Photo: Reynolda House Museum of American Art, circa 1914-1917. Located on 2250 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. Wikipedia username: Mcintern2012, [cc-1.0, public domain] 2012, public domain, accessed December, 2021.
The Reynoldstown 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. [‡]
Reynoldstown (Cameron Park) slopes to the southwest towards the small creek named Falling Branch. The Reynoldstown neighborhood is distinctive for its alternating pattern of 1920s and 1940s houses that reflect the two stages of its development. Reynoldstown was a planned residential development of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJR). Approximately one-half mile north of I-40 business and a mile east of US 52, it is a grid street neighborhood of about ten blocks between East Eighth and East Tenth streets. Houses generally face the six north-south streets, which are, from west to east, Jackson, Graham, Gray, Cameron, Rich, and Camel avenues. The Reynoldstown Historic District is a pleasant, mostly single-family neighborhood with streets of well-designed houses and yards, both large and small, many with the city's characteristic stone walls and steps. Together they create a fluid and harmonious area despite reduced maintenance in recent years.
The Reynoldstown neighborhood is distinguished from its surroundings on all sides by changes in land use and by a documented pattern of historic development. To the north above Tenth Street are residences located in an area that was not part of the Reynolds Company's development, many of them large 1980s houses. To the east is an unrelated 1950s development on curving Ferrell Avenue, a deviation from the grid plan of Reynoldstown. A small tributary of Brushy Fork Creek, identified as Falling Branch on early maps, was a strong influence on the initial development of the neighborhood, forming a bridged entrance and natural boundary on the south and west. South of the stream is unassociated land and the four-lane New Walkertown Road, and to the west beyond the trees of Falling Branch is undeveloped land, today a city recreation area. The south end of Jackson Avenue was still unopened on the 1949 Sanborn Map.
The neighborhood was developed initially in 1919 and 1920, made up of frame bungalows with large side yards. A major ownership change in 1938 created an alternating pattern of later houses between the bungalows. The Reynoldstown Historic District contains representative and well-detailed one and one-and-half-story frame bungalows, a few well-designed Tudor Revival and Colonial Revival style houses, and several small minimal traditional houses. The Reynoldstown Historic District is heavily dominated by single-family residences and is residential only; a store at the south edge was demolished decades ago.
The Reynoldstown Historic District contains a total of 222 resources. It is wholly residential in character, containing 194 residences of which only one, a four-unit apartment house, is not a house. Of the residences, 174 are contributing and twenty are noncontributing. There are twenty-seven outbuildings; nine of these are contributing and eighteen are noncontributing, and one contributing bridge of statewide significance.
The lot pattern is fairly consistent throughout Reynoldstown. Houses are oriented towards the north-south streets, called avenues. For the most part, the more substantial houses are found along the higher eastern streets and the smaller houses, built closer together, are on Jackson and Graham avenues. The westernmost streets are lower, closer to the stream and similar in topography to the "bottoms" where many of the city's African Americans lived. The lowest was the street designated for Reynolds's black workers, whereas the higher streets to the east were for white employees. Most lots are fifty feet wide, with several exceptions; lots on Gray Avenue are wider, with a width of sixty feet. Lots on the west side of Cameron Avenue and east side of Rich Avenue are deeper than others in the neighborhood. Apparently because the block of Ninth Street between Jackson Avenue and Graham Avenue was never opened, in 1972 it was parceled into four lots with the small adjoining lot to the north or south added to each corner property.
The earliest buildings in the Reynoldstown Historic District date from about 1920. On every street and every block in the district there are houses of this period. All are of frame construction. Most of these buildings are one-story bungalows, often with shingle siding or weatherboarded with shingled gable ends. These typically are side-gabled or cross-gabled buildings with false knee braces at the gable ends and exposed rafter ends at the eaves. A variety of wood porch supports, many on brick piers, are used to individualize these houses. Modern sidings cover many weatherboarded buildings in the district today, but often leave shingled gable ends exposed.
The popularity of the bungalow style was a result of widespread pattern books and popular magazines with a national distribution. Bungalows in many cities during this period were made from nationally available plans. One of these was the Minter Homes Company; it provided completely pre-cut packages of lumber and detailing to be assembled by local labor, and several of Reynoldstown's bungalows were Minter houses. A particularly fine example of a larger bungalow is at 812 Rich Avenue. It is a side-gabled bungalow with inset full-front porch supported by paired and shingled square wood posts on shingled bases. The house is three bays wide with a central entrance and a central false dormer above. While some similar houses are weatherboarded, this house is wood shingled with false knee braces at upper gable ends. This is a house provided by Minter Homes; there are several variations of this design in the neighborhood, and it is similar to houses in the Erlanger Mill Village [see Erlanger Mill Village Historic District], south of Winston-Salem in Lexington, North Carolina, although no documentation to date has identified Erlanger's as Minter houses. Other Reynoldstown examples include 851 and 918 Cameron Avenue, 820 and 828 Rich Avenue, and 833 and 851 Gray Avenue.
Even smaller bungalows were comfortable houses, well-proportioned and ornamented with porches and a "livable" flow to their floor plans. A typical house design from the first phase of Reynoldstown is a front-gabled bungalow with an inset porch within a slightly projecting front-gabled bay. These are generally supported by square wood posts, often paired, on brick piers with cast stone caps. Weatherboards or wood shingles, false knee braces, and exposed rafter ends are common details. A mostly unaltered example of this house design is at 829 Cameron Avenue. Other examples are at 857 Camel Avenue and 810 Gray Avenue. These are also believed to be Minter Homes houses due to their consistency of design, number, and similarity to drawings in a limited collection of Minter designs.
On Jackson and Graham avenues is a house type not found on other streets in the Reynoldstown Historic District. These are hipped with hipped-roofed central dormer and an inset corner porch. Most had narrow weatherboards and decorative sawn brackets at the eaves. The porches were supported by simple paired wood posts with minor stickwork decoration at the upper section between the two posts. Jackson Avenue was for black employees, and Graham Avenue, like the rest of Reynoldstown, was for white employees but with smaller houses than most. Jackson Avenue also differs from the neighborhood in its distribution of houses. Every lot on Jackson Avenue was developed in the 1920 first phase of houses with no vacant or side lots for yards. Because it had no lots available for the second phase of development, it alone retains its original pattern of houses and period of development.
The second phase of building in Reynoldstown was from 1937 to the mid-1940s. This was the result of the sale of the Reynolds Company's houses to private owners during this time. These privately-built houses represent the popular styles of that period and both large and modest houses. The change in the neighborhood's land ownership coincided with changes in the nation's domestic architecture as building materials and styles changed. The larger houses from this period are on Cameron Avenue, where a few well-developed examples of the Tudor Revival style were built. The house at 906 Cameron Avenue was built in 1938 by Dr. Ashley L. Cromwell, a successful African American dentist, as part of Reynoldstown's second phase of construction. It is a large two-story brick-veneered Tudor Revival with complex steep cross-gable roofs, large shed dormer to the south side and front-gabled dormer. The house has a brick-arched porch inset on one side and a prominent front brick chimney with stone and basketweave accents and basketweave cap.
More typical are the many minimal traditional houses built at this time. These are found on most streets with the exception of Jackson Avenue. These minimal traditional houses were in contrast to their stylish bungalow predecessors; generally they are "box-like" side-gabled frame houses with only a stoop or small entrance porch, different in scale from the bungalows. Several have a minor nod to the Tudor Revival style with a conspicuous, if simple, front chimney. In another neighborhood the minimal traditional houses might be considered intrusions; however, they are significant here as they reflect the change in ownership and the change in race in Reynoldstown's developmental history. A few Colonial Revival style houses also were built, including those at 800 and 914 Cameron Avenue, built in 1938 and 1941.
