Hill-Grainger Historic District
The Hill-Grainger Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The Hill-Grainger Historic District is significant in the history of Kinston, North Carolina, as one of the early residential neighborhoods developed beyond the city's original boundaries and as a strong collection of representative early 20th century residential construction. As such, it reflects the community's development from a small governmental and commercial center for a rural, agrarian county to a major transportation, industrial and market hub for much of eastern North Carolina. It also illustrates the property type of late 19th/early 20th century residential neighborhoods. The context for the Hill-Grainger Historic District is Kinston's era of accelerating prosperity, 1890-1941, as it represents the town's increasingly urban character, the growing numbers of individuals in middle- and upper-income brackets, and the rising level of architectural sophistication in the community. Although construction of houses began in this section north of Kinston's original boundaries in the mid 1890s, the buildings currently standing in the Hill-Grainger Historic District were built between 1900 and 1941, as late 19th century buildings have given place to mid and late 20th century commercial development. Prominent merchant, civic leader and industrialist J.W. Grainger, whose own home Vernon Heights originally stood within the district's boundaries, acquired sole interest in a 257-acre tract of land north of Kinston in 1892 and began building rental and speculative houses and selling lots in the area soon thereafter. These earliest houses were typical of the period, being either large frame Queen Anne houses or more modest traditional houses. The first five years of the 20th century saw a continuation of this pattern, while the Neo-Classical Revival style was gaining popularity; several sophisticated examples of the latter style were built prior to 1915. After 1910, the Colonial Revival and Craftsman styles came into fashion locally, with the latter appearing on American Foursquares and Bungalows. These styles continued their dominance through the 1920s, even as the Tudor Revival was coming into favor. This decade in particular reveals the extension of prosperity and architectural sophistication through the population. A small number of houses in the Hill-Grainger Historic District have been moved from their original locations, but in most cases, they were moved only short distances and during the period of significance.
The Hill-Grainger Historic District, whose southern edge is located three blocks north of Kinston's expanded central business district, is an area of approximately 81 acres containing a representative assemblage of early 20th century residential buildings with the addition of a mid 1920s school and a small group of later 20th century houses, commercial buildings and additions to the school complex. The origins of the Hill-Grainger Historic District date to the mid 1890s when J.W. Grainger began building rental and speculative houses and selling lots in an area north of the town roughly bounded by Lenoir and Grainger avenues and North Independent and North Heritage streets.
Jesse W. Grainger (1845-1910) moved to Kinston from Greene County in 1879 and engaged in truck farming and the sale of fertilizers and farm implements [Johnson and Holloman, pp.122-124]. Apparently a short time after arriving in Kinston, Grainger joined with prominent merchant Lemuel Harvey (1845-1912) and cotton broker William C. Fields (d. 1902) to purchase a large tract of land north of Kinston. (The exact date of this transaction is unclear since available deed records for Lenoir County begin with 1880 as a result of a late 1870s courthouse fire.) The property's previous owner was John C. Washington, who had served the community in many capacities beginning in the early 1830s [Deed book 14, p.597; and Heritage, p.252].
Grainger acquired the interests of Harvey and Fields in a 257-acre portion of the Washington lands in 1892 for $6,708.34; this tract included Vernon, Washington's residence, which Grainger remodelled and occupied until his death [deed book, 14, p.597]. On this land, known as Vernon Farm, Grainger carried out a large truck-farming operation. An early 20th century description of Vernon and its owner went as follows: "It is a beautiful, a charming and bewitching place — of which there are so few left. He has the broad acres surrounding the hill under the best cultivation in strawberries, beans, peas, cabbage, asparagus, cantaloupes, etc." [Industrial Issue, p.67]. The northern portion of the Washington-Grainger property, which is located on a ridge above the generally flat surrounding terrain, was long known as "The Hill" [Dreyer, Kinston's Architecture, p.137). The district's name, coined by the consultant for the original survey, derives from this traditional appellation and the area's vital association with J.W. Grainger.
In the mid 1890s, Grainger ventured into the real estate development business by selling off some of his land north of Kinston as building lots; he also began having houses erected in the area for rental and speculation purposes. The first area developed by Grainger was in the flat terrain between Lenoir and Grainger avenues, extending from North Independent to North Heritage Street. Among those renting houses from Grainger was L.P. Tapp, an Orange County tobacconist whom Grainger brought to Kinston to work in the town's new tobacco market. Tapp later built a large Neo-Classical Revival house in the Mitchelltown area and established his own tobacco warehouse in 1923. The house Tapp rented from Grainger, which was located in the 800 block of North Queen Street, is no longer standing; Sanborn maps and early 20th century photographs suggest that it was a traditional two-story single-pile frame house with a large one-story rear wing [Grainger papers; Sanborn maps; Industrial Issue, p.30). The great majority of houses built on Grainger's property prior to 1900 in the area north of Lenoir Avenue no longer exists; any which do survive are separated from The Hill-Grainger Historic District by later development.
