urban renewal

The corner of Wiggins and East Streets.

In 1920, an auction house commissioned the survey of part of a city block in East Wilson owned by E.S. Taylor. The parcel contained seven narrow lots, four of which already held endway (“shotgun”) houses. A three-foot alley spanned the rears of lots 3 through 7 offering access to the row of shared toilets at the back of lots 1 and 2.

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Here is the block in the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map of Wilson, turned about 90 degrees to the right.

As noted elsewhere, there is no longer a Wiggins Street in Wilson. It was obliterated as part of the construction of Carl B. Renfro Bridge and the extension of Hines Street (which runs along the old course of Wiggins) to meet East Nash Street.

None of the houses shown in the Sanborn map now exist. And none of the houses shown in the Google Maps aerial view existed in 1922.

The winner! (Briefly.)

Wilson Daily Times, 19 May 1961.

In the spring of 1961, Howard Barnes won a Jaycee-sponsored contest for improvements made to his home at 709 Suggs Street, shown at the upper right. “Mr. Barnes who lives in a small modest wood frame dwelling really entered into the spirit of the competition,” winning first place in the interior category and second in exterior by painting, building a new porch, adding a fence and new indoor plumbing, and placing flower boxes on the front porch.

Despite Barnes’ recognized pride in ownership, few, if any, additional improvements were made to 709 Suggs Street. Barnes’ neighborhood had already been slated for clearance to make way for a “Negro housing project.” Progress had been delayed, however, by the refusal of many homeowners to sell out at the suggested price. It seems likely that Howard Barnes, so invested in his home, was one. Eventually, the city exercised eminent domain and forced sales of the intransigents’ property.

The shotgun house at 709 Suggs, then, like the cemetery nearby, is long gone. Howard Barnes’ house was likely built around the same time as others on nearby streets, such as that at 501 South Pender, which was erected circa 1920.

The 700 block of Suggs Street, per the 1922 Sanborn fire insurance map.

The 700 block of Suggs today. (Stantonsburg Street is now Pender.) Map courtesy of Google Maps.

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In the 1930 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Cooper John (c; Jeannette) tobwkr h 709 Suggs

In the 1941 Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory: Sims Effie (c; 1) tobwkr h 709 Suggs

 

 

New Grabneck.

By the mid-1920s, Grabneck was gone. A mile and a half away, however, New Grabneck emerged in a clutch of unpaved streets on the far side of Hominy Swamp, a tributary of Contentnea Creek that wends its way, generally unobtrusively (when not sloshing out of its banks), across south Wilson. Per the 1930 Wilson city directory, all of the residents of this new settlement were African-American.

Hill’s Wilson, N.C., City Directory (1930).

Several of New Grabneck’s residents, including Bertha Best Freeman, Mamie [Best] Jordan, Ida Jordan, Jeremiah Scarborough and Frank Mitchell, had lived in Grabneck. Was this coincidence, or were Grabneck’s people deliberately resettled on vacant property on another edge of town?

New Grabneck was short-lived. As noted in this recollection by Marjorie Fulcher Stewart (a Best descendant), the area was cleared about 1960 in an urban renewal project that created moderate-income and public housing for whites.

This undated World War II-era air raid warden district map shows New Grabneck as an unpaved L off unpaved Connor Street, which branches from South Tarboro Street. Connor Street is now Forrest Road, and the New Grabneck lane is Jefferson Street. (See Paul Sherrod’s recollection here.)

Locations of former Grabneck and New Grabneck communities today. Map courtesy of Bing.com.

Air raid district map in private collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.