Sanborn map

Elm City in 1923.

I regularly mine Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Wilson for information, but only now have discovered the 1923 maps of Elm City. Sheet 4 covers the town’s historic African-American east side. Three inserts show streets beyond the borders of the map.

Though the street grid has not changed much in a hundred years, the names of Elm City’s streets have.

Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Elm City, N.C. (1923).

Tarboro Road is now East Langley Road. The “First Baptist Church (Colored),” founded 1875, remains an active congregation, now known as First Missionary Baptist Church of  Elm City. The building now sits perpendicular to the road.

Corker Street is now Tyson Lane. The Elm City Colored Graded School stood near its intersection with Church Street.

Wilson Street retains it name. A lodge hall — Masons? Odd Fellows? — stood near the current location of Wynn’s Chapel Church.

Further east on Wilson, the First Presbyterian Church (Colored), which would gain national attention nearly 40 years later when targeted by the Ku Klux Klan.

Sheet 5 shows the area south of Elm City’s business and residential center. The Free Will Baptist Church (Colored) beneath J.D. Winstead Cotton Gins was Wynn’s Chapel in its original location.

Elm City, Wilson County, N.C., Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, Library of Congress.

603 Darden Lane.

The one hundred twenty-first 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 building is: “ca. 1913; 1 story; two-room house with rear shed extension.”

The house appears on the 1913 Sanborn map of Wilson, N.C., as 602 Darden Alley.

The house, as it appears on the 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson, N.C.:

In the 1928 and 1930 Wilson, N.C., city directories: Parker Elijah (c; Lucy) lab h 603 Darden al

In the 1941 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Bullock Richd (c) 603 Darden Alley

In the 1947 Wilson, N.C., city directory: Wright Eli (c) 603 Darden Alley

Photograph by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2020.

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.

Negro tenements.

There, at the lower right edge of this page of the May 1885 Sanborn map of Wilson, a cluster of “Negro tenements.” Just below them and across a short rail spur was a ticket office and freight depot, and it’s safe to assume that many of the men living here were employed as railroad laborers.

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The site is now an empty lot, roughly across Pettigrew Street from the union hall of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, Local 270T.

Institutions: 1922.

From the 1922 Sanborn map of Wilson, North Carolina:

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First Baptist Church (Colored), corner of Pender and Nash Streets.

Built 1910; now Jackson Chapel First Baptist Church, same location.

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Saint John African Methodist Episcopal Church, 119 Pender Street.

Built 1917; Saint John remains at this location.

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Tabernacle Missionary Church, Hadley Street.

Now site of Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church.

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Pender Street Baptist Church, corner of Pender and Academy Streets.

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Private School (Colored), 604 Vance Street.

Opened 1919; founded by community leaders and parents after boycott of Colored Graded School. Demolished.

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Primitive Baptist Church (Colored), East Green Street.

Pilgrim Rest Primitive Baptist Church, now non-denominational church.

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Freewill Baptist Church (Colored), East Vance Street.

Original location of Piney Grove Free Will Baptist Church. Demolished.

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Colored Baptist Church, East Barnes Street.

Formerly Jackson Chapel Baptist Church, now Wilson Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.

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Wilson Hospital (Colored), 504 East Green Street.

Hospital closed in 1964. Building rehabbed as offices of Wilson Community Improvement Association.

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Calvary Presbyterian Church (Colored), 512 East Green Street.

Church now fronts Pender Street, and this space is occupied by an extension and a parking lot.

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Old 1st Baptist Church, Church Street.


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Colored Church, East Suggs Street.


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Colored Graded School, South Stantonsburg Street.


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Free Will Baptist Church, Lane Street (near Woodard Street).