Maps

Plans for future growth.

This map was produced just past the period of focus of Black Wide-Awake, but I post it for the crystal-clear view it gives of mid-century Wilson’s residential segregation patterns.  It appeared in the 14 April 1951 issue of the Wilson Daily Times under the heading “Map Shows Zoning Plans for Future Growth of the City of Wilson.”

Here’s the key:

The dot-and-dash of proposed zone RA 5 Residential not coincidentally was coterminous with the East Wilson and Daniel Hill neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were black, and the “plans for future growth” intended to keep them that way.

Rountree Place.

Though undated, this plat likely was surveyed in the first decade of the 20th century. The grid is readily recognizable today, though the names of several interior streets have changed (or never received the planned names in the first place) and Wiggins Street was lost to the Hines Street Connector project in the early 1970s. Robeson, Manchester and Nash Streets follow the same paths today. East is largely the same, thought lost its tip at what is now Hines Street. Of the numbered streets, only Fourth remains. Second is the doglegged continuation of Vick Street, as Third is of Reid. Fifth Street was once renamed to continue Carroll, but now, running behind the Freeman Round House Museum, is Bill Myers Avenue.

The designation of the block between Manchester, Nash, East and Robeson as “Little Richmond” is puzzling, as that neighborhood is described as having been near the railroad tracks and the Richmond Maury stemmery. Maybe not though, as this notice clears makes reference to the lot marked above:

Wilson Daily Times, 1922.

Plat Book 78, pages 34-35, Register of Deeds Office, Wilson County Courthouse, Wilson; image of modern grid courtesy of Bing.com.

A closer look at the 1872 map of Wilson.

In a post about the 1872 E.B. Mayo map of Wilson, I erroneously stated that Lemon Taborn‘s barber shop was the only African-American landmark depicted. A close look at a clearer image of the map revealed two others.

Tilman McGowan‘s house was on Vance Street northwest of Pine Street. McGowan was the long-time jail keeper in Wilson. His house and the lot on which it was situated were sold at auction after McGowan’s death.

On Tarboro Street, west of Barnes, there is a reference to “Jack Williams Black Smith Shop,” which is likely to have been the workshop of blacksmith Jack Williamson.

Manchester Street, today.

Manchester Street was home to several of late 19th century black Wilson’s most prosperous working class families. When Samuel H. Vick chose a location for his ponderous Queen Anne, however, he bypassed Manchester in favor of a block laid out in a plat he himself had registered. East Green Street immediately eclipsed Manchester as the most fashionable address for Wilson’s nascent African-American professional class, and Manchester faded rapidly.

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Manchester Street was not recorded in Sanborn fire insurance maps until 1913, shown here. The uniformity of the houses on the southeastern side of the street suggest rental property. John H. Clark’s fine dwelling, with its idiosyncratic gazebo, is on the corner facing Nash.

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The same block in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map.

Manchester Street today, aerial view courtesy Google maps.

Manchester Street, looking southeast from Nash Street. Photograph taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2016.

Smith and Church Streets, today.

Smith and Church are narrow streets running parallel to Nash Street between Pettigrew and Pender Streets. By the 1930s, both were densely packed with working class housing, mostly wooden double shotguns, as shown on the 1930 Sanborn fire insurance map.

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By the 1980s, these blocks had developed grim reputations, and today they are, essentially, vacant. There are no remaining houses on Smith Street and only three on Church. 507 Church Street, shown below just to the left of the word “Church,” is clearly visible above as a long, narrow shotgun house.


Aerial view of Smith and Church Streets in 2017, courtesy of Mapquest.

Smith Street in July 2016, looking west toward Pettigrew Street, with the Cherry Hotel looming on the horizon.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson.

A Woodard plantation.

Headed east from Wilson toward Saratoga and Greenville, this house stood just beyond city limits near the fork of Highways 91/264 Alternate and 58. It was set back perhaps 75 yards from the road on the left. I took these photos circa 1990; the house was demolished perhaps a decade later. I was informed by a knowledgeable source that the dwelling was built circa 1832 by William Woodard, but it does not match the description of Woodard’s house in Ohno’s Architectural Heritage book or in the Woodard Family Rural Historic District nomination form. Though its ownership is unclear, there is no doubt that this home dates several decades before the Civil War and anchored a plantation worked by enslaved people.

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Photographs by Lisa Y. Henderson; aerial image courtesy of Google Maps.

Bird’s eye view.

