The Wake Forest 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. [‡]
The Wake Forest Historic District is a college town district. At its center is the original campus of Wake Forest College, established in 1834 and relocated to Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 1956. Wake Forest College has statewide significance as the oldest denominational college in North Carolina. The small, well-landscaped, rectangular campus, which has housed the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary since 1956, contains eight historic Colonial Revival style brick classroom, office, chapel and dormitory buildings built between 1888 and 1953 during the Wake Forest Historic District's period of significance. The town of Wake Forest grew slowly around the campus. To the north stretch the stylish Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne and Classical Revival style dwellings of the college faculty. To the south and west are the twentieth century dwellings of the town's citizens who built up a community around the college. The Wake Forest Institute at Wake Forest was the first viable denominational college in the state. In 1838 it became Wake Forest College, a classical school. The second viable church college, Davidson College, was established by the Presbyterians in 1837.
The Wake Forest Historic District meets criterion for the National Register of Historic Places for the architectural significance of its college buildings, faculty houses, the houses of the townspeople, churches, commercial buildings, and other historic buildings. Landmarks of Wake Forest College's history, including one of the three original college buildings — the Greek Revival style South Brick House, built in 1837, surround the campus. Complementing the architectural significance of the stately college buildings, built primarily between 1888 and 1953, is the 200-500 block stretch of North Main Street, once known as Faculty Avenue for the professors' houses that line the street. The oldest of the dwellings is the Federal style Calvin Jones House, the ca.1820 plantation house that once stood on the farm that was purchased in 1832 for the new college. John M. Brewer's Greek Revival cottage, set on a raised basement, was built about 1860 in the 200 block of North Main Street. Two other Greek Revival style houses from the 1840s stand near the campus. Some half-dozen houses built from the 1870s to the 1890s are evidence that professors' taste ran toward the Italianate style during this era. A substantial group of ornate Queen Anne style houses built from about 1890 to 1903 enliven the Wake Forest Historic District. Two outstanding examples of the Colonial Revival style were built by textile mill owners at the north end of the district in the late nineteenth-early twentieth century. Four buildings by Raleigh architect W.H. Deitrick in the brick Colonial Revival style were built in the 1930s-1940s, three for Wake Forest College and one for a local physician. Other landmarks in the Wake Forest Historic District include the Powers Store (100-102 West North Avenue), a large turn-of-the-twentieth-century brick store, the 1928 Tudor Revival style stone manor house (308 Durham Road) built for the college president from a design by architect H.P.S. Keller, the 1938 Colonial Revival style WPA-funded Community House (123 West Owen Avenue), the 1939 Colonial Revival style brick Wake Forest School (136 West Sycamore Avenue), and a continuous progression of houses built in the Queen Anne, Craftsman, Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles throughout the first half of the twentieth century.
Since Wake Forest College was owned by a religious institution, the district has statewide educational significance as the campus of one of North Carolina's most distinguished colleges, and local significance as a center of community development in Wake County. The district also has local significance for its collection of buildings representative of Wake County's distinct architectural styles and building types. The period of significance begins ca.1820 with the oldest district building, and continues to 1953, fifty years ago. The historic buildings in the district generally retain their architectural integrity, including original porches, windows, and front entrances.
Historical Background: Establishment of Wake Forest College
The town of Wake Forest grew gradually around a small Baptist college, Wake Forest College, established on the 650-acre plantation of Dr. Calvin Jones. The plantation "mansion" (414 North Main Street) was described in the sale advertisement as having a double front porch and five rooms with fireplaces. The outbuildings included a kitchen, store house, office, carriage house, barns, overseer's house, and slave cabins. The North Carolina Baptist Convention, influenced by Wake County Baptist minister John Purefoy, chose the Jones Plantation because of its fertile farmland, healthy location, and the strong Baptist presence in the area. The North Carolina Baptist Convention purchased the Jones plantation for $2,500 in 1832 in order to establish an educational institute in North Carolina. The Reverend Samuel Wait, one of the founders of the Convention, was the first president of the college and served until 1842. For the first five years, from 1834-1839, the institution operated as Wake Forest Institute, a manual labor institution, with the instruction centered around agricultural work, using seven existing slave cabins as dormitories. Temporary frame buildings were constructed in the first few years, including a two-story house and two one-story dormitories known as "Long Buildings."
