Centerville Historic District
The Centerville Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2011, The Gombach Group.
The Centerville Historic District is southeast of downtown Winston-Salem, immediately west of U.S. Highway 52. The Centerville Historic District covers approximately eleven city blocks in a loose trapezoidal shape east of the intersection of Sunnyside Avenue and South Main Street near the North Carolina School of the Arts campus. Its location north of a former industrial area at Sunnyside and Junia streets and south of busy Waughtown Street has prevented Centerville from being engulfed by the broader Southside community and has preserved its sense of place. The Centerville Historic District is roughly bounded by Waughtown Street to the north, Chapel Street to the west, Vargrave Street to the east, and Haled Street to the south. The streets are laid out in an irregular grid with Waughtown and Wood streets running roughly northwest-southeast and Haled Street running roughly east-west. Chapel, Center, Lomond, and Vargrave streets run roughly northeast-southwest. Lot sizes in the Centerville Historic District are relatively uniform with narrow street frontage and deep rear yards.
It should be noted that Center Street was originally known as Oak Street and the section of Lomond Street within the district was originally known as Center Street. Wood Street was originally called Church Street and an alley, Church Alley, was located at the rear property line of lots facing Waughtown Street and has been abandoned, though it is still apparent on the modern tax map.
The majority, approximately seventy-five percent, of the 110 resources in the Centerville Historic District are residential buildings while about twenty-six percent are commercial or light industrial buildings. Additionally there are sixteen outbuildings, garages, and secondary dwellings. About sixty-eight percent (sixty-three) of the buildings in the Centerville Historic District were constructed between circa 1900 and circa 1930. The construction dates of these buildings are relatively evenly dispersed across the three decades. Construction appears to have waned in the district between 1930 and 1950, but after 1950, it increased with approximately thirteen buildings dating from 1950 through 1957 and an additional ten constructed after 1957.
The residential section of Centerville is well preserved with architecture representing several styles and house forms that were popular during the 1900-1930 period. One of the most common are one-story, side-gable, single-pile houses with about twenty-two examples in the district. This house type most likely entails a hall and parlor floor plan and is found both with and without Late Victorian architectural references. These stylistic motifs are primarily drawn from the Queen Anne and Eastlake styles and are often found in porch decoration such as turned porch posts and sawn brackets. Center and Chapel streets retain several intact examples of this house type. Most of these examples, particularly those on Center Street, have simple, hip-roof porches and are without ornamentation. 1804 Center Street is a representative example with exposed rafter tails and exposed purlins, square porch posts, and four-over-four windows. Nearby, 1824 Center Street is similar, but carries more ornamentation with sawn brackets adorning its square posts. Both houses date to about 1915. Weatherboards such as those found at 1836 Center Street were likely the original siding on these houses, but vinyl siding and asbestos shingles are common replacements. Chapel Street has a greater number of one-story, side-gable, single-pile houses carrying Late Victorian ornamentation. The c.1915 house at 1825 Chapel Street is a well-preserved example with weatherboards, chamfered posts on plinth blocks, sawn brackets at the porch posts, exposed rafter tails, exposed purlins, and four-over-four windows. 1800 Chapel Street is similar but has turned porch posts. Among the most architecturally detailed of this house type is the c.1910 1833 Chapel Street where the turned posts carry sawn brackets, the entry features double-leaf doors, and the roof is sheathed in decorative pressed tin shingles. The houses at 1836 and 1840 Chapel Street illustrate the tri-gable or center gable variation of the one-story, side-gable, single-pile house.
Other one-story houses from the c.1900-c.1915 period are in the gable ell cottage, Queen Anne cottage, and pyramidal cottage forms though none are widely used in the district. The gable ell cottage at 1801 Chapel Street is one of only three houses in that form. This c.1910 dwelling has a wraparound porch supported by turned posts and features gable returns, two-over-two, double-hung sash, and a pressed tin roof. The c.1915 house at 1825 Center Street is one of three pyramidal cottages in the Centerville Historic District and features a hip-roof porch supported by square posts with sawn brackets. The turned pilasters suggest the posts may be replacements. The pressed tin shingle roof is the only other decorative element. Similar in form and dating to about 1910 is 1713 Chapel Street. This hip-roof house is larger than the pyramidal cottages, however, and its roof is ornamented with a hipped dormer. Substantial Tuscan columns carry its hip-roof porch. There are two Queen Anne cottages in the district and 1811 Lomond Street is representative. The hipped roof and irregular footprint created by the front-gable projection are important characteristics while the decorative shingles ornamenting the front gable suggest the modest Queen Anne and Eastlake stylistic references that help define this house type.
