Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District
The Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District [†] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
American suburbs were rooted in the social movement of progressive reformers as well as in the aesthetics of the "City Beautiful" movement of the early twentieth century. The goals and values of these two movements were expressed in popular architectural styles such as Craftsman, Foursquare, Colonial Revival, Period and Spanish Colonial designs. Developers of the suburban districts adopted these styles to create architecturally attractive neighborhoods with the added advantages of paved streets, sidewalks, landscaping, public utilities and the proximity of public transportation.
In North Carolina, suburban developments were motivated by explosive urban growth during the first quarter of the twentieth century, resulting in a demand for housing in areas apart from the city core yet readily accessible for work and other pursuits. In Wilmington, where the population had increased from 20,963 in 1900 to 25,734 in 1910 and 33,357 in 1920, the attraction of the suburbs came in full force at a relatively early date. Between 1906 and 1911, three major suburban developments had been platted to the east of Wilmington's city limits: Carolina Place [see Carolina Place Historic District], Carolina Heights [see Carolina Heights Historic District] and Winoca Terrace. These streetcar suburbs formed the first subdivisions and extended the original city grid into level, well drained fields surrounded by woodlands.
To the west and southwest of Carolina Place, a second phase of development emerged between 1911 and 1922. Westbrook-Ardmore was conveniently situated along the city's streetcar route which ran south along 17th Street to the shopping district on Castle Street where it connected with a second line extending southeast through Delgado Mill Village to Wrightsville Beach and west to the riverfront. Because of its central location, Westbrook-Ardmore experienced a longer period of development than the adjacent suburbs. Whereas construction in Carolina Place, Carolina Heights and Winoca Terrace lasted from the first decade of the twentieth century until 1939, Westbrook-Ardmore had an almost continuous period of building activity from 1914 to the mid-1950s resulting in a wide array of architecture representative of popular twentieth century styles.
The Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District meets National Register of Historic Places criterion in the area of community planning and development and also for architecture. The period of significance for the district extends from ca.1914 to ca.1956. The earliest houses in the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District, Craftsman Bungalows and Foursquare types, date to ca.1914 and were built in the northern section of the development along Dock Street, Wrightsville Avenue, South 15th Street and South 16th Street. The last significant period of construction, brick veneer Ranch houses and public structures, are dispersed throughout the neighborhood, and date from the post-World War II period to 1956 when the Central Church of Christ was erected on South 17th Street, a noteworthy example of how a small, ecclesiastical edifice, influenced by modern design, blends into the traditional, residential character of the neighborhood. The architecture in the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District ranges from simple, gable front houses to high-style Colonial Revival and Mission Revival institutional and residential buildings. Other styles include Craftsman Bungalow, Period Cottage, Late Gothic Revival, Moderne, Commercial Style, and Minimal Traditional.
Historic Background/Community Development Context
Wilmington, North Carolina, situated on the elevated east side of the Cape Fear River, twenty-seven miles north of the point where it flows into the Atlantic Ocean, has been the focus of an important lumber, turpentine, shipbuilding and cotton producing region of the state for more than 275 years. From its incorporation, in 1739, the town grew steadily over the succeeding century until it reached a population of 10,000 residents by 1860. For much of the period the city depended on river traffic to ship valuable cargos along the Atlantic seaboard and across the ocean to European ports. With the increase in trade, civic-minded leaders envisioned a city distinguished by fashionable architecture reflecting their self-esteem, economic prosperity and cultural awareness. They sought out architects and builders from as far away as Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania to enhance the character and appeal of the port city. Despite setbacks such as disastrous riverside fires, yellow fever epidemics, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the city prospered, and continued to rebound with determination in times of depression and progression.