From 1835-1838 Captain John Berry, a Hillsborough, North Carolina architect-builder, built a four-story brick building, known as the College Building, for offices, classrooms, and dormitories. The Jones plantation house was moved west to accommodate the new building. In 1842 the Jones House was moved a second time, to Back (Wingate Street), where it became a private faculty house. Berry was a Baptist and member of the board of trustees of Wake Forest Institute. In 1837-1838 he built two faculty houses, one on North Avenue and the other on South Avenue, of brick, thirty-six by forty-two feet in size, with Doric porticos and Palladian windows in the gables. One became known as the North Brick House, the other as the South Brick House. These were financed privately, although the college owned the South Brick House for a brief time. The College Building burned in 1933. The North Brick House was demolished about 1936 for the construction of Simmons Hall, a dormitory. The South Brick House still stands at 112 East South Avenue.
The Railroad and the Wake Forest College Plat 1839-1840
During the momentous years of the late 1830s, Wake Forest Institute became a college, gained a rail connection, and converted its farmland into an academic village. In 1837 the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, one of the two earliest lines in North Carolina, was granted a right of way through the east side of the college property, thus forever setting the east campus boundary. When the railroad came through in 1840, a station was built a mile south in the flourishing community of Forestville. In 1852, the college attempted to persuade the railroad company to establish a rail stop at the college, but was unsuccessful. All passengers arriving at Wake Forest College by train were obliged to walk or take a wagon a mile north to campus until 1874, when the college paid to relocate the depot building to Wake Forest. This first railroad in North Carolina linked Raleigh to the town of Gaston on the Virginia border, where it connected with a railroad to Petersburg.
In 1838 the school was rechartered as Wake Forest College, a liberal arts school. Since the farm lands were no longer needed, they were platted into streets and eighty one-acre lots and sold at a public sale on February 4, 1839 and another in June, 1845. The plat resembled the familiar courthouse square plan, with the campus occupying the center square, enclosed by North Street, South Street, Main Street on the east, and Back Street (now Wingate Street) on the west. The street extending from the center of campus to the north and south was known as Middle Street (now College Street). The plat extended three blocks to the north, intersected by Pine, Walnut, and Juniper streets, and one block to the south. The Raleigh and Gaston Railroad tracks bounded the town plat on the east, along Front Street. The college retained the lots on the east, south, and west sides of the small campus, leaving lots to the north along North Main Street for private faculty housing. This became known as Faculty Avenue. Although it took many years, all lots were eventually bought by faculty, trustees, and friends of the college. According to tradition, President Samuel Wait intended for the campus to be ringed by brick faculty houses, such as the North and South Brick Houses, on the lots facing the campus, but the college was in nearly constant financial want throughout most of its early years and did not build another college building until after the Civil War.
"The Simple Academic Life" 1838-1861
Until the Civil War the entire college was housed in the College Building and some temporary wooden structures. In the words of the George W. Paschal, college historian, "There was little to interfere with the simple academic life." In 1852 the number of bachelor's degrees awarded by the college rose to ten, a number not equalled again until 1885. In the 1850s the faculty consisted of John B. White, mathematics and philosophy, William H. Owen and W.T. Brooks, ancient languages, and W.T. Walters, mathematics and chemistry. Up to the mid-1850s the student enrollment was approximately one hundred per year. The presidents of the college during the antebellum period were Reverend Samuel Wait, 1834-1845; William Hooper, 1845-1848; John Brown White, 1849-1853; and Washington M. Wingate, 1854-1879.
The curriculum at the college was quite similar to that offered at the University of North Carolina ancient languages, moral philosophy, the history of Greece and Rome, political theory, natural philosophy, mathematics and chemistry. As at the state university, much of the intellectual and social activity at Wake Forest College revolved around the two literary societies, the Euzelians and the Philomathesians, whose focus was the "intellectual improvement of its members." Like other colleges of classical learning, most of the student body belonged to one of two literary societies which lived in separate ends of the College Building, and held meetings, debates, and maintained libraries. The societies, which often debated one another, were naturally competitive. The state university, being a state institution, was secular, and many of its students were from the wealthiest and most well-connected families in North Carolina. Wake Forest College was a Baptist institution, thus religious studies and mandatory attendance at religious services were an important part of student life. However the college was primarily a liberal arts institution that provided the best possible education "under Christian influences." Students were generally drawn from the middle classes, and conformed to the expectation of "plain living, industry and high thinking."
