National Register of Historic Places

A colored jeweler.

By what feat of alchemy did Robert T. Alston convert himself from farmhand to schoolteacher to jeweler and watchmaker?

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Wilson Daily Times, 23 August 1919.

Per the nomination form for the Wilson Central Business-Tobacco Warehouse Historic District, Alston-William Building at 552 East Nash Street [once part of Stantonsburg Street]: “Built ca 1920 as a jewelry shop for Robert T. Alston, this plainly finished, one-story brick commercial building was occupied by him until the 1940s. [In fact, Alston died in 1931.] The flat-roofed building as a tile-capped parapet and its original recessed entrance and flanking display windows, but displays no decorative brickwork on the upper facade. The single interior space has been renovated and has a lowered ceiling. since being vacated by Alston, this building has been occupied by Lamm’s Fish Shop, Hill’s Bicycle Shop, Keen’s Seafood Market, and since 1968, by William’s Barber Shop.”

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In the 1870 census of Walnut Grove township, Granville County, North Carolina: Aron Alston, 47; wife Rosetta, 48; and children Anna, 15, Haywood, 14, Robert, 12, Sallie, 10, Agnes, 9, Mary J., 4, and John H., 1.

In the 1880 census of Walnut Grove township, Granville County: Aaron Alston, 52; wife Rosetta, 55; and children Robert, 21, Agnes, 18, Thomas, 16, Mary G., 14, and John H., 11.

Robert T. Alston, 22, married Julia Wortham, 19, on 16 March 1881 in Walnut Grove township, Granville County.

On 24 January 1899, John Edge, 21, of Edgecombe County, son of Randall and Milly Edge, married Mary Eva Alston, 18, of Edgecombe County, daughter of Robert T. Alston.

In the 1900 census of Lower Town Creek township, Edgecombe County, North Carolina: widower Robert T. Alston, 42, school teacher, and son  John T., 15, farm laborer. In the 1900 census of Upper Town Creek township, Edgecombe County: farmer John Edge, 22, wife Mary, 18, and sister-in-law Carrie Auston, 10.

In the 1910 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: laundress Mattie Cory, 35, widow; daughter Evelyn, 9; widower Robert Alston, 63, general repair laborer; and [no first name listed] Albriton, 34, lodger, house carpenter.

In the 1912 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) 107 Pender watchmaker

In an undated 1914 newspaper insert “Progressive Colored Citizens of Wilson, N.C.,” Robert T. Alston paid for this ad: “Watches, clocks, jewelry, eye glasses, spectacles, etc. I handle the very best grade of watches, such as the Elgin, Waltham, Illinois, Hampden, and Hamilton. Your credit is good. Yes, I will sell you a watch on the weekly payment plan: that is, ‘So much down and so much each week.’ I do a mail order business also. If you want a watch or other jewelry, write me for terms and order blanks. Now in a few days I shall have a large stock of watches, clocks, etc. on hand. Call to see me or write.”

Mary E. Edge died 13 November 1920 on Coopers township, Nash County. Per her death certificate, she was about 37 years old; was born in Granville County to Robert Alston and Julia Wortham; and was married to John Edge, who was informant.

In the 1922 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) jeweler 552 E Nash

In the 1925 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) jeweler and watchmaker 552 E Nash

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) jeweler 552 E Nash

On 16 January 1929, John T. Alston, 43, of Toisnot township, son of R.T. Alston and Julia [no maiden name listed], married Annie Artis, 32, of Taylors township, daughter of Ed and Zanie Artis. A.M.E. Zion minister J.E. Kennedy performed the service in the presence of Chas. S. Thomas, Hugh C. Reid, and Clarence Artis.

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Alston Robt T (c) watch repr 552 E Nash h d[itto]

Robert T. Alston died 10 August 1930 in Wilson township. Per his death certificate, he was 72 years old; was born in Granville County, North Carolina, to Aaron Alston and Rosetta Alston; was the widower of Julia Alston; and worked as a jewelry and watchmaker. John T. Alston, Elm City, was informant.

After Alston’s death, his estate defaulted on payment of the mortgage on his Nash Street property, and the trustee advertised its sale.

Wilson Daily Times, 14 April 1933.

Carrie Lindsey died 5 October 1944 in Toisnot township, Wilson County. Per her death certificate, she was born 7 April 1890 in Granville County to R.T. Alston and Julia Wortham; was the widow of John Lindsey; worked in farming; and was buried at William Chapel. Arthur Lindsey, Elm City, was informant.

