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Vanguard Park Historic District


The Vanguard Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.

Vanguard Park Historic District is a suburban neighborhood located east of Raleigh's Five Points intersection. Farmland surrounded Five Points until the extension of an electric streetcar line in 1912 that spurred residential development in the northwest edge of the city. Building trends in the Vanguard Park Historic District from the period circa 1920 through 1945 are similar to those in the neighboring Bloomsbury Historic District and Hayes Barton Historic District. However, Vanguard Park Historic District is distinguished by its concentration of post-World War II housing that makes up approximately one-third of its resources. The Vanguard Park Historic District's post-war housing is significant because it illustrates local construction trends that were driven by the availability of federal mortgage loan programs.

The Vanguard Park Historic District's period of significance begins circa 1920, the date of its earliest houses, and ends in 1952. Within this period three major waves of construction are evident. The first began around 1920 a few years after the 1917 platting of the Vanguard Park subdivision. It was simultaneous with initial construction in the other Five Points neighborhoods and lasted until 1929, the onset of the national depression. During this period, modest Craftsman houses in bungalow, front-gable and side-gable forms were constructed, as well as a few Dutch Colonial Revival and Spanish Eclectic dwellings. The second wave came in the recovery era, 1937 through 1941, as Raleigh rallied from the Depression. Period Cottages and Minimal Traditional houses were built during this time. The third, final and largest wave lasted from 1945 through the mid-1950s and was a result of the end of World War II, the subsequent baby boom, and new federal programs that promoted home ownership. With the exception of a few Colonial Revival houses, the entirety of these third wave dwellings are simple one or one-and-a-half story Minimal Traditional houses. These small, pared-down houses could be constructed quickly and inexpensively and were in great demand from ex-soldiers and their growing families with access to Veteran's Administration Federal Housing Administration mortgages.

The Vanguard Park Historic District meets criterion for listing on the National Register of Historic Places for architecture, as a collection of intact and representative examples of residential buildings designed in the nationally popular architectural styles from circa 1920 through 1952. Infill housing continued to be constructed after 1952, with the latest houses dating from circa 1990, however, the houses from this period are not a sizable portion of the Vanguard Park Historic District's buildings and are not of exceptional significance. Therefore the period of significance ends fifty years ago.

Historical Background

The history of the twentieth century platting of the Vanguard Park Historic District begins in 1916 with the subdivision of eighteen building lots south of Oxford Road, and north of a property line that began at the south edge of what today is called Avon Drive. The subdivision's southern boundary paralleled Whitaker Mill Road. The eastern boundary was Whitaker Drive, known today as Pine Drive. The subdivision's western boundary was an unidentified creek west of Carroll Drive. The subdivision was called Villa Park and was surveyed by J.B. Bray of the Raleigh Engineering and Construction Company. The subdivision created Carroll, Reaves and Pine Drives and the stretch of Oxford Road from Whitaker Drive (today known as Pine Drive) to its dead end at a creek west of Carroll Drive. Building lots ranged in size from one-third of an acre to three acres. The large lots of Villa Park would be resubdivided with smaller building lots in 1936. Although the street pattern remains, no buildings from the 1916 subdivision are present.

The Vanguard Park neighborhood was surveyed and platted in 1917 by C.L. Mann, a local land surveyor who also platted Five Point's Bloomsbury and Hayes Barton neighborhoods.[1] The subdivision created the 100 and 200 blocks of Hudson Street, McCarthy Street and Carroll Drive.[2] Sixty-four lots were created north of Whitaker Mill Road, south of the Villa Park and White Oak Forest subdivisions, east of the Bloomsbury subdivision, and west of the current Pine Drive, labeled Whitaker Home Drive on the plat map. The street name referenced the Wake County Home, a public facility for the aged and infirm, located on a forty-acre tract at the northeast corner of Whitaker Mill and Whitaker Home roads. Lots were approximately one third of an acre, with the exception of two large lots on either side of Reaves Drive, and a one and one quarter-acre lot in the center of the block bounded by the subdivision's northern boundary, McCarthy and Hudson streets and Carroll Drive. The rectangular lot to the east of Reaves Drive was five and three-quarter acres. The ten-acre parcel west of Reaves was labeled "Vanguard Farm." These large lots were re-subdivided into smaller building lots in 1924. At this time Hudson Street was extended from Carroll Drive to Pine Drive.