The early 20th century saw an intensification of construction in the area, as Grainger continued his speculative activities, hiring two local contractors, S.M. Harrell and D.H. Taylor, to build houses for rent or sale. One house surviving in the Hill-Grainger Historic District and identified as having been constructed by Harrell is the Dawson-Hodges-Tull House (900 North Queen Street), a large frame Queen Anne-style house built at a cost of $3,300 [Grainger Papers]. Typical of the more modest house built by Grainger on speculation is the Loftin-Bagby-Scott House (200 East Grainger Avenue), a rectangular one-story frame house with turned and sawn ornament on the porch. Other houses surviving in the Hill-Grainger Historic District from the first decade of the 20th century include several modest one-story traditional frame dwellings, as well as larger frame Queen Anne houses such as the Daly-Waldrop House (107 West Capitola Avenue) and the Turnage-Hooker House (106 W. Capitola Avenue), which face each other, and the Julia and Kate McDaniel House at 907 North Queen Street.
In 1902, Grainger hired New Bern architect H.W. Simpson to design a house for Grainger's daughter, Capitola, who had married Daniel Thomas Edwards (1870-1955). Edwards served as editor and publisher of the Kinston Free Press from 1903 to 1914 [Heritage, p.209]. S.M. Harrell was the contractor for the large Neo-Classical Revival brick residence which was constructed on the same ridge to the east of Grainger's Vernon Heights home. Sarahurst (1201 North Queen Street), which was named for the Edwards's daughter, stood at the head of North Queen Street until 1914 when it was moved to its current location facing west on North Queen Street at the corner of Summit Avenue. North Queen Street beyond Summit Avenue was thus opened for development. Several photographs of Kinston used in the 1906 Industrial Issue of the Kinston Free Press were taken from Sarahurst at its original location which offered a good vantage point from which to view the growing town.
A second large brick Neo-Classical Revival house designed by H. W. Simpson was that built in 1907 for Mrs. Alice Fields, widow of W.C. Fields. Known as the Fields-Rasberry House (108 Park Avenue), the residence is located on a sloping 2.8-acre lot facing Park Avenue. In the deed transferring two tracts of land north of Kinston to Mrs. Fields by Grainger and his wife, it was stipulated "...that Mrs. Alice J. Fields will build a Residence and reside on the property here conveyed" [deed book 31, p.776].
The popularity of the Neo-Classical Revival style persisted in the district for nearly ten more years, with the most notable later example being Vernon Hall (W. Capitola Avenue between N. Queen and N. Heritage streets), which stands on the 15-acre site of J.W. Grainger's home. After Grainger's death, his property was divided among his widow and children, with his daughter Mary M. Grainger receiving the home tract [deed book 43, p.162]. The latter was sold in 1913 to C.F. Harvey, Sr., a son of Lemuel Harvey, who continued in the family business and became a prominent civic leader in his own right [deed book 48, p.1; and Heritage, p.253]. The Harveys had the Grainger residence demolished and a massive brick house in the Neo-Classical Revival style built in its place. Unfortunately, the architect for Vernon Hall has not been identified.
Through the first two decades of the 20th century, even as late examples of the Queen Anne style were being constructed in the Hill-Grainger section alongside more traditional houses and Neo-Classical Revival mansions, other styles were gaining popularity, principally the Colonial Revival, Classical Revival and Craftsman styles. The ca.1906 Cobb-Sams House (1003 North Queen Street) is a large frame Colonial Revival residence built for Lawrence A. Cobb, founder of a wholesale grocery firm. Another example of this style is the H.F. Boney House (808 North East Street), built ca.1910 for an attorney and warehouseman for L. Harvey and son. The Classical Revival style is represented by the ca.1915 residence of H.D. DuPree (212 East Capitola Avenue), a bookkeeper and deputy sheriff. The earliest evidence of Craftsman influence in the Hill-Grainger Historic District is likely the E.J. Becton House (1006 North Queen Street), a handsome frame Bungalow with battered rubble stone corner piers and chimney, built in 1915 for an agent of the Atlantic Coast Realty Company of Greenville, North Carolina, which developed the later sections of Mitchelltown.