Until 1870, Market Street, the main land route into and out of the city, extended only as far as Seventeenth Street where it became a country road passing through farms, fields and woodlands. Two diverging roads ran northeast to New Bern and southeast to Wrightsville Beach. Streetcars, however, were available within the city limits and a steam train carried passengers and freight to the beach communities. The Wilmington Street Railway system was installed in the 1870s, and stables for the horses drawing the cars were erected near the corner of Seventeenth and Market streets (Wilmington Star, 11/13/1877). The conversion from horse-drawn cars to electric-powered trolleys occurred in 1892. A decade later, Wilmington entrepreneur and engineer, Hugh MacRae, acquired both the city streetcar lines and the Wrightsville beach line, forming the Consolidated Railways Light and Power Company. This became Tide Water Power Company in 1907. In May of that year, the line along Princess Street to Seventeenth and then south to Castle Street had a second pair of tracks installed. By mid-June, the newspaper reported that the double tracks from downtown, at Front and Princess streets, out to Carolina Place and on to the beach, had been completed (Wilmington Star, 6/2/1907).
The city's lines were extended to accommodate growth of the suburbs on the city's eastern edge. Equally significant was the opportunity for trolleys to encourage new neighborhoods along the beach route. Whereas the steam train probably had no stops, the electric streetcar eventually served a total of twenty waiting stations. The streetcar lines also served the Delgado textile mill and its village on Wrightsville Avenue. When the Carolina Shipyard opened in 1918 to build ships for World War I, the streetcar lines were extended southwest to the riverfront plant. By 1925, Wilmington's streetcar system included twenty-two miles of roadbed, nine of them being double-tracked.
On August 20, 1924, four new safety cars were added to the Carolina Place line to accommodate rush hour commuters. Early in November, service on the South Seventeenth Street Carolina Line was doubled daily, except Sunday, between the downtown Union Depot, Front and Red Cross streets, and the Seventeenth Street stop (Wilmington News-Dispatch, 11/1/1924). In 1931, the five urban streetcar lines were named the Carolina, Castle, Brooklyn, Red Cross Sunset Park lines (Wilmington Star, 2/28/1931). The last trolley service ended in late April, 1940, replaced by diesel busses along most of the existing routes in town and at the beach (McKoy, Wilmington, Do You Remember When?)
The development of suburban residential neighborhoods in Wilmington was part of the pattern of city expansion outward into the countryside in America during the mid-nineteenth century. The City Beautiful Movement which called for the design of unified neighborhoods easily accessible to and from urban areas, yet setting new standards street patterns, landscaping, size of building lots, types and dimensions of buildings, and other restrictions directed at maintaining a pleasing environment for residents of various income levels. Important factors in the success of these developments were the coordination of transportation systems, street and sidewalk paving, installation of utilities, and the creation and maintenance of a park-like setting. Although many early plans contained a central focus, such as a stream, monument or a series of small parks bordering curving streets, some later developments replicated the city's grid pattern, but were often intersected by older, angular roadways left intact, providing interesting vistas through the neighborhood.
In Wilmington, suburban developments within the circle of the streetcar routes, followed the city's grid pattern of streets. Thus, Carolina Heights, Winoca Terrace, Carolina Place and Westbrook-Ardmore mostly contain rectangular lots bordering the linear streets, except where Wrightsville Avenue and Colwell Avenue angle through the last two neighborhoods. It is only with the Forest Hills and Oleander developments, east and southeast of the city that the curvilinear pattern appears together with rolling topography, natural woodlands and the meanders of Burnt Mill Creek adding to the rural atmosphere of the area. Like Carolina Heights and Winoca Terrace, the grounds and houses are on a larger scale and many of the homes were designed by noted architects. The Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District is especially noteworthy for its well-established, platted, suburban neighborhood which intermixes both public and residential buildings, dating from ca.1914 to the mid-1950s.
The Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District contains an impressive assemblage of public and residential resources that exhibit a wide variety of architectural styles including Colonial Revival, Tudor, Spanish, English Cottage, Late Gothic Revival, Art Moderne, Streamline and Ranch house types that received the attention of suburban property developers and owners from the early 1900s to the 1950s. The predominant types, however, are the simple and straightforward two-story, Foursquare designs and the Craftsman Bungalows.
