Roanoke Park Historic District
The Roanoke Park Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright ©2012, The Gombach Group.
Roanoke Park Historic District, located northwest of downtown Raleigh, is locally significant as a suburban neighborhood developed between 1913 and 1952. Roanoke Park Historic District is a well-preserved example of an early-to-mid-twentieth century residential suburb with intact examples of dwellings from the major national architectural styles popular at the time.
Roanoke Park proper was one of many twentieth century land subdivisions in Raleigh's Five Points area in what was then the northern part of the city. The Roanoke Park Historic District consists of six of these subdivisions, of which Roanoke Park was the largest. The individual dwellings of the Roanoke Park Historic District are related by their dates of construction and architectural styles and are an excellent collection of popular architecture from the early-to-mid-twentieth century. Styles represented include Craftsman, Colonial Revival, Period Cottage, Minimal Traditional and Ranch. The subdivisions are unified into one neighborhood by interconnected streets and sidewalks, and the presence of similar and compatible architectural styles and materials, lot and house sizes, and building setbacks. Amenities, such as mature trees, tree medians and a park, serve to further unify the area. The Roanoke Park Historic District contains 502 resources: 414 dwellings and eighty-six outbuildings. A picturesque park is a contributing site, and a modern gazebo in the park is a non-contributing structure. Roughly ninety percent of the resources retain the requisite amount of physical integrity to contribute to the district's historic significance.
The development of the Roanoke Park Historic District illustrates national suburbanization trends from just prior to World War I through the 1950s. With the arrival of motorized transportation, first with the extension of the streetcar line along Glenwood Avenue in 1912, and later in the 1920s when automobiles became widely available, homeowners were free to reside in parts of the city separate from where they worked. Extension of streetcar service drove the development of the Five Points neighborhoods. Additionally, Five Points neighborhoods boasted twentieth century conveniences such as electricity, water, sewer and phone service.
While this period in American history saw great advances in transportation and technology, it was also a period of social stratification. Like many subdivisions across the South, the district's deeds contained restrictions that prohibited African-American ownership and occupancy. Thus, the suburbs offered white middle-class America a racially homogeneous lifestyle. In the mid-1940s, soldiers returning from World War II craved the return to an American suburban ideal established prior to the war. The Roanoke Park Historic District contains a significant number of dwellings constructed to accommodate these ex-soldiers and their families.
The Roanoke Park Historic District's period of significance begins in 1913, the date of the plat of the neighborhood's first subdivision, the Barnes land subdivision. The neighborhood continued developing into the 1950s and 1960s, however, this period is not of exceptional significance, and therefore the period of significance ends at 1952, the fifty-year cut-off.
The Roanoke Park Historic District is locally significant under National Register of Historic Places criterion, for architecture, as a collection of intact and representative examples of nationally popular architectural styles from the period of significance, 1913-1952. Construction in the historic district was influenced by national events such as the Depression and subsequent economic recovery, World War II and the post war housing shortage. The earliest houses in the Roanoke Park Historic District are the vernacular triple-A houses, and early Craftsman styles dating from the 1910s, some of them possibly built prior to platting of the subdivisions. There are approximately ten of these houses found on Sunrise Avenue and East Whitaker Mill Road. From the years immediately following World War I through the beginning of the national economic depression in 1929, the Craftsman influence predominated with approximately thirty-seven percent of the district's buildings displaying elements of the style. Another five percent of the buildings date from prior to 1930 but are rendered in other styles such as the American Foursquare, Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival. Period Cottages and Minimal Traditional houses replaced the Craftsman style in the economic recovery era in the mid-1930s. Popularity of the Minimal Traditional continued after World War II and into the 1950s. Approximately forty percent of the dwellings in the Roanoke Park Historic District are Minimal Traditional and Period Cottage. Seven contributing Ranch houses are also in the district. These dwellings are significant as representatives of the beginning of an architectural trend, as Ranch houses would come to be the dominant house form of the suburban landscape in the second half of the twentieth century. The remainder of the houses in the Roanoke Park Historic District lack the architectural detail necessary to place them in a stylistic category, however, most of the dwellings date from the period 1930 through 1952 and still contribute to the district's historic significance.
The Roanoke Park Historic District also meets National Register criterion for community planning and development. The district is representative of early twentieth century residential suburbanization patterns that saw the emergence of racially segregated and economically stratified neighborhoods geographically apart from urban centers and dependent on motorized transportation.
Development of the Five Points Area
By the 1910s, the suburbanization of Raleigh was underway with the development of the Glenwood, Cameron Park and Boylan Heights subdivisions occurring between 1906 and 1910. Raleigh's upper and middle classes were aspiring to the suburban lifestyle as was evidenced by the success of these first subdivisions and the continued demand for new ones.
