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Weldon Historic District

Weldon Town, Halifax County, NC

Smith-Dickens House

Photo: Smith-Dickens House, circa 1901, located in the Weldon Historic District. The District on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. Photographed by User:Jerrye & Roy Klotz MD (own work), 2018, [cc-4.0], via Wikimedia Commons, accessed August, 2022.

The Weldon Historic District [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

The resources of the Weldon Historic District reflect the development of Weldon as a regionally-important nineteenth and early-twentieth century transportation center in Halifax County, North Carolina along the Roanoke River. Initial development at "Weldon's Orchard" was connected with the construction of the Roanoke Canal (National Register 1976) between 1816 and 1834, an artificial waterway made necessary by the river's nearby "great-falls," the culmination of an eighty-five-foot drop along nine miles. Just as the canal was meeting its first financial successes during the 1830s, Weldon's Orchard — the town was not incorporated until 1843 — became the termination points of the first railroads in the state: the Petersburg Railroad in 1833; the Portsmouth and Roanoke Railroad in 1837, each starting in their respective Virginia cities; the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad in 1840 (renamed Wilmington and Weldon in 1854); and the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad...also in 1840. The Weldon of today is a direct product of the challenges and advancements of these railroads, and the community has deep commercial and personal ties as a "railroad town." The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw the consolidation and modernization of the railroads, the development of automobile transportation, and a continual expansion of the town's commercial offerings. It is during this latter period that the vast majority of the Weldon Historic District's resources were constructed, transforming the old canal and railroad community into a town of modern, stylistically up-to-date buildings. Of particular note was the start in the 1890s of a Jewish merchant community that by 1912 had become large enough to establish a synagogue, a remarkable achievement in a small town of less than 2,000 residents in overwhelmingly Protestant eastern North Carolina. The Weldon Historic District contains the transportation, commercial, residential, and religious resources associated with the oldest section of town and is significant in Community Planning and Development, Transportation, Commerce, and Architecture. Residential properties account for more than seventy-five percent of the Weldon Historic District's resources and acreage. While there are only two antebellum resources, subsequent redevelopment and expansion saw the construction of important examples of the Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Romanesque, Queen Anne, Neo-Classical Revival, Colonial Revival, Craftsman, Art Deco, and Tudor Revival styles in brick and frame, with commercial structures being exclusively of brick and dwellings being predominately frame until the 1910s. Buildings such as the 1872-1889 Grace Episcopal Church (416 Washington Avenue; NR 1991), the 1878 Capell-Owen House (108 E. Fourth Street), the ca.1895 (former) Bank of Weldon Building (121 Washington Avenue), the 1901-1902 Smith-Dickens House (400 Washington Avenue), 1911 Union Station (6 W. First Street), the 1922-1923 David R. Anderson House (608 Washington Avenue), and the 1934 DeLeon F. Green House (401 Cedar Street) are indicative of the Weldon Historic District's eligibility under the Architecture context. The Weldon Historic District retains a high level of architectural integrity, with 205 of the 273 primary resources (seventy-five percent) and 267 of the 362 total resources (seventy-four percent) being contributing. The Weldon Historic District's period of significance, ca.1830 to 1946, starts with the construction date of the Stone Building (4 West First Street), the oldest building in town, and includes the largest concentration of resources at least fifty years old.

Architectural Context

The buildings in the Weldon Historic District represent the broad range of architectural fashion typical in the small towns of eastern North Carolina during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The architectural character of Weldon was, in all likelihood, little different from that of neighboring towns of comparable size. Whether of modest size and simple decoration or of imposing nature, these resources reflect the building traditions and styles of their day in addition to the economic stature of their owners. While the vast majority of the resources in the Weldon Historic District are residential, the district's important commercial, religious, transportation, and governmental resources enable the district to provide a remarkably complete picture of local building traditions. In large part because changing transportation and highway routes took commercial, residential, and industrial development following World War II to other sections of the town and outlying areas, there has been limited intrusive construction within the district since the early 1950s, affording the Weldon Historic District with an admirable degree of architectural integrity. Although the Weldon Historic District's period of significance is ca.1830 to 1946, only two resources, the Stone Building (4 W. First Street) and the Weldon Freight Depot (3 E. First Street), date from before the Civil War. Thus, the Weldon Historic District's architecture is overwhelmingly late nineteenth and early twentieth century in character.

The Weldon Historic District's two antebellum buildings are associated with transportation systems vital to Weldon's early development. The canal-related ca.1830 Stone Building (4 W. First Street) has fifteen-inch thick granite walls that are similar in character to stonework seen nearby in the superbly crafted 1823 aqueduct over Chockoyotte Creek and in ca.1830 footings of the 1892 Weldon Corn Mill, with both the aqueduct and the mill being included in the Roanoke Canal Historic District (NR 1976). The earliest portion of the Weldon Freight Depot (3 East First Street), a two-bay gable-roofed brick warehouse built ca.1840, is a rare example of antebellum railroad buildings in North Carolina. It was enlarged in 1881 and given a two-story office in the Italianate style.

