Phase 4 of the Raleigh Architectural Survey is the last of four phases which have recorded and evaluated the entire city of Raleigh to the 1988 city limits. Phases 1, 2 and 3 of the Raleigh Survey surveyed from downtown Raleigh outward, documenting the densest concentration of historic resources. The Phase 4 area is the suburban area of the city, comprising a broad band between the outer limits of the 1920s suburbs out to the 1988 city limits. The Wake County Architectural Survey surveyed all of Wake County outside of the 1988 Raleigh city limits.
The Phase 4 survey fieldwork was conducted from October to December 1991. Fifteen field days were spent and 794 miles were driven to investigate every passable road in the survey area. 110 properties were surveyed. This number is somewhat misleading because some of the properties are actually historic districts containing numerous individual buildings, such as the Dorothea Dix Back Campus and the Meredith College Campus. The survey is numbered in geographical order, beginning with the southeast section, south of New Bern Avenue and continuing clockwise back to New Bern Avenue.
The Principal Investigator was M. Ruth Little of Longleaf Historic Resources, a historic preservation consulting firm in Raleigh, N.C. Little has a Ph.D. in art history and served as National Register Coordinator and later as Survey Coordinator in the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office from 1986 to December, 1989. Field Assistant was Todd Johnson, a graduate student in the Archival Management Program at North Carolina State University. Johnson assisted Kelly Lally with the Wake County Architectural Survey in 1990 and 1991, both as historical researcher and field assistant. The base field maps used were the following USGS Quad maps: Raleigh West, Raleigh East, Bayleaf, Wake Forest, Garner, Lake Wheeler. Fieldwork was difficult because of the extensive road changes and urban development in the Raleigh outskirts during the 1980s which were not reflected on the quad maps, completed prior to 1981. In North Raleigh in particular, new roads had been built and old roads renamed. In order to insure that the survey was as complete as possible, the investigators field checked every black dot (symbolizing a building built prior to quad map revision, generally pre-1968) on the maps in the survey area. This led to the discovery of a number of historic resources that no longer relate to existing roads, such as the Rev. Lewis P. Christmas House [WA2541] and the Lloyd Swindell Farm [WA2552]. Historic cemeteries were recorded in most cases. Often, these are on church properties where the present church buildings are not historic.
For each property, an appropriate computer form was completed, black & white photographs and sometimes color slides were taken, and the property was mapped on the quad map. The resident of the building was interviewed, if available. Sometimes it was necessary to interview residents of nearby properties when the property was uninhabited or no one was at home. A number of houses, abandoned and isolated by commercial development, are listed only as "house," for there were no informants available to provide any historical information.
Character of Resources
Most of the 110 recorded properties relate to the following Raleigh and Wake County themes and/or building types: antebellum houses, farms, turn-of-the- century rural communities, small non-farm rural Depression era dwellings, suburban estates, state government or private educational institutions, churches, rural recreation, and 1950s and 1960s Modernist style dwellings. The character of resources differs geographically. North and East Raleigh retain more pre- 1900 resources; West and South Raleigh generally contain post-1900 resources, with the exception of Spring Hill, an antebellum plantation on the Dorothea Dix Campus, the antebellum Wilmont House on Hillsborough Street, and a few nineteenth century gravestones. This may be due to the greater suitability of soil north and east for agriculture in the nineteenth century. Settlement in west and south Raleigh outskirts appears to have been late. When it did occur, farms seem to have been quite small.
Only four antebellum houses were recorded: the Crabtree Jones Plantation House on Wake Forest Rd., already listed in the National Register; "Spring Hill," the Theophilus Hunter plantation house, built ca. 1790 on the Back Campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital, already on the National Register; the Wilmont House [WA2504] on Hillsborough Street; and the Chappell-Beddingfield House [WA2551] on Falls of the Neuse Road. Both the Wilmont House and the Chappell-Beddingfield House have been moved and have lost their integrity of setting, therefore they are probably not eligible for the National Register.
About seven historic houses have retained enough acreage to still be considered farms. These are the Marcellus Smith Farm [WA2522], the James R. Smith Farm [WA2523], the Jim Moore Farm [WA2542], the Willie Chavis Farm [WA2524], the Strother Farm [WA2500], the Onnis and Lyda Norwood Farm [WA2549], and the Jim Rogers Farm [WA2554]. All of these are located in north and east Raleigh. Few of these farms have occupants who can relate the farm history, but the Norwood Farm and the Willie Chavis Farm are exceptions to this. Onnis Norwood, who was born in north Wake County, established his 54 acre farm near the community of Millbrook north of Raleigh in the 1930s. He and his wife Lyda hired a North Carolina State University architectural professor, a Mr. Satterfield, to design their brick Tudor Revival style farmhouse. Onnis grew cotton, tobacco, hay and corn. His mule barn and numerous other frame outbuildings still stand on the property. To supplement his agricultural income, he operated a lumber mill on the farm. Black farmer Willie Chavis inherited his 36 acre farm on Creedmoor Road from his father-in-law. In the 1930s Chavis built a hip-roofed frame farmhouse for his family. The barn and chicken house still stand behind the house, and a herd of goats still grazes in the front pasture. The development pressures of Raleigh's suburbs took away all but ten acres of the Chavis Farm on which to build an elementary school.
