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Brookwood Historic District


Homes in the Brookwood Historic District, Wilmington, NC, National Register

Photo: Homes in the Brookwood Historic District, Wilmington, NC. The Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014. Photographed by User:Coreymchandler (own work), 2016, [cc-by-4.0 (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed July, 2017.

The Brookwood Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

Description

The Brookwood Historic District is located approximately one-and-a-half miles east of Wilmington's city center, encompasses eleven city blocks, or portions thereof, platted in 1920 and 1927 as the Brookwood subdivision. Streets within the district are arranged in a grid pattern with Borden, Brookwood, and Keaton avenues running north-south (listed from west to east) and Borden Avenue angled slightly to follow the path of Burnt Mill Creek. Market Street and Carlton, Grady, and Metts avenues run east-west (listed from north to south).

One of a series of early 20th-century suburbs to be developed along the Market Street corridor, the district is bounded by the Carolina Place development to the west, commercial and modern residential construction to the north, the later Forest Hills development to the east, and Burnt Mill Creek and modern residential construction to the south. The district boundaries were determined based on the 1927 plat of the development and include properties constructed from 1920 to 1964. Additionally, one of the properties within the district boundary (2406 Market Street) was platted as part of the neighboring Forest Hills development. However, it is located immediately adjacent to properties in the Brookwood development, faces Market Street, and shares a common setback and orientation with the Brookwood development, tying it visually to Brookwood more closely that to those houses on Forest Hills Drive.

Lot sizes are generally consistent within the district though corner lots and those lots facing Market Street are slightly larger. Most lots measure fifty to sixty feet wide and 140 to 150 feet deep, coinciding with half the depth of the block. Lots along Brookwood and Metts avenues were platted to be twenty-five feet wide with the assumption that multiple lots would be combined at the time of development. Additionally, lots along the south side of Metts Avenue vary in depth, some extending as deep as 800 feet, to meet Burnt Mill Creek at the south end of the development. However, despite the depth of these lots, the houses are placed near the street, consistent with the rest of the development. Finally, lots along Market Street are typically sixty to seventy feet wide and 200 feet deep allowing for larger houses on these lots.

The district is entirely residential with the exception of Brookwood Park (2100 Market Street), known as Wallace Park today, along its west border and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (2122 Market Street). The majority of residences within the historic district were constructed in the Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Period Cottage, Cape Cod, Minimal Traditional, and Ranch styles. Houses are generally one- or one-and-a-half stories in height, though examples of two-story structures also exist, predominantly along Market Street. It contains one-hundred and twenty-one primary resources and forty-eight secondary resources, predominantly garages and sheds, which were constructed between 1920 and 1964 and contribute to the significance of the Brookwood Historic District. Twenty-eight houses and forty-two secondary structures do not contribute to the district's significance, as they were either not present during the period of significance or have been so altered that they no longer possess sufficient historic integrity. There are four (4) vacant lots in the district. Eighty-one percent of the total principal resources contribute to the historic and architectural significance of the district.

Significance

The post-World War I development, platted in 1920 and 1927 and constructed at the terminus of the streetcar line, illustrates a shift away from city center neighborhoods to subdivisions at the perimeter of the city in the early twentieth century. Brookwood is among the most intact middle-class suburbs in Wilmington and like its contemporaries, including Carolina Place (1906) and the Westbrook-Ardmore (1911) developments, Brookwood was laid out on a grid plan with small lots and featured small to medium-sized housing that met the need of the growing middle class. Initially located just beyond the city limits and several blocks from the streetcar line, the development included municipal services such as water, sewer, gas, and electric lines, and a public park on the banks of Burnt Mill Creek, a feature often omitted from less prestigious suburbs. Additionally, Brookwood developers used the rising popularity of the automobile to their advantage, as advertisements for the development touted straight roads that offered easy access "without a turn or a curve."

The district comprises houses constructed in a variety of early twentieth-century architectural styles, including Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Cape Cod, and Period Cottage. Additionally, the district's continued development after World War II includes examples of the Minimal Traditional and Ranch styles.

While the vast majority of the homes in Brookwood Historic District were constructed between 1921 and 1950, construction continued at a slower pace into the 1960s, with four additional homes constructed before 1964 and five homes built between 1978 and 1994. The period of significance extends from 1920, the initial platting of the northern part of the neighborhood to 1964, with later construction after 1978 not of exceptional significance.