The 1938 survey plat created for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company's sale of lots shows the parceled area's extending south to the north side of today's Temple Street. The area east of Rich Avenue and south from Temple Street, including the southern part of Camel Avenue and today's Ferrell Street, was not parceled, but was labeled "Reserved." Reynolds built no houses on Temple Street or the south end of Camel Avenue. The Reynolds Company's burn pile was in this area near Camel Avenue. The three ca.1920 houses built by Reynolds at the south end of Rich Avenue had all been demolished by 1949 and later redeveloped.
Several houses were constructed in the neighborhood in the 1950s after the Reynoldstown Historic District's distinct second phase of development; they differ from the character of the district both historically and architecturally. The concentration on design that had been so much a part of pre-World War II architecture was not in evidence in the housing built after the war. The 1950s houses were built in the district in part because the post-war recovery and stimulation of the economy encouraged such construction, and also because parcels of land became available for development, especially in the southern part of the neighborhood. There was little construction in Reynoldstown after 1960. Building permit applications in the city's records concentrated on reroofing, repairs and construction of garages. Although the neighborhood was always maintained and most of the large houses well cared for, the neighborhood in the last two decades has suffered; it might now be re-emerging. Its significance as a cohesive district of historic architecture is recognized and it is trying to attract younger residents.
It is mostly garages which make up the collection of outbuildings in the Reynoldstown Historic District. Most are simple, therefore difficult to date. The typical example is a small, gable-front frame building covered with weatherboards. Of the twenty-seven outbuildings, only nine are contributing while eighteen are noncontributing. A few later houses have a built-in garage beneath the house.
Walls, Alleys, and the Bridge
The neighborhood is unified by traditional urban landscape elements of the early twentieth century, most notably its pedestrian-friendly features such as concrete sidewalks with grassy strips, granite curbing, and stone retaining walls. These are similar to the city's West End [see West End Historic District] and Washington Park [see Washington Park Historic District] neighborhoods. The only alleys in Reynoldstown are the two behind the lots on both sides of the 800 block of Cameron Avenue, each serving the back yards of two streets. They are shown on a 1917 map and on early tax maps, although they are not delineated on the 1921 or 1949 Sanborn maps. The east alley, between Cameron and Rich avenues, remains intact and in active use today, running from Eighth Street to Ninth Street. The western alley is between Cameron and Gray avenues. This alley is evident from the north end on Ninth Street, although not in use as an alley. The south end on Mt. Zion Place is a bank heavily overgrown with kudzu and volunteer undergrowth, unrecognizable as an alley.
The bridge on Cameron Avenue, south of Eighth Street and crossing Falling Branch, is of significance. It was built in 1920 by the Reynolds Company to serve as the main entrance to Reynoldstown and appears to be among the earliest extant examples of its construction type in the eastern United States.
The Reynoldstown Historic District has few intrusions. Over the years renovations have altered numerous dwellings, as cast metal "wrought iron" posts replaced original wood porch supports, vinyl windows replaced wooden, and asbestos, aluminum and vinyl sidings have been applied. Most of these altered houses, however, retain sufficient integrity to evoke their historic character and contribute to the architectural character of Reynoldstown. Three houses have been moved into the neighborhood and two have been built within the last few years; however, the designs of most are not inconsistent with the architectural styles of the district.
At the northeastern edge of Winston-Salem in 1919, the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company established the neighborhood today known as Reynoldstown. The development was started during World War I for the purpose of reducing the housing shortage in the fast-growing industrial city and was directed primarily towards Reynolds employees. In 1917 the company purchased about eighty-five acres known as the Old Cameron Lands, giving the area its original name as Cameron Park. Reynoldstown was never a "mill village" or industrial village in location or purpose, even though most residents were employed by Reynolds. The neighborhood was far from the tobacco factories and was designed to help tobacco workers become homeowners. When first occupied in about 1920, Reynoldstown's houses were primarily for white residents and adjoined the East Winston area that was also predominantly white. One of Reynoldstown's six streets, the street closest to the bottomlands, was for "the colored employees," while the four higher streets were exclusively for white people. That racial makeup changed in a dramatic shift. The 1931 construction of Atkins High School for Negroes only three blocks north had a profound effect on the neighborhood. Within a year, white residents moved away, black residents moved in, and the neighborhood turnover was complete.
The transformation of the neighborhood from solidly white to solidly black certainly reflects the "whiteflight" tendency, but also the prosperity of the time. Reynoldstown became home to a prosperous and growing African American middle class made possible by tobacco. Winston-Salem had been the destination for unskilled workers who arrived from South Carolina in boxcars, endured long, hard hours in the tobacco factories, and who in a few decades were able to send their children to college.
Although the Reynolds Company had intended the neighborhood as a rent-to-own program, the actual sales of the houses generally were not made until 1937, with all sold by 1942. Because the area had been solidly African American for several years, almost all buyers were African American. These sales in turn created a distinctive architectural pattern in the neighborhood when large side lots became available, and used, for construction of new houses. The resultant pattern of alternating bungalows and later houses reveals the history of the neighborhood with its progression from renters' houses to homeowners' and from white housing to black.
Reynoldstown reflects the city's increasingly urban character and the growing numbers of African Americans in middle- and upper-income brackets. It is, unfortunately, among the few African American neighborhoods remaining in Winston-Salem that tell the remarkable story of the black population here. It retains to an extraordinary degree its original layout, a high proportion of intact buildings and the particular elements identifying Reynoldstown as a development of two distinct periods, first for predominantly white renters, later for African American homeowners. Its physical characteristics, including style, spacing of houses, materials, and special unifying features, reveal these two stages of development. The first phase is a collection of ca.1920 residences, predominantly stylish Craftsman Bungalows, both large and small, built by the Minter Homes Company; the second a group of ca.1940 residences with representative examples of Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, and minimal traditional-style domestic architecture. These buildings are united historically and aesthetically to convey a visual sense of the area's history. Also in the Reynoldstown Historic District is a significant bridge on North Cameron Avenue, built in 1920 as the entrance to Reynoldstown. The bridge appears to be among the earliest extant examples of its construction type in the eastern United States, a rare and technologically significant example of slab bridge construction with mushroom columns.
The Reynoldstown Historic District is historically important locally for its association with the growth and development of Winston-Salem from the late 1910s to the end of World War II, and is representative of the rapid improvement and frequent redeveloping of Winston-Salem's neighborhoods that took place as its African American residents became more affluent. Reynoldstown is further important in the context of African American ethnic heritage and as representative of twentieth century community development in the African American neighborhoods of Winston-Salem. The Reynoldstown Historic District fulfills criterion in the area of architecture for its association with the Minter Homes Company and for its collection of twentieth century residential architecture. The Reynoldstown Historic District is also significant statewide in the area of engineering for the concrete bridge over Falling Branch. It is the only bridge of the mushroom column design in North Carolina and one of the few known examples in the eastern United States. The neighborhood's period of significance starts in 1919 with construction of the first houses by the Reynolds Tobacco Company and continues to 1949 at the end of the second phase of development.
Early Growth of the African American Community in Winston
The new town of Winston was created in the mid-nineteenth century era of industrial development and population growth. In 1849 when Forsyth County was carved out of Stokes County, there were several Moravian communities in the area, the hub being the village of Salem. The Moravian Church sold a fifty-one-acre tract just north of Salem to be the new county seat. Named Winston in 1851, the town was laid out in an extension of Salem's grid pattern. The original Winston plan was bounded generally by present First and Seventh streets, and by Spring and Depot streets (Depot is today's Patterson Avenue). Outlying development continued the pattern of Indian and early white roads.