John T. Alston died died 3 April 1952 in Elm City, Toisnot township. Per his death certificate, he was born 7 March 1889 in Granville County to Robert T. Alston and Charity Worthly; was a farmer; and was married. Informant was Annie Alston.

310 North Reid Street.

The one hundred-nineteenth 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 house is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; Thomas Foster house; bungalow with hip roof and engaged porch; Foster was janitor at Wilson post office.”

In the 1925, 1928 and 1930 Wilson city directories, Thomas and Olivia Foster are listed at 310 North Reid.

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: owned and valued at $3000, Tom Foster, 45, post office janitor, and wife Oliva, 43.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: owned and valued at $3000, John T. Foster, 60, post office janitor; wife Olivia, 59; and her brother Claude Artist, 53, odd jobs.

In 1940, Du Bissette Best registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 26 January 1922 in Wilson; lived at 308 North Reid; his contact was Tom Foster, 310 North Reid; and he worked for W.G. Taylor, Taylor’s Barber Shop, 106 South Tarboro.

Tom Foster died 17 October 1956 at Mercy Hospital. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 April 1883 in Wayne County to John Thomas Foster and Louise Thompson; was married to Olivia Foster; worked as an elevator laborer; and resided at 310 North Reid.

Olivia Foster died 15 November 1956 at her home at 310 North Reid. Per her death certificate, she was born 4 October 1886 in Wayne County to Jesse Artis and Lucinda Hobbs; was a widow. Informant was Ada Rowe, 1006 Atlantic Street, Wilson.

Tom and Olivia Foster had mortgaged their home early in 1955 and, the spring after their deaths, the loan went into default. Trustee Wade A. Gardner posted this notice of sale in the local newspaper. Among the details: the Fosters had purchased the lot, part of the Rountree Tract, from Levi H. and Hannah Peacock in 1916.

Wilson Daily Times, 9 May 1957.

Around the same time, Tom Foster’s executor advertised a sale of the contents of the house, which offers an interesting glimpse at the typical furnishings of a working-class household in mid-century East Wilson.

Wilson Daily Times, 8 June 1957.

Claude Artis died 16 January 1960 at his home at 310 North Reid Street. Per his death certificate, he was born 3 January 1890 in Wayne County to Jesse Artis and Lucinda Hobbs; was never married; and worked as a laborer. Ada Rowe, 310 North Reid, was informant. (Claude Artis was Olivia Artis Foster’s brother. Did he buy the house, or did he pay rent to whomever purchased it?)

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019.

A return to 624 East Green Street.

More than two years ago, I wrote here of the house at 624 East Green Street, built for Dr. Frank S. Hargrave. The house has been heavily and disfiguringly modified both inside — it’s been cut up into at least three apartments — and out, and is now unoccupied and sealed up. I recently trespassed just long enough to get a glimpse through the one unboarded window, which revealed a glimpse of the house’s former good looks.

This paneled stairwell originally led from the western edge of a large front room to the second floor. Now, there is an exterior door underneath the first flight (not visible from this angle) and, just out of the frame, a solid wall that separates the parts of the house entered through the front door from those entered through side doors.

Below, a straight-on view of Dr. Hargrave’s house. The original porch was enclosed at left and center, and the vertical siding on the second floor facade suggests alteration there as well.

Below, via Google Map, an aerial view of 624 East Green. The part of the house outlined in red is surely an add-on, as is likely the wing in yellow. The roof appears to be in remarkably good shape, given the condition of the rest of the house. The roof over the “porte cochere” (notwithstanding the National Historic Register description, it is really more of a portico) appears to be tin, which may be original. (Next door, the Vicks sprang for a slate roof.)

505 South Pender Street.

The one-hundred-eighteenth 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.

The nomination form for the East Wilson Historic District does not list 505 South Pender. However, this description of 501, which does not actually exist, seems to describe the house above instead: “ca. 1922; 1 story; shotgun with shed-roofed porch, gable returns.”

In the 1928 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Leak Clara (c) dom h 505 Stantonsburg

In the 1930 Wilson, N.C., city directory: McNeil Mary (c) dom h 505 Stantonsburg

The 1941 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barnes Pearl (c; 2) lndrs h505 Stantonsburg

In the 1947 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Barnes Pearl N (c; wid Zach) lndry wrkr Caro Lndry & Clnrs h 505 Stantonsburg

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The stretch of Pender Street above Suggs Street today, per Google Map. 505 is the silver-roofed shotgun at the corner Pender and Hines.

