plat

906 and 908 Viola Street; 505, 507 and 509 North Carroll Street.

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.

  • 906 Viola

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

  • 908 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

  • 505 North Carroll

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

  • 507 North 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

  • 509 North 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.

Griffin Hill.

As detailed here, in 1920 Roscoe Briggs moved in earnest to dismantle the African-American neighborhood of Grabneck to make way for the mansions of West Nash Street. On a single day in March 1920, he bought four parcels from members of the Best family, including Frank and Mamie Best, who exchanged their lot for a house to be built in Griffin Hill by John H. Griffin.

Here’s the plat for “Griffins Hill,” surveyed days later and recorded in Plat Book 1, Page 187, at the Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

At first I thought the Bests got the okey-doke. Connor Street runs five blocks from Kenan to Lee. Cone Street runs parallel to the west. To this day, there’s no Griffin Street or Center Street or Boyette Road in Wilson.

So where did Frank and Mamie Simms Best end up?

Frank Best died in 1922. His Wilson County death certificate describes his residence as “country.” Mamie Best remarried, but second husband Charles Jordan soon died. In the 1930 census of Wilson township, Wilson County, she and her 14 year-old step daughter Mabell Jordan were listed just outside the city limits in New Grabneck, near other former Grabneck families. Mamie Simms Best Jordan died 29 January 1940, and her death certificate lists New Grabneck as her residence.

A list of delinquent property taxes published in the Daily Times on 17 September 1938 included these Griffin Hill residents. All were families who lived in the area otherwise known as New Grabneck.

Though he lived within a few houses of Ed Bobbitt, Emma Lee and Alice Mitchell, Paul Sherrod‘s listing was “New Grab Neck.”

In May 1943, Fred Lucas placed ads for farm animals that suggest that the name Griffin Hill was unfamiliar enough to require location aides. (And emphasize its rural nature.)

Wilson Daily Times, 27 May 1943.

Wilson Daily Times, 31 May 1943.

Finally, in a 21 October 1959 article announcing the construction of low-income housing for whites, the Times noted:

This terrible map accompanied the article, the hashed area depicting the site of the new project at Griffin Hill:

The dark squiggle is the Hominy Swamp Canal. The arc slicing across it is the Norfolk & Southern Railroad. Warren Street (now Elizabeth Road) is the west border; Forrest Street, at bottom. (Parallel to a short road labeled “New Grabneck.”) Griffin Hill was no hill at all. In fact, like Lincoln Heights, it was in a notorious flood plain of Hominy Swamp. And 40 years after it was developed to accommodate the relocation of the Grabneck community, it was gone.

Per Google Map, the public housing built on the former site of Griffin Hill. 

[Note: Connor Street indeed runs as described above, but in this map, Forrest Road is labeled “Connor Street.” Presumably, someone realized the inadvisability of having two streets with the same name, and the anchor street of Griffin Hill was renamed.]