The new town of Winston, together with the coming of the railroad, was to transform the area from domestic enterprise to industry and mass production. The 1850 census for Forsyth County shows a small, diverse industrial base in an overwhelmingly agricultural county. All told, the industries employed almost 300 people. Almost all of those workers were white, as were most of the rest of the 11,000 county residents. Slaves and free blacks made up less than fourteen percent of the population, and most were on farms where the majority of county residents lived and worked. In 1850, piedmont farmers were more concerned with subsistence crops than they were with staples, such as cotton or tobacco. Corn, wheat, and rye were the major crops produced from Forsyth County's 51,000 acres of improved farmland. King Tobacco had not yet arrived. As late as 1860 the total number of slaves in the towns of Winston and Salem was only slightly over three hundred. Just after the Civil War in 1867, the principal products of Winston remained wheat and dried fruits and berries. Local manufacturing was confined to three wagon works, a textile mill, flour mill and two carriage works in the three towns of Salem, Winston, and Waughtown [see Waughtown-Belview Historic District]. By 1870 Winston was still a small town with a population of only 473, and tobacco manufacturing as an industry was as yet unknown.
Growth came suddenly to Winston. In 1873 the railroad connection from Greensboro was completed, and by 1880, after the explosion of the tobacco industry, Winston's population multiplied to 2,854 and then almost quadrupled by 1890. The rail connection attracted new entrepreneurs and a new era to the city, providing jobs and opportunity, and it made possible the successes of the African American population it drew. Among the more enthusiastic of the new entrepreneurs was Richard Joshua Reynolds, a young man who left his father's tobacco company in Virginia to come to Winston in 1873 because he had learned of Winston's railroad connection and of its brand new tobacco sales warehouse. Reynolds immediately bought a lot next to the railroad tracks east of town on Depot Street and built a red, two-story wooden factory. He hired twelve seasonal workers and was in business. Reynolds started a chewing tobacco business and soon added smoking tobaccos that he promoted with innovative advertising. He quickly needed another factory.
To expand in his second year he borrowed money and by 1876 his worth was between $20,000 and $30,000. By his third season he doubled the size of his factory and employed seventy-five people. He was not without competition: a dozen new tobacco makers opened their doors in Winston between 1874 and 1879. Reynolds and others like him thus contributed to the rapid transformation of the two small country towns to an industrial city. Reynolds continued to enlarge his plant every two years, and within four decades his firm had one hundred buildings, a work force of 10,000, and millions of dollars in profits. R.J. Reynolds was known for his almost total dependence upon black labor, and his company sent trains to South Carolina and eastern North Carolina to bring back factory workers. Many were black tenant farmers lured by stories of ready pay and steady work; Reynolds's trains returned them to their families each weekend. As these African Americans came for what were then seasonal jobs, they settled in the north and eastern parts of the small city, especially in the Depot Street area around the new Reynolds factories. These temporary workers lived in rows of small quarters near the factories and the train tracks.
Chiefly because of the burgeoning tobacco industry, the two towns' businesses grew rapidly throughout the 1870s, as did the county's. In 1872 Forsyth County's population was 13,050 with eighty-nine businesses. Only five years later the county had grown by thirty-eight percent to 18,000 with 102 businesses. By the decade's end, the first telephones were installed and Wachovia National Bank was founded. Winston's boom gained speed in the 1880s. In 1880, seven years after the coming of the railroad, Winston had eleven tobacco factories; by 1888 it had twenty-six. The thousands of people flooding to town to work in the factories created an equal demand for housing and for services. By now, African Americans made up about forty percent of the population, and that figure generally remained steady as the population continued to grow. The neighborhoods near the tobacco factories expanded, and it is believed that a few small African American businesses were started.
Prosperity continued. In 1887 electric street lights were turned on in Winston, and after much effort the Roanoke and Southern Railroad (later the Norfolk and Western) connected Winston to the important tobacco cities of Danville and Richmond, Virginia, in 1889. Another line extended westward to North Wilkesboro. These additional railways generated additional depots near the factories on Depot Street. Winston had become an important regional city. Its tobacco industry was growing and maturing, and two railroads now carried its products to outside markets.
The 1890s were a decade of continued growth and expansion of Winston and Salem as the city's population approached 14,000. The black population in Winston more than doubled in ten years. Racial harmony was strained as the influx of blacks threatened the white power structure. A race riot in 1895 confirmed the fears of many whites, and the town council began to enact laws making it difficult for African Americans to vote. Additional tobacco factories were established, thirty-seven in 1894 in Winston alone. Winston was also developing other industries: foundries, textiles, tobacco, and furniture were the core of its success. African Americans were involved in all of these industries except textiles, which hired only white textile workers.
These had a snowballing effect as manufacturing increased in the city. Winston's boom gained speed in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1880 Winston had eleven tobacco factories; by 1888 it had twenty-six, and by 1894 a tobacco directory listed thirty-seven tobacco manufacturers in Winston alone. Winston was also developing other industries, especially foundries, textiles, and furniture, and their success spawned numerous new residential areas to provide for the growing population. The Twin City's first suburb, West End, was developed in the 1890s and became home to prominent families. Washington Park to the south was planned at the same time and developed slightly later. Ardmore [see Ardmore Historic District], named for the Philadelphia suburb, was begun in 1914. Records show a new house begun every week for twenty-two years. It was during this period that Winston and Salem, which had in a practical sense merged in the preceding decades, formally consolidated in 1913.
R.J. Reynolds not only expanded his tobacco business, but went on to revolutionize American cigarettes. Reynolds in 1911 had no cigarette business and was small in comparison with other companies. In 1913, it introduced Camel cigarettes, containing several different types of tobacco — an inventive blend that would come to be called "the American blend." Promoted in a months-long advertising campaign, "The Camels are Coming," the brand was an instant success. Reynolds's profits increased as Camel became the first nationally popular cigarette in this country; cigarette production increased almost tenfold between 1915 and 1919, and Reynolds's Prince Albert smoking tobacco had doubled its production in seven years. By 1919, when Reynoldstown was built, Reynolds Tobacco made about forty percent of all domestic cigarette sales in the United States. As the city's financial success continued, so did the population multiply, making Winston-Salem the largest in the state by 1920, and a few years later the largest city between Atlanta and Washington D.C..
Patterns of Neighborhood Development
A number of factors influenced the locations of African American neighborhoods, including racial segregation, topography, transportation, relationship to workplace, and existing development in the city. While Winston-Salem's growth and prosperity benefited blacks as well as whites, the lives of the two races were separate and far from equal. This is clearly evident from laws enacted in the early decades of this century, although social rules and patterns had a greater impact on the residential areas available to blacks. After the Civil War, blacks had been granted certain privileges of freedom through federal law in the 1870s, enabling talented blacks to be trained and employed as skilled artisans through the 1890s. Political changes at the turn of the century lessened these gains when the 1898 elections restored white supremacy to North Carolina. The victorious Democratic Party reinforced white supremacy through the enactment of poll taxes, grandfather clauses, and other disenfranchising measures which set back the movement for equality of blacks for several generations, making opportunities increasingly restricted after 1900.
Segregation also had direct effects on housing. In his book The Strange Career of Jim Crow, C. Vann Woodward identifies methods by which cities developed patterns of mandated segregation. In 1912 Winston-Salem was among the earliest cities to follow the method invented in Richmond, Virginia, of designating blocks throughout the city black or white according to the majority of the residents of the block, forbidding any person to live in any block "where the majority of residents on such streets are occupied by those with whom said person is forbidden to intermarry." In Winston-Salem, although the ordinance was thrown out within a year, the city was becoming more racially segregated with each decade. Other cities followed the same course, becoming equally segregated in their housing patterns.