At the time of the Civil War, in addition to the three college buildings, only fifteen additional structures stood on the acreage platted by the college. North Main Street contained three houses: the Robert Hicks House on the east side and the Dr. Wait-Taylor House and the John M. Brewer House on the west side. The Hicks House (John F. Lanneau House), which stood at 328 North Main Street, was overbuilt about 1900 and is no longer recognizable. In 1842 when he retired as the college's first president, the Reverend Samuel Wait purchased the lot at 315 North Main Street and built the Greek Revival style house that still stands. At the same time he purchased two blocks of North College and North Wingate streets to the rear for use as farmland. John M. Brewer built a log house at 229 North Main Street about 1853. About 1860 he added a frame upper story that created a raised cottage.
Some of the fifteen buildings were on the south side of the campus. One has survived — the Taylor-Purefoy-Poteat-Swett House (118 East South Avenue). Two other antebellum houses — the Crocker-Royall-Dunn House (338 South Main Street), and the farmhouse of Willis Holding (531 South Main Street) — are outside the college plat and very altered. The most significant building in this section was the College Hotel. In 1849 James S. Purefoy, son of the Reverend John Purefoy, who had influenced the site selection for the college, built an imposing hotel with "large, airy rooms and long porches" in the block south of the campus, at the corner of South Avenue and South Main Street. The hotel was a much-needed amenity that encouraged the growth of the college and town.
The small academic village of Wake Forest had a dominant Greek Revival architectural character during the antebellum period, in keeping with its Baptist anti-papist theology that viewed Gothic architectural styles with disfavor. The three brick Berry buildings were of elegant Greek Revival design. The Brewer House at 229 North Main Street, modeled after a house in Suffolk, Virginia, is a distinguished raised cottage with a pedimented porch and robust Greek Revival woodwork. The retirement home of President Wait (a native of Washington County, New York state) is a refined temple-form Greek Revival house, although now enlarged. The Taylor-Purefoy-Poteat-Swett House at 118 East South Avenue is a two-story frame Greek Revival dwelling with a fashionable entrance and woodwork.
Civil War and Reconstruction
At the start of the Civil War in 1861, approximately 100 Wake Forest College students formed an infantry company, commanded by classics professor James H. Foote. Twenty-five of them were killed or wounded in their first battle, one of the Seven Days Battles near Richmond in 1862, and others died later. In May 1862 the college closed, and from June 1862 to the close of the war the College Building was used as a Confederate hospital. In 1866 operations were resumed and the college slowly rebuilt its faculty and student body. William Royall and William Gaston Simmons were the only two faculty members still at the college in 1867. Royall's son, William Bailey Royall, became a professor there at this time.
During the Reconstruction era, the campus achieved its present size, although the physical plant was still limited to the College Building and some temporary frame structures. In 1869 President Charles E. Taylor hired a landscape gardener named Major Englehardt. Englehardt closed off Main Street, which extended through the campus, and incorporated the additional block of lots that extended east to the railroad tracks into the campus, thus creating the present rectangular campus. Front Street, alongside the railroad tracks, became the campus boundary. Englehardt laid out curving walkways on the campus. In 1874 the Forestville Depot was physically moved to a location beside the tracks across from the college campus. At this time, the land east of the railroad was platted into lots and the present business district began to develop. The north boundary of town at Juniper Avenue was extended two blocks north to Oak Avenue. The town's historic northern boundary is represented by the placement of two houses at the corner of North Main Street — the Dr. William Royall House, 107 East Juniper Avenue, and the Powell-White House, 614 North Main Street — facing south rather than west to North Main Street.
