas] Streets.
The tin-roofed red building in middle distance appears to be an expanded version of the small auto shed marked just above the rail line on the Sanborn map.
The three houses on the west side of Spring/Douglas Street have been demolished, but the little saddlebag house in the distance, its roof white with the remnants of a brief snow, is 515 South Douglas Street. Formerly numbered 601, the house appears in Sanborn maps as early as 1908.
Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, January 2021.
I met historical consultant Beth Nevarez in late February 2020, just a couple of weeks before COVID-19 shuttered the world. I followed Beth on Instagram @bethnevarezhistory and came to admire the work she does on behalf of two local institutions, the Tobacco Farm Life Museum and Ava Gardner Museum, to help them maintain their missions and keep their collections accessible in the unprecedented conditions created by a global pandemic. I was excited last fall to be able to connect Nevarez and Bill Myers, the Freeman Round House’s Executive Director, and the result is a fantastic update to the Round House museum’s website. The museum is now open with safety protocols in place, but until you’re able to get there, you can enjoy virtual tours of several of its exhibits. Please check it out here, and please consider including the Freeman Round House and African-American Museum in your giving plans. As a small institution with a unique and important local focus, it needs your support more than ever.
Bill Myers introduces the virtual exhibits.
A little of what you’ll find.
Wilson Daily Times, 20 January 1899.
In January 1899, a house owned by Annie Barnes and occupied by Ed Humphrey and George Rogers. The “two fire companies” that responded were, presumably, the all-white city department and all-black volunteer Red Hot Hose Company. Neighbor B.F. Briggs, as indicated by the honorific “Mister,” was white.
In response to the post about the historic residents of the land now occupied by Seeds of Hope Wilson, Priscilla Moreno sent these before-and-after images of their corner of Viola and Carroll Streets. At the top, Samuel H. Vick Elementary School is just visible across Carroll Street. Its parking lot was once the site of C.H. Darden High School. (The original Vick Elementary on Reid Street now houses OIC.) The white house with red roof is 505 Carroll Street, which has been demolished. At bottom, some of Seeds of Hope’s bounty!
The one hundred twenty-ninth 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.
Seeds of Hope Wilson tends a teaching and community garden at the corner of Viola and Carroll Streets and, in a revamped cottage at 906 Viola, a small community center for the neighborhood surrounding Samuel H. Vick Elementary School. (The garden had not been installed when the photo above was taken.) Community members who work in the garden take home the food they grow after donating a portion to charities such as Hope Station, a local shelter. If you’d like to support Seeds of Hope’s fine work in East Wilson, see here.
Seeds of Hope’s property is a consolidation of five original lots — two on Viola Street and three on North Carroll. Below, a look at some of the families who lived at these addresses in the first half of the twentieth century.
Detail from Plat Book 42, Page 20, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson, showing Seeds of Hope’s consolidated parcel.
As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1910; 1 story; John Dudley house; Queen Anne cottage with hip-roofed, double-pile form and turned porch posts; owner in 1925 was Dudley, a carpenter.” [The house was heavily modified for Seeds of Hope’s use.]
In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Dudley Jno H carp h 906 Viola
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Dudley Jno H (c; Della) carp h 906 Viola
In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barnes Ned (c; Malina) truck driver h 906 Viola
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 906 Viola, rented for $12/month, Ned Barnes, 31; wife Malline, 46; stepson Johny, 20; and sons Robert, 18, and Jessie B., 14.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 906 Viola, rented for $12/month, Amos Moore, 39; wife Mattie, 29, born in Georgia; children Joseph, 5, Patricia, 3, and Iris V., 8; and sister-in-law Lillie Blue, 33, born in Georgia.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Moore W Amos (c; Mattie; 3) firemn Hotel Cherry h 906 Viola
As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1945; 1 story; gable-end bungalow with metal porch supports.”
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cannon James (c; Debora) drayage 908 Viola
In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Cannon Jas (c; Deborah) taxi driver h 908 Viola
In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 908 Viola, rented for $15/month, James Cannon, 34, taxi cab driver, born in S.C.; wife Deborah, 25, born in S.C.; and children Dorthy, 10, James Jr., 9, Beatrice, 6, William H., 3, and Willie W., 2.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 908 Viola, rented for $12/month, Polly Evans, 56, widow; children Charlie, 24, Josie, 16, Alphonza, 13, and Eloise, 10; son-in-law James Parker, 30; and daughter Virginia, 25.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Evans Polly (c) h 908 Viola
As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1930; 1 story; one-room, gable-roofed house with bungalow type detail; aluminum sided; late example of traditional form.”
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ellis Jno (c; Georgia) soft drinks 1009 Carolina h 505 N Carroll
In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ellis John (c; Georgia) lab h 505 Carroll
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 505 Carroll, rented for $10/month, James Tinsley, 30; wife Jensy, 23; and sister-in-law Arrie Williams, 34.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bynum General B (c) lab h 505 N Carroll; Bynum General B Jr (c) lab h 505 N Carroll
As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1930; 2 stories; gable front house with two-bay facade and side-hall plan; aluminum sided; built by black developer William Hines.”
In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Ellis James (c; Matilda) lab h 507 N Carroll
In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory, the house at this address was vacant.
In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 507 Carroll, rented for $10/month, Wade Boddy, 36; wife Mildred, 32; and children Wade O., 2, and Mildred, newborn; mother-in-law Vicey Jones, 63, widow.
In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Jones Vicie (c) lndrs h 507 N Carroll; Body Wade (c; Mildred; 2) lab 507 N Carroll; Body Wm (c; Susie) lab 507 N Carroll
As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “ca. 1940; 2 stories; gable front house matching #507; also built by William Hines.”
Aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.
Wilson Daily Times, 19 September 1944.
Though earlier in the century many of the largest developers of East Wilson real estate were Black, such as Samuel H. Vick and brothers Walter and William Hines, by World War II realtors and landlords increasingly operated from the other side of the tracks. Here, Cecil B. Lamm appealed to African-American buyers to invest their wartime earnings in narrow lots on Atlantic and Washington Streets.