real estate development

Sam and Annie Vick and the development of East Green Street, pt. 1.

As we saw here, Samuel and Annie Washington Vick owned scores of rental properties in east and south Wilson. Sam Vick also subdivided tracts of land to sell to developers and individuals wishing to build homes, such as here and here.

Perhaps the pinnacle of the Vicks’ real estate achievement was the establishment of early twentieth-century Black Wilson’s premier residential street, the 600 and 700 blocks of East Green. The Vicks were not the first buyers on the block, but over the course of a decade or so, sold lot after lot to their middle-class friends and relatives.

Deed Book 50, page 73, Wilson County Register of Deeds Office.

  • On 1 August 1893, for $100, the Vicks sold Charles Thomas a one-quarter acre lot on Green Street next to John Blount. The deed was registered 16 June 1894 in Deed Book 36, page 219. [There were two Charles Thomases on East Green Street in the early 1900s; this one was a long-time pressman for P.D. Gold Publishing Company. His house still stands at 619 East Green Street. John Blount sold his Green Street property (perhaps to Samuel Vick, who in turn sold it to Walter S. Hines, I need to check) and built around the corner at what is now 305 North Pender Street.]
  • On 1 August 1893, for $100, the Vicks sold F.M. Davis a lot next to Charles Thomas. The deed was registered 28 March 1896 in Deed Book 41, page 433. [Baptist minister Fred M. Davis’ house was at 621 East Green Street.]
  • On 1 January 1894, for $100, the Vicks sold Wright Barnes, Spencer Strickland, and Jackson Barnes, the trustees of the Primitive Baptist Church, Colored, a lot at the corner of Ella [Elba] Street and “the eastern extension of Green Street.” The deed was registered 16 June 1894 in Deed Book 36, page 219. [The former Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church was at 627 East Green Street.]
  • On 1 June 1894, for $100, the Vicks sold David Barnes a lot on Green Street adjoining Della Hines and Charles Powell. The deed was registered 19 December 1899 in Deed Book 53, page 362. [Della Hines purchased her lot on 1 January 1894 from George D. Green, recorded at Deed Book 35, page 437. Della Hines and David Barnes married 15 April 1894 at “the bride’s home,” which presumably was the house she built at 615 East Green. This house was demolished circa 1910, and she sold the lot in 1915 to her son William Hines. David and Della Hines Barnes built an imposing house at 613 East Green Street.]
  • On 4 September 1895, for $100, the Vicks sold Neverson Green a 10,500 square-foot lot on Green Street next to Alice Jeffreys. The deed was registered the same day in Deed Book 39, page 127. [By 1910, carpenter-turned-grocery merchant Neverson Green and his family lived at 502 South Lodge Street, nearer his Spring Street store. I have not identified Alice Jeffreys or the exact location of this lot.]
  • On 3 January 1898, for $180, the Vicks sold Sarah Clark a lot on Green Street bordering Jonah Williams and Millie Bryant. The deed was registered 9 January 1899 in Deed Book 50, page 474. [Though Sarah Hill Clark and her husband Rhoden Clark, natives of Scotland Neck, Halifax County, North Carolina, were married at the time, Sarah Clark bought this lot in her name only. Rhoden Clark died 1900-1910. The house was at what is now 606 East Green Street. Millie Bryant’s house was at 608 East Green Street.]
  • On 26 March 1898, for $100, the Vicks sold Samuel Gay a lot on Green Street adjoining the lands of F.M. Davis and Samuel Vick. The deed was registered 11 August 1898 in Deed Book 50, page 73. (See image above.) [This is the lot at what is now 623 East Green Street. Samuel Gay built a one-story house here that his son Albert Gay Sr. expanded to the two-story house that still stands. Another son, Charles Gay, built a house circa 1913 at 625 East Green.]
  • On 12 December 1898, for $100, the Vicks sold J.M. Artis a lot on Green Street adjoining Robert Breeze. The deed was registered 21 February 1899 in Deed Book 51, page 117. [I have not identified J.M. Artis or Robert Breeze or the location of this lot with certainty.]

Forty-four lots of the old Washington Suggs property at auction.

Wilson Daily Times, 18 October 1920.


“All lots are splendidly located, naturally drained building locations suitable for business or residential property. Only 3-4 mile from the business section of the city and the same distance from the railroad stations. All lots approximately 25×110 feet in size, furnished with city electric lights. Colored graded school just across the street, many large manufacturing establishments nearby. 

“Select the lots which you desire to purchase of those that remain in the old Washington Suggs Property. There were originally 109 lots in this subdivision and so great has been the demand for them that since June 10th all have been disposed of with the exception of 44. This is an opportunity well worth taking advantage of and an opportunity which will be lost after this sale on Saturday, October 30th. The terms have been arranged very easy, in fact, so easy that anyone who desires can purchase and hardly miss the payments as they become due monthly.


Clipping courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.

650 choice lots for sale.

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The Colored American (Washington, D.C.), 18 January 1902.