The city's second wave of residential subdivisions, including those in the Roanoke Park Historic District, were platted between 1910 and 1926 around the Five Points intersection created by the convergence of West Whitaker Mill and Fairview roads and Glenwood Avenue. The earliest Five Points area subdivision was that of the Barnes property on the south side of Whitaker Mill Road by local lawyer and real estate developer James H. Pou, Jr. in 1913. Pou made his foray into Five Points area real estate speculation in 1905, when he bought a tract of land north of Fairview Road. However, this parcel would not be platted as Bloomsbury until 1914, two years after the extension of Carolina Power and Light's (CP & L) Glenwood Avenue streetcar line to its terminus at the Bloomsbury Amusement Park. (The Bloomsbury Historic District was listed in the National Register in 2002.) Pou served on the Board of Directors for the Raleigh Electric Company, which became CP & L in 1908, and became general counsel for CP & L in 1913. Pou's position in the company made him aware of CP & L's plans to extend the streetcar line down Glenwood Avenue and concomitantly aware of the development potential of land in the Five Points vicinity. Thus, Pou also platted the Georgetown subdivision east of Sunrise Avenue in 1918.
Pou was not the only real estate developer taking advantage of the demand for suburban housing. North and east of Five Points the Vanguard Park neighborhood was underway with the platting of Villa Park in 1916. Hayes Barton (listed in the National Register in 2002), Raleigh's most elite residential subdivision, was developed beginning in 1919 by Allen Brothers Realty on the lush and hilly land west of Glenwood Avenue.
Development of the Roanoke Park District and Employment Patterns
The Roanoke Park Historic District is comprised of six separate subdivisions platted between 1913 and 1926 by several different real estate developers, including Pou. Those subdivisions are; Sunrise Avenue, E.R. Pace Estate, Fairview Park, Hayes Barton Extended, Ridgeway, and Roanoke Park.
The district's earliest subdivision is Sunrise Avenue, which also forms the Roanoke Park Historic District's eastern boundary. James H. Pou Jr. purchased the land from the Barnes family sometime prior to 1913 when it was platted by the Raleigh surveyors Riddick and Mann. The subdivision created the lots on the 1500 and 1600 blocks of Sunrise Avenue. Dwellings and outbuildings on Sunrise Avenue span from the early 1910s through the 1990s. The street is important because it contains the Roanoke Park Historic District's oldest buildings, constructed prior to the end of World War I in 1917, as well as the only examples of regional vernacular styles, such as the triple-A, the hipped-roof cottage and the narrow, front-gable form, sometimes referred to as the shotgun. The presence of these vernacular houses suggests that the builders of these dwellings were less concerned with issues of taste then issues of economy.
The triple-A is a one- or two-story, single-pile, side-gable house that derives its name from the presence of a decorative central gable on the facade. The distinctive roofline is first seen in piedmont North Carolina in the 1870s and is thought to be an adaptation of the Gothic Revival style favored by the upper classes. Triple-A houses were built in North Carolina's rural and urban areas through the 1920s. The Roanoke Park Historic District's triple-A houses are the circa 1915 one-story, frame houses at 1618 and 1523 Sunrise Avenue. The dwellings are the only examples of the type in the Five Points area.
Square, hipped-roof cottages, or pyramidal cottages, are another vernacular form that were constructed in rural and urban settings in early-twentieth century piedmont North Carolina. These simple and economical dwellings are often seen as worker housing in mill villages. The houses are one-story, roughly square buildings topped by a steeply pitched hipped, or pyramidal, roof. The interior arrangement is commonly four rooms of equal size. More elaborate variations of the basic form incorporate subsidiary gables, fanciful wrap porches, and sawnwork decoration. However, the examples present in the Roanoke Park Historic District display basic hipped-rooflines and simple porches. The earliest example is 1525 Sunrise Avenue constructed circa 1915. 1520, 1521, 1533, 1603, and 1629 Sunrise Avenue were built circa 1925.
The shotgun house is a narrow, one-story dwelling with its gable end facing the street. Facade fenestration consists of a door and window, or less commonly, just a door. The shotgun originated in early-nineteenth century New Orleans and Haiti, where it developed from African, Indian and French traditions. The type was a popular choice for rental housing because the spare form was cheap to construct and easy to maintain. A true shotgun house is one room wide, without a hallway to connect interior spaces. It is unknown if the dwellings on Sunrise Avenue are true shotguns in terms of the arrangement of interior space, however, the fenestration on the narrow, front-gable exteriors are strongly suggestive of the shotgun form. 1514 Sunrise Avenue, circa 1915, is a one-story, narrow, front-gable, frame dwelling covered in German siding with a shed porch supported by square posts. This house type is only found on Sunrise Avenue in the district and nowhere else in the Five Points area.