The curriculum of the college during the later nineteenth century was similar to the antebellum curriculum, but became more specialized. New courses offered were logic and rhetoric, biology, French, German, and physics. Construction of Lea Laboratory in 1888, one of the first chemical laboratories constructed on a Southern college campus, provided better facilities to teach chemistry. Prominent professors during this period were language professor J.B. Carlyle, who taught from 1888-1911; language professor William B. Royall, who taught from 1880-1893; and mathematics professor Luther Rice Mills, who taught from 1867-1907. College presidents during this era were Washington M. Wingate, who continued as president until 1879, Thomas Henderson Pritchard, 1879-1882; and Charles Elisha Taylor, 1884-1905. Under the leadership of President Taylor the departments of law, medicine, and physical culture were added. Student enrollment climbed from 144 in 1884-1885 to 328 in 1903-1904. In the mid-1880s, President Taylor supervised beautification of the campus with additional landscaping. Taylor had the brick walkways begun in 1869 completed and planted thousands of magnolias, other evergreens, and deciduous trees as well as shrubs and vines. He had a fieldstone wall constructed around the east section of the campus to the railroad tracks.
"There was no place like Wake Forest"
The town of Wake Forest College was incorporated in 1880, with a town boundary of 960 acres in the shape of a rectangle with the center at the main College Building. In 1890 the population of Wake Forest was 833; by 1910 it was 1,443. A separate commercial district developed around the railroad depot east of the railroad tracks in the late 1800s. One of the earliest stores east of the tracks was the Powers and Holding Drug Store, established by Dr. John Benjamin Powers and Thomas E. Holding. During this era, many of the faculty houses along the three blocks of North Main Street to Juniper Avenue were built. Townspeople built houses along North and South avenues, West Pine Avenue, and North College Street surrounding the college. Dr. Powers built his own residence, an Italianate style two-story house, at 112 West North Avenue across from the college in 1876. He built another large brick drugstore and general store beside his house at 100-102 West North Avenue about 1897. In 1899 Thomas E. Holding had a large Queen Anne style house built at 118 East South Avenue, across from the college. These houses and the store are still standing.
The following reminiscence of Wake Forest in the late 1800s conveys the bustling atmosphere of town life, composed of equal parts of academic stimulation and social pleasures. The College Hotel, a two-story frame building, almost a block wide, with a long front porch, faced South Avenue across from campus.
"The Hotel, called the 'College Hotel,' filled a long existing need and was liberally patronized. During the school year it was a boarding house for students. It was said that a good price was charged and a good table set. Here visitors to the College, who were very numerous at the public exercises, found conveniences which they desired. During the summer many seeking relief from the heat of eastern North Carolina and the larger towns found it here. The papers of the day, especially the Biblical Recorder, were extolling the climate and healthfulness of Wake Forest. Until the opening of the present century...one might find during the summer months the Hotel and the College Campus swarming with guests, cheerful, happy people, young and old, men and women of much refinement and intelligence, enjoying the hotel's fine melons and waffles and fried chicken, and enjoying, too the oaks of the Campus and occasionally a book from the College Library. On returning to their homes they gave to Wake Forest a name and a fame it would not otherwise have had. There was no place like Wake Forest."
The Twentieth Century: College Town, Mill Town, and Trading Center
Wake Forest's first industry was the Royall Cotton Mill, founded by businessmen W.C. Powell, Robert E. Royall, and Thomas E. Holding in 1899. It was built just outside the northern town limit, on the east side of North Main Street north of Oak Street. Robert Royall was the son of English professor Dr. William Royall, and Powell and Holding had married Robert's sisters, thus the Royall Cotton Mill name represented all three. The mill produced muslin sheeting as its principal product. Mr. Powell was president until 1923, and Mr. Royall then became president and his son, William L. Royall, became secretary. A mill village was constructed around the mill in the early twentieth century that housed hundreds of workers. In 1945 the stockholders sold their interests to B. Everett Jordan and Willis Smith.
At the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the town of Wake Forest began to establish a separate identity from the college and to acquire such urban amenities as schools, a power plant, and a water plant. The town of Wake Forest was incorporated in 1909, with a mayor and town commissioners. The state legislature also authorized a town bond election to raise money for an electric light plant, which began operation soon afterward at 126 Elm Avenue in the district. A 1913 bond referendum raised money for a graded school, which was built on West Sycamore Avenue.