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Here, the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, N.C. Below Nash Street, Pender Street was then called Stantonsburg Street. When Hines Street was extended east in the 1960s, it largely followed the former path of Wiggins Street. It appears that 501 and 503 were cleared out to make way for the much wider Hines.

901 East Green Street.

The one-hundred-seventeenth 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: “ca. 1930; 2 stories; two-bay, side-hall, gable front house.” Like 817 East Green, Walter S. Hines (and his heirs) owned and rented out this house. It was demolished in 2001.

In the 1928 and 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directories: Brooks Maggie (c) cook h 901 E Green

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 East Green, renting for $21/month, widow Maggie Brooks, 45, servant; Eszie M. Brooks, 26, nurse; roomer Roland Sudden, 24, factory laborer; Christene Brooks, 2; and roomers Robert Harvey, 26, glass cutter, and wife Mary, 22, both born in Georgia.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 901 East Green, rented for $15/month, barber Henry D. Coley, 44; wife Eva J., 39, teacher in public schools; and daughters Elizabeth P., 16, Grace L., 14, and Eva E., 10.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Coley David H (c; Eva) barber Walter S Hines h 901 E Green

Eva Janet Coley died 7 October 1941 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per her death certificate, she was born 9 June 1899 in Greene County to Jacob Speight and Ida Ward; was married to David H. Coley; was a teacher; and lived at 901 East Green Street.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019.

817 East Green Street.

The one-hundred-sixteenth 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, the house that stood at 817 East Green Street was: “ca. 1913; 1 story; I-plan cottage with intact turned-post porch.”

In the 1928 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Winstead Arnold (c; Sybina) brklyr h 817 E Green

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Peacock Junius W (c; Ethel) barber Walter S Hines h 817 E Green

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 807 [sic] East Green, rented for $13/month, Junius Peacock, 30, barber, and wife Ethel, 34, maid at public school.

Junius Wesley Peacock died 28 April 1935 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 35 years old; was born in Wilson County to Junius Peacock and Nora Hoskins, both of Wilson County; lived at 817 East Green; and was a barber. Informant was Ethel Peacock.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 817 East Green, rented at $14/month, George Green 32, blacksmith at repair shop, born in South Carolina; wife Martha F., 26, hospital nurse; and mother-in-law Anetta Rosser, 63 (who had lived in Whitakers, Nash County, in 1935). Also, paying $5/month, Graham Bynum, 31, building carpenter, and wife Katherine, 29, hospital nurse.

In 1940, George Willie Green registered for the World War II draft in Wilson. Per his registration card, he was born 15 October 1906 in Saint Matthew, South Carolina; lived at 817 East Green; his contact was wife Frances Rosser Green; and he worked for Bissett’s Repair Shop, 307 South Tarboro Street.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Green Geo W (c; Frances) blksmith Herbert W Bissett h 817 E Green

817 East Green was one of several dozen houses demolished on the order of Wilson City Council in 2002. Council also approved demolition of three other houses on East Green Street owned by the heirs of Walter S. Hines. (Walter Hines often rented his Green Street properties to barbers in his employ, like Junius Peacock.)

Wilson Daily Times, 21 June 2002.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019.

916 Atlantic Street.

The one-hundred-fifteenth 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: “ca. 1922; 1 story; shotgun with gable returns; hip-roofed porch.”

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Strayhorn Farris (c; Lollie) lab h 916 Atlantic

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 916 Atlantic, rented at $8/month, cook Samuel Perry, 29; wife Sarah, 25; and children Devon, 5, Waldensia, 3, and Heron, 9 months.

In 1940, Samuel Perry Jr. registered for the World War II draft in Wilson County. Per his registration card, he was born 22 August 1910 in Wilson; resided at 916 Atlantic; his contact was wife Sarah Perry; and he worked for W.D. Hackney, 109 Gold Street, Wilson.

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., city directory: Perry Saml (c; Sarah; 4) cook h 916 Atlantic

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019.

213 South Pender Street.

The one hundred-fourteenth 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 house is: “circa 1913; shotgun with gable returns and hip-roofed porch.”

This house, once known as 211 Stantonsburg Street and the last remaining house on Pender Street between Nash Street and Hines Street, is now an office for the Wilson District of the A.M.E. Zion Church. [Update: This house was demolished prior to October 2019.]