The Weldon Historic District's two other railroad-related resources are also significant architecturally. The 1910-1911 Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Embankment and Viaduct (W. First Street to W. Eighth Street), extending approximately 0.8 mile and rising from about eight feet above grade to approximately twenty-five feet tall, is a noted regional example of engineering expertise from the early twentieth century. The 1911 (former) Union Depot (6 W. First Street) displays a subdued version of the Prairie style that was popular for buildings of civic pride in small North Carolina towns during the early twentieth century.

The residential resources in the Weldon Historic District follow the architectural fashions common from the 1870s through World War II. The earliest houses display elements of the Italianate style as seen on the bracketed and paneled friezes of the (ca.1878) Edwards-Green House (308 Sycamore Street), the 1881 Dickens-Draper House (705 Washington Avenue), and the ca.1879 Ashley L. Stainback House (11 West Fifth Street). The 1891 James Alexander Musgrove House (10 West Fourth Street), with its abundance of sawn woodwork, is the Weldon Historic District's best example of the Eastlake style. While the asymmetrical form of the Queen Anne style was popular in Weldon for almost thirty years, fully realized renditions of the style are few. The 1901-1902 Smith-Dickens House (400 Washington Avenue), with a proliferation of dormers and wrap-around porch with octagonal pavilion, is the largest and most impressive example, while the ca.1894 William M. Cohen House (600 Washington Avenue) displays a sophisticated manipulation of gables and window shapes. More modest Queen Anne dwellings include the ca.1906 Spears-Freid Rental Houses (501 and 503 Maple Street) and the ca.1892 James T. Gooch House (612 Washington Avenue), the latter having an eccentric two-story tower added before 1909.

During the early twentieth century, Weldon home builders had an increasing variety of styles from which to choose, with most selecting the Colonial Revival or Craftsman styles, and some combining elements of the two compatible styles into designs of arresting appeal. The 1901-1902 Smith-Dickens House (400 Washington Avenue) and the 1911 Harry L. Grant House (400 Sycamore Street) show early Colonial Revival influence in their asymmetrical Queen Anne forms, while later examples, such as the 1914 Herbert B. Harrell House (500 Washington Avenue) and the 1915-1923 Henry D. Allen House (601 Washington Avenue), became more symmetrical and formal. The early 1920s saw the first widespread use of brick for dwellings in Weldon, as shown in formal Colonial Revival designs for the ca.1924 David Seifert House (605 Sycamore Street) and the 1928 Dr. Henry Grady Lassiter House (102 East Sixth Street). The extraordinary 1934 DeLeon F. Green House (401 Cedar Street) is the apex of formal Colonial Revival design in Weldon, being an academically correct two-and-a-half-story five-bay-wide brick residence designed by New York architect William Lawrence Bottomly (1883-1951), a master of the style with important designs in Raleigh, Charlotte, Asheville, and throughout Virginia, especially Richmond. It, and the equally outstanding asymmetrical Colonial Revival 1935 William A. Pierce, Jr. House (10 W. Sixth Street), a masonry and brick design by Mitchell Wooten (d. 1940) of Kinston, North Carolina, are among the finest examples of the Colonial Revival style in eastern North Carolina.

The Craftsman style is seen in many forms, being most accomplished in the skillful use of granite, weatherboarding, and wood shingles on the 1914 William L. Knight House (600 Sycamore Street). Most prevalent among Craftsman houses are Bungalows, with few in town as stylishly modern as the 1919 Margaret B. Green Grant House (309 Sycamore Street), it being the mail-order, ready-cut "Pomono" design from the Aladdin Company of Bay City, Michigan. While one-and-a-half-story examples such as the ca.1928 Frederick Jones Bounds, Jr. House (704 Washington Avenue) were popular among middle-class merchants, even more numerous were modest one-story gable-front examples that were erected during the 1920s and 1930s as rental property. The many forms of this is genre is illustrated by a pair of houses (8 and 10 East Eighth Street) built ca.1927 and the three Mrs. Estelle Daniel Rental Houses (709, 711 and 801 Elm Street) erected about three years later.