There are only two two-story houses within the Centerville Historic District. The hip-roof house at 1710 Lomond Street has a single-pile front section like an I-house but with a large, two-story rear ell covering much of the back of the house. The wraparound porch is supported by turned posts. The house at 217 Haled Street is an I-house with a hip-roof porch and square posts. Gable returns are the only ornamentation. Both of these houses date to about 1900.
The other common house type in the Centerville Historic District is the Bungalow. These double-pile bungalows have front-gable, side-gable, and jerkinhead roofs and about half of the twenty-five examples are Craftsman Bungalows. A well-detailed example is 1818 Lomond Street. Dating to about 1920, this one-and-a-half story, Craftsman-style bungalow has a side-gable roof with a shingled gabled dormer. The large windows have diamond and lozenge-patterned leaded transoms over a single-light sash. Craftsman details include knee braces, and exposed rafter tails. The porch on this house is engaged and is supported by battered posts on brick piers. Attached shed or gable-roof porches are also found on bungalows in the district. Another well-preserved example is the c.1925 213 Haled Street. This weatherboard bungalow features a shed-roof dormer, exposed rafter tails, knee braces, and brick corner piers and battered posts on brick piers supporting the attached shed-roof porch. Unadorned bungalows are equally common in the Centerville Historic District. Typical are the front-gable bungalows at 209 Haled Street and 317 Wood Street. The former has a front-gable porch while the latter has a hip-roof porch supported by square posts.
The final house style is Minimal Traditional. The examples in the Centerville Historic District have side-gable, front-gable, and hip roofs and date from the 1950s through the early 1960s. 1848 Chapel Street, for example, was built about 1950 and has a front-gable roof, hip-roof porch supported by metal posts, and two-over-two horizontal light windows. The c.1950 house at 330 Wood Street is side-gable with German siding, a gabled porch supported by metal posts, and six-over-six windows. A later (c.1960) example at 1821 Chapel Street has a hip roof and is brick with picture windows flanked by sidelights.
The commercial and light industrial buildings in the Centerville Historic District are located on Waughtown and Vargrave streets and date from about 1925 through the late twentieth century. These buildings are modestly-scaled, one-story masonry buildings, and many display no architectural style; although some are in the Commercial style. Representative of the simplest of these buildings is 332 Waughtown Street (1935). This small, one-story, brick building is detailed only by tile coping at the roofline. Nearby, 336 Waughtown Street (c.1925) is a large, two-story Commercial style building. The building was constructed of rock-faced concrete block with a brick facade featuring segmental arch window heads, a soldier-course cornice, and recessed sign panels. The two storefronts have four-light windows and enclosed transoms. Another substantial and architecturally interesting commercial building is 410 Waughtown Street from c.1935. This one-story, brick building has a curved parapet with cast stone coping, soldier-course-bordered sign panels, and an Art Deco aluminum door with enclosed transom.
The building located at 440 Waughtown Street (c.1950) is the largest of the light industrial buildings in the district. This two-story concrete block building has a brick facade, flat-roof front section and barrel-vaulted rear section, hopper-style metal windows, and plate glass storefront. More modest is the c.1945 building at 1928 Vargrave Street. This one-story concrete block building has a stepped parapet with tile coping, hopper-style metal windows, and a single garage bay. At 400 Waughtown Street is an Art Moderne service station dating to about 1950. This building has a rounded eave and two garage bays.
