Mitchelltown Historic District
The Mitchelltown 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. [&dagger'] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The Mitchelltown Historic District is significant in the history of Kinston, North Carolina, as a representative of the development of middle-income residential neighborhoods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the city underwent a commercial and industrial boom resulting in a rapidly growing population and an intensification of residential development. The prosperity engendered by this boom spread through the population to create a broad middle class whose members had houses erected in the mainstream architectural styles of the period. The Mitchelltown Historic District retains a relatively intact collection of such houses, with representative examples of the Queen Anne, Classical and Neo-Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, and Spanish Mission Revival styles and numerous illustrations of the American Foursquare and the Bungalow. There is also a small, but significant, group of houses built along traditional lines during the early period of development in the district. Those who built houses in the area included individuals prominent in Kinston's burgeoning tobacco industry, as well as prosperous merchants, public officials, industrialists, and professionals. Exhibiting some of the characteristics of early suburban neighborhoods, including tree-lined streets and a location a short distance from the central business district, Mitchelltown also serves as a representative of Kinston's early movement toward suburban residential development. The Mitchelltown Historic District is part of the historical context Kinston's Era of Accelerating Prosperity, 1890-1941, and represents the property type of Late 19th/Early 20th Century Residential Buildings and Neighborhoods.
The Mitchelltown Historic District in Kinston, North Carolina, is a residential neighborhood located less than one-quarter mile northwest of the city's central business section. The district contains a concentration of middle-income housing representing mainstream architectural styles, as well as a sampling of houses reflecting the more traditional forms with which local builders were familiar. Dating from the city's late 19th and early 20th century boom era, the buildings in the Mitchelltown Historic District remain largely intact, both individually and in their relationship to one another. The district is associated with the rise of Kinston as a major tobacco market for eastern North Carolina and the growth and broadening of the city's middle class. Many houses in the Mitchelltown Historic District were built for individuals of prominence in Kinston's economic and civic life from 1890 to 1941.
The land on which Mitchelltown grew into an important middle-income residential neighborhood had previously been devoted to agriculture. It was part of a 200-acre tract, north of the Neuse River and northwest of Kinston, which was purchased from Jacob F. Parrott by Granville County native Adolphus Mitchell (1851-1906) in 1882 [LCRD, deed book 3, p.129; and "Mrs. Sitterson"]. Local tradition holds that Mitchell established a livery business in Kinston about 1873; he is also said to have continued farming the former Parrott lands for several years prior to beginning residential development of the area [Dreyer draft]. Approximately one-quarter of the original 200-acre Parrott-Mitchell tract is included in the Mitchelltown Historic District.
After his earlier residence burned about 1884, Mitchell apparently erected a large Queen Anne style house (307 Atlantic Avenue) facing southeast on the north side of the tracks of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad, and about ten years later began selling building lots in the vicinity of his residence. The first lots sold by Mitchell were located adjacent to the existing limits of the city, in the 400 block of Mitchell Street and the 200 block of West Peyton Avenue [Dreyer draft; survey Files]. The varying sizes and configurations of these lots suggest that Mitchell did not attempt to subdivide his property into typical urban or suburban lots. Deeds referred to the area as "Mitchell Town," and the 1900 U.S. census listed Mitchell as a "Home dealer" [Dreyer, Kinston's Architecture, p.144; and 1900 U.S. census, Lenoir County, N.C.]
Before his death in 1906, Adolphus Mitchell deeded lots in the area to three of his children. Wayne A. Mitchell, the oldest son and a lawyer, built a Classical Revival house (500 College Street) on the northwest corner of College Street and Atlantic Avenue [LCRD, deed book 28, p.245]. The two oldest daughters, Wita and Bessie, received lots when they married [Dreyer draft]. At his death, Mitchell left a widow and eight children, five of whom were still under the age of twenty-one. His property was divided among his adult children with the rest held in trust by his widow for the minor children [Dreyer draft]. Wayne A. Mitchell was named commissioner of his father's estate, and continued selling lots in the Mitchelltown area for several years [LCRD, deed book 37, pp.525, 636, 723 and 736].