By 1918, the city limits had been expanded to include the Carolina Place, Carolina Heights, Winoca Terrace, and Westbrook-Ardmore developments. However, development continued in the 1920s, with the construction of the middle-class neighborhood of Brookwood (1920) and the elite neighborhood of Forest Hills (1924) along the city's outer limits. While the streetcar lines remained an important connection to the city center as well as to Wrightsville Beach, by the 1920s a shift toward the automobile had begun and by 1939 trolley service in Wilmington had stopped. The advent of the automobile extended the geographic limits of suburban development even farther and Brookwood and Forest Hills reflected the growing national trend toward "naturalistically platted suburbs geared to the automobile as well as the streetcar." [See: Streetcar Suburbs, 1888 to 1928 and Early Automobile Suburbs, 1908 to 1945

On March 18, 1920, the Brookwood Development Corporation purchased a 53.12-acre wooded tract just to the east of the city limits that abutted Carolina Place to the west, Burnt Mill Creek to the south and west, Market Street to the north, and land that would later become Forest Hills to the east. Though not directly along the streetcar route, it was located just five blocks east of the Seventeenth Street line, which provided access to downtown Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. Under the direction of Wilmington real estate developer Oliver T. Wallace, president of the Brookwood Development Company, the initial phase of the development—which excluded a central tract that the company did not acquire until 1927—was subdivided in October 1920.

Designed to appeal to the budgets of middle-class homeowners, Brookwood was laid out on a grid, which allowed for a more efficient use of the land than curvilinear subdivisions like the adjacent Forest Hills development. It contained moderately sized lots, consistent setbacks, and tree-lined streets. While the land along Burnt Mill Creek, on the western border of the development, was not suitable for building, it proved a valuable asset in the success of the neighborhood. The land became Brookwood Park (later renamed Wallace Park), an area that would have been viewed as a safe place for children to play, thus instrumental in the marketing of the development to young families. Reflecting its appeal to the city's professional class, most of Brookwood's first residents were salesmen, clerks, and small business owners, with a few skilled professionals (including one lawyer and two dentists). The residential patterns also illustrate the importance of the railroad in Wilmington during this period, as more than 28 percent of the neighborhood's original residents worked for the Atlantic Coast Railroad, which had its headquarters in Wilmington and was one of the city's largest employers.

To make the area more appealing to homebuyers, residents and investors appealed to the city commission to extend city services to the neighborhood despite its location just east of the city limits. In January 1922, Brookwood was tied into the city's water system, though the city commission determined that residents would "be charged an amount double that charged residents of the city for water," after an initial payment of $25. To further boost sales, the Brookwood Realty Corporation—an arm of the Brookwood Development Corporation led by Wallace and his business partner Richard L. Player (who would build his own home at 2322 Metts Avenue)—built at least one speculative home for sale. On July 10, 1922 agents from the L. W. Moore Real Estate and Insurance Agency, whose proprietor Lloyd W. Moore was a principal owner in the Brookwood development, showed more than 300 "delighted visitors" through the home, and reported that people "were loud in their praise of the beautiful situation, on top of the hill overlooking Market Street." Moore had made sure that the brick home was "furnished top to bottom, with everything brand new," a practice that was new to Wilmington, even featuring minute details like "electric curling tongs" for ladies' hair.

The developers' efforts seemed to pay off. On May 26, 1923, "an enormous crowd" attended an auction held in the subdivision. Seventeen lots were sold for approximately $18,000, though the Wilmington Star indicated that prices per front foot had dropped slightly since the neighborhood's formation, down to $12.50 to $40 depending on location. Among purchasers at this auction were David D. Sloan, Albert Solomon, Fred Tucker, Frank King (2306 Market), Martin Schnibben (2308 Market), Mrs. R. F. Barker, John Innas, R. G. Grady, Mrs. E. M. Parker, William Struthers Jr., Robert B. Bell (117 Keaton), M. J. Cowell, H. T. Baker, Mrs. Tille Rivenbark, Mrs. J. Henry, E. D. Williams, and M. M. Riley Jr. A number of the new owners intended to begin building immediately, the paper reported, adding to the seven homes already completed in the development. However, the city directories indicate that these individuals were not necessarily the initial occupants.