It is possible to establish employment patterns after the mid-1920s, when the city directories began to include Sunrise Avenue. In the mid-1920s and early 1930s almost all of the residents of Sunrise Avenue were employed in blue-collar jobs such as mechanics, painters, carpenters, roofers, and plumbers. This employment pattern suggests that the Sunrise Avenue dwellings were constructed as affordable housing for the workers that labored in the warehouses and railroad yards in the industrial corridor that borders the Roanoke Park Historic District's southern boundary. City directories also reveal that despite their modest means, approximately half of Sunrise Avenue residents owned their homes, while others rented. When compared with the rest of the district, this percentage of owner occupancy is lower on Sunrise Avenue.
1940s city directories, the first years that noted owner occupancy, reveal that the majority of homes in the historic district overall were owner-occupied. Residents owned businesses and were employed in retail and professional jobs, as well as the trades. It is difficult to determine the extent and type of women's employment from the city directories. Although jobs are listed for a few women, many listings have no reference to female employment or are listed as "widow." Men were employed in retail businesses as clerks, salesmen, and managers. Retail employers included Briggs Hardware, Sir Walter Chevrolet, and the Coca-Cola Company. A small number of professionals made the district home including, lawyers, professors, structural and civil engineers, a pharmacist, a nurse, and even an osteopath. The city directories record a variety of other types of jobs such as barbers, waiters, repairmen, traveling salesmen and construction contractors, painters, and carpenters. The railroads were the largest employer of the district's residents in early twentieth century, employing both blue collar and white collar workers. Three railroads are listed as employers in the city directories, the Norfolk and Southern, the Southern Railroad, and the Seaboard Air Line. The railroads employed engineers, conductors, flagmen, clerks, carpenters, fireman, brakemen, and helpers.
In 1921 Pou purchased a small tract east of Five Points and south of Whitaker Mill Road. These lots became the district's second subdivision, Fairview Park. Fairview Park consists of twelve parcels on Sunset Avenue and seven lots on the south side of Whitaker Mill Road. The subdivision developed quickly, with all of the dwellings constructed by circa 1930. Craftsman houses, Bungalows and Colonial Revival style houses are represented in both frame and brick.
The Roanoke Park Historic District's namesake, Roanoke Park subdivision, was platted in 1922 and developed by the Raleigh Real Estate and Trust Company. A few of the houses, such as the circa 1910 houses at 1617 and 1623 Bickett Boulevard almost certainly date from prior to the subdivision of the land. Roanoke Park's streets were named after people and places in North Carolina's history: Aycock, Dare, Hanover, Greenwood, Cherokee, Bickett, and Perry. A marketing campaign appealed to white, upwardly mobile, middle-class first-time home buyers. A 1922 sales poster states "the biggest thing in real estate is getting started" and touts the subdivision's proximity to Hayes Barton "where the Honorable Josephus Daniels, Colonel Albert Cox and other prominent citizens have built beautiful residences."
The Roanoke Park subdivision is distinguished from the district's other five subdivisions by its curvilinear street pattern oriented around what is today referred to as "Roanoke Park," although the subdivision plat identifies it as "Sylvan Park." The park continues to this day to be an important anchor and gathering place for the surrounding neighborhoods, although its use has shifted from sylvan retreat to an open space with a playing field, basketball court and playground.
In 1923 the Raleigh Real Estate and Trust Company created the Ridgeway subdivision comprised of Wills Avenue, Duncan Street and the 1800 block of Bickett Boulevard. The subdivision of the E.R. Pace estate followed in 1924 and included parts of Perry, Duncan and Scales streets and the northeast side of Fairview Road. These subdivisions are comprised primarily of Craftsman houses.
The third-largest subdivision in the district, the 1926 Hayes Barton Extended subdivision, created Morrison and Daughton streets and the 300 and 400 blocks of Bickett Boulevard. City directories and tax records reveal the subdivision remained unbuilt until the late 1930s, the result of the 1929 stock market crash and subsequent national economic depression. Around 1937 Modern Homes Company established an office at 415 Bickett Boulevard and began construction of simple and affordable Minimal Traditional dwellings. Houses were priced at between $3,000 and $3,500. City directories reveal that the houses were predominantly owner occupied by white and blue-collar workers such as Carl Willard, accountant for CP & L, and Homer Williams, a bookbinder, at 322 and 311 Bickett Boulevard, respectively.