As noted here and here, Samuel H. Vick was an investor in former United States Congressman George H. White’s real estate development venture in southern New Jersey. (Vick named his third son George White Vick in the congressman’s honor.)

Wilson needs a lot of good colored homes now.

Suggs Heights appears to comprise part or all the D.C. Suggs properties platted in the early 1920s.

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“Ask any man who has property to rent what kind pays the most on the investment and he will tell you colored property.” [Likely because one could readily overcharge.] Wilson Daily Times, 11 December 1925.

Stantonsburg Heights may be the area platted as Vicksburg Manor.

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“This high class colored development will build up in good homes and gardens.” Wilson Daily Times, 8 May 1945.

[A note about “Heights.” Wilson sits it in North Carolina’s Upper Coastal Plain at 108 feet above sea level. The eastern half of the county, including the city of Wilson, is notably flat, and low-lying areas flood notoriously. Neither of the areas advertised above are “heights” in any common understanding of the term, and it’s questionable whether the latter area could reasonably be described as high or dry.]

Charles S. Darden, Esq.

The second of Charles H. and Dinah Scarborough Darden’s sons, Charles Sylvester Darden made his mark far from home — in Los Angeles, California.  Though he largely eluded the decennial censuses, the trajectory of Darden’s career as a hard-charging attorney can be glimpsed in contemporary newspapers and other documents.

In the 1880 census of Wilson, Wilson County: Charles Darden, 26; wife Diana, 21; and children John, 3, Annie, 2, and Charlie, 9 months.

Charles Darden received an undergraduate degree at Howard University and graduated from its law school in 1904.

The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), 31 May 1904.

In short order, Darden headed West and in 1906 passed the examination for admission to the California bar. He was one of the first licensed African-American lawyers in the state.

The anomaly of Darden’s position early caught the attention of the local press, and in 1907 this mocking piece appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles Times, 25 December 1907.

Within his community, however, Darden was taken seriously. In May 1908, his place in the political life of black Los Angeles was signaled by his inclusion among leaders calling for a protest against Republican presidential nominee William H. Taft for his recommendation that President Theodore Roosevelt dismiss black soldiers blamed for murder in the Brownsville Affair.


Los Angeles Herald, 31 May 1908.

That same year, Darden was instrumental in organizing a Howard University alumni association in Los Angeles. The Times covered the group’s annual banquet in 1909.

Los Angeles Times, 11 February 1909.

By 1911, Darden had entered the arena in which he had the greatest impact — real estate development and litigation. That year, as the first black lawyer to argue before the California Supreme Court, Darden attacked racially restrictive covenants

By 1913, he and ten others incorporated the Co-operative Commercial Investment Company.

Los Angeles Times, 27 November 1913.

He also was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1913.

Journal of the Supreme Court of the United States.

In 1915, black police officer Homer L. Garrott purchased a home in the Angeles Park subdivision of Los Angeles. Angeles Park lots were covered by a restrictive covenant prohibiting sales to black, Japanese and Chinese buyers, and the Title Guarantee Company sued to enforce it. Charles S. Darden stepped up to defend Garrott. A Superior Court judge ruled in Garrott’s favor, striking down race restrictions as null and void. Angeles Park and the title company appealed, and the case reached the California State Supreme Court in 1919. The ruling was affirmed, but bizarrely undercut by the court’s decision in another case upholding the validity of occupancy clauses. (For more re Garrott, see Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (2005)).

As the United States entered World War I, Darden got involved in protests over the forced retirement of African-American Colonel Charles Young in the wake of resistance by white officers balking at being outranked by a black man. In a letter to Dean Kelly Miller of Howard University, Darden also championed of the causes of Captain Benjamin O. Davis Sr. and a Captain Green, who had also been effectively sidelined.

Kansas City Sun, 21 July 1917.

Two months later, Darden wrote directly to the Secretary of the War Department, complaining that the applications of well-qualified young African-American men were being turned down “because of their color.” The response was terse and not entirely to the point: “At the present time no colored squadrons are being formed and applications from colored men for this branch of service cannot be considered for that reason.”

Letter from Secretary of War to Charles S. Darden, 11 August 1917; W.E.B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312); Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

In 1918, Charles Sylvester Darden registered for the World War I draft in Los Angeles. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1879 in Wilson, North Carolina; resided at 224 South Spring, Los Angeles; was a self-employed lawyer at 407 Germain, Los Angeles; was 5’4″ and of medium build; and his nearest relative was Charles H. Darden, 110 Pender Street, Wilson, North Carolina.

“Incorporations,” Southwest Builder and Contractor, volume 57, number 11 (18 March 1921).

The beach at Santa Monica’s Bay Street, popular with African-Americans in the early 20th century, was derogatorily called “The Inkwell”. While they appreciated the access to the Pacific Ocean that the beach represented, local African-American leaders also wanted an end to all efforts to inhibit their freedom to use all public beaches. In 1922, the Santa Monica Bay Protective League attempted to purge African Americans from the city’’s shoreline by blocking an effort by the Ocean Frontage Syndicate, an African American investment group led by Norman O. Houston and Charles S. Darden, to develop a resort with beach access at the base of Pico Boulevard. Santa Monica officials quickly enacted zoning laws to deny the Ocean Frontage Syndicate beach front property, changing such regulations once whites bought the land and made similar development proposals.