In the southeast Raleigh outskirts near Garner stood the most unusual agricultural building that was surveyed -- the Beasley Banana Curing Plant [WA2459]. The building was demolished shortly after it was surveyed. This three-room brick building was built in 1945 to cure green bananas, and was used until about 1970 for this purpose.
There were a number of research farms located in the outlying acreage of North Carolina State University southwest of the city limits in the early twentieth century. Most of these are gone, but two are included in this survey. The most interesting of these is at 403 Varsity Drive [WA2476] in an area that was once full of state-owned dairy barns and chicken houses. The farmhouse is a stylish frame bungalow, and the long, narrow outbuilding with matching architectural trim beside it may have been a creamery. Model farms like this one would have exerted a strong influence on farm building in the Raleigh vicinity.
Another major feature of the rural landscape surrounding Raleigh in the 1920-1950 period were dairy farms. By 1930 Wake County was one of the principal dairying counties in North Carolina [#1] Dairy farming flourished in the 1920s and 1930s, but by the 1940s the increasingly high standards of sanitation for milk processing began to limit the number of farmers who could afford to modernize. No surviving dairy farms were recorded in the survey area. However two dairyman's houses have survived: the Howard Griffin House [WA2453] in east Raleigh and the Thomas-Blake House [WA2512] in west Raleigh. The Thomas-Blake House, a 1920s brick bungalow, was the home of Cass Thomas, who ran Thomas Brothers Dairy here on Ridge Road. Cass got out of the dairy business about 1950 when pasteurization became mandatory. The dairy buildings are gone, but the farmhouse and several tenant houses still stand.
Only one rural community is located in the survey area: the Millbrook community on Old Wake Forest Road northeast of the center city. Millbrook was a railroad crossing which gradually attracted churches, residences, and some commercial activities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The realignment of roads and commercial development has decimated the village in recent years. Most of the surviving resources are still outside of the city limits and were surveyed during the Wake County Survey. The Millbrook Baptist Church [WA2550], an early 20th century frame sanctuary, is the only village building included in this phase of the survey.
Asbury Park, a 1920s suburban development, is included in the survey. It is located at the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Western Boulevard west of the village of Westover (included in the Wake County Survey). All that remains of Asbury in this survey area are a pair of 1920s stores [WA2491] and two blocks of 1920s houses [WA2495] and [WA2492].
Non-Farm Rural Residences: Late 19th Century to 1930s:
Approximately sixty houses or small groups of houses which date from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s were recorded. Although a small group of these are turn-of-the-century Triple-A houses which were probably built as farmhouses, by far the majority are small frame, log or stone veneer houses built during the Depression era as starter homes for young families. Many of these houses for which information is available were built by the husband, often out of lumber and stone obtained from the building site. Most of these men held jobs in Raleigh with, for example, the railroad, state government, or in a saw mill, and were not true farmers. They generally owned only a few acres of land, usually on or near one of the main roads leading out from Raleigh. They probably chose to live outside the city limits because they valued the rural setting.
Typical of this group of houses is the house built for Guy and Clydia Williamson in 1929 on Avent Ferry Road southwest of Raleigh [WA2479]. Guy worked for the Seaboard Airline Railroad, and bought a 27 acre tract in order to get away from the city. Two local white carpenters built the frame house, and a local black stonemason dynamited stone on the site and built the handsome stone chimneys and porch piers. The Williamson House is now surrounded by multi-family housing complexes and the home tract has shrunk to four acres.
Another occupational group that often built non-farm rural residences were professors at North Carolina State University. Several of the 1930s houses recorded in Raleigh's western outskirts near the N.C. State campus were built by professors. Frank Turner, a mechanical engineering professor, built with his own hands a small board-and-batten cottage for his family in 1938 (Frank B. Turner House [WA2511]). The house has a slate roof salvaged from a demolished house. Turner had purchased seventy acres near Crabtree Creek. As was typical of many of these Depression Era rural residences, the house grew along with his family.