“During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the cheap cost of printing lithographs coupled with the pride of small towns laid the foundation for the success of artists who specialized in hand drawn panoramic birds-eye view maps of American cities. The idea behind the panoramic birds-eye view was to draw the town at an oblique angle from an imaginary vantage point in the air, from the viewpoint a bird would have flying over the city. Although the scale of certain buildings were exaggerated to make the town more visible, the accuracy and attention to detail was otherwise so meticulous that each building was almost an exact copy of its real world counterpart down to the number of windows it possessed. There were numerous artists that gained popularity during this period. One such artist was Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler, known more by the name printed on each of the maps he completed, T.M. Fowler.” From Thaddeus Mortimer Fowler, Pennsylvania State Archives, http://www.phmc.state.pa.us

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In 1908, T.M. Fowler issued a bird’s eye map of Wilson. Drawn from the perspective of, say, a hawk floating above what is now Barton College, the map focuses on the town’s most prosperous districts. The Atlantic Coast Line Rail Road slices across the top left corner of the map, however, and beyond the track — Black Wilson.

Though none of the district’s buildings were highlighted on the margins of the map, a close examination reveals several that are immediately identifiable. At (1), looming over the 600 block of Green Street, is the turreted home of postmaster-cum-real estate developer Samuel H. Vick. At (2), at the corner of Green and Elba Streets, Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church. At (3), Calvary Presbyterian Church. At (4), Darden and Sons funeral home. At (5), First Baptist Church. At (6), Saint John A.M.E. Zion Church.

Continuing across the top of the map — headed southeast on the ground —  at (7), down Stantonsburg Street, the Colored Graded School, and (8) the stemmeries and tobacco factories of Little Richmond.

In 1908, little of East Wilson was inside city limits, which did not extend much beyond Pender Street or the tobacco factory district. Thus, many of the houses and other buildings depicted in Fowler’s fabulous map, including the graded school and all of Vick’s neighborhood, were not surveyed in the Sanborn fire insurance map produced the same year.

Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson, North Carolina (1908).

807 Viola Street.

The thirty-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.

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As described in the nomination form for East Wilson Historic District: “circa 1960; 1 story; concrete block double shotgun.” This description of 807 Viola is obviously incorrect. What happened?

The nomination form lists five houses on the north side of the 800 block of Viola Street: (1) #801, an I-house built about 1913; (2) #803, a house built about 1970; (3) #805, a Queen Anne built about 1913; (4) #807; and (5) another Queen Anne built about 1913.

A current aerial view of the street shows that, nearly 30 years after the neighborhood was surveyed, 801 and 811 are vacant lots. #803 is easily recognized as the modern house described in the nomination form. However, there is no 805 Viola. Rather, the house next to 803 is 807 — the Queen Anne depicted above. The concrete block double shotgun is, in fact, #809.

The 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, below, sheds some light on the street’s curious numbering. #801, the two-story I-house, is shown at the corner of Viola and Vick. At #803 is the predecessor to the 1970s-era ranch house now there. Hard against the street in #803’s front yard was #805, marked “S” for “store.” #807 is the same house currently at the location.

In the 1916 Wilson city directory: Brown Caroline h 807 Viola.

In the 1920 Wilson city directory: Brown Caroline dom h 807 Viola.

In the 1920 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 807 Viola, Caroline Brown, 50, and daughter Marjory, 22, both tobacco factory laborers, and grandchildren Lister, 12, and Marie, 1.

In the 1930 Wilson city directory, 807 Viola is described as vacant, and there is no listing for the house in the 1930 census of Wilson.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 807 Viola Street, widowed laundress Blanche Farmer, 67; sons Henry, 34, truck driver for wholesale grocery company, and Samuel, 25, janitor for retail department store; and grandchildren Windsor, 24, tobacco factory laborer, Turner G., 19, cafe cook, and Gloria Hagans, 13, and James H. Farmer, 6.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson City Directory: Farmer Blanche (c) h 807 Viola.

Blanch Farmer died 27 March 1959 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 29 July 1889 in Wilson County to Samuel Gay and Alice Bryant; resided at 807 East Viola Street; and was a widow. Goldie Ricks was informant.

Photograph of house by Lisa Y. Henderson, May 2017; aerial photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Lost ‘hoods, no. 2.

“The Atlantic Coastline Railroad tracks separated a black and a white world almost. And then there was Hines Street that wasn’t a connector in those days, but just a street. And there was Daniel Hill, where colored people lived. Then there were six houses between Lee and Gold Streets close to the city lot where black people lived. And Mercer Street in Five Points was all black. There were two ice companies near the railroad tracks and one area was called ‘Happy Hills’ where a few blacks lived. ‘Green Hill’ near the other ice company was a white neighborhood. Except for the above-mentioned, I don’t know of one black family that lived beyond the tracks. But I’m not saying there might not have been a few isolated cases. But Daniel Hill was where 99 percent of the black population lived anywhere on the west side of Wilson.” — Roy Taylor, My City, My Home (1991).