In the early twentieth century, Wake Forest College grew steadily, adding new programs, departments, additional faculty positions, and an ever-larger student body. Student enrollment grew from 328 in 1904 to 742 in 1927. A department of education was established in 1900 under Professor C.C. Crittenden, who had married the daughter of President Charles E. Taylor. Their son, C.C. Crittenden, Jr., grew up in Wake Forest and became the longest-serving director of the North Carolina Division of Archives and History, from 1935-1968. Presidents who served up to the 1950s were William Louis Poteat, 1905-1927; Francis Pendleton Gaines, 1927-1930; and Thurman Delna Kitchin, 1930 to the 1940s. Prominent professors of the early 1900s were mathematician John F. Lanneau, 1890-1921; physicist James L. Lake, 1899-1920s; and language professor William B. Royall, 1880-1928.
Gradually the eastern half of the campus was built up in the early twentieth century. In 1913 a parcel of the campus at 107 East South Avenue was deeded to the Wake Forest Baptist Church, which had been meeting in campus buildings. In 1914 an imposing domed Beaux Arts style sanctuary was completed from a design by Charlotte architect James M. McMichael. This is the most ornate historic church building in Wake County outside of Raleigh. The construction of this landmark church signifies the growing importance of the town of Wake Forest independent of the college. The town's Baptist church provided its members a congregation that had an identity separate from the students and professors at the college.
Wake Forest was both a college town and a trading center for northern Wake County and mill workers during the first half of the twentieth century. Between 1900 and 1910 the population increased from 823 to 1,443. In 1909 the town built an electric light plant on Elm Avenue. The business and professional men who built up the town in the first half of the twentieth century tended to build their residences along South Main Street. Ira Otis Jones established Jones Hardware Company in 1906, and operated it until his death in 1966. Jones lived in a striking Queen Anne style house at 538 South Main Street, built for him and his wife as a wedding present in 1903. In 1908 Lebanon native George Bolus came to Wake Forest and opened a department store. Bolus, a stone mason, built a granite-walled Spanish Colonial Revival style house for his family at 429 South Main Street in 1928. During the early 1930s, a Catholic congregation was organized in town by George Bolus and his wife and other Catholics. In 1940 the Italian Romanesque Revival style St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church was constructed at 707 South Main Street of granite from the nearby Rolesville quarry. The Wilkinson brothers, both physicians, built similar distinguished Georgian Revival style two-story brick houses beside each other at 513 and 521 South Main Street in the mid-1920s. One of the Holding men built a colorful two-story Spanish Colonial Revival style house, the only other example of this style in the district, at 555 South Main Street in 1929. Ellis Nassif, a Lebanese immigrant and local attorney married George Bolus's daughter, Elizabeth. Mr. Bolus built a Tudor Cottage about 1935 for the couple at 115 Elm Avenue of Rolesville granite.
During World War I, the college struggled to maintain its enrollment and funding. In 1917 there were 361 students enrolled, about 200 fewer than normal. During the 1918-1919 year, the last year of the war, enrollment increased to 383 due to the establishment of a war training camp on campus. The camp was closed at the end of the war.
Until 1923, North Main Street was a dirt road that stopped at Oak Avenue, and travelers passing to the north through town crossed the railroad tracks at the depot, then continued north on a dirt road along the east side of the tracks to Youngsville. In 1923, Main Street was extended to the north and became U.S. Highway 1, a paved road that was the main north-south thoroughfare from Raleigh to Norlina, on the Virginia border. It is likely that the wide median in the 200-500 blocks of North Main Street was constructed at this time, a civic amenity that perhaps softened the shock of the great increase in car traffic for a section of town that had previously been relatively quiet. The Durham Road was laid out in 1930 from the southwest corner of campus to connect with Durham to the west. In the 1950s the U.S. 1 Bypass was constructed west of Wake Forest, which had an adverse effect on commercial activity in town because through traffic no longer travelled through Wake Forest.