The more prevalent method for segregation of neighborhoods was accomplished simply by the differences in the economic status of blacks and whites. This was true in the large majority of American cities, as well as in Winston-Salem, where most black neighborhoods were in the "bottoms," or the low-lying and marshy lands near streams. These were the least desirable living areas: prone to flooding, invaded by mosquitoes, rats, and snakes for over half the year, and hotter than the higher elevations which received a breeze. The names of several early black neighborhoods in Winston-Salem included the word "Bottom," and even much of the finer early black neighborhoods, such as Columbian Heights, was built on floodplains.
Changes in transportation also had a strong influence on housing patterns in Winston and Salem. In the late nineteenth century in the days before the automobile, black and white and rich and poor lived side by side, not as equals but at least in juxtaposition as neighbors. The wealthy whites preferred to live close to downtown with their black servants and employees nearby. Generally the wealthier families lived on main streets and their less-well-off neighbors lived on the side streets. Because of limited transportation, residential areas for both races were within walking distance of workplaces. Until the latter part of the nineteenth century, residential development was generally confined to the areas included within the Winston and Salem plats and the areas immediately surrounding the mills in North Winston and East Winston, West Salem, Southside, and Waughtown. Incoming black workers settled in small clusters of houses nestled around the numerous tobacco factories in the northern and eastern parts of the city, and industrial establishments developed adjacent mill villages to house their employees. The Depot Street area adjacent to the tobacco factories bordered the railroad tracks, factories, a stone-cutting establishment, and a guano warehouse.
The face of the city changed during the 1890s. The young town of Winston was becoming one of the leading industrial powers of the New South that was emerging from the ashes of the Civil War. In 1897 the impressive new Romanesque Revival courthouse was completed, and a hydroelectric dam was built west of the city to supply, for the first time in the state, long-distance electric power to the city and its industries. By this time, residential areas for both races were well established close to their work places. New methods of transportation in the 1890s changed the city's housing pattern and outward expansion began in earnest. The streetcar lines opened in Winston and Salem, leading to the development of exclusive, predominantly white suburbs such as West End (west of Winston) and Washington Park (south of Salem), which were developed along the cities' new streetcar lines and boasted paved streets and electric lights. Wealthy whites left the center city for these suburbs, thus widening the social gulf between classes and further separating the races. These new higher-income residential developments for whites grew to the west and south on higher elevations and away from employment centers and the developing commercial center surrounding the courthouse. Small "pocket neighborhoods" developed within these new suburbs where African Americans who worked as maids, cooks, gardeners, and chauffeurs lived. The neighborhood of East Winston, between First and Seventh streets east of downtown, also developed as a stable white residential area.
Across town to the east, African Americans were building their own neighborhoods and institutions. A key area of African American development which began in the 1870s was along Depot Street — today's Patterson Avenue — just as the tobacco industry was launched. The neighborhood's continued development coincided with the rise of that booming industry. Although much of the Depot Street area was razed in the 1960s, an historical picture of the area emerges from Sanborn maps. The second set of maps, made in 1885, was the first to show some of the Depot Street area, where three frame tobacco factories were already in operation in one block, and others were to the south between Depot and Chestnut streets. By 1890, one block of Chestnut Street shows seven buildings used by three tobacco companies.
The Sanborn maps give more information by 1895, when heavy clustering of tobacco factories and warehouses in this area continued, and groups of buildings throughout the area are labeled as "Negro Tenements." These tenements were near the trestle, the coal yard, the stone-cutters, and the three depots from which Depot Street took its name
Twenty or more tobacco factories and warehouses are shown on maps of the Depot Street area alone in 1895 including those of R.J. Reynolds, Brown Brothers Company, and T.F. Williamson and Company. By this time the Sanborn maps clearly show that a significant African American presence had been established north of the cluster of tobacco factories. As black settlement expanded to the north, so did the areas included in the Sanborn Maps. From north of Seventh Street, numerous "Negro Tenements" are shown, but the maps now also show rows of Negro dwellings, including two-story row houses with front bay windows on Depot Street, and large two-story houses on sizeable lots with dependencies, facing Chestnut Street north of Seventh Street. Two "Colored" schools, including the Depot Street School, at least three Negro churches, and a Negro hotel (Hotel Bethel) on a single map indicate this was a populated residential section, housing poorer residents as well as those with some means.
By 1912, many dwellings had been demolished for factory expansion. Other larger one- and two-story houses, however, were being built slightly north, from Fifth to Eighth streets, in the expanding neighborhood.
An Emerging Middle Class
It is well known that Winston and Salem's rapid expansion provided jobs for whites; less recognized is that held true for African Americans as well, and at all socio-economic levels. African Americans did not just hold industrial jobs. As Adelaide Fries states, "Making their way within the oppressive and discriminatory conditions typical of the post-Reconstruction South, a number of black individuals achieved some success and prominence. Receiving occasional but crucial assistance from the white community — also typical of post-Reconstruction black-white relations — blacks began to establish businesses, enter professions, provide services, and work for the improvement of their own community." As early as the 1880s, Winston-Salem was known as a place of unusual possibility for African Americans.
Like Durham, Winston-Salem had a reputation as an area of social, economic, and professional opportunity for blacks, and many with ambition came from around the South as Winston-Salem and its Depot Street neighborhood became home to a prosperous and growing black middle class. Humphrey H. Hall graduated from Leonard Medical School at Shaw University in 1887 and came to Winston to become the first black physician to practice there. After a few years, he wrote to his friend, John Fitts, then a law student at Shaw, suggesting that Winston was a good place for a young lawyer to become established. Fitts arrived in 1892 or 1893 as the first black lawyer, and soon encouraged another young lawyer, James S. Lanier, to settle here. Other lawyers and doctors followed, each making their contributions to the fast-changing community. Dr. Hall built a fine two-story house on Seventh Street next to the Hotel Bethel a block from Depot Street, and opened his office in the same neighborhood, later constructing the Hall Building in 1913, one of the neighborhood's premier office and commercial buildings. Lanier came to Winston sometime between 1895 and 1898, when he joined Rev. J.T. Gibbons and Dr. J.W. Jones as owner, editor, and publisher of The Herald, a newspaper especially for African Americans. He lived near Dr. Hall on Chestnut Street across from Lloyd Presbyterian Church, where he also built a two-story house. Lanier was a member of Lloyd Church and founder of Grace Presbyterian Church. He became a respected civil and criminal lawyer, and on Chestnut Street he brought up a son who became United States Ambassador to Liberia. Dr. Jones not only worked with Lanier on the newspaper, but shared office space with him on Main Street. Jones was a prominent African American physician. A native of Warrenton, he was, like Dr. Hall, an early graduate of Shaw University. He came to Winston at least by December 1891 and, in addition to his successful medical career, was active in the community, particularly in the Depot Street neighborhood where he lived. He was president of the Citizens Bank and Trust Company, an African American enterprise, and was for seventeen years the Grand Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias of North Carolina, whose Winston-Salem building was built in 1902 on Jones's property, replacing the Hotel Bethel.
Perhaps the most amazing is the story of Simon Atkins. Simon Green Atkins (1863-1934), a well-educated black man born in Chatham County, came here from Livingstone College in Salisbury in 1890 to be principal of the Depot Street School (Colored Graded School), then the largest and most important public school for blacks in the state. In Salisbury, Atkins had been head of the grammar school department for six years and for two years the treasurer of the college. He had been one of the founders of the North Carolina Negro Teachers' Association, organized in 1881, which he served for several terms as secretary and as president until 1927. Atkins had an immediate impact on the community. In January of 1891, only one year after moving here, he appeared before the local Board of Trade to request assistance for establishing a Negro college, and suggested the development of a suburb for the increasing number of black professionals in the city. The purpose was to promote black home ownership. Atkins was successful. On June 3, 1891, the Inside Land and Improvement Company was incorporated by eleven prominent white men who assembled the land that was to become the Columbian Heights suburb. Columbian Heights soon became the place for African Americans to live. City directories from the first decades of this century show among its residents lawyers, doctors, teachers, ministers, as well as skilled craftsmen. Simon Atkins appears to have been one of its first residents, living on Cromartie Street by 1892. That year he started Slater Industrial Academy in the neighborhood, beginning classes in a one-room, frame structure with twenty-five students and one teacher. Black citizens had raised $2,000 of the $2,500 required by the state legislature, and R.J. Reynolds contributed the remaining $500, apparently his first direct contribution to the African American community.