A distinctive aspect of the development of the Hill-Grainger area was the role of several families whose members built houses in the area. Local building contractor Isaac S. Rochelle built houses for his two sons and himself in the early 1920s. The B.H. Rochelle House (307 East Capitola Avenue) and the J.M. Rochelle House (308 East Grainger Avenue) stand back-to-back. The father's house (318 East Grainger Avenue), a large Classical Revival-influenced house, is at the eastern end of Grainger Avenue. At the other end of the same block of Grainger Avenue stand the houses of grocer I.T. Haskins (300 East Grainger Avenue) and his son S.H. Haskins (304 East Grainger Avenue); between them is the house built by the widow (Fannie Haskins) of I.T. Haskins (302 East Grainger Avenue) shortly after his death. About 15 years later, Mrs. Haskins built a second house for herself around the corner at 905 North Independent Street.
Another family with several houses in the district was that of prominent merchant A.J. Sutton, whose Classical Revival house (112 East Capitola Avenue) stands on the northwest corner of East Capitola Avenue and North McLewean Street. Two doors west is the Sutton-Hooker House (106 East Capitola Avenue), built for Horace L. Sutton, who was associated with his father and brothers in A.J. Sutton & Sons. In the next block east is the Colonial Revival residence of Hugh I. Sutton (208 East Capitola Avenue), while R.N. Sutton's house, a Craftsman Bungalow (1002 North McLewean Street) stands behind his father's house facing North McLewean Street. Horace L. Sutton built a second house (202 Summit Avenue) in the district about 1930; it is a brick-veneered dwelling with Tudor Revival references.
While the Rochelle, Haskins and Sutton family houses involved fathers and sons, the group of houses on the south side of West Capitola Avenue were built by Edgar Moseley for his daughters. Shortly after the turn of the century, Moseley (1858-1927) purchased a tract of land running along North Heritage Street between West Capitola and West Grainger avenues and built a large frame Queen Anne house at the corner of Capitola and Heritage; this house no longer stands [Heritage, p.325]. About 1906, Moseley built similar Queen Anne houses for his daughters just to the east of his own residence — the Turnage-Hooker House (106 W. Capitola Avenue) and the Mary M. Laws House (108 W. Capitola Avenue). Moseley also apparently built a rental house behind his residence; since the 1940s, the frame Queen Anne/Classical Revival frame house (111 West Grainger Avenue) has been occupied by Moseley's granddaughter (Mary Smith) and her husband (R.C. Smith).
Also of note are the instances of an individual building of two adjacent houses, one to occupy and one to rent or sell. About 1905 local contractor Charles H. Poole is believed to have built two nearly identical frame houses on West Grainger Avenue; the gable-front two-story dwellings had Classical Revival influence and unusual wall-dormer configurations on the side elevations. The house occupied by Poole, known as the Poole-Herndon House (108 West Grainger Avenue) still stands, although its near twin was demolished in the mid 1980s. In the early 1920s, Lenoir County tax assessor J.T. Pratt purchased two mail-order Craftsman-style houses from the Aladdin Homes Company and had them erected on adjoining lots on East Capitola Avenue; Pratt occupied "The Carolina" (308 East Capitola Avenue) and apparently rented "The Virginia" (310 East Capitola Avenue) [Pratt letter; and Aladdin catalogue, pp.66 and 100].
By the early 1920s, approximately one-half of the area within the district had been developed. In September 1921, Mayor Joe Dawson provided the following description of the development of the Hill-Grainger section: "Gradually, about 1890, Kinston began to go north and northeast across the open fields of J.W. Grainger, L. Harvey and W.C. Fields, who had together in 1889 purchased from the heirs of Washington "Vernon," and there was the foresight and the vigorous spirit of development then manifested itself through those three great business pioneers of the future city of Kinston that opened up that splendid section of the city now traversed by the beautiful streets of Washington, Lenoir, Vernon, Grainger, Capitola, and Park Avenue." ["Realty Changes in Kinston"]
Soon after Grainger's death in 1910, development had begun to move northward up "The Hill" whose slope begins on the north side of Capitola Avenue.
A number of substantial and architecturally sophisticated houses were erected during the 1920s in The Hill-Grainger Historic District as Kinston's population became increasingly prosperous and some members of the community were familiar with the fashionable styles of the period and able to hire architects and builders to provide them with residences in those styles. The Colonial Revival style continued its popularity, although a greater number of 1920s examples were brick-veneered. Two adjacent illustrations are the O.W. Greene House (202 Park Avenue, ca.1924), built for the manager of Carolina Telephone and Telegraph Company, and the Blackwood-Jenkins House (204 Park Avenue, ca.1922), whose first owner was president of Carolina Gas and Electric Company. The ca.1925 Canady-Sutton House (1101 North Queen Street), built for prominent merchant and civic leader J. Herman Canady, is an elegant Colonial Revival residence with Renaissance Revival details. A.D. Hobgood, manager of the Export Leaf Tobacco Company, built the handsome brick-veneered Classical Revival Hobgood-Sparrow House (1204 North Queen Street) in 1926; Hobgood had previously lived in the Mitchelltown section of Kinston.
