College Street Historic District
The College Street Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The College Street Historic District in Clinton, comprising twenty-two pivotal and contributing structures, is a linear district flanking both sides of College Street for a distance of two-and-one-third blocks. The College Street Historic District grew up around the Clinton Female Academy, which started in 1826 as the Clinton Academy. The school became a public school around 1900 and in 1911 the present structure, a handsome, large, two-story building with a center bay pedimented portico of Ionic columns, replaced the original frame building; it is currently used as the College Street Elementary School. L.C. Graves, an early principal, built a large academic Greek Revival house (600 College Street) near the school in 1845. This temple form house, the College Street Historic District's largest and oldest, was moved to its present site adjacent to the school in the 1870s by another academy principal. The structure, completely restored in 1980 and converted into a financial institution, occupies a commanding site at the district's southwest corner. The College Street Historic District is characterized by many handsome frame structures displaying a wide variety of classically-derived forms, especially on the porches. The Greek Revival, Classical Revival and Colonial Revival styles dominate the district; unifying the different dwellings by the similar classical nature of their porches. The several representatives of the Bungalow, Victorian and Queen Anne styles give the district a proper degree of decorative embellishment, just enough to prevent the classical features from becoming overwhelming. The College Street Historic District is sheltered under a lush canopy of old oaks and pecan trees, punctuated by a number of large magnolias. The College Street Historic District, from its inception until the present, centers on the educational purposes of the Clinton Academy, Clinton Female Academy and the College Street Elementary School.
The College Street Historic District is located in the Sampson County seat of Clinton. The district grew up around Clinton Female Institute, originally Clinton Academy, in the nineteenth century. The College Street Historic District includes the residences of a number of Clinton civic leaders who were instrumental in developing the school. In the early twentieth century the school became part of the public school system.
The school dates back to the earliest days of Clinton. The town was laid out in 1818, but not formally incorporated until 1822. The Clinton Academy was chartered in 1821 but received its major boost in 1826. In that year the academy moved to its present location with the purchase by the trustee of two acres on present College Street from Owen Holmes (1795-1840) a well-to-do planter and lawyer who represented New Hanover County in the State Senate. The school's trustees were a distinguished group and included two of Holmes' brothers, James Holmes (1788-1861), a planter, and Hardy Holmes (1804-1862), a physician. James Holmes represented Sampson County in the State Senate in 1819 and was one of the large number of trustees who served in the General Assembly. Other original trustees who served in Raleigh were William Robinson (Senate, 1822), Hardy Royal (Senate, 1827-1829), William Kirby) Representative, 1858-1859), and Thomas Sutton (Representative 1818-1820, 1826-1827). Other 1826 trustees were Charles Butler, Owen Mobley, John Owen, Archibald Calquhound, Jonathan W. Mosely, John Bryan and John Wright.
Clinton Academy became Clinton Female Institute in 1852. Under the leadership of principal Luke C. Graves the school continued to prosper and gain the support of leading citizens of Clinton and Sampson County. Trustees during the immediate antebellum period included Thomas Bunting, a Clinton physician who was in the North Carolina Senate from 1836-1839, 1850-1852, and who was a delegate to the North Carolina Constitutional Conventions in the early 1860s; Matthew Faison, a member of perhaps the county's wealthiest antebellum planter family and a State Senator from 1848 until 1849; Henry Bizzell (1818-1873), a Philadelphia-educated physician and Clinton town commissioner; John L. Boykin, a state representative from 1850 until 1851; Alfred Johnson (1809-1873), a Connecticut native who moved to Sampson County at a young age to become one of the county's leading businessmen; Patrick Murphy (1801-1874), a planter, lawyer and legislator; and John R. Beaman (1813-1892), a legislator and businessman..
In 1850 Luke Graves became the sole owner of Clinton Female Academy, when he purchased the grounds (by now over six acres), the buildings, the library and all the rest for $8,000. Graves became owner of the school shortly before the Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction threw Sampson County into severe hard times. It is a tribute to Graves' skills that the school was able to remain open, although it did close during the war for a period.
Graves died in 1873. A newly formed group of stockholders purchased the school from the Graves estate for $5,500 with the stipulation that the property be used for educational purposes. These new stockholders were Allmand McKoy, Langdon Hubbard, Jonathan L. Stewart, John R. Beaman, James A. Ferrell, William A. Faison, John Ashford and Abram Hobbs. A number of these men were supporters of the school shortly before his death in 1873. Johnson had been a trustee in the antebellum period.
The headmaster of Clinton Female Academy during this period was Jonathan Lafayette Stewart. A native of Monroe County, Mississippi, Stewart was born in 1835. He came to North Carolina to attend the University of North Carolina, from where he graduated in 1857. He moved to Clinton in 1864 to practice law. He also was an ordained minister of the Missionary Baptist Church and served as moderator of the Eastern Baptist Association for thirty years. A trustee of the University of North Carolina, Stewart was nearly elected first president of North Carolina Agricultural and Mechanics College (now North Carolina State University) and was a State Senator. The school continued to suffer from the economic difficulties of the period. According to one source, "the stockholders or many of them had failed to pay subscription, whereby the trusteed...were prevented from taking up...notes at their maturity." In 1874 Stewart purchased one-half interest in the school for $3,000, $2,000 of which went to pay off the mortgage and $1,000 of which was for improvements. The next year the Johnson estate was forced to sell the mortgage on the remaining half interest. This mortgage was purchased by John R. Beaman, a longtime supporter of the school and eventually acquired by Stewart.