In August 1925, the Brookwood Realty Corporation inquired if the city would be interested in a five-acre strip of land along Burnt Mill Creek for the use of "persons living in that section of the city." L. W. Moore, Brookwood treasurer, officially offered the city commission the property in September, explaining that his associates were happy to donate the land for public use "realizing the necessity of a park in this particular section for the benefit of the coming generation and further realizing that the city is building in that direction." This land along the creek was not ideal for development, and the realty corporation would likely have believed that a park would also help promote sales. According to a February 1927 Wilmington Dispatch article, the city did acquire the park and intended to undertake improvements on the land, including clearing underbrush and other minor changes, which still had not been completed by October 1929. Initially called Brookwood Park, the park would be named Wallace Park in the late 1940s in honor of Oliver T. Wallace, president of the Brookwood development.

Another big boost for the neighborhood came in 1927, when Wallace was able to "purchase from Mrs. Kenan her dower interest in the property which had held up the development of Brookwood." This land which included both sides of what would become Brookwood Avenue and all of the land south of Grady Avenue allowed for the construction of Brookwood Avenue, which ran north to south down the center of the development, linking Metts Avenue and Market Street. In July, an advertisement in the Wilmington News-Dispatch listed the development's many benefits, which included being close to the streetcar line, the inclusion of the park, convenient access to the city's "city car" and bus lines, and proximity to Forest Hills School, which had opened in the fall of 1926. "Brookwood has all modern improvements," it boasted, "reached without a turn or a curve-Straight out Market Street." On November 6, 1927 the Wilmington Star reported that Brookwood Avenue would open within a few days explaining that the street would provide residents of the neighborhood access to Forest Hills School. Wallace reported that he hoped to soon open the street through to Metts Avenue, "thus saving more than a mile distance and relieving the congestion east and west on Market Street."

Empty lots were priced between $1,250 and $1,500 for corner lots. The Brookwood group would finance purchases with 10 percent down with payments of $20 a month. According to an advertisement from May 1928, an improved lot—in this case a "modern, colonial style brick house, hardwood floors throughout, large bedrooms, sun-parlor, basement, etc." on a 75-by-155-foot lot—could be purchased for $9,500, with a $1,000 down payment. Encouraging interested homebuyers to act quickly, the ad boasted that one of two nearly complete homes had already been sold the week before, "leaving the Brookwood Realty Corporation with only one house for sale."

Sales and construction were affected by the onset of the Depression in 1929, though development continued, with the majority of homes (104 of the 146 homes) in the neighborhood being constructed in the 1930s and 1940s. After Wallace's death in 1930, other real estate agents continued to sell lots and speculatively built homes in Brookwood. On September 26, 1935, the Moore-Fonvielle Realty Company—co-owned by Lloyd W. Moore, who had been involved in the development since its inception—announced "another Moore-Fonvielle Triumph" with the completion of an "attractive" Dutch Colonial Revival-styled home at 112 Keaton Avenue, which they were opening to the public. The ad boasted that the home had been completely furnished by the Sutton-Council Furniture Company, "with furniture artistically arranged by Miss Julia Post and Mrs. Robert E. Tapp [and] draperies and curtains furnished by Belk-Williams." They even had a car in the driveway courtesy of Howell Motor Company.

An ad from the Wilmington News in April 1947 indicates that speculative homes in the post-World War II era were becoming more understated. The small, Minimal Traditional-style, brick-veneered home at 211 Borden Avenue was priced at $8,700 and offered "large bedrooms with extra deep closets, a large living room with fireplace, large kitchen and dinette, built in cabinets, bath (tub and shower), linen closet, inlaid linoleum and beautiful hardwood floors, [and] automatic furnace heat." Sold by the real estate agent H. G. Bryant, it boasted that it was "the only lot on Borden Avenue with a 70 foot front" and noted that the attic was large enough for two rooms to be added to the home.

The advertising appears to have been successful as construction in Brookwood continued at a steady pace through the late 1940s with 136 homes constructed by 1950. Construction continued at a slower pace with four additional homes constructed by 1964 and five homes built between 1978 and 1994.