The 1930 edition of Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory reflects the full flower of segregated Wilson, with street after street east of the railroad occupied entirely by African-American households in patterns still easily recognized today. However, here and there clusters of houses appear at unfamiliar locations, either because the streets themselves have disappeared or because we have lost collective memory of these blocks as black neighborhoods.

Here are a few more:

  • Banks Alley

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I’ve been unable to locate this street.

  • West Lee Street

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An earlier post explored the small African-American settlement that coalesced around Lee and Pine Streets by the turn of the twentieth century. By 1930, this community had contracted to three small duplexes on Lee Street and half-a-dozen around the corner on Pine.

1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 202 Lee Street, paying $16/month rent, Willie Walter, 21, odd jobs laborer; wife Lulu, 15, servant; and roomer Novella Townsend, 25, laundress. Also [in the other half of the duplex], paying $16/month, cook Mamie Nord, 47, and her son Rufus J., 21, odd jobs laborer. At 204 Lee Street, paying $16/month: laundress Lizzie Larry, 49; Maude Lofty, 100; Lizzie’s daughter Anabel Larry, 28, and her sons John H., 12, and M.C., 13. Also, paying $16/month, Jasper Thigpen, 47, transfer truck driver; wife Dora, 33; and daughter Allie, 16.

  • North Pine Street

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 405 Pine Street, paying $10/month rent, Adele Matthews, 42, laundress, and Sarah McMullen, 23, laundress. Also [in the other half of the duplex], paying $10/month, odd jobs laborer David Sanders, 35, and wife Carry, 44, laundress. At 407 Pine Street, paying $12/month: servant Ella Pulley, 30. Also, paying $12/month, Egarber Barnes, 24, jail attendant, and wife Nanny, 25, laundress. At 409 Pine Street, paying $12/month, practical nurse Lizzie Bullock, 70; and children Ernest, 43, house painter, Obert, 33, hotel cook, and Gertrude, 35, laundress. Also, paying $12/month, truck gardener Charlie Moye, 29, and Edward Williams, 53, farm laborer. At 411 Pine Street, paying $10/month, greenhouse gardener Windsor Ellis, 41; wife Rachel, 34; and children dry goods store janitor Douglas, 20, John H., 10, and Elaine, 5; and lodger Fred Moye, 26, café cook.

  • South Street

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In 1930, the east and west ends of South Street were largely home to commercial and industrial outfits. The middle block, however, the 300s, housed in uncomfortably close quarters a stone cuttery, a couple of black families, the black Episcopal church, and a notorious whorehouse.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 304 East South Street, high school janitor Joseph Battle, 80; wife Gertrude, 42; and daughter Clara, 22; and five boarders, Earnest Heath, 24, cook; James Pettiford, 36, barber; Robert McNeal, 23, servant; Essie M. Anderson, 18, servant; and Viola McLean, 24, “sick.” At 306 East South: tobacco factory laborer William Barnes, 28; wife Loretta H., 23; and brother Charles Barnes, 22, servant. At 309 East South, widow Mattie H. Paul, no occupation.

Karl Fleming wrote of “veteran madams” Mallie Paul and Betty Powell, who operated Wilson’s “two twenty-dollar whorehouses,” “sexual emporia [that] had operated for at least thirty years [by the late 1940’s] … situated in similar two-story wood houses near each other just behind the tobacco warehouse district.” Though Fleming curled his lip, Roy Taylor fairly gushed about Paul: “One sight that got my attention, along with everyone else’s in the area when it occurred, was the march of Mallie Paul and her girls from their home on South Street, to women’s stores downtown to purchase clothing, cosmetics, and other necessities. And those women were beautiful! … There would be 10 or 12 of them walking leisurely toward the hotel from Douglas Street, then turning on Nash. …”

Most of Wilson’s tobacco warehouses succumbed to arson in the final decade and a half of the last century, and the 300 block of South Street is entirely industrial.

  • Taylor Street and Taylor’s Avenue

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  • Wiggins Street

This entire street is gone, cleared for the extension of Hines Street over the railroad tracks (via Carl B. Renfro Bridge) to connect with Nash Street a few blocks west of highway 301 as roughly shown below.

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1922 Sanborn fire insurance map, Wilson.