The White Oak Forest subdivision is located northwest of the Vanguard Park subdivision. The recorded plat of the White Oak Forest subdivision dates from 1925. The plat was prepared by civil engineer R.G. Ball. However, a White Oak Forest subdivision is marked on the 1917 Vanguard Park subdivision plat. It is unknown if Ball's 1925 map represents a replatting of the area, or if a period of time lapsed between the creation of the subdivision and its recording. White Oak Forest was comprised of sixty-nine, twenty-five-by-one-hundred-and fifty foot building lots. Lots were laid out on the east side of White Oak Road and on a loop road called Barbee Place, which would be renamed Alexander Road at a later unknown date prior to 1942. Real estate records reveal that buyers purchased more than one lot on which to construct their new home.

By the 1930s, the residential neighborhoods east of Raleigh's Five Points intersection were a desirable place for Raleigh's white middle-class to live. In 1936, the large lots of the eastern half of the district's earliest subdivision, Villa Park, were replatted into smaller lots more in keeping with the residential development in the immediate vicinity. The smaller building lots enabled developers to maximize the land's development potential. The large lots were replatted by civil engineer L.E. Wooten into small, thirty-by-one-hundred-and fifty-foot parcels. At this time, Pine Drive was renamed Avon Drive. The large lots in the western portion of the original Villa Park subdivision were not replatted. Sanborn maps from the late 1940s reveal the presence of single family dwellings and dependencies on these large lots, which remained through the 1980s.[3] With the 1936 Villa Park Subdivision, the Vanguard Park Historic District street infrastructure and lot pattern was complete.

Architectural Styles

The period between the end of World War I in 1917 and the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929, was one of relative economic stability in Raleigh. This stability was reflected in the number of new homes built for the middle class during this period. Construction in the Vanguard Park subdivision occurred contemporaneously with construction in neighboring Five Points residential subdivisions such as Hayes Barton (1920), Bloomsbury (1914) and Roanoke Park (1922). The Five Points area of the city was marketed by developers as a desirable place for upper and middle-class white residents because of its location outside the city's urban core, which by the early twentieth century had a reputation of being dirty, congested and unhealthy.

Suburban developments were lauded as a clean alternative to city life where people of similar racial and economic backgrounds could reside. Suburban street patterns, lot layout and amenities such as landscaping and parks was distinctly different from grid-pattern streets found in Raleigh's downtown. Housing stock was new and rendered in the most up-to-date styles. Purchasers had the opportunity to select a house style and plan that suited their taste and budget. Proximity to public transportation was also selling point as North Carolina Power and Light's (CP &L) Glenwood Avenue streetcar line served the Five Points area.

Approximately forty Craftsman style houses, in both bungalow and front gable-forms, were built in the Vanguard Park Historic District between circa 1920 and 1929. Surviving houses dating from this first wave of construction are concentrated in the southern and western region of the district on Whitaker Mill Road, the 100 and 200 blocks of Hudson Street, Carroll Drive and McCarthy Street. Although 1920s era dwellings are interspersed with later housing stock on every street of the district with the exception of Avon and Pine Avenues.

With the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent national economic depression, building permits in Raleigh declined. In 1930, 181 building permits were issued. In 1931, only fifty-one were issued, and by 1932 the number was down to thirty-four. However, building in the district continued at a limited pace as evidenced by the Vanguard Park Historic District's nine dwellings constructed between 1930 and 1937. Houses such as 109 Hudson Street and 211 East Whitaker Mil Road are essentially pared down versions of the Craftsman style, which by the 1930s was waning in popularity.

A new style, the Period Cottage, which had its roots in the English Tudor Revival, was popularized during the 1930s. Defining architectural characteristics of Period Cottages include steeply-pitched, front-gable wings or entry bays, arched entryways, brick or stone front facade chimneys, half-timbering in the gables, and casement or diamond pane windows. Unlike the distinct clusters of 1920s Craftsman and Bungalow style housing, Period Cottages are concentrated in the southern part of the district interspersed with other housing types within the boundaries of the original Vanguard Park plat. The Vanguard Park Historic District's 1930-1937 Period Cottages are found at 212 Hudson Street, 2013 McCarthy Street, 2213 Reaves Drive and 117 East Whitaker Mill Road.

Raleigh's recovery from the national depression between the years 1937 and 1941 is reflected in the number of housing starts recorded during this time. The city issued an average of 241 permits each year between 1937 and 1941.[4] Approximately twenty-six circa 1940 buildings are found in the Vanguard Park Historic District. Circa 1940 houses are one and two stories and are often sheathed in original asbestos shingles and decorated with stripped-down Colonial Revival elements such as door surrounds or pedimented entry porches. This style is known as the Minimal Traditional and it continued to be popular after World War II. The Vanguard Park Historic District's recovery era Minimal Traditional houses are clustered on the 300 block of Hudson Street and on the east side of the 2000 block and the 2100 blocks of Reaves Drive, the area that was re-subdivided into smaller building lots in 1936.