Immediately following World War II, the demand for additional housing resulted in several creative solutions for prefabricated housing, including the Lustron House. The Lustron Corporation was organized by Carl Strandlund, in 1947, in a former warplane manufacturing plant in Columbus, Ohio. Production began on enameled steel building components that could be assembled into a house in as little as two weeks from start to finish. In just two short years, from 1948 to 1950, Lustron houses were constructed throughout the country, occasionally in neighborhoods made up entirely of Lustron houses. The Brookwood Historic District includes a single Lustron House, the c. 1950 James and Margaret G. Tidier House (201 Brookwood Avenue). While it is non-contributing due to the replacement of its roof and a large addition constructed at the rear of the house, it retains its original enameled panel exterior, steel casement windows, and inset porch supported by a geometric metal pole.

By the early 1950s, Brookwood was nearly built out. Additionally, the narrow width of lots within the Brookwood neighborhood would not accommodate Ranch homes unless they were constructed with their narrow dimension facing the street. Thus the neighborhood has fewer Ranch houses than other areas where development continued through mid-century. However, from 1941 to 1964, eight Ranch homes were constructed in Brookwood, with several additional Ranch homes built in the 1970s. The c. 1950 Frederick H. and Jennie S. Orrell House (15 Borden Avenue) is typical of the style with a low-sloped hipped roof with deep eaves, multiple projecting hip-roofed wings, two-over-two horizontal-pane wood-sash windows, and an attached carport. Simpler in form, the c. 1957 Leslie G. and Edna E. Gore House (215 Keaton Avenue) is rectangular in form and five bays wide with a side-gabled roof. It has a brick veneer, deep eaves, wide brick chimney, and two-over-two horizontal-pane wood-sash windows. The c. 1964 Stanley C. and Katherine Way Zatkiewicz House (2304 Market Street), the last house to be constructed during the period of significance, is a one-story, front-gabled Ranch house with a brick veneer, two-over-three horizontal-pane wood-sash windows, and a solid wood door with three horizontal lights sheltered by a front-gabled porch supported by decorative metal posts.

Due to the popularity of the automobile in the early twentieth century, garages are common in the district. The earliest garages in the district, constructed concurrent with the Colonial Revival- and Craftsman-style houses are generally detailed to match the house with matching materials. The c. 1928 garage for the Martin and Esther Schnibben House (2308 Market Street) has a brick veneer and replacement metal roof, matching the Colonial Revival-style house, with original sliding batten doors and a single six-over-six wood-sash window. The c. 1928 garage that accompanies the Will R. and Louise C. Taylor House (222 Brookwood Avenue) echoes the Craftsman-style detailing of the house with a brick exterior, exposed rafter tails, and batten doors. The c. 1933 garage at the Marshall F. Camey House (121 Brookwood Avenue) has a steeply pitched, front-gabled roof that mimics the Tudor Revival-style details of the house, though it is of frame construction rather than brick.

By the 1950s, a trend toward the construction of two-story garage apartments emerged. The c. 1957 garage apartment at the Leslie G. and Edna E. Gore House (215 Keaton Avenue) is typical for garage apartments in the district with two garage bays flanking a central entrance to the second floor. The apartment has paired six-over-six windows and an inset screened porch. Other garage apartments were constructed well after the construction of the house itself and signaled the demand for housing in the post-World War II era. The two story garage apartment at the c. 1931 Carl B. and Mary Rehder House (117 Keaton Avenue) was constructed in the 1950s with a concrete-block first floor garage and frame apartment above. Garages, sheds, and garage apartments continued to be constructed in the district throughout the second half of the twentieth century.

Building construction in the Brookwood Historic District continued after the period of significance with eight additional houses erected between 1978 and 2009, all on undeveloped lots within the district. The Ranch form remained popular through the 1970s, but by the 1980s traditional, one-and-a-half- and two-story forms were the norm, most with Colonial Revival- and Neotraditional-style details.

Adapted from Heather Wagner Slane and Sunny Townes Stewart, HMW Preservation, Brookwood Historic District, New Hanover County, NC, 2014, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Brookwood Historic District Map

Street Names
Borden Avenue • Brookwood Avenue • Carlton Avenue • Grady Avenue • Keaton Avenue • Market Street • Metts Avenue

**Information is curated from a variety of sources and, while deemed reliable, is not guaranteed.
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