Only two other styles were used for residences in Weldon during the early twentieth century. The Neo-Classical Revival style, with its impressive porticoes and monumental scale, is represented by three examples. Especially noted are two neighboring dwellings, the ca.1907 Ovid W. Pierce, Sr. House (515 Washington Avenue) and the Mary Pierce Johnson House (511 Washington Avenue), the latter built about 1903 and remodeled in 1913 to keep abreast of architectural fashion. The 1919 R. Craig Cornwall House (311 Sycamore Street) is a particularly imposing example that has Corinthian capitals and an exceptionally tall entablature. While the Tudor Revival enjoyed only minor popularity in Weldon, the 1935 William J. Edwards House (613 Sycamore Street) is a masterpiece of the style. The large brick Edwards House exhibits the picturesque asymmetry, massive central chimney, and variety of window shapes for which the style is known, and is the only known Tudor Revival commission received by the talented and prolific, but short-lived Mitchell Wooten of Kinston. The ca.1935 William Esmond Carter House (808 Elm Street) is more typical of the modestly-scaled Tudor Revival cottages built throughout the state during the 1930s.

Most of Weldon's commercial buildings follow late nineteenth century Victorian forms in which the main architectural interest is supplied by decorative brick corbeling. Most notable are the four two-story buildings that comprise the so-called "flatiron" block at 100-102-104, 106-108-110-112, 114 and 116-118 Washington Avenue. All were erected between 1877 and 1904 and, with arched facades added in the 1920s, form a notable group of modestly decorated brick commercial buildings. The corbeled brickwork on the 1897-1904 Edwin Clark Building (229-231 Washington Avenue) is the finest in town, having recessed panels, stylized modillions, sawtooth soldier brick panels, robust elongated corbels, and bold corbeled drip hoodmolds. More stylish are the Italianate Victorian embellishments on the ca.1902 Pierce-Whitehead Hardware Building (212 Washington Avenue) and the ca.1905 Weldon Furniture Co. Building (216 Washington Avenue), which include foliate-embellished metal entablatures and cast iron pilasters manufactured by G.L. Mesker and Company of St. Louis, Missouri. Possessing heightened architectural punch because of its diminutive size, the narrow, one-story (former) Bank of Weldon Building (121 Washington Avenue) is an exceptional illustration of the Romanesque style. Built ca.1895, the tiny building employs rock-faced and dressed limestone, exaggerated arches, and colored glass to gain a measure of sophistication rarely achieved by buildings of such small size in eastern North Carolina.

Each of the three churches in the Weldon Historic District are eloquent illustrations of ecclesiastical design. Grace Episcopal Church (416 Washington Avenue; NR 1991), built between 1872 and 1889 in stuccoed-brick, is a picturesque example of the Gothic Revival style that dominated Episcopalian building traditions during the nineteenth century. Across the street, the 1910 Weldon United Methodist Church (415 Washington Avenue), designed by Wheeler and Stern of Charlotte, is an impressively-large example of the Gothic Revival as rendered in brick during the early twentieth century. Nearby, the 1915 Weldori Baptist Church (609 Washington Avenue) follows a cruciform-plan form with Colonial Revival finish that enjoyed tremendous statewide popularity during the 1910s and 1920s. With porticoes carried by monumental Ionic columns and a hipped roof topped by an octagonal cupola, the design surely comes from James M. McMichael of Charlotte, the architect for scores of churches in North and South Carolina and Virginias between 1901 and 1930.

In addition to the aforementioned architects of Bottomly, Wooten, Wheeler and Stern, and McMichael, numerous contractors are represented by buildings in the Weldon Historic District. "Major'' Thomas Leyburn Emry (1842-1910), a Virginia native, came to Weldon in 1869 and soon became the town's leading businessman, entrepreneur, and promoter. With his founding of a brick yard in the 1870s, he became a contractor, most likely erecting most of the brick commercial buildings erected in Weldon during the late nineteenth century, particularly structures in which he was sole or part owner (106-108-110-112 Washington Avenue; 114 Washington Avenue; 116-118 Washington Avenue). Halifax County native Frank M. Rightmyer (1903-1984) was an active contractor in Weldon from the 1930s until the 1970s. In addition to his 1937 Colonial Revival style residence (203 E. Sixth Street) and the similar ca.1938 Casper W. Gregory House (7 W. Fifth Street), Rightmyer also built the 1936 William A. Pierce, Jr. House (10 W. Sixth Street) and the 1946 D.C. Johnson House (4 East Fourth Street), as well as others not yet attributed to him. He also built at least nine dwellings in the Weldon Historic District between 1948 and ca.1960 that are noncontributing because of age.

Adapted from: Johnny Draper, Mayor, Town of Weldon, Weldon Historic District, Halifax County, N.C., nomination document, 1996, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
1st Street East • 1st Street West • 2nd Street East • 2nd Street West • 3rd Street East • 3rd Street West • 4th Street East • 4th Street West • 5th Street East • 5th Street West • 6th Street East • 6th Street West • 7th Street East • 7th Street West • 8th Street East • 8th Street West • Cedar Street • Elm Street • Maple Street • Route 158 • Sycamore Street • Washington Avenue • Woodlawn Avenue