Four Colonial Revival houses are also in the Vanguard Park Historic District. Colonial Revival architecture features symmetrical facades, classically inspired porches or entries, six-over-six or eight-over-eight window sash, and formal floor plans. In the South in particular, the style came to symbolize the social order of the antebellum era and as such was a common architectural choice in racially and economically segregated early-twentieth century suburbs. The style was a popular one in Raleigh's early-twentieth century subdivisions, however, it was employed with less frequency in the 1930s and 1940s when tough economic times made less expensive one-story houses the norm. Colonial Revival houses in the Vanguard Park Historic District are late examples, all constructed circa 1945. The district's best Colonial Revival house is 2024 White Oak Road, an asymmetrical, two-story, three-bay, side-gable brick house with one-story side wings, and an arched entry surround with fluted pilasters that shelters a paneled, recessed entry. The house sits on a landscaped one-acre lot. Frame Colonial Revival dwellings are 2314, 2316 and 2320 Oxford Road. These houses are two-story, side-gable, dwellings with six-over-six and eight-over-eight window sash and classically inspired entry surrounds.

During World War II, few homes were built in Raleigh. Records show that only forty-one building permits were issued citywide in 1944. Tax records and city directories indicate that not a single dwelling was erected in the Vanguard Park Historic District between 1940 and 1944. However, in the years immediately after the war, Raleigh was part of a nationwide boom in housing construction spurred by soldiers returning from the war and the advent of the federal Veterans' Administration (VA) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage loan programs. In 1946, 554 permits were issued in Raleigh and in 1950 the city issued 989 permits. This boom represents the district's third and final wave of construction and expanded the district eastward to its Pine Avenue boundary.

Between 1940 and 1960, almost one-quarter of new houses in the nation were constructed using the federal FHA or the VA loan programs. These programs made home ownership a possibility for a large segment of the U.S. population that had previously been shut out of the housing market. Prior to the advent of FHA and VA loans, mortgage loans had generally been short term (five years was typical), which resulted in large monthly payments. A required fifty-percent down payment further limited home ownership to the wealthy classes. In contrast, FHA offered thirty-year mortgages with only ten percent down. The VA package did not require a down payment. Once extended terms and low down payments became the industry standard, home ownership increased dramatically throughout the nation.[5]

In addition to the rising number of homeowners, the FHA and VA programs also influenced suburban design standards and patterns of development. Federal loan programs used the racial segregated, early twentieth century, suburban model already established in Raleigh's Five Points area as the ideal. The FHA's Underwriting Manual stated that urban neighborhoods should be avoided because they "have a tendency to exhibit a gradual decline in quality." Even if only a few houses in a development might be sold using FHA loans, the whole development had to meet FHA standards in order to sell one house in this manner. The Manual encouraged developers to be involved with a project from the initial plat through the sale of completed dwellings. Private individual builders were not encouraged.[6] A total of forty-nine houses were built in the period 1945 and 1952, the end of the Vanguard Park Historic District's period of significance. Given the period of construction, it is likely that at least some of these dwellings were constructed using the federal VA and FHA programs, particularly the houses on Pine Drive, all built circa 1950 by the Connell Realty and Mortgage Company.[7]

The Vanguard Park Historic District's post-World War II housing is built in the Minimal Traditional style; one or one-and-a-half-story front or side-gable houses or gable-and-wing houses with no stylistic references. These dwellings are concentrated on the 300 block of Hudson Street, Reaves Drive, where nine examples are interspersed with recovery era and post-1952 housing, and Pine Drive. The 1952 Raleigh City Directory lists Elzie Connell, a salesman for Connell Realty, as living at 2117 Pine Drive. Infill examples of contributing post-war dwellings are found on Alexander Road, Avon Drive, McCarthy Street and East Whitaker Mill Road.

The only church located within the Vanguard Park Historic District's boundaries is the North Vanguard Presbyterian Church (301 East Whitaker Mill Road), today called Westminster Presbyterian Church. The church was founded in 1917 as an outpost congregation of the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh. First Presbyterian Church saw a need for services in the city's north end. The first services were held at the Wake County Home. As the congregation grew, the need for a larger space led to the construction of the one-story brick Vanguard Chapel in 1921. Reverend W.B. Sullivan, assistant minister of First Presbyterian Church, led the congregation. In 1923, the church received its own charter as North Vanguard Presbyterian Church. The Reverend Coyote Hunter served as the first full-time pastor. A Craftsman manse was constructed for him on church property behind the chapel that same year.