In 1895 Atkins resigned from the Depot Street School to work full time with the Slater Normal and Industrial School. The school grew rapidly, became the Winston-Salem Teachers' College, and today is Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). The Columbian Heights neighborhood has not fared as well. The success and expansion of WSSU through the years dictated demolition of parts of its neighborhood, and in 1992 the remaining blocks were demolished. Today portions of two blocks remain.
The growth of Winston-Salem continued in the new century, and the city's black population grew at a rate equal to the white. In 1900, the city was forty percent black with 5,500 African Americans. Tobacco factories became increasingly mechanized after 1909 and work became year-round rather than seasonal, bringing more workers and more permanent housing. By 1910 total population had increased by sixty-six percent, with blacks remaining at about forty percent of the total, or 9,000, indicating a parallel sixty-six percent growth in the black population. The rapid growth continued, increasing by over 113% to 48,000 in 1920, and was second only to Baltimore in a federal index of industrial cities in the South. African Americans were at almost forty-three percent, indicating an even larger growth in the black population. By 1930 Forsyth County had grown from one of the smallest in the state to one of the most populous. Winston-Salem showed an increase of fifty-five percent over 1920 and the proportion of blacks held steady at forty-three percent with about 33,000 blacks in the city in 1930. Since 1915 Winston-Salem had been the largest city between Atlanta and Washington, D.C., but by 1930 Charlotte's population of 82,600 had surpassed Winston-Salem's, making Winston-Salem the second largest city in the state. It nevertheless saw an increase of 550% in the thirty years after 1900.
Ambitious people of both races benefited from the growth of the Twin City. The lead headline in the Winston-Salem Journal on January 5, 1911, boasted proudly, "Winston-Salem with 22,700 Ranks 3rd in North Carolina," with subheads, "Goes Ahead of Asheville, While Asheville Drops Behind the Capital City; Wonderful Increase in all Lines; Twin-City Has Shown Remarkable Increase Along Industrial Lines — Increase Was 9,050, or 67 Per Cent." The newspaper reported an average population increase of nearly 1,000 per year since 1900.
The two major events of the century's second decade both occurred in 1913. First, voters in Winston and Salem approved the consolidation of the towns, legally confirming what already had become a fact of historical development. With the tobacco industry and a host of other businesses flourishing, residential development of the Twin City grew dramatically. Records show a new house was begun every week for twenty-two years.
Also in 1913, the Reynolds Tobacco Company introduced its Camel cigarettes, which became the bestselling cigarette in the country. The company's fortunes surged, and by 1915 Reynolds had built additional factories. The city's financial success was at its height in the 1920s. With the influx of new residents, vast business and professional opportunities opened, and Winston-Salem became home to a prosperous and growing black middle class. Living in the city were African American attorneys, physicians, dentists, ministers, factory workers, barbers, restaurant owners, grocers, dry cleaners, funeral directors, woodworkers, chauffeurs, domestic servants, insurance agents, teachers and others, with the center of African American life in the Depot Street area just east of downtown where Reynolds's first tobacco workers had created a community. Winston was known in the southeast, as was Durham, as a place of opportunity for both blacks and whites, and people came here from all around, especially South Carolina and Virginia as well as North Carolina.
The Housing Problem
With the enormous success of Camels and the city's other products came new jobs and more workers, and the workers needed housing. The population had grown forty-one percent from 1910 to 1916, an increase of about 10,000 people, when R.J. Reynolds stated, "The most serious problem which confronts the city is that of properly housing the people, and providing proper sewer facilities." He wanted to address the critical housing shortage brought on by the population explosion. Reynolds's efforts toward adequate housing stemmed from a concern for the health problems resulting from lack of sanitary sewers and drinking water. During this time, Winston-Salem had the highest death rate from communicable diseases of any city in the South.
R.J. Reynolds, the man behind the company, was a hands-on manager, closely involved in all aspects of the business and with the welfare of his employees. Unlike textile mills that hired only white employees, the tobacco industry hired both blacks and whites, so Winston attracted ambitious people of both races. Reynolds was politically progressive for his time. He had earlier made efforts to help African American residents. In 1915 the company joined with several tobacco manufacturers and African American churches to organize "a day nursery for children of Negro women employees." He established progressive working conditions in his factory, with shorter hours and higher pay. His efforts were also community-wide. He signed a petition for a property tax to pay for public schools and voted to approve an income tax. He helped establish a savings bank, served as a city commissioner, and was instrumental in getting roads built. He and his wife supported numerous educational and human-service efforts in the community.
Reynolds made an enthusiastic effort to provide adequate housing for his employees. It appears that he first addressed housing for his African American employees, making a then-unusual request to the city to extend water and sewer lines to serve new houses. Reynolds's project was to build new houses, rent them for low fees, and sell the houses at cost. The rental fees were calculated at only six percent of a house's value and employees' rent payments would later be applied to a down payment for purchase. The six percent return was in stark contrast to the more typical net revenue to owners of twenty percent to forty percent.
Reynolds made a persuasive argument to the city; he proposed to "erect 50 model homes in the eastern part of the city for colored people and rent them at a return of six per cent... " if the city would extend sewer lines along two blocks of Wheeler Street. Wheeler Street was near Columbian Heights, several blocks southwest of the land that was to be Reynoldstown, but this 1916 proposal was the precursor for Reynoldstown's development a few years later. Reynolds hoped his proposal "...will, in some small measure at least, give an impetus to a movement toward real improvements in this city which will be a source of pride to yourselves and to every citizen of this city."
Later in 1916, Reynolds was actively working to provide safe and healthful housing. An editorial explained, "Mr. Reynolds has conceived the idea of promotion of home owning among his colored employes, [sic] in an effort to aid in solving the problem of sanitation among the colored residential and tenement districts. It is his purpose to build comfortable houses, conveniently arranged, well lighted and ventilated, and equipped with conveniences to give the highest sanitary condition. These houses will be placed on the market on an easy pay plan and colored employes desiring to own their homes will be able to do so almost by applying rent money to the purchase contract..."
Reynolds's novel request that the city provide water and sewer was widely applauded. The Charlotte Observer commended what they named 'the Reynolds plan,' saying "It would seem to afford Winston-Salem an opportunity to take position at the head of the more progressive cities in the solution of a problem...the Reynolds plan would be a long step in the promotion of human comfort and good health." The North Carolina Christian Advocate also praised Mr. Reynolds: "All our larger cities should take steps at once to furnish these public utilities and conveniences for the Negro sections. Water and sewerage is not only a convenience, but a necessity in view of the protection and promotion of the public health. In fact, the time is at hand when all of our cities of any appreciable size should be compelled to provide water and sewerage facilities."
Wheeler Street was the start of a housing program that was the forerunner of the Reynoldstown development. In the next year Reynolds took on a larger endeavor, this one for both white and black employees. In March of 1917, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company bought 83.84 acres known as "the old Cameron land." Near the city hospital and the streetcar line, a neighborhood was laid out in a grid pattern with the central spine, fittingly named Cameron Avenue, along the higher elevation. The Reynolds Company would provide sidewalks, electric lights, and, most important, water and sewerage connections. They worked quickly; a newspaper reported in May that the plans were in the hands of the contractors with contracts soon to be let.