Four of the houses recorded are large, architect-designed Colonial Revival style houses set on extensive acreage, and fall into the category of suburban estates. These are the Clarence Poe House [WA2541], the Rudolph Turk Estate known as Birdwood [WA2545], the Lloyd Swindell Farm [WA2552], and the Silas B. Coley Estate [WA2514]. Three are in north Raleigh and one is in east Raleigh. These were all built in the 1920s and 1930s as members of Raleigh's elite escaped from the city into the countryside. This suburban movement occurred throughout the South in the early decades of the twentieth century as upper-class southerners began to abandon the center city, either moving to exclusive suburbs or to isolated country estates. This was apparently prompted by the coming of the automobile and by the increase of wealth among upper-classes [#2] Poe, long-time editor of the Progressive Farmer, used his huge estate bordering the Neuse River to experiment with improved agricultural methods. Rudolph Turk, a descendant of the Mordecai family whose plantation sill stands just north of downtown Raleigh, was independently wealthy and indulged his love of birds and gardening on his North Raleigh estate. Lloyd Swindell, a textiles graduate from North Carolina State University, had a 140 acre farm with a stylish house in North Raleigh. Silas B. Coley, who built a stylish Colonial Revival style house on a huge estate in North Raleigh, was the founder and president of Durham Life Insurance Company.
Institutions that were surveyed in the Raleigh outskirts are the (former) Governor Morehead School for Colored Blind and Deaf [WA2461]; Back Campus of Dorothea Dix Hospital [WA2473] and the Meredith College Campus [WA2502]. All three institutions represent the movement away from the central city in the 1920s. The former Governor Morehead School moved out to Garner Road from the original campus on South Bloodworth Street in downtown Raleigh. The influx of funding from such federal government agencies as the WPA and PWA in the 1930s enabled Dorothea Dix Hospital to build specialized treatment facilities for patients on their farm acreage to the south of the original campus. Meredith College purchased the Wilmont Estate in west Raleigh on Hillsborough Street in the 1920s, and abandoned its cramped campus near the Capitol building. An imposing new brick Neoclassical quadrangle was constructed for this Baptist women's college in the late 1920s.
Most of the historic churches located in the Raleigh outskirts have replaced their old sanctuaries since World War 11, and only three historic buildings were recorded: the New Hope Baptist Church sanctuary of 1935 [WA2555], the Millbrook Baptist Church sanctuary [WA2550] of the 1920s, and the Asbury Park First Church of God [WA2494] of the 1920s. Both New Hope Baptist and Millbrook Baptist churches have recently constructed new church sanctuaries but have preserved their historic buildings on the site. Four churches in north Raleigh were surveyed only for their historic cemeteries because the present sanctuaries are not historic.
Two properties, located in southwest Raleigh across from one another on Tryon Road, represent the development of rural recreational activities for Raleigh residents in the 1920s. In 1929 a group of Raleigh men incorporated the Raleigh Golf Association and built a large golf course on rolling land southwest of town. In 1939 they erected a picturesque stone clubhouse that is still serves the RGA Golfcourse at the present time.[Raleigh Golf Association Clubhouse [WA2468]. The Carolina Pines Hotel [WA2467], a large frame Colonial Revival style hotel, was built across Tryon Road in 1929. The golf course extends completely around the old hotel. The hotel was the site of Raleigh Debutante balls in the 1930s, but the Depression eventually caused its bankruptcy. Since the 1950s the building has been used by a North Carolina State University fraternity chapter.
One of the most popular swimming areas in the Raleigh outskirts during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was Lassiter Mill Pond, located on Crabtree Creek and Lassiter Mill Road in north Raleigh. [Lassiter Mill Dam & Mill Site [WA2518]. The mill is long gone and only ducks now enjoy swimming in the pond. Nearby, on Lassiter Mill Road, is the splendid late Victorian house of the mill owner, Cornelius J. Lassiter (Cornelius J. Lassiter House [WA2517]). This eclectic frame house, built about 1910, is one of the few mill owners' dwellings remaining in Wake County.
Modernist Style Dwellings:
An important category of historic buildings in Raleigh is the small group of Modernist houses designed by professors in the School of Design at North Carolina State University during the 1950s. The School of Design, founded in the late 1940s, attracted such progressive architects as Eduardo Catalano from Argentina and George Matsumoto from Oklahoma. These men designed their own residences in Raleigh's new suburbs and built a number of modern residences for others, particularly faculty members. [#3] One of these houses, the George Poland House [WA2520], was built in the North Raleigh outskirts, overlooking Crabtree Creek, for an English professor. It was designed by George Matsumoto in 1956, and its steel frame, flat roof, and open floor plan epitomize the Modernist approach to domestic construction. Such experimentation was short-lived in Raleigh, however. Matsumoto left Raleigh in the early 1960s without having rippled the surface of Raleigh's house design, which would remain locked in the grip of Williamsburg Colonial Revival until the 1990s. Several of these Modernist houses were surveyed in Phase 2 of the Raleigh Survey.
#1 For a discussion of dairy farming in North Carolina, see pp. 12-23 of "Historic Architectural Resources Survey of NC 49 in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus Counties," by Dr. M. Ruth Little, April 23, 1991. Copy at NCSHPO.
#2 Sydney Nathans, The Quest for Progress: The Way We Lived in North Carolina, 1870-1920. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984), pp. 64-65.
#3 Ernest H. Wood 111, "Architects and Builders since 1945," in Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 359.