In 1940, Darden partnered with two African-American doctors to form the Los Angeles Negro Professional Men’s Athletic Club, a venue for boxing matches, ball games, dances and other affairs.

Pittsburgh Courier, 29 June 1940.

A whiff of scandal touched Darden in 1940, but failed to gain traction. He was held blameless in a fatal automobile accident on Anaheim’s Santa Ana Canyon Road. Darden apparently never married, and the paper was careful to note that his female companion was white.

Santa Ana Register, 27 August 1940.

In 1942, Charles S. Darden registered for the World War II draft. Per his registration card, he was born 10 August 1879 in Wilson, North Carolina; he resided at 1802 Central, Los Angeles; his phone number was PR 3750; he was employed as an attorney at 1802 Central; and his contact was C.L. Darden, Wilson, North Carolina.

Charles S. Darden died in March 1954 in Los Angeles.

The Daily Press (Newport News, Va.), 17 March 1954.

Photograph of Dardens courtesy of N.J. and C. Darden, Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine; J. Clay Smith Jr., Emancipation: The Making of the Black Lawyer 1844-1944 (1993).

Suggs’ Greensboro dealings.

D.C. Suggs’ real estate speculation was not limited to property in his hometown.

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Brown Flats, 195-201 Lyndon Street, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Greensboro’s Lyndon Street Townhouses, also known as the Brown Flats, were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. Per, “This series of townhouses is rare in Greensboro, where the urban prototype did not gain popularity before apartment houses with shared interior common halls grew acceptable. The four units remain among the few such townhouses in the state.

“The structures were likely built by Brown Real Estate Company, which had offices at 109 East Market Street. The firm was operated by Sample S. Brown, who was involved in several large transactions that transformed the city in the first decade of the twentieth century. At first, the flats were rented to white collar workers such as George Phoenix, clerk for the Southern railroad; rates in 1907 were $15 per unit.

“In 1919, the flats were acquired by Dr. Daniel Cato Suggs. Dr. Suggs was considered one of the wealthiest black men in North Carolina, and possibly the South. A native of Wilson, he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (B.A. and A.M.) and Morris Brown University (Ph.D.) before beginning his career as a professor in the public school systems of Kinston and Asheville. He married Mary Nocho of Greensboro, daughter of educator Jacob Nocho, in 1902. In 1917 he was elected the President of Livingston College in Salisbury. He maintained his residence in the city until his death.”

The nomination form for the townhouses provides details of Suggs’ real estate activity in Greensboro:

“The failure of the townhouses to attract higher-class tenants was probably due to their location at the eastern edge of downtown, almost up against the tracks of the Southern Railway beyond which were the black neighborhoods of east Greensboro.  Their almost immediate transformation to working or lower middle-class housing was likely due to the construction of working-class black housing immediately to their rear along the railroad tracks in 1907 or 1908. These one-story shotgun duplexes, which no longer stand, were built by Daniel C. Suggs, a black teacher and entrepreneur, on an alley named after him (Sanborn Map Company, 1907 and 1913; Greensboro City Directories).

“Suggs had started to acquire property on the east side of Lyndon Street, on all three sides of the townhouses lot, early in the decade (Guilford County Deed Book 184, Page 240; Deed Book 186, Page 681; and Deed Book 230, Page 350, for example). Although listed in city directories as a teacher, Suggs was also an entrepreneur. He owned and lived in a large, two-story frame house at the southeast corner of Lyndon and East Market streets [a site currently occupied by a row of mid-century commercial buildings, one of which houses Uhuru Book Store], two doors up from the townhouses. A block to the west, at 239-245 East Market Street, he owned the Suggs Building, a three-story brick commercial building which housed a variety of black businesses, including a restaurant, a tailor shop, and a drug store (Greensboro City Directories; Sanborn Map Company 1919.)

“Suggs’ impact on the townhouses was to extend beyond any effect his construction of the houses on Suggs Alley may have caused. In 1919 S.S. and Helen G. Brown sold them to him, which gave him possession of the all of the property on the east side of Lyndon between Washington and Market streets and the tracks (Guilford County Deed Book 330, Page 465). Surprisingly, until 1928 the tenants in the townhouses continued to be white. During these years, Suggs was almost certainly one of the only black landlords in Greensboro who had white tenants. Ironically, in 1929, a year after the building’s tenants shifted from white to black, Suggs and his wife, Mary, defaulted on their mortgage and the townhouses came into the hands of a white owner, Mrs. Lottie Hughes Wallace (Guilford County Deed Book 634, Page 83; Greensboro City Directories). Since 1929, the townhouses have generally continued to be rented to low and  lower-income African-Americans.”

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Sanborn fire insurance map, Greensboro, N.C., 1919.

Image courtesy of Google Maps.