Two years later, in May of 1919, the newspaper reported, "...the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, of this city, is doing something to relieve the shortage of houses here by building homes for its employees in the section to the northeast of the city known as Cameron Park. Beautiful little bungalows are being built and rented to employees or sold to them on easy terms." Reynolds's initial plan was to sell the houses at cost using the tenant's prior rent fees towards purchase; however, this aspect of the plan was delayed by his death in 1918 before the development was completed, and it would be years before the sales took place. A 1919 newspaper described the entrance to the area: "...at the foot of the hill a little stream cascades over the rocks, and tumbles on down the valley...crossing this stream on a wide ornamental concrete bridge, the road divides, a prong of which leads up the hill, where more bungalows are located....Green lawns, trees, garden space, room to breathe....But with all these come the comforts of city life, a paved sidewalk, electricity, and a city water and sewer service....Engineers are now doing work preliminary to placing gas in reach of every home on the development."
The newspaper continued: "The houses are three, four, and five room bungalows, each unique in its design and coloring. Pleasing greens, browns, and reds, are all mingled in the color schemes to make the homes bright and attractive looking. The roofs, spreading beyond the sides, the shingles instead of weatherboarding, the attractive columns supporting the porch roofs, all display a great variety. Cameron Park is a beautiful spot, and even if there were no shortage of houses in the city, the homes there would not long remain, but as it is, the Reynolds Company deserves great credit for furnishing such homes to meet the shortage."
Newspaper coverage continued as the development progressed. A 1921 newspaper reported, "The Cameron Park development is exclusively for white people, the company having provided for the colored employees in the development known as Dunleigh [sic] Avenue." Research shows that this part of Dunleith Avenue was never developed, although some of the earlier survey plans show lots planned on Dunleith immediately behind and west of Jackson Avenue. It appears that the 800 and 900 blocks of Jackson Avenue are the "colored development" referred to as Dunleith. These were the only blocks in Reynoldstown first occupied by African Americans. There was a low fence between Jackson and Graham, presumably to delineate the white area from the black, although the fence remained after the white residents had left the neighborhood. Some residents remember the fence; as children they crawled over it as a short cut to their church.
A 1919 plat of the Cameron Park neighborhood, today's Reynoldstown, shows the street plan much as we know it. It appears that the streets had been laid out by 1921 when they are first shown in the index map to the Sanborn Maps. By this time the neighborhood was sufficiently developed to warrant inclusion of ten blocks in the Sanborn Maps. Detailed enlargements show that residential development included Jackson Avenue (formerly Baltimore Street), Graham Avenue (formerly Williams), Gray Avenue, Cameron Avenue, Rich Avenue (formerly B Avenue), and Camel Avenue (formerly C Avenue) between Eighth and Tenth streets. The "additional sheet" added in 1921 identifies the area as Cameron Park and shows 111 houses on both blocks of the six north-south avenues. There were no houses on Camel Avenue south of Temple Street or on the east side of Rich Avenue south of Temple. On most of the streets, houses were built on every other lot giving each a large side yard; however, on Jackson and Graham avenues, the houses were smaller and were built on adjacent lots without vacant lots between.
At the south end of the neighborhood was a frame store, elevated on stilts and perched on the north bank of Falling Branch immediately west of the bridge. This was a small grocery store that served the neighborhood for many decades. The two-story building is shown on both the 1921 and ca.1949 Sanborn maps. The store is the only building shown on the 1938 Reynolds plat. In later years the store was run by a Mr. Harrell (white). Another small building elevated on stilts served as a neighborhood gathering place until the 1960s and 1970s when it became a Rescue Squad station. The building is shown on the ca.1949 Sanborn map. Both buildings have been demolished.
In name, the neighborhood was an extension of an existing Cameron Park neighborhood to the south, consisting mainly of Cameron Avenue south of Falling Branch. City directories use "Cameron Park" to identify the location of streets in the area we now call Reynoldstown, and the 1938 plat identifies the area as "N Cameron Park Addition." Some elderly residents remember the name Cameron Park from their childhoods, although most residents have known the neighborhood only as Reynoldstown.
The development of Reynoldstown followed the 1919 plat with remarkable loyalty; there are only minor differences between the plat and the layout of the streets today. At its eastern edge the plat shows an additional north-south street east of Camel Avenue named Prince Albert Avenue. This street was never built, nor was that area part of the 1920 or 1940 phases of the neighborhood. Instead, a curving Ferrell Avenue was developed separately by a real estate development company in the 1950s. Plans for the southern part of the neighborhood were less distinct, with varied depictions of the southern part of Camel Avenue and Jackson Avenue near Falling Branch.
Reynolds Tobacco had a burn pile in what is now the southern part of Camel Avenue to handle certain debris from their manufacturing process, including foil. In their earlier years, Reynolds and other tobacco companies had bought foil for cigarette packs from a company in New York. In 1919 Richard S. Reynolds, brother of R.J. Reynolds, bought machinery to manufacture foil locally. Reynolds Tobacco later bought a failed foil company and in 1928 began "to roll tinfoil in its Winston-Salem plant..." At this time foil was made from a combination of tin and lead; after World War II the foil was made from aluminum. The excess foil played a role in Reynoldstown. The 1938 survey plat created for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company's sale of lots shows the parceled areas extending south to the north side of today's Temple Street. The area east of Rich Avenue and south from Temple Street, including the southern part of Camel Avenue and today's Ferrell Street, was not parceled, but is labeled "Reserved." The Reynolds Company's burn pile was in this area near Camel Avenue. The debris included large rolls of foil from the manufacture of cigarette packs; residents used the foil for decoration and children's toys. A 1940 plat shows "park" on the east side of Camel, and early residents remember an open field on the west side of Camel where they played ball.
Minter Homes Company
Reynolds Tobacco Company built its houses between 1919 and 1921, coinciding with the opening of the Minter Homes Company's factory in Greenville, South Carolina. Minter Homes was a manufacturer of ready-to-build housing established first in Kenova, West Virginia, in 1908. Founded by William E. Minter, the company moved in 1913 to Huntington, West Virginia, as a division of Huntington Lumber & Supply Company. Aladdin Homes of Bay City, Michigan, had premiered the idea of kit houses in 1906. In 1908, the same year that Minter Homes was founded, Sears, Roebuck and Company began selling complete kit houses, building upon its earlier ventures into building materials and house plans. In the years that followed, other companies entered the market, most notably Wardway Homes in 1921 (Montgomery Ward), Harris Homes of Chicago, the Ready Built House Company, and Robinson's.
Minter Homes was a success. It enlarged its operations in 1913 with its move to Huntington, shipping prefabricated houses and complete mill or industrial villages throughout the south and east. Notable among these was the town of Nitro, West Virginia, established late in 1917 for the manufacture of gunpowder for World War I, and much of Nellis, West Virginia, for the Nellis Coal Company. Minter Homes supplied plans and materials for houses, schools, churches, bunk houses, boarding houses and multi-family dwellings, all suitable for construction in mining or lumber camps as well as industrial villages. Minter distributed a catalog of house plans and specifications, in addition to supplying custom millwork, doors, windows, interior trim, mantels and other building supplies.