The buildings that make up the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District are almost entirely residential structures. Representing a range of architectural forms that were popular during the early twentieth century, the houses include bungalows, hip-roof cottages, and side-gable dwellings along with a few two-story residences. Stylistically, the houses represent the Craftsman style, Foursquare, Period Cottages, Colonial Revival and Minimal Traditional. The integrity of the buildings is very good, with typical alterations including vinyl or aluminum siding, replacement windows, the enclosure of porches and changes in porch supports and railings.
The most common architectural type is the bungalow. In fact, a rough estimate indicates that about fifty-seven percent of the buildings within the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District are bungalows. They range in design from the simple Craftsman style featuring knee braces, exposed rafter ends, false beams, or battered columns to more high style examples with more elaborate treatments of these features. Although the majority of the residential buildings are of single family occupancy, there are some historic apartment buildings and garage apartments that date from circa 1945 when the city was struggling to house the onslaught of war effort workers, and after the war when more and more residents were drawn from publication transportation to purchasing private automobiles.
Noteworthy examples of the Craftsman Bungalow style are located throughout the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District. The ca.1923 Llewellyn Woodbury House at 1620 Ann Street, the ca.1931 Robert Hufham House at 1708 Ann Street and the ca.1927 Sanford Doxey House at 1806 Ann Street are side-gable bungalows with engaged porches and tapered posts on brick piers. Windows are double-hung, paired and single four-over-one sash. The attic dormers have false beams and three, three-light windows. The ca.1927 James Canady House at 1808 Ann Street is of similar design, but it has a brick exterior. Houses featuring hip roofs and gabled dormers with tripartite windows or combined windows and attic vents include the ca.1927 Robert Williams House at 1910 Ann Street, the ca.1927 Eugene Musselwhite House at 1918 Ann Street and the ca.1925 Louis Hill House at 1912 Carolina Avenue. They, too, feature porches with paired posts on brick piers. The Leonidas Russell House at 1710 Carolina Avenue is a side-gable bungalow with pebbledash gables consisting of small stones combined with stucco to produce a textured surface. The house has a gable dormer, false beams, and exposed rafter tails. The porch has columns on brick piers and a double-slope roof. The Samuel Fulford House at 1504 Orange Street is a hip roof dwelling with a hip roof dormer and a porch with the ubiquitous paired posts and brick pier design. Other residences incorporating double-slope roofs, and all built ca.1927, are the William Brown House at 1804 Carolina Avenue, the John Baldwin House at 1811 Nun Street, the Cecil Matthes House at 1812 Nun Street and the John Sweeney House at 1920 Nun Street. The ca.1925 Willis Long House at 208 S. 17th Street has a double-slope porch roof, tapered posts brick piers and a gable dormer with tripartite windows. Windows are paired and single four-over-one and six-over-one sash.
Bungalows featuring jerkinhead, or hip on gable roofs, were not a popular form in other Wilmington suburbs, but in the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District there are several examples such as the ca.1923 Walter Wells House at 1706 Ann Street; and the ca.1925 A. Dosher Ruark House at 1715 Carolina Avenue. The ca.1929 George Sternberger House at 415 South 19th Street and the Willis Long House at 419 South 19th Street are very similar in appearance and were probably built together. Three examples of bungalows with wraparound porches are the ca.1914 hip-roof Herbert O'Keef House at 1502 Dock Street, the ca.1916 gable-front Edward Hall House at 1511 Orange Street and the ca.1927 hip-roof Jno. P. White House at 1820 Carolina Avenue. The O'Keef House porch also has turned posts surmounted by a spindle frieze, as does the ca.1921 Clarence Hewlett House at 210 South 16th Street.
Numerous gable front houses are scattered throughout the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District, the most exemplary being the ca.1927 J. Marion Cox House at 1811 Carolina Avenue with a gable front roof and an engaged porch. Others of the type, and all dating to ca.1916, feature fanciful peak trusses: the Leon Anders House at 1616 Orange Street, the Francis Southerland House at 1618 Orange Street, the William Andrews House at 1806 Orange Street, the Leonard Allen House at 113 South 17th Street, the Mollie Williams House at 209 South 17th Street and the Foster Davis House at 210 South 17th Street. The latter also has Chinese Chippendale style porch balustrades. A rare example of a gable-on-hip roof dwelling is the ca.1916 Robert Milliken House at 1910 Castle Street.