In 1913, the Mitchell family sold to Atlantic Coast Realty Company "...all of the land known as the A. Mitchell estate in West Kinston, which, upon this date, is unsold..." [ LCRD, deed book 48, p. 447]. This company was based in Greenville, Pitt County, North Carolina, and its principal purpose was real estate development [Pitt County, Record of corporations, vol. 2, p.276]. Most of the Mitchell land sold to Atlantic Coast Realty was located west of College Street. In this section, lots were more uniform in size, exhibiting the typical narrow, deep configuration [LCRD, map book 18, p. 28; Sanborn maps; and Dreyer draft]. The company made 18 sales in Mitchelltown in 1913 and 24 in the following year; some were for more than one lot. Sales declined after 1914, although the company continued selling lots through the early 1920s [LCRD, grantor deed indexes and deed book 48, p.452].
At the time that Adolphus Mitchell began selling building lots in northwest Kinston, the city was on the threshold of an era of accelerating prosperity and population growth. From a population of 1,762 in 1890, Kinston grew to 4,106 in 1900 [Powell, p.5]. The arrival of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad in 1858 had greatly enhanced the city's position as a trading center for the surrounding agricultural counties. Several carriage factories began contributing to the city's economy in the 1880s, and Kinston's first textile mill opened in 1890. Beginning in 1895, the development of the city as an important tobacco market for eastern North Carolina thrust Kinston into a boom era. Its influence on construction was to continue until the beginning of the Second World War. The rapidly expanding population required a swift adjustment in the construction industry to produce adequate housing for newcomers to the city. During the 1890s, development pushed the actual boundaries of Kinston in all directions, except immediately west where the Neuse River flows.
Among the first houses erected in the Mitchelltown section was the ca. 1890 residence of Kinston postmaster J.C. Wooten (416 Mitchell Street). Other prominent men building in the area during the early years included jeweler Kleber Denmark (205 West Peyton Avenue) and James Ellis (216 W. Peyton Avenue) of Ellis Carriage Works. The turn of the 20th century brought an acceleration in construction in Mitchelltown. Mitchell and College streets (the latter was opened in 1902) were the principal location for houses in the first decade of the new century [Kinston Free Press, 16 April 1902, p.8]. Examples include the Classical Revival style Dal F. Wooten House (412 Mitchell Street), erected in 1901 for the Lenoir County sheriff and Kinston mayor. Four years later, W.A. Mitchell, son of Adolphus Mitchell, also chose the Classical Revival style for his house at 500 College Street. The builder of the house occupied by tobacco warehouse proprietor G.P. Fleming (401 West Washington Avenue) during the 1920s chose a late example of the Queen Anne style for a residence on the corner of West Washington Avenue and College Street.
From 1910 through 1930, by which time the area within the district was almost completely developed, the Craftsman and Classical and Colonial Revival styles were dominant, with many American Foursquares and Bungalows being erected, as well. Early in this period, the Mitchelltown area was nearly doubled in size with the expansion west of College Street. Among the most notable houses erected during this period is the Luther P. Tapp House (611 Mitchell Street). Tapp, who came to Kinston from Orange County to assist in establishing the town as a tobacco market, built a grand residence in the Neo-Classical Revival style, a fashion which represented growing prosperity in many towns across the state in the early 20th century.
Tobacconist William Knott built a well-composed Classical Revival house at 508 College Street in 1918. The ca.1922 J.H. Mewborn House (302 Atlantic Avenue) and the 1924 George Knott House (310 West Washington Avenue) are handsome examples of brick-veneered Colonial Revival houses. A notable frame example of the Colonial Revival style is that said to have been designed by Sidney Andrews of Norfolk, Virginia, for J.F. "Jack" Parrott at 500 Pollock Street. Built prior to the opening of the second section of Mitchelltown, this house caused the extension of West Washington Avenue to be made two lots north of its eastern section [Dreyer draft]. The Craftsman Bungalow of prominent businessman H.B.W. Canady (508 Mitchell Street) is a particularly vibrant example of a fairly standard house type in the district. During the 1920s, as the need for new housing in Kinston became ever more pressing, some turned to mail-order companies for their residences. Most examples in Mitchelltown came from the Aladdin Home Company, which produced "The Shadow Lawn" (507 Atlantic Avenue and 606 West Lenoir Avenue), "The Colonial" (510 W. Washington Avenue), and several Bungalows (304 W. Washington Avenue and 410 W. Washington Avenue).
While many of the houses in the Mitchelltown Historic District were built for their first owner-occupants, speculative housing was also a factor in the development of Mitchelltown. Members of the Parrott family, including siblings J.F., Dan, Willis and Hattie, were the most active in this field. Of particular note is the group of two-story, frame side-hall plan houses with pedimented front gable roofs. The similarities between these houses suggest that a single contractor was employed in their construction [Dreyer draft].