Although small, the Centerville Historic District encompasses a cohesive collection of residential buildings as well as several commercial and light industrial buildings from the early to mid-twentieth century. The small commercial area is an important component of the Centerville Historic District's historic village character. Although some of the buildings have been altered with replacement windows, replacement siding, replacement porch posts, and replacement storefronts the district retains a good degree of integrity. Of the ten buildings built after 1958, the most architecturally interesting is the 1958 building at 1925 Vargrave Street. This Modern style building is one story with stack bond and running bond veneer on the facade and features a recessed and curved plate glass storefront with green enamel panels shielded by an aluminum canopy.
The Centerville Historic District in southeastern Winston-Salem is locally significant for community planning and development and commerce for its importance in the rural and later suburban development of Winston-Salem. The Centerville Historic District includes residential buildings and their associated outbuildings as well as commercial and light industrial buildings. The properties are set within a historic street pattern with much of the commercial development on Waughtown Street and the residential development lying on Chapel, Center, Lomond, and Wood streets.
Centerville was settled during the mid-nineteenth century and earned its name from its location midway between the 1766 village of Salem and the c.1806 village of Waughtown. After the construction of the Roanoke-Southern Railroad (later the Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad) in 1892 industry and suburban development sprang up to the south of the district and most of the dwellings date to the c.1900-c.1930 period, the height of industrial and suburban growth in the area. Centerville was annexed into the city of Winston-Salem in 1923.
The residents of Centerville during the early twentieth century were almost entirely white, middle-income citizens employed at local factories such as the nearby Forsyth Manufacturing, a furniture company, and the Southside Cotton Mills as well as at downtown factories like R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. There were also shop owners, clerks, salesmen, and tradespeople living in the community. By the 1920s and 1930s, the small commercial area that had developed on Waughtown Street before 1917 had flourished and included a wide variety of stores. The c.1925 two-story brick and concrete block building at 336 Waughtown Street, once housing the Great A&P Company grocery, is the largest and most architecturally detailed of the surviving buildings. Several of the extant commercial buildings date from the postwar period. Representative is 411 Waughtown Street, a one-story concrete block building with brick facade featuring a stepped parapet. Built about 1950 it housed Sosnick's Furniture Fair in 1958.
Centerville greatly contributes to the rich history of the settlement of the Southside area that includes the once-rural villages of Centerville and Waughtown (Waughtown-Belview Historic District, National Register, 2005), the suburban Sunnyside residential and industrial development (Sunnyside/Central Terrace Historic District, National Register, 2007), and the African American community of Belview (Waughtown-Belview Historic District, National Register, 2005). Together they tell a story of the development of southeastern Winston-Salem from its rural roots and illustrate an important period of suburbanization. The period of significance for the Centerville Historic District begins circa 1900, the date of the earliest building in the district, and ends in 1958. The buildings dating to c.1958 are contributing to the Centerville Historic District because they are simply a continuation of the postwar commercial and light industrial development in the district. The development in Centerville after 1958 was minimal and does not constitute exceptional significance.
Statement of Significance
Centerville was one of several small rural communities that developed during the second quarter of the nineteenth century as growth spilled over from the community of Waughtown, which was settled by about 1806 to the southeast, and from the older Moravian town of Salem, founded in 1766 to the north. The name Centerville comes from the village's location mid-way between Salem and Waughtown. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the area that would become Centerville was wooded and occupied only by the home of Augustine H. Sheppard (demolished). Sheppard served several terms in the United States House of Representatives from the 1820s through the 1840s. He purchased forty-one acres east of the intersection of Vargrave and Waughtown streets from the Moravian Church in 1842 and built a large house surrounded by "an extensive lawn with wonderful shrubbery."
Although little is known about the early settlers of Centerville, the community was in existence by 1876 when it appears on E. A. Vogler's map of Salem and Winston. Situated between the Old Plank Road and the Waughtown-High Point-Kernersville Road, the village in 1876 consisted of four streets: Fayetteville Street and Main Street (now Waughtown Street) running roughly east to west and two cross streets, Chapel and Center streets. In 1886, a Sunday school was established in Centerville by Salem's Home Moravian Church and the cornerstone for Centerville Chapel was laid in August of that year "in the midst of a large congregation gathered under the forest trees." The location of this early chapel is unknown, but it became an active part of the Salem Moravian church network holding Christmas concerts and serving as a site for Sunday School picnics during the late nineteenth century. In 1910, the congregation purchased a lot for a new church at the corner of Sunnyside Avenue and Sprague Street about four blocks south of the original church site. This would become the extant Trinity Moravian Church when it was completed in 1911.