At 1907 Castle Street (Michael Jacobs House) and 1909 Castle Street (William Scoggins House), the ca.1918 hip-roof houses, are seen with turned porch posts with decorative brackets, while the ca.1921 gable-front Yancey Rich House at 1504 Dock Street exhibits porch posts with horizontal and vertical members between them and large brackets. The ca.1923 French Hickman House at 1515 Nun Street also has unusual porch supports, the paired posts being pierced by decorative cross-pieces. Some bungalows have a special porch design feature where the lintels above the posts have low peaks giving the facades a slight undulating appearance. The ca.1927 William Brown House at 1804 Carolina Avenue and the ca.1927 Bryant Hemby House at 206 South 16th Street also have this feature. Two homes on Nun Street, dating to ca.1927, the Cecil Matthes House at 1812 Nun Street and the John Sweeney House at 1920 Nun Street, feature curvilinear porch lintels above their tapered posts.
The two-story Foursquare house design, with corner entrance hall and four-room plan, is another type found in the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District, especially in the older section of development along Wrightsville Avenue adjacent to Carolina Place. Examples of the style on that street are the ca.1915 Claude Snow House at 1808 Wrightsville Avenue, the ca.1916 Pickard-Biggs House at 1902 Wrightsville Avenue, the ca.1923 Eugene Pickard House at 1906 Wrightsville Avenue and the ca.1926 Rev. Charles Myers House at 1922 Wrightsville Avenue.
Three Colonial Revival style houses are at 1908 Ann Street, 1923 Nun Street, 1924 Wrightsville Avenue and 414 South 19th Street. Number 119 South 17th Street and 404-406 South 18th Street are Dutch Colonial in style with their gambrel roofs parallel to the street.
A fine example of a Period Cottage is seen in the ca.1925 Alfred and Dorothy Owens House at 322 South 17th Street. The two-story, brick residence has an entrance in a gabled bay and the doorway is surrounded by pilasters and a broken pediment. Fenestration consists of one-over-one sash and an arched attic window.
Houses constructed in the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District after the Great Depression, between 1939 and 1951, generally tend to have little or no stylistic characteristics and are classified as simple side-gable Minimal Traditional. Two one-story residences, built in 1951, are the Ellison Nelson House at 507 S. 19th Street and the William Smith House at 509 S. 19th Street. They are close in appearance to small dwellings built during the 1940s in Sunset Park [see Sunset Park Historic District] by the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company.
A type of post World War II construction found in the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District built on former vacant lots or replacing earlier structures is the Ranch house, typically one story in height and faced with brick veneer. Nine examples are the ca.1946 Mrs. Lulak Harvard House at 314 S. 15th Street, the ca.1949 Curtis Elliott House at 1921 Church Street, the ca.1949 Hazel Gould House at 308 S. 15th Street, the ca.1949 Aaron Peterson House at 1707 Church Street and the ca.1958 Mable Brown House at 310 S. 15th Street. The ca.1951 Linwood Simpson House at 1417 Ann Street is a unique instance where a one-story Ranch house incorporates a two-story section.
Since the houses in the neighborhoods south of Market Street and bordering on the streetcar lines (and after 1940, the bus lines) were rented or sold to working-class residents who used public transportation for their travel needs, there are few garages in the area and those that are extant are modern structures. Exceptions are frame garage-apartments, usually with two parking bays at the lower level and a four or five room living unit at the second level. Seven typical examples of these structures, built after the demise of the streetcars, are the ca.1942 Bridgers garage-apartment at 1807 Church Street, the ca.1945 Harrell garage-apartment at 1704 Church Street, the ca.1945 McIntire garage-apartment at 305 South 19th Street, the ca.1952 Johnson garage-apartment at 1707 Orange Street, the Everett garage-apartment at 208 South 18th Street and the ca.1952 Watkins garage-apartment at 403 South 18th Street.