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: rented for $12/month, Paul Savage, 34; wife Hannah, 35, cook; and roomers Minnie Taylor, 11, Jim Murray, 33, tobacco factory laborer, and Annie Murray, 21, tobacco factory stemmer.

Paul Savage died 15 April 1934 at Mercy Hospital, Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was born 1891 in Edgecombe County to Albert Savage and Willie Ann Brant; was married to Annah Savage; was a tobacco factory day laborer; and was buried in Leggett, North Carolina.

In the 1940 census of Wilson, Wilson County: rented for $10/month, housekeeper Anna Savage, 46, and lodger Beatrix Wiggins, 32, housekeeper.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

1400 Carolina Street.

The one hundred-thirteenth 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 house is: “ca. 1930; 1 story; shotgun with hip-roofed porch and bungalow type posts; includes side hall; built for owner-occupant.” [I am not sure why this house is described as a shotgun, a form that by definition has no interior halls.]

In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Patterson Wm (c; Bertha) housemn h 1400 Carolina

In the 1930 census of Wilson, Wilson County: at 1400 Carolina Street, owned and valued at $1000, butler Willie Patterson, 28; wife Bertha, 26; children Willie, 6, and William, 3; sister-in-law Bessie Langston, 15; and brother-in-law Thomas Langston, 15. [The Pattersons and Langstons appear in the 1940 federal census in Washington, D.C.]

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Delaney George (c; Marie) brklayer h1400 Carolina. Edward, Louis and William Delaney are also listed as residing at 1400 Carolina.

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Sidenote:

1400 Carolina Street holds great personal significance for me. In early 1965, my parents and I moved into 1401 Carolina Street, a small 1950’s era brick house rented from Henderson Cooke. Kenneth and Nina Darden Speight were living just across the street in 1400. (By then, Marie Delaney and family lived in 1402, a house George Delaney built for his family.) Off and on, until I was about three years old, Mrs. Speight provided daycare for me and my cousin. (She “kept” us, in the parlance of the day.) My earliest memory is being carried to 1400 early on a chilly morning, swaddled in a red blanket. Other memories of my days there come in snatches: a blue cardboard canister of Morton salt on a sunny kitchen table; an old-fashioned steam iron; Mr. Kenny’s aftershave bottles on a dresser; a Maxwell House snuff can; naps in the darkened back bedroom; snapdragons blooming at the edge of the flagstone walkway. Though I haven’t been inside this house in 45 years, I can still walk you through its layout with some precision. Come through the front door into a hallway. To your left, a door into a bedroom/sitting room. Ahead to the right, the bathroom addition visible at the edge of the photo above. Straight ahead, the back bedroom occupied by the Speights’ teenaged grandson, who was often pressed into ferrying me back and forth across the street. At the far end of the front room, a sort of walk-through closet — I recall a bag of wooden blocks kept there on a shelf — led into the only space about which I’m fuzzy. I’ll call it the middle room. It opened into the kitchen which, because its windows faced east, was bright in early morning. Was there a tiny screened porch off the back of the kitchen? I’m not sure, but the backyard — now grass and concrete — was crowded with delicious hog plum trees. At 1400 Carolina Street, Mrs. Speight and Mr. Kenny helped weave the cocoon of security in which I spent my earliest years in East Wilson, and I pay them tribute.

Me in front of 1400 Carolina Street in the spring of 1966.

Photo of house by Lisa Y. Henderson, October 2018.

1002 Atlantic Street.

The one hundred-twelfth 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: “ca. 1940; 1 story; modified brick-veneered hip-roofed cottage.”

In Hill’s 1928 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Sherard J W h 1002 Atlantic

In Hill’s 1930 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Sherard John W h 1002 Atlantic

John W. Sherard died 23 May 1931 in Wilson. Per his death certificate, he was 62 years old; was born in Wayne County to Swinson Sherard and Laura Sherard; lived at 1002 Atlanta [sic]; worked as a carpenter; and was buried in Wayne County.

In Hill’s 1941 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Purefoy Dallie A Rev (c; Alberta; 3) h 1002 Atlantic

Albrater Purefoy died 23 October 1941 in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Per her death certificate, she was born in 1890 in Wilson County to Rufus Vinson and Johana Richardson; lived at 1002 Atlantic, Wilson; and was married to Dallie Purefoy.

Dallie A. Purefoy was pastor of Saint Luke A.M.E. Church in the 1930s and early 1940s. The church is located at the corner of Vick and Atlantic Streets, and 1002 Atlantic Street, which is adjacent to the rear of the church, has served as a church parsonage.

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2019.