The 1889 city directory lists twenty-five families living in Centerville, fourteen of whom were white and eleven of whom were African American. The 1902 city directory shows that the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Centerville Street (apparently now Waughtown Street) were about fifty percent African American. However, it appears that these blocks were adjacent to Main Street, northwest of the historic district. The 1500 and 1600 blocks were most likely within the historic district boundary and primarily white residents lived here in 1902. Businesses were also forming by this time with W.T. Yokley's livery, the Melchor Brothers General Store, and E.P. Heitman's grocery.
The occupations are not given for residents of Centerville in 1889, but the listing for nearby Waughtown does give a rough idea of who was living in the area at this time. In 1889, Waughtown residents included wagon makers, blacksmiths, laborers, farmers, tobacco workers, painters, drivers, sawmill workers, and shoemakers along with a physician, schoolteachers, a barber, a pastor, and other tradespeople. Wagon making was an important business in the Waughtown area with the Nissen and Spach wagon works having been established in the vicinity in the 1830s and experiencing significant growth during the mid-nineteenth century. The Spach factory was located a short distance east of Centerville at a site on the east side of Glendale Street between Waughtown and Monmouth streets. It is likely that the growth of this wagon works contributed to the settlement of Centerville. In 1902, residents in the 1600 Block of Centerville Street (Waughtown Street) included six employees of the Forsyth Chair Company, and employee at Nissen & Roan, a blacksmith, a magistrate, two farmers, and two carpenters.
During the 1890s, Centerville shifted from being a rural village to part of an expanding suburban industrial and residential area. Sunnyside, an industrial and residential area, was platted immediately south of Centerville in March of 1892 by the Winston-Salem Land and Investment Company. Also in 1892, the Roanoke and Southern Railroad was constructed a short distance east of Centerville. The Roanoke and Southern Railroad was incorporated into the Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad in 1910. Industry quickly sprung up along the north-south route of the railroad, joining the older Spach Brothers Wagon Works.
The Forsyth Canning and Manufacturing Company was built at the intersection of Sunnyside Avenue and Waughtown Street immediately southwest of Centerville in 1892. The Moravian diarist Reverend Rondthaler wrote of this new firm in 1892 arguing that it and the Spach wagon works together "point[ed] to a varied development of this beautiful southern suburb." The company initially produced brooms and canes, or canning, probably for chair seats. By 1896, the firm was known as the Forsyth Manufacturing Company and chairs were the primary product. The plant was expanded between 1900 and 1907 and an additional building, Plant No. 2, was added by 1917. The circa 1918 publication, Winston-Salem, City of Industry, describes the firm stating:
"One of the representative manufacturing institutions that has contributed largely to the city's rating in industrial circles is the Forsyth Manufacturing Co. This plant has been in successful operation since 1892, and the extra quality of the products find ready sale...sold direct to the jobbing trade only; who in turn place same with the retailers and thus these goods find their way into the best homes in all sections of the United States. The plant consists of a number of factory buildings, covering an area of several acres and the equipment is strictly modern in every detail."
In 1918, Forsyth Manufacturing employed about 200 men and the company executives included H.E. Fries, R.A. Spaugh, and Henry Barnes.
H.E. Fries, a prominent Salem industrialist and real estate developer, was heavily involved in the development that was taking place immediately south of Centerville in Sunnyside, which was platted by Fries and others in 1892. Industrial firms such as Fries' Southside Manufacturing Company cotton mill built in 1895 on Goldfloss Street in the Sunnyside and expanded rapidly. The mill played a significant role in the influx of new residential and commercial development in Centerville. The intense industrial activity near Centerville during this period was commented upon by Reverend Rondthaler in 1896. "Other manufacturing establishments are preparing to build on the South-side," he wrote, "which in a few years will doubtless be a very busy suburb, and will contribute greatly both to the population and wealth of our Twin City." Other important industries that were built during this period included Southside Roller Flouring Mills (1898 demolished) by the Spach family near their wagon works east of the district and the Forsyth Iron Bed Company; built between 1900 and 1907 on Sunnyside Avenue next to Forsyth Manufacturing.