There are very few commercial buildings within the area and these are concentrated almost exclusively in the southern portion of the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District, primarily along Castle and South 17th streets. They were typically constructed between 1940 and 1970. Institutional buildings in the area are also rare. There are three churches, built between 1942 and 1956, which strengthen the sense of community and are supported by active congregations. Commercial and institutional buildings in the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District include thirteen structures of various uses. A unique example of a small corner store is the ca.1927 McKay Grocery at 1422 Orange Street, a frame, front-gable building with five-panel double-leaf entrance doors. Another frame building with a stepped front parapet, is the ca.1927 Pinehurst Pharmacy building at 1704 Castle Street. The facade is sheathed with plain-edge weatherboards while the left and right walls have German siding. The one-story, brick and concrete block Mills Grocery, built ca.1946, is located at 514 South 17th Street, and is still in operation as a convenience store. The ca.1933, two-story Modern Laundry building, at 118 South 17th Street, is also a brick structure and incorporates large metal-clad awning windows. The ca.1955 Grissom's automobile and truck repair shop, at 1802 Castle Street, is a rambling, one-story brick building that appears, from vertical mortar joints in the facade, to have been built in three sections. Across the street stands the ca.1947 Matthes Steel Products building, a Quonset hut that held the fabrication plant for those unusual prefabricated metal structures.
An example of a small frame church with lancet windows and a steeple is the ca.1945 St. Mark's Free Will Baptist Church, at 1801 Castle Street, but a more imposing edifice, originally St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church and now Anderson Tabernacle Church, was built in 1942 in the Late Gothic Revival style using brick veneer, stone trim, stained glass windows, buttresses and a crenellated entrance tower.
Another architectural addition to the Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District, which at first resembles a Spanish mission, is the former Wilmington Fire Department Station No. 5, built in 1931 at the southeast corner of South Seventeenth Street and Wrightsville Avenue. Designed by local architects Lynch and Foard, the two-story stucco building is enhanced by a segmental arch entrance bay, iron balcony, buttressed walls, polygonal corner tower, shaped front parapet and a tile roof.
Across Wrightsville Avenue is one of three gasoline and service stations that recall two boom periods in the automobile era, the early 1930s and the 1950s. The former 1935 Pure Oil Station at 1701 Wrightsville Avenue is an intact example of the Ohio company's "English Cottage" gas station. The building has an end chimney, steeply pitched tile roof, false timber framing applied to an addition, bay window, and round head door. The original address for this building was 1 Wrightsville Avenue. At 516 South 17th Street is the former Traveler's Service Station #3, built in 1951. It has a projecting, five-sided sales office and rear, rectangular service bays with banding at the upper corners. The office has a flat awning, a capped parapet, and windows which are slanted inward down to the bulkhead. Number 600 South 17th Street, an automobile service station, was built ca.1955 and has three service bays in the center and south sections, and a rounded corner sales office with large windows at the northeast corner. The end walls terminate at angled pylons.
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Wilmington Dispatch, 1914, 1917, 1921, 1922. From the Bill Reaves Collection at the New Hanover County Public Library.
Wilmington Messenger, 1897, 1899, 1906. From the Bill Reaves Collection at the New Hanover County Public Library.
Wilmington News-Dispatch, 1924, 1925. From the Bill Reaves Collection at the New Hanover County Public Library.
Wilmington Star, 1877, 1907, 1911, 1912, 1916, 1917, 1922, 1926, 1931. From the Bill Reaves Collection at the New Hanover County Public Library.
Woodward, Sarah and Sherry Joines Wyatt, observations made and recorded during the architectural survey conducted by Sarah A. Woodard, principal investigators, October 2000.
Wrenn, Tony P., Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (Charlottesville, VA, University Press of Virginia, 1984).
† Adapted from: Edward F. Turberg, Architectural Historian, Westbrook-Ardmore Historic District, New Hanover County, NC, nomination document, 2008, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.