Of significance to the history of Reynoldstown was Minter's move to Greenville, South Carolina, during Reynoldstown's first phase of construction. Greenville's position as a major textile center and the availability of warehouses and railroad connections attracted Minter. The company developed the "Minter System of Fabrication" and immediately began to diversify, even building "from scratch" housing, and won accolades locally. The Greenville Chamber of Commerce highlighted Minter's arrival in their bimonthly publications by including photographs of the plant and glowing articles. A 1922 article said, "One of the most important manufacturing concerns in Greenville is the Minter Homes Company, organized with a capital of $1,000,000 and with a monthly manufacturing volume of $100,000. The concern has a monthly payroll of 420,000 and has 250 employees." A later 1922 article reported Minter's factory "daily turns out finished materials which are shipped all over the Southland," with 300 to 400 railroad cars of raw lumber each month being manufactured and reshipped.
The following year, an article reported, "Outstanding among the plants at Camp Sevier is the Minter Homes Company which, with a small beginning, has grown and prospered and today is probably as good an example of successful diversified industry as any community may have.... The Minter Homes Company has upon its books contracts that run well into the millions and are building homes for individuals, as well as corporations, not only in this immediate section but throughout the entire southeast. They have demonstrated that they can build a home for the millionaire, as well as for the cotton mill employee...."
The accolades were a mixed blessing. In 1923 Minter contracted to build the city's new Chamber of Commerce Building. The ten-story building was by far Minter's largest project, but apparently contributed to Minter's rapid decline. Minter had little experience in building major commercial structures and with a decline in their industrial orders, in April 1925 when the Chamber of Commerce building was only half finished, their Greenville operations went into receivership.
Minter Homes's offices elsewhere continued. Minter took out radio ads in Huntington, West Virginia, in 1927 and was listed in a 1930 directory in New York City. It also had offices in Kentucky. By 1954 Minter Homes had gone out of the ready-cut home business, concentrating its work on custom millwork, finished lumber, windows, doors, and other items for building contractors. With only six employees in Huntington in 1982-1983, the company finally closed its doors.
A 1946 newspaper article reported that most of the prefabricated or ready-cut houses in Reynoldstown were from the Minter Homes Company, and Tilley's history of the Reynolds Company reported that Cameron Park's (Reynoldstown's) houses were of the "Minter-Holmes variety" [sic]. The houses came by boxcar with pieces cut and marked for assembly. Windows, doors, and roofing were sent as part of the shipment. Plaster, foundations, wiring, and plumbing were bought locally. The houses took from two days to a week to complete. According to a 1946 interview with Irvin W. Grogan who was foreman for the Reynolds housing program, Minter's roofing material was asphalt shingles, almost the first of that type. He remembered that the roofing stood up extremely well compared to roofing then available.
Although no records have been found that document which houses in Reynoldstown are Minter Homes, several house types in the Reynoldstown Historic District are similar to those in a 1916 Minter catalog. Minter offered a selection of side-gabled bungalows with full-front inset porches, among them "The Raleigh" (p.21), "The Chesapeake" (p.25), and "The Monterey" (p.96), some with three front bays, some with five. In Reynoldstown, several houses are similar to "The Monterey," a 3-bay house Minter advertised as a "...cottage, or semi-bungalow, ... especially desirable where all the space is desired on one floor at low cost." Among similar houses in Reynoldstown are those at 850, 860, and 908 Camel Avenue and at 812, 820, 828, and 918 Rich Avenue. The Monterey catalog house shows a central hipped dormer and single porch posts, whereas most of the Reynoldstown houses use gable dormer variations and paired posts. All have the central chimney that in Minter's plan provides corner fireplaces for two rooms.
A frequent house type found on Jackson and Graham avenues is probably a Minter house. This is a hipped-roof house with an inset corner porch. Though small, the house is dignified by minor ornamentation such as a central hipped dormer, paired windows, and simple paired wood porch posts with minor upper stickwork. The Minter attribution is difficult to confirm because there is little available documentation of Minter plans, only a partial copy of a 1916 catalog; nevertheless, it is known that the houses were built in groups and completed quickly, and the frequent use of this house and the consistency of its design strongly suggest that it is a kit house. Fourteen of these houses remain today.
The Reynolds Tobacco Company's use of Minter Homes is of significance. Little is known of Minter's houses elsewhere in North Carolina. Two Minter houses are on the south side of Lake Summit near Tuxedo, North Carolina. The lake was formed in 1920 as a source of power and was early associated with Greenvillians. The two Minter houses are at the east end of the lake near the dam. They are believed to have been built around 1920 and to be the earliest houses at Lake Summit, possibly built for workers building the dam and lake, or for the engineer. During recent renovations of one of the houses, a small Minter sign with the slogan "Minter System of Fabrication" was found in the attic. The owners, who are the fourth generation of the family to own the houses, have understood that the Minter Company had planned to develop a public beach at that end of the lake near the trestle and to sell vacation cottages; however, the company went bankrupt before the beach project began, and the two houses were sold. There are also several houses at the Erlanger Mill Village [see Erlanger Mill Village Historic District] in Lexington, North Carolina, about twenty miles south of Winston-Salem, that are close twins to houses in Reynoldstown. Their association with Minter has not been documented, but appears likely. Erlanger, unlike Reynoldstown, was a mill village with a company store, a company YMCA, swimming pool, playground, tennis courts, schools, baseball fields, and Baptist and Methodist churches. In Winston-Salem, Minter houses were also built in the Sunnyside neighborhood [see Sunnyside-Central Terrace Historic District].
For about twenty years the houses in Reynoldstown were owned by Reynolds Tobacco and rented to the residents. Many manufacturing companies, notably textile mills, built mill villages for their workers that included some combination of a supervisor's home, housing for workers, a church, a school, a YMCA, a post office, and the company store. Their purpose was to provide lodging for textile workers close to the mill. However, Reynoldstown was unlike the textile villages both physically and in its function. It was a residential neighborhood built in an effort to reduce the critical housing shortage in Winston-Salem and to promote home ownership. The area was far from Reynolds' factories, and it was a neighborhood, not a contained village.
The Shift to African American Occupancy
The 1931 opening of Atkins High School was the impetus of the neighborhood's dramatic shift from a predominantly white to an all-black neighborhood in a matter of a year or two. Atkins was an African American high school built on Cameron Avenue just a few blocks north of Reynoldstown. In 1924, the East Fourteenth Street School had been built as a Colored Graded School; the construction of Atkins a few years later created several blocks shown on a city map as "14th Street Park (Colored)." This had an immediate effect on Reynoldstown. The 1931 city directory shows that five of Reynoldstown's six avenues were occupied solely by whites in 1931. Just a year later the directory shows the entire neighborhood populated by African Americans.
Two families, one black and one white, portray these changes. The first was the Carters, a prominent African American family. John A. Carter taught at Winston-Salem Teachers College (now Winston-Salem State University) and was principal at Columbian Heights High School. He bought the lot at 1100 Rich Avenue in 1929, and by 1931 he and his wife, Alice M., had moved from Columbian Heights to their new two-story Colonial Revival house on the corner just across Tenth Street from the white residents of Reynoldstown. Mr. Carter was the first principal of the new Atkins High School one block north. City Directories show that the Carters were the first African Americans to move near Reynoldstown with others, mostly teachers, soon to follow.
The second family was Asa and Millie Lee, both white, who moved into one of Reynolds Tobacco's new rental houses on Camel Avenue in 1920. For the next ten years, all of the Lees' neighbors were white. In a rapid shift, by 1932 the Lees were the only white residents remaining, and when Gertrude and Rufus Johnson, he a black Reynolds employee, moved into the Lees' house in 1934, the transformation of this street from one of totally white residents to totally black was complete.
After 1931 all blocks of Reynoldstown were occupied by African Americans. It was not until 1937 and 1938 that the Reynolds Company finally sold the houses, with all sold by 1942. The area had been solidly African American for several years when the houses and lots became available for sale. Because the Reynolds houses were built with large vacant lots as side yards, privately-owned new houses were built between the older Reynolds houses. The alternating pattern of 1920s and 1940s houses demonstrates the progression from renters' houses to homeowners' and from white housing to black.