In the wake of the suburbanization and industrialization in Sunnyside, Centerville thrived. Although the city-wide index map for the 1912 Sanborn map shows that little had changed in the configuration of Centerville's streets since the 1876 map, the dates of the extant architecture indicate that there was significant construction in the district during the late nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth century. The 1917 Sanborn map illustrates the streets in Centerville in their current form and shows that they are well developed with one-story, single-pile, rear-ell dwellings appearing on most lots within the historic district. In addition to numerous houses on Waughtown Street, there were many houses along the cross streets of Chapel Street and Center Street and a few dwellings on Wood Street. Chapel Street may have developed first with eighteen houses being listed in the 1915 city directory, but Lomond Street and Center Street appear with a full complement of houses on the 1917 Sanborn map. While the early houses along Waughtown Street have been demolished, many of the circa 1900-1910 houses on Chapel, Center, and Lomond streets remain intact.
A small commercial center had also begun to form by 1917 along Waughtown Street. At the corner of Chapel and Waughtown streets was a blacksmith shop and livery and nearby was a small store/dwelling building. A cluster of three wooden store buildings and a large grocery warehouse were located on Waughtown Street at the intersection with Center Street and two additional frame, one-story stores were located further east. At the corner of Waughtown and Vargrave streets was another one-story wooden store and west of the corner was a large two-story store building attached to a two-story building used as a "drug warehouse."
An indication of the extent of residential development in Centerville during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the 1911 construction of Centerville School. The school was located on a large lot at the intersection of Wood and Vargrave streets. The school building, which was demolished before 1951, was a large, two-story, frame building with a central, three-story bell tower on its facade. It seems likely that this large building served a population that extended beyond Centerville.
The inhabitants in the Centerville Historic District were primarily white, middle-income citizens during the 1910s and 1920s. For example, the proprietor of Winston Electric Company, a clerk at Wachovia Bank and Trust, a carpenter, and a Southern Railway inspector all lived on Chapel Street in 1915. In 1920, Center Street was home to a painter at the Briggs-Shaffner Company, a brick mason, a carpenter, and a finisher at B.F. Huntley Furniture Company.
In the Waughtown/Southside area as a whole, there was a clear shift in demographics by the 1920s. Upper-income residents, always few in number, moved away from the area and the middle and lower-income level residents expanded as they were increasingly employed in factories. Many people living in the area were employed at factories in Southside such as Forsyth Manufacturing, Forsyth Iron Bed Company, or Southside Mills and many more rode the streetcar or drove automobiles downtown to work at the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company or P.H. Hanes Knitting. Reynolds and Hanes (including the family's dyeworks and hosiery mill) grew to dominate the city's economy during the 1920s, driving Winston-Salem to be the state's largest city by the late 1920s. The growth of Winston-Salem was achieved in part by the annexation of developed, outlying areas. Large portions of Southside were annexed in 1923, including Centerville, Sunnyside, and Waughtown.
Evidence of this trend in Centerville is found in the occupations of residents in 1930. The residents of Chapel Street were typical of the district with three carpenters, an employee at Forsyth Furniture Lines, a grocer, two employees of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and a machinist. Lomond Street in 1930 was home to a painter, a barber, an employee of Forsyth Furniture Lines, a blacksmith for Southern Railway, and an R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company employee. Patterns of employment are similar in the 1940 city directory, though workers at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco were increasingly common in the Centerville Historic District.
Centerville was largely built out by the early 1920s, but continued to grow slowly with additional bungalows being built on vacant lots within the district during the 1920s and 1930s, particularly along Wood Street. The increase in population of Southside and other nearby neighborhoods resulted in the construction of James A. Gray High School (now part of the North Carolina School of the Arts) in 1930 on a large open tract west of Chapel Street. Elementary age children living in Centerville may have attended the 1925 Forest Park School, east of the district.