Construction Trends and Architectural Styles
The period between the end of World War I in 1917 and the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929 was one of relative economic stability in Raleigh as is evidenced by the number of houses constructed in the district during this time. Between 1920 and 1930 approximately 180 homes were built, representing forty-five percent of the Roanoke Park Historic District's houses. 1920s houses make up almost the entirety housing stock on West Aycock Street, East and West Whitaker Mill Road, Sunset Avenue, and Wills Avenue and are also found in significant numbers on Duncan Street.
Frame and brick Craftsman houses in front-gable and bungalow forms are the most prevalent style in the Roanoke Park Historic District. The style emphasized casual, often one-story, floor plans and the use of natural, textured materials such as shingles and rustic stone. Honest expression of the structure was also apparent in exposed rafter tails, or eave braces or brackets, and heavy, battered porch posts. The Craftsman style was nationally popular from the 1910s through the 1920s. The architectural firm of Greene and Greene who practiced in Pasadena, California until 1914 popularized the style. Designs drew heavily from the English Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as from Asian-inspired motifs. The style spread across the country as smaller, scaled down versions of the high style California Craftsman Bungalow were mass-produced and sold as "kit houses" by Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Aladdin Company, and others.
In contrast to the organic materials and casual living spaces that characterized the Craftsman style, the Colonial Revival style displays exterior symmetry, often with classically inspired porches, and formal floor plans. The style was not intended to be historically accurate, but rather interpreted idealized classical motifs and applied them to modern homes. In the South in particular, the style came to symbolize the social order of the antebellum era and as such was a common architectural choice in racially and economically segregated early-twentieth century residential suburbs. The Roanoke Park Historic District's thirteen simple Colonial Revival houses are two-story, symmetrical dwellings with an amalgam of classical or colonial stylistic elements including Dutch, Georgian, Federal, and Greek.
The American Foursquare derives its name from its cube-like shape and its floor plan with four rooms on the first floor and four rooms on the second floor. Like the Craftsman style, the Foursquare was popularized nationally through pattern books advertising prefabricated kit houses. The Roanoke Park Historic District's six Foursquares are two-story, square, dwellings with low-pitched hipped-roof wide and overhanging eaves and both Colonial Revival and Craftsman detailing. Paired, double-hung sash further emphasize the building's horizontal lines and subtly suggest the banded windows of the Arts and Crafts style.
With the 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent national economic depression, building permits issued in Raleigh declined. In 1930, 181 building permits were issued. In 1931, only fifty-one were issued, and by 1932 the number was down to thirty-four. The recovery era between 1937 and 1941 saw a rebound, with an average of 241 permits issued each year. A new style, the Period Cottage, which had its roots in the English Tudor Revival, was popularized during the 1930s. Defining architectural characteristics of Period Cottages include steeply-pitched rooflines, front-gable wings or entry bays, arched entryways, brick or stone front facade chimneys, half-timbering in the gables, and casement or diamond pane windows. The Roanoke Park Historic District's seven Period Cottages were constructed between circa 1925 and circa 1940 and are found on Morrison Avenue, Scales Street, Greenwood Street, and Bickett Boulevard.
The Minimal Traditional style makes its first appearance both nationally and locally in the 1930s and continued to be used through the 1950s when it was supplanted by the Ranch. The style was a modest choice for a nation recovering from economic hard times after the Depression, and again a few years later after World War II. The style takes it name from its use of traditional stylistic references, in a minimal, or stripped down manner. Minimal Traditional houses lack full-facade porches, or entry porticos, fancy pedimented door surrounds and elaborate cornices. Eaves and rakes are often flush. The style's small size, lack of applied decorative detail, and large porches kept down construction costs and enabled the dwellings to be completed quickly and inexpensively. The Roanoke Park Historic District's 1930 Minimal Traditional styles are one-story frame, brick or stone gable-and-wing dwellings. By the mid-1940s, the trend was to further simplify the style by the elimination of the front-facing wing and a conversion to a symmetrical, side-gable form.
During the final years of the World War II, few homes were built in Raleigh, with records showing forty-one building permits issued in 1944. The years following the war saw both a nationwide and local boom in housing construction to accommodate soldiers returning from the war and their growing families. Advent of the federal Veterans' Administration (VA) and Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage loan programs made home ownership a possibility for these families. Prior to the advent of FHA and VA loans, mortgage loans had generally been short term (five years was typical), which resulted in large monthly payments. Fifty-percent down payments were common, which further limited home ownership to the wealthy. In contrast, FHA offered thirty-year mortgages with ten percent down. The VA package did not require any money down. Once extended terms and low down payments became the industry standard, home ownership increased dramatically throughout the nation.