By the late 1940s, a larger worship space was needed. Under the leadership of Reverend Don Carson a new Gothic Revival brick sanctuary was built east of the chapel in 1948. At this time, the church's name was changed to Westminster Presbyterian Church. In 1954, when a new manse was built on Cooleemee Drive, the existing manse was moved to the lot at 227 Hudson Street and sold to a private owner. This cleared the rear portion of the lot for construction of the Education Building in 1961. The two-story brick building was named after C.C. Mangum, one of the church's first elders. Since 1961, the chapel, sanctuary and Educational Building have been connected through a series of building campaigns. In 1968, a freestanding brick and concrete bell tower was constructed on the southwest corner of the lot. Westminster Church continues to draw residents from the district as well as the surrounding community.

Employment Patterns

Residents of the Vanguard Park Historic District were employed in a wide range of jobs including government, sales and management, professional capacities such as dentists, pharmacists, professors, and accountants and in other middle-class jobs such as barbers, bus drivers, police officers and grocers. Many residents went to work downtown in Raleigh's retail core on Fayetteville Street where employers such as such as the Boylan-Pearce Department Store were located. City, state and federal employees also went to work in downtown Raleigh. Another center of employment was the railroad and warehouse district (Depot Historic District, National Register listed, 2002), where Dillon Supply Company and Firestone Tire and Rubber were located, approximately one-and-a-half miles south of the Vanguard Park Historic District. Pine State Creamery on Glenwood Avenue employed several residents of this district. Although the Wake County Home was located adjacent to the district at the northeast corner of East Whitaker Mill Road and Pine Drive, there is no evidence from the city directories that Vanguard Park residents were employed there.

It is not possible to determine the extent and type of women's employment from the city directories. Jobs are listed for a few female residents, such as Ruth Gerald, a saleswoman for the Boylan-Pearce Department Store who resided apparently alone at 2208 Alexander Road or Viola Beachman, a nurse who lived at 321 Hudson Street. However, many listings have no reference to female employment or the occupation is listed as "widow."

Two of Raleigh's three railroad companies are listed as employers in the 1925-1957 city directories, the Norfolk and Southern, and the Seaboard Air Line. According to the city directories the Southern Railroad did not employ any residents of Vanguard Park, although the line did employ residents of the adjacent Roanoke Park Historic District. Railroad facilities were clustered around the north/south rail corridor that bisected the city. The Seaboard Air Line's massive roundhouse, passenger depot and offices were located southeast of the district around Halifax Street where the Logan Trading Company garden store is today.[8] In 1937, Hubert Riddle, Seaboard Air Line roundhouse foreman resided at the Craftsman style house at 2009 McCarthy Street. The district's Norfolk and Southern Railroad employees could have traveled Glenwood Avenue approximately one-mile south to Jones Street, the location of the railroad's freight depot.

The Norfolk and Southern Railroad and the Seaboard Air Line employed a total fifteen engineers, conductors, office clerks, and helpers and mechanics in the historic district between 1925 and 1957. The largest concentration of railroad employees is found on Hudson Street, but railroad workers are also found in groups on McCarthy Street and East Whitaker Mill Road. While this number is significant, it does not approach the number of railroad workers who lived in the Roanoke Park Historic District. Additionally, Vanguard Park residents appeared to be primarily employed in white collar office jobs and as conductors and engineers, while brakeman, flagman, fireman and mechanics resided in Roanoke Park as well as in the African-American Smokey Hollow community that was west of Peace Street and was completely demolished in the 1960s.

Transportation

At least in the early years, the Five Points neighborhoods were connected to other parts of the city by the CP&L streetcar line, which was extended along Glenwood Avenue in 1912.[9] In 1925, 5,210 automobiles were registered in Raleigh and the city's population was approximately 25,000.[10] Thus, as many as one in five of Raleigh's residents may have owned a vehicle. Given the concentration of wealth in the city's suburbs, it is likely that car ownership was concentrated there.

The extent of streetcar ridership is unknown. What is known is that CP&L ended streetcar service in 1933.[11] The end of service in no way impacted the construction in Five Points, as waves of construction continued through mid-1950s. While the streetcar line may have been a factor in the initial development of the Five Points neighborhoods, clearly it had competition from the automobile from the beginning. A 1920s advertising poster for the Roanoke Park subdivision promotes the benefits of home ownership and the neighborhood's attractive setting, but makes no mention of its proximity to the streetcar line suggesting that as early as the 1920s a personal vehicle was the preferred mode of transpiration for Five Point's middle class.