In the latter part of the decade of the 1920s, the Tudor Revival style came into vogue. The finest representation of the style is the (second) H.C. Hines House (1118 North Queen Street), built in 1929 for the vice-president of Hines Bros. Lumber Company and founder of a wholesale grocery business who moved to this house from an unusual Craftsman Bungalow at 104 Park Avenue. Hines's second residence is a striking and academically sound illustration of the style with its irregular configuration, casement windows in cast stone surrounds, massive chimneys with elaborate pots, and multiple roof gables. More modest examples of the style also went up about the same time, including the G.C. Andrews House (102 Park Avenue), built for an Atlantic Coast Line Railroad conductor; the residence of automobile salesman H.B. Cummings (205 Park Avenue); and that of Horace L. Sutton (202 Summit Avenue), as already noted.
Kinston's first public school, a combination grammar and high school, stood on East Lenoir Avenue between North Independent and North East streets on land provided by J.W. Grainger. Between 1914 and 1919, this school was replaced by Kinston's first high school, a brick building on a lot running from Lenoir to Vernon Avenue just west of North East Street. This school was destroyed by fire in 1924 and replaced by the (former) Grainger High School (300 Park Avenue), a large brick Neo-Classical Revival structure designed by Wilmington architect Leslie Boney and located at the northeast corner of Park Avenue and North Independent Street [Heritage, p.124]. The new school tract was also part of the Grainger property. Isaac S. "Ike" Rochelle, who lived in the district (318 East Grainger Avenue), was the principal contractor for the main school building.
During the 1930s, residential construction in the Hill-Grainger section continued the same patterns established in previous decades. Having relatively modest houses in keeping with the existing houses in the southern section, a greater number were examples of Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival residences typical of early 20th century suburban neighborhoods across the state. Illustrations of the latter include the Paul Stroud House (1117 North Queen Street), a brick-veneered Colonial Revival house built in 1935 for the co-owner of a wholesale grocery firm; the picturesque Tudor Revival residence of insurance company employee Rachel Tull (1002 North Queen Street); the similarly styled Leo Brody House (1008 North Queen Street) and L.C. Ferrell House (1208 North Queen Street); and the ca.1932 Colonial Revival-style house of W.A. Moore (206 Summit Avenue), president of an insurance agency.
In the years following the Hill-Grainger Historic District's period of significance, the Hill-Grainger section has seen the ever-northward move of Kinston's commercial district, decreasing the size of close-in residential areas. The space between Lenoir and Vernon avenues is now almost completely commercial in character, and much of the area between Vernon and Grainger avenues was omitted from the district because of late 20th century commercial encroachment. Part of the section was lost in 1952 with the construction of Grainger Stadium, which also incurred the loss of several blocks of working class housing in east Kinston. West of the district were several tobacco company buildings, including those of E.V. Webb & Co. and the Export Leaf Tobacco Company. Both buildings are gone, the latter having been razed as recently as 1986 [Sanborn maps; and Dreyer, Kinston's Architecture, p.136]. North of the district are suburban neighborhoods developed largely in the 1940s and after. Within the district, there has been some infill and replacement construction, as well as the conversion of a small number of houses for use as offices or commercial space. But most buildings remain single-family dwellings, with few having been converted to apartments, so that the Hill-Grainger Historic District clearly retains its character as an early 20th century residential neighborhood for middle- and upper-income residents.
Aladdin Homes Company. 1921 catalogue.
Dawson, Joe. "Realty Changes in Kinston Are Very Important." Kinston Daily News, 24 September 1921, p.1.
Dreyer, Martha A. Kinston's Historic and Architectural Resources. Kinston: City of Kinston, 1981.
Grainger, Jesse W. Papers, 1891-1918. Manuscript Collection, Joyner Library. East Carolina University, Greenville, N.C.
Heritage of Lenoir County, 1981, The. Kinston: Lenoir County Historical Association, 1981.
Industrial Issue, Kinston Free Press. Kinston: Free Press, 1906.
Johnson, Talmage and Holloman, Charles A. The Story of Kinston and Lenoir County. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Co., 1954.
Kinston City Directories. Issues for 1902, 1908, 1916, 1920, 1923, 1928, 1936, 1946.
Lenoir County Register of Deeds. Land records. (Cited as LCRD).
Pratt, S. Perry, 1545 East Glade Avenue, Mesa Avenue. Letter to Marti Dreyer, 29 September 1987.
Sanborn Insurance Company Maps. Kinston series, 1908, 1914, 1919, 1925, 1930.
† Allison H. Black, Architectural Historian, Black and Black Preservation Consultants, Hill-Grainger Historic District, Kinston, Lenoir County, NC, nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.