The most significant changes in the Centerville Historic District between the 1920s and 1951 occurred along Waughtown Street as the commercial area there developed more fully. Among the largest of the new masonry commercial buildings constructed during this period is the two-story building at 336 Waughtown Street, built in two phases in the 1920s. The Great A & P Tea Company grocery store was located here in 1930. Also built about 1925, the one-story brick building at 334 Waughtown Street housed the Vogler Grocery Company in 1930. The 1950 City Directory illustrates the wide range of commercial enterprises on Waughtown Street by that time, including Salem Mercantile Linen Company at 248 Waughtown Street (1945), Jesse Dewberry's filling station at 300 Waughtown Street (demolished), State Cleaners at 332 Waughtown Street (1935), the Winston Meat Exchange at 336 Waughtown Street (c.1925), Griffin Gulf Station at 400 Waughtown Street (c.1950), and Carolina Home Furnishings and the Food Center at 410 Waughtown Street (c.1935). The establishment of automobile-related and light industrial businesses in the area during these years is illustrated by the two service stations on Waughtown Street and an auto repair shop located in the rear section of 440 Waughtown Street (c.1955), as well as H&H Welding, at 1928 Vargrave Street (1950). These businesses probably served an area well beyond the historic district including parts of Washington Park neighborhood to the west, Sunnyside to the south, and Waughtown to the east.
The industrial area on Sunnyside Avenue and Junia Street south of Centerville remained active as Forsyth Manufacturing joined the trend of consolidation in the local furniture industry when it merged with Forsyth Dining Room Furniture Company and the Forsyth Chair Company to create Forsyth Furniture Lines around 1922. This new firm failed during the Depression, however, closing between around 1932. A subsequent furniture manufacturer, Question Manufacturing, occupied the Forsyth Furniture Lines complex until about 1945, but from 1947 until 1969 Southern Steel Stamping Company occupied the firm's Plant No. 2 on Junia Avenue while Winston Manufacturing furniture occupied the original building on Sunnyside Avenue in 1951.
Skirted by industrial development on its south and east that provided an important source of employment, Centerville was a distinct section of a broad tapestry of neighborhoods that made up Southside during the post-World War II period. The 1950 census reported 26,678 people living in "Southside," which included Centerville, Sunnyside, and Waughtown as well as other areas in southeastern Winston-Salem. By 1960, this same area had grown thirty-seven percent, more than either the city or county. This growth was due both to the popularity of living away from the center city and the concentration of new housing that was being built in the vicinity. A 1962 article in the Twin City Sentinel characterized the area as predominantly homeowners including industrial workers, store clerks, bank tellers, carpenters, plumbers. This was certainly true in Centerville where Chapel Street in 1950 was home to a grocer, an accountant, a barber, an employee at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, an employee at Southern Steel Stampings, a salesman, a bookkeeper at Wachovia Bank and Trust, a dressmaker, and a saw operator at Unique Furniture. Similarly, Center Street was the address of three R.J. Reynolds Tobacco employees, salesmen at Krispy Kreme and Coca-Cola, a carpenter, and a battery filler at Arista Mills. Thus, Centerville continued to be a white, middle-income area with a mix of white and blue collar workers.
Today the residential section of Centerville is very well preserved but it faces serious development pressures from a decline in businesses along Waughtown Street, new multi-family residential development on the former site of Forsyth Manufacturing Plant No.2, and a growing N.C. School of the Arts campus immediately west of the district.
East, Bill. "Do You Remember..." Twin City Sentinel, 18 May 1962. Vertical files, North Carolina Room, Forsyth County Public Library.
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"Henry E. Fries Obituary." Winston-Salem Journal, 4 March 1949. Vertical files, North Carolina Room, Forsyth County Public Library.
Hunter, Rixie. "The Southside Story." Twin City Sentinel 19 February 1962.
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† Sherry Jones Wyatt, Historic Preservation Consultant, Centervillle Historic District, Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, NC, nomination document, 2007, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.