It is not certain how long Stewart remained headmaster of the school in view of his other interests. E.P. Mangum and Benjamin Franklin Grady were principals in the 1890s.
In 1900 Clinton Female Institute became part of the public school system, with D.L. Ellis the first principal. In 1911 the original building was replaced by the present brick building. In 1922 Clinton High School was constructed and the old Institute became Clinton Elementary School, with grades one through seven. A PTA was organized the next year. The school became the College Street Elementary School in 1954. The school continues to operate as an elementary school, with classes offered kindergarten through grade three.
The College Street Historic District contains a number of buildings with considerable historical significance to the school. Perhaps the most important is the L.C. Graves House. The house was built around 1845 by Graves along Cattail Branch, near the Institute. Jonathan Stewart purchased the house and moved it a short distance to its present location in the 1870s, during the period when he was principal of the school. Thus this structure houses two of the school's most prominent principals.
The oldest house in the College Street Historic District is the John Ashford House (615 College Street). Built around 1839 by Clinton lumberman George Marsh, the house was purchased and expanded in 1869 by Colonel John Ashford (1837-1889). A Civil War hero wounded at Manassas and Gettysburg, Ashford and his wife Elizabeth Hines lived on College Street "while overseeing their farming and lumbering interests." Ashford and two of his sons were killed in 1889 following an explosion at one of his Clinton sawmills. His widow lived at the house until her death in 1922. It is presently  owned by a great-grandson, Henry L. Stewart.
The John Robert Beaman house (611 College Street) was built for Beaman around 1850. A strong supporter of the school, Beaman lived on College Street until his death in 1892. A number of his children and grandchildren attended the academy.
The Dr. Fleet Rose Cooper House (612 College Street) was built about 1900 for Cooper, a Clinton lawyer, state legislator and supporter of the school. Cooper's wife Ida Ashford (1868-1951) was the daughter of John Ashford.
Other houses in the College Street Historic District date from the twentieth century. The Thelma Bethune house (614 College Street) was built about 1900 for banker Walter Petersen and owned for many years by Mrs. Bethune (1903-1970). Also built around 1900 was the Herring House (610 College Street) constructed for David Livingston Herring, a cotton buyer. The Goode House (701 College Street) was built about 1900 and was purchased and remodeled about 1909 by Seddon Goode, a lumberman. Also in the lumber business was James Albert McArthur, for whom the McArthur House (700 College Street) was built around 1905. The Snipes-Bizzell-Parker House (702 College Street) was constructed about 1905 by Eugene Archibol Snipes, a carpenter and farmer. It was remodeled in 1918 by Jesse Bizzell and purchased in 1921 by Oscar Lee Parker, a prominent physician who opened an office in Clinton that same year. The Hines-Boney House (705 College Street) was constructed in the first decade of the twentieth century by Henry Hines and purchased in 1937 by Landron Boney, editor of the Sampson Democrat.
Several houses were constructed in the district between 1910 and 1920. These are the Morrison-Caison-Rose House (801 College Street), built about 1910 for Katie Powell; the Hobbs-Matthews-Small House (709 College Street), built 1910 and owned for many years by Dr. Victor R. Small (1888-1971); the Dawson-Parsons House (712 College Street), built about 1915 by W.E. Evans, purchased by Harvey Dawson in 1918, and by M.T. Parsons in 1948; and the E.G. Lee House (708 College Street), built in 1818 for Lee (1897-1967), a dentist. Two houses date from the 1920s. The Carroll-Morris House (616 College Street) was built in 1920 for Clyde Carroll, a lumberman, and owned for many years by prominent businessman H.I. Morris. The R.A. Turlington House (609 College Street) dates from the late 1920s and was built for Turlington, a dentist. All nineteenth century school buildings were replaced by the 1911 construction of the present school building.
Until the early part of the twentieth century the quality of North Carolina public schools was generally poor. Academies like Clinton Female Institute were designed to fill the void. These academies "were more stable and offered a more through and advanced type of education" than could be found in the public school of the time. For this reason almost three hundred academies were chartered by the General Assembly in the period from 1800 until 1860. Relatively few of these were exclusively for girls. The Civil War and subsequent Reconstruction somewhat reduced the number of academies but more severely reduced the number of public school, thereby maintaining the importance of the academy. Given the importance of the Clinton Female Institute to the educational and social fabric of the town, it is not surprising that one of Clinton's finest residential neighborhoods grew up around it. The changes that made the school a part of the public school system in the early part of the century did not greatly diminish either the academic character of the neighborhood, or its importance to Clinton.
Bizzell, Oscar M., ed. The Heritage of Sampson County, North Carolina. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company, 1983
Butchko, Thomas. An Inventory of Historic Architecture, Sampson County, North Carolina. Clinton: City of Clinton, n.d.
† Thomas Butchko and Jim Sumner, Survey and Planning Branch, North Carolina Department of Archives and History, College Street Historic District, Clinton, Sampson County, NC, nomination document, 1985, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.