The first church built in the neighborhood was Holy Trinity Catholic Church, a 1921 brick-veneered example of early 20th century Gothic Revival ecclesiastical architecture located at 508 West Vernon Avenue along the district's northern edge. About fourteen years later, the Colonial Revival style First Presbyterian Church (314 West Lenoir Avenue) was erected closer to the middle of the neighborhood. The relatively small size of the neighborhood and its proximity to Kinston's central business district made unnecessary the construction of schools and small businesses within the area.
Throughout the Mitchelltown Historic District's period of significance, the housing patterns in Mitchelltown were overwhelmingly single-family in character, although, during the 1920s through 1940s, three duplexes and three small apartment buildings were erected in the area. Major changes in this established pattern began to occur in the early 1950s after the ca.1951 establishment of a flight school for prospective Air Force pilots at Kinston's Stallings Field and the 1951 beginning of construction of the E.I. Du Pont de Nemours and Company plant for producing Dacron polyester fiber. The substantial influx of population which occurred at this time resulted in the conversion to apartments of many large, older residences in Mitchelltown and other areas of the city, a trend which has continued to the present [Powell, pp.89 and 95; Dreyer draft].
The Mitchelltown Historic District's period of significance corresponds with the important era of accelerating growth and prosperity in Kinston's history, continuing through the Depression years when the few buildings erected were little different from those built during the previous decade. The district is distinguished from its surroundings by different land uses, later construction dates, and the general character of buildings erected at approximately the same time and for similar uses. Less than fifteen per cent of the total number of resources in the Mitchelltown Historic District are noncontributing. The majority of noncontributing buildings were erected after the period of significance; fewer than five are early buildings which have lost integrity through extensive alterations. None of the noncontributing buildings, most of which were built during the 1940s and 1950s, is greatly out of scale with earlier buildings. In many cases, mature trees and vegetation soften their impact so that the historic character and associative values of the district remain intact.
In September 1921, Joe Dawson, mayor of Kinston and a resident of the city since 1883, wrote an article for the Greater Kinston-Lenoir County Industrial and Commercial Edition of the Kinston Daily News in which he described the development of the city as he had witnessed it to that time. Of the area being nominated as the Mitchelltown Historic District, Dawson made the following comments, "...the writer has seen the Mitchell property, which, for about twenty years after he made his residence here, was subjected to the culture of as fine cotton and corn as this section can boast of, withdrawn from agriculture and, as if by magic, transformed into a most beautiful and attractive portion of the city, now traversed by Mitchell, College, Pollock, and other beautiful streets, along which dwell an excellent portion of the population of the city, most of whom have been attracted here by the advantages of this community and receiving a hearty welcome, have been and are doing their part towards its growth — upbuilding and development [Dawson, "Realty Changes in Kinston"]."
Nearly seventy years after that description was penned, the Mitchelltown Historic District is clearly evocative of this special relationship between the history of Kinston's development and this group of buildings.
Dreyer, Martha A. Draft National Register Nomination for the Mitchelltown Historic District, unpaginated. Copy in files of Survey and Planning Branch, N.C. Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, N.C.
________. Kinston's Architecture 1762-1930, An Inventory and History. Kinston: City of Kinston and North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1981.
Kinston City Directories. Issues for 1902, 1908, 1916, 1920, 1928, 1936, 1946.
Lenoir County Historical Association. The Heritage of Lenoir County. Winston-Salem, N.C.: Hunter- Publishing Company, 1981,
Lenoir County Register of Deeds. Land Records. (Cited as LCRD).
Mitchelltown Historic District, Kinston, Lenoir County. Survey Files in Survey and Planning Branch, N.C. Division of Archives and History, Raleigh, N.C.
"Mrs. Sitterson Reminiscences [sic] About Early Days in Kinston." Kinston Daily Free Press, 4 July 1976. In Kinston-Lenoir County Library vertical files.
Powell, William S. Annals of Progress: The Story of Lenoir County and Kinston, North Carolina. Raleigh: State Department of Archives and History, 1963.
"Realty Changes in Kinston are very Important." Kinston Daily News, 24 September 1921, p.1.
Sanborn Map Company. Kinston, North Carolina series, 1896, 1901, 1908, 1914, 1919, 1925, 1930.
† Allison H. Black, Architectural Historian, Black & Black Preservation Consultants, Mitchelltown Historic District, Lenoir County, NC nomination document, 1989, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.