Although a denominational institution, Wake Forest College had a tradition of liberal academic inquiry. During the 1920s, President William Louis Poteat became the central liberal defender of the right of college faculties to teach evolution. Fundamentalist anti-evolution forces were attempting to purge liberals from college staffs at this time. Poteat, a biology professor who reconciled Christianity and evolution in his teaching and writing, and president of the premier Baptist institution in North Carolina, became a lightning rod for criticism. The debate climaxed in the state legislature in 1925 with the introduction of the "Monkey Bill," an anti-evolutionary bill to outlaw the teaching of evolution. It was defeated by the strong influence of President Poteat and the assistance of President Harry W. Chase of the University of North Carolina.
Wake Forest College's practice of not providing a cafeteria, and the chronic student housing shortage during the early and mid-twentieth century, provided a sizeable proportion of the townspeople with supplementary income. A number of buildings in the Wake Forest Historic District functioned as rooming houses, small hotels, or contained efficiency apartments. The two-story stone Franklin Inn at 608 South Main Street, which contains twenty-seven rooms, was built about 1926. John E. Wooten Sr. and his wife operated it as Wooten's Homotel from 1935 to 1970. During this time such famous Wake Forest students as actor Carroll O'Connor roomed here. When R.L. Harris had his two-story brick Tudor Revival style house built at 712-714 South Main Street in 1937, he included two apartments in the second story reached by an entrance in the front wing. In the early 1950s a group of four concrete block rental houses with metal casement windows were built at 556, 562, 566 North College Street and 113 West Cedar Avenue as rentals for student families. The most famous cook in Wake Forest was Miss Jo Williamson. About 1939 she built a two-story brick Colonial Revival style house across from the campus at 321 Durham Road, called the Manor House. She and her sister operated a boarding house for college students here until the 1950s. Miss Jo's was the favorite place for Sunday dinner. In the early 1950s when the college finally built a cafeteria, Miss Jo took over its operation and continued to manage her boarding house as well.
During the Great Depression, enrollment at the college initially dropped to 698 students in 1930-1931, but rose to new heights in the mid-1930s, with 1,024 students in 1934-1935. Both gown and town saw considerable construction during this decade, in part stimulated by a series of disastrous fires. In 1933 the old main College Building burned, and in 1934 Wingate Memorial Hall, on campus, and the Wake Forest School on Sycamore Avenue burned. The college's largest building campaign, led by President Kitchin, had already begun with the construction of the Johnson Medical Building in 1932-1933 with $50,000 donated by the Johnson family. It continued with the construction of a replacement for the administration building in 1934, a new gymnasium in 1935, and Simmons Hall, a men's dormitory, in 1936. Funding came from the insurance payments for the burned buildings and portraits destroyed in the fires, and from contributions from the Literary Societies and a subscription campaign conducted in 1933-1934. All three buildings were designed by Raleigh architect William H. Deitrick and constructed by contractor George W. Kane. The town received some economic stimulation from the college's success during the Depression, as well as some federal assistance. Like other North Carolina communities, Wake Forest received Works Progress Administration funding for municipal projects. A WPA Community House and swimming pool were begun in 1938 and completed in 1942 on Owen Avenue across from the old College Hotel. In 1939 a stately Colonial Revival style two-story brick school was constructed on West Sycamore Street, south of the Community House, to replace the burned graded school. By 1940 the town's population reached 3,898. Construction on a new college chapel to replace Wingate Memorial Hall, which had burned in 1934, began in the center of campus in 1941. Due to wartime shortages of labor and material, the work proceeded slowly. By late 1943 the exterior was completed, but the interior remained incomplete throughout the rest of the college's history in Wake Forest.
During the Second World War, college enrollment dropped to about 300 students on campus. Fortunately, a branch of the Army Finance School was established at the college, with about 200 men. The school was housed in Simmons Hall. In 1942, in part to supplement college enrollment, junior and senior class women were first admitted as regular students. At the end of the war, many of the students who had dropped out of school or had deferred their college education in order to serve in the military returned to Wake Forest College. The college experienced a postwar boom that crowded the classrooms. Some students were married with children, and family rental housing was difficult to obtain. To meet demand, a number of mobile homes were set up around town.
In the midst of the post-war student boom that followed the return of soldiers at the end of World War II, the most dramatic event in the history of the college occurred. On March