The number of garages built in the Vanguard Park Historic District supports this hypothesis. Sanborn maps from the late 1940s show that about half of the properties in the Vanguard Park Historic District had rear yard buildings that could have been garages. The Vanguard Park Historic District's best-preserved 1920s garage stands behind 124 Hudson Street. The one-bay, hipped roof, brick garage is accessed by concrete wheel beds that lead from the road. The number of garages in the district, the number of automobiles registered in the city, accounts from local residents, and the ultimate closure of the streetcar line in 1933 suggest that perhaps the line served more as a mode of transportation for domestic workers into the Five Points area, rather than as the primary mode of transport for the residents themselves. Also, given the proximity of the Vanguard Park Historic District to employment centers it is possible that some residents walked to work.

Endnotes

[1]Wyatt and Woodard, "Bloomsbury," 8.4.

[2]Wake County plat map 1917, 99.

[3]Mike Parker, interview. Linda Harris Edmisten, interview.

[4]Ross, 32.

[5]Wyatt, "Charlotte," 14-15.

[6]Wyatt, "Charlotte," 14-15.

[7]Survey file, 1905-2151 Pine Avenue.

[8]The Seaboard Air Line Roundhouse was demolished in the late 1960s.

[9]Wyatt and Woodard, "Historic and Architectural Resources of the Five Points Neighborhoods, Raleigh, Wake County, 1913-1952" E.12.

[10]Ross, 23.

[11]Wyatt and Woodard, "Historic and Architectural Resources of the Five Points Neighborhoods, Raleigh, Wake County, 1913-1952" E.13.

References

Barnes, James. Elder of Westminster Presbyterian Church. Interview with author, August 2002.

Bishir, Catherine. W. and Lawrence S. Earley, eds. Early Twentieth Century Suburbs in North Carolina. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1985.

Bishir, Catherine. W., Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Lounsbury, and Ernest H. Wood III. Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building. Chapel Hill and London, The University of North Carolina Press. 1990.

Edmisten, Linda Harris. Interview with author, August 2002.

Harris, Linda and Mary Ann Lee. An Architectural and Historical Inventory of Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh: Raleigh City Planning Department, 1978.

"Historical Highlights of Westminster Presbyterian Church." Brochure produced by Westminster Presbyterian Church. In survey file.

Kulikowski, Jennifer A. and Kenneth E. Peters. Historic Raleigh. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2002.

Little, M. Ruth. "Depot Historic District." National Register Nomination Form, 2002. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Maps by Raleigh City Planning Commission, 1923 and 1942. Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Map, 1928. Located at the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Search Room, Raleigh, North Carolina.

McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

Parker, Mike, Interview with author, August 31, 2002.

Plat maps for Vanguard Park, (book 1915, page 99), Vanguard Property (book 1924, page 20), Villa Park 1916 (book 1916 page 29), Villa Park 1936 (book 1935, page 38) and White Oak Forest (book 1924, page 79). Located at the Wake County Register of Deeds Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Raleigh City Directories. Located at the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, State Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Roanoke Park marketing poster, Private Collection of Dan Becker, Raleigh

Ross, Helen P. "Raleigh Comprehensive Architectural Survey, Final Report." 1992. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Sanborn Maps. Located at the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Search Room, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Simmons-Henry, Linda and Linda Harris Edmisten. Culture Town, Life in Raleigh's African-American Communities. Raleigh, NC : Raleigh Historic Districts Commission, Incorporated.

Survey files for Roanoke Park, Vanguard Park, Georgetown, Hayes Barton and Bloomsbury. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Wake County Home Local Landmark Designation Report. On file at Wake County Planning Department.

Waugh, Elizabeth Culbertson. North Carolina's Capital, Raleigh. Raleigh: Junior League of Raleigh and The Raleigh Historic Sites Commission, 1967, 1992.

Wyatt, Sherry Joines. Charlotte Modernism Survey Report. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Wyatt, Sherry Joines and Sarah A. Woodard. "Hayes Barton Historic District" National Register Nomination Form, 2002. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Wyatt, Sherry Joines and Sarah A. Woodard. "Bloomsbury Historic District" National Register Nomination Form, 2002. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.

Wyatt, Sherry Joines and Sarah A. Woodard. "Historical and Architectural Resources of the Five Points Neighborhoods, Raleigh, Wake County, 1913-1952." Multiple Properties Documentation Form, 2001. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.

† Ellen Turcon and April Montgomery, Circa Inc., Vanguard Park Historic District, Wake County, NC, nomination document, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Vanguard Park Historic District Map

Street Names
Alexander Road • Avon Drive • Carroll Drive • Hudson Street • McCarthy Street • Oxford Road • Pine Drive • Reaves Drive • Whitaker Mill Road East • Whitaker Mill Road West • White Oak Road

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