The transformation of the neighborhood from solidly white to solidly black certainly reflects the "whiteflight" tendency and is as well indicative of the prosperity of the time. With the success of the tobacco and textile industries came people and with the people came the need for services and even more numerous employment opportunities. Winston-Salem's recovery from the Depression was more rapid than some other cities, and Reynoldstown became home to a prosperous and growing African American middle class. Prominent families moved to Reynoldstown. Among them were Hosea V. Price, attorney; Harold Kennedy, attorney; Clark Brown, funeral home owner, Albert H. Anderson, principal of several schools; and Togo West, who became U.S. Secretary of the Army and U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
The neighborhood was the residence of many of the city's prominent African Americans whose influence affected the city, but it is the entirety of the neighborhood which gives it its significance. Reynoldstown was made up of the blocks of dwelling houses for lower-level tobacco employees, for the more specialized, and for the professionals and tradesmen who benefited abundantly from the growth of the tobacco industry.
The bridge over Falling Branch is a highly significant engineering structure in the Reynoldstown Historic District. It was built in 1920 by the R.J. Reynolds Company as the Cameron Avenue entrance to Reynoldstown, then known as Cameron Park. The bridge appears to be among the earliest extant examples of its construction type in the eastern United States. The bridge has been evaluated as "a rare, nicely detailed, and technologically significant example of slab bridge construction with mushroom columns. It is the only bridge of the mushroom column design in North Carolina, and one of the few known examples in the eastern United States."
The evaluation by Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers continues:
"The mushroom column design was developed by engineer Claude A.P. Turner, who first used it for the Johnson-Bovey Building in Minneapolis in 1905-06. He received a patent in 1908. The mushroom column with its flared capital provided a conical spreading out of the cross-sectional area to reduce the concentration of shearing stress around where the slab meets the column. The economies of the mushroom-column slab construction were most obvious in the case of warehouses and factories where the design could be used to increase overhead space and reduce the number of interior columns and beams in comparison to other available framing techniques. Other engineers went on to develop variations on Turner's pattern of using reinforcing bars for the mushroom-column slab, and the details of which reinforcing system were used with this bridge cannot be identified without plans [no plans were found in city or DOT files].
The use of mushroom columns for industrial and commercial buildings was popular in the 1910s and 1920s, including for factories and warehouses in Winston-Salem and the Piedmont, but its application to bridges was never common. (In fact, it seems a good educated guess that this bridge was influenced by factory construction in the Winston-Salem vicinity at about this time.) The first mushroom-column slab bridge in the United States was the Lafayette Avenue overpass of the Soo Line in St. Paul, Minnesota, built in 1909 with C.A.P. Turner as a consultant. Other significant examples including the 1913 union pacific Railroad over North Main Street in Riverside, California, and notably the upper deck of Wacker Drive in Chicago, built in 1921-25. The mushroom-column bridge design never made great inroads on the east coast but some known examples include the 12th Street Viaduct of Route 1/9 in Jersey City, New Jersey, built in the mid-1920s as the approach to the Holland Tunnel, and a pair of overpass bridges in Wilmington, Delaware, built in the late 1930s."
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Neilson, Robert W. History of Government, City of Winston-Salem, N.C. Bicentennial Publication of Community Government Committee, 1966.
Oppermann, Langdon E. "Winston-Salem's African-American Neighborhoods, 1870-1950," prepared for the Winston-Salem Forsyth County Joint Historic Properties Commission, 1994.
Oppermann, Langdon E. Multiple Property Documentation Form, "Historic and Architectural African-American Resources of Northeastern Winston-Salem, 1900 to 1947," (MPDF nomination, 1998).
Reynolds, Patrick and Tom Shachtman, The Gilded Leaf; Triumph, Tragedy, and Tobacco — Three Generations of the R.J. Reynolds Family and Fortune, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1989).
Sanborn-Perris Map Company, "Winston-Salem, North Carolina," (New York: Sanborn-Perris Co., 1895-1927.
Smith, James Howell. "Industry and Commerce, 1896-1975," vol.8 of Winston-Salem in History (Winston-Salem: Historic Winston, 1977).
Taylor, Gwynne Stephens. From Frontier to Factory: An Architectural of History of Forsyth County. Published by the Winston-Salem and Forsyth County Historic Properties Commission and the Joint City/County Planning Board, 1981.
Teel, Cora P. Proposed entry to West Virginia Encyclopedia, Marshall University, Huntington WV.
Tilley, Nannie M. The R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 1985). Detailed and in-depth study of the tobacco company, with considerable helpful information regarding African-Americans and associations with the tobacco industry.
Tise, Larry E. "Building and Architecture," vol.9 of Monograph Series Winston-Salem in History (Winston- Salem: Historic Winston, 1976). References to blacks, pp.35, 36; urban renewal, p.47.
Tise, Larry E. "Government," vol.6 of Monograph Series Winston-Salem in History (Winston-Salem: Historic Winston, 1976). Discussions of blacks, pp.39-40, 49-51.
Twin City Sentinel newspaper.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Tenth Censuses of the United States, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, Populations schedules for Forsyth County, N.C.
Vogel, Neal. "When Company Comes to Town; the Surprising Architecture of Industrial Houses," in Old House Journal, December 1999.
Wellman, Manly W., and Larry E. Tise. "Industry and Commerce 1766-1896," vol.7 of Monograph Series Winston-Salem in History (Winston-Salem: Historic Winston, 1976). Reference to blacks, p.22.
White-Orr's 1930 Classified Business Directory — New York City section.
Winston-Salem City Directories. Directories distinguish blacks from whites until 1952.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Planning Department: report on bridge over Cameron Avenue.
Winston-Salem Journal & Sentinel newspaper.
Winston-Salem Journal newspaper.
Wintz, William A. Nitro, the World War I Boom Town. South Charleston, W. Va., Jalamap Publishers, Inc., 1985.
Shedrick Adams, resident.
Judith G. Bainbridge, Greenville historian and professor of English at Furman University; personal communication regarding Minter Homes.
Alex and Freddie Barber, brothers, former residents; Alex is current resident.
George Booie, resident.
Dr. William H. Bruce, Jr., African-American doctor, son of doctor involved in real estate.
Clara Owens Cloud, resident.
Heather Fearnbach. Personal communication regarding her study of Erlanger Mill Village.
William R. Hairston, Jr., grandson of former residents.
Lois Hanes, resident.
Bessie Henderson, resident.
Frances Holcombe, whose grandfather, Adolph Vermont, bought two Minter houses at Lake Summit, NC. Minter sign found in attic.
Walter Johnson, resident.
Stanford McMillan, current owner of Minter house at Lake Summit.
Mrs James Medlock, resident.
Molly Rawls, granddaughter of Irvin W. Grogan who supervised first phase of construction at Reynoldstown (then Cameron Park).
Carla Brown Rumph, granddaughter of Clark and Macie Brown.
Ida Ruth Staplefoote, resident.
Dee Jones Washington, current resident and daughter of former resident.
Dolores Watson, owner of Hosea Price house, 915 Cameron Avenue.
Elizabeth Lovie West, former resident Reynoldstown.
Ella Whitworth, longtime resident and board member of Society for the Study of Afro-American History in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.
Charlie Wilson, 91-year-old former RJR employee who came from South Carolina as a child.
‡ Langdon Edmonds Oppermann, Historic Preservation Plannin, Reynoldsville Historic District, Forsyth County, North Carolina, nomination document, 2007, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
10th Street East • 8th Street East • 9th Street East • Camel Avenue • Cameron Avenue North • Graham Avenue North • Gray Avenue • Jackson Avenue North • Rich Avenue