Changes in the mortgage industry and the new demand for housing impacted post-war Raleigh. These national trends are reflected in the Roanoke Park Historic District by the forty-six dwellings constructed between 1945 and 1952. Post-war housing is primarily constructed in the southeastern portion of the district on Hanover Street, Bickett Boulevard, Morrison Avenue, Greenwood Street and Cherokee Drive. The district's post-war, side-gable dwellings are a further simplification of the gable-and-wing Minimal Traditional styles of the 1930s. Post-war houses are most often symmetrical, frame, one or one-and-a-half story, side-gable dwellings with little if any applied decorative ornamentation. Durable asbestos shingles are the most common original siding material.
The Roanoke Park Historic District has eight contributing Ranches constructed prior to 1952 including the circa 1947 frame, asbestos-shingled house at 1713 Scales Street, a circa 1940 brick, hipped-roof house at 1714 Bickett Boulevard, and a circa 1950 brick triplex at 306-308 Duncan Street. While few in number, the Roanoke Park Historic District's Ranch houses are significant in that their presence marks the local beginnings of a national architectural trend. Styles such as the Dutch Colonial Revival and Period Cottage were subsets of the early twentieth century revivals, and as such enjoyed a brief period of popularity. However, the Ranch was to become America's prevalent house form in the second half of the twentieth century. The Roanoke Park Historic District does not contain many Ranches, and the examples that do exist are later infill houses on streets platted decades before their construction. However, the district's Ranches are important as some of the earliest examples of the form in the city and a precursor to the neighborhoods that would be developed completely with the one-story houses.
The Roanoke Park Historic District was almost completely built out by 1952. At this time, new suburbs were created on the fringes of the city, as is still the pattern today. However, the Roanoke Park Historic District remains a desirable place to live. The stylish homes, landscaped setting, and pedestrian-friendly ambience that first made the district popular are still sought-after today. A tribute to the success of the district's design formula is that many of the region's new subdivisions attempt to replicate the appearance and feeling of Raleigh's oldest subdivisions.
"All Roads Lead to Roanoke Park." 1922 sales poster. Collection of Daniel L. and Laura H. Becker.
Becker, Daniel L. and Laura H. Becker. "E.L. and Ruth Fogleman House." Local Landmark Designation Report, 1997. On file at the Wake County Planning Department, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Bishir, Catherine. W. and Lawrence S. Earley, eds. Early Twentieth Century Suburbs in North Carolina. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1985.
Bishir, Catherine. W. North Carolina Architecture. Raleigh: The Historic Preservation Fund of North Carolina: 1990.
Harris, Linda and Mary Ann Lee. An Architectural and Historical Inventory of Raleigh, North Carolina. Raleigh: Raleigh City Planning Department, 1978.
Maps by Raleigh City Planning Commission, 1923 and 1942. Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Map, 1928. Located at the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Search Room, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Martin, Jennifer F. "Local Landmark designation report for E. M. Lawrence House."
Plat maps for Georgetown, Barnes Land Subdivision (book 1915, page 85), Ridgeway (book 1920, page 172), Roanoke Park (book 120, page 132), Vanguard Park, Hayes-Barton Extended (book 1925, page 84), ER Pace Estate (book 1925, page 16) and Fairview Park (book 1920, page 152). Located at the Wake County Register of Deeds Office, Raleigh North Carolina.
Raleigh City Directories. Located at the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, State Library, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Ross, Helen P. "Raleigh Comprehensive Architectural Survey, Final Report." 1992. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Sanborn Map Company maps. Located at the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, Search Room, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Survey files for Roanoke Park, Vanguard Park, Georgetown, Hayes Barton and Bloomsbury. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Swaim, Doug. Ed. Carolina Dwelling. Raleigh: Student Publication of North Carolina State University, 1978.
Waugh, Elizabeth Culbertson. North Carolina's Capital, Raleigh. Raleigh: Junior League of Raleigh and The Raleigh Historic Sites Commission, 1967, 1992.
Wyatt, Sherry Joines and Sarah A. Woodard. "Hayes Barton." National Register Nomination Form, 2002. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Wyatt, Sherry Joines and Sarah A. Woodard. "Historical and Architectural Resources of the Five Points Neighborhoods, Raleigh, Wake County, 1913-1952." Multiple Properties Documentation Form, 2001. On file at Survey and Planning Branch, State Historic Preservation Office, Raleigh, North Carolina.
† Ellen Turco and April Montgomery, Circa, Inc., Roanoke Park Historic District, Wake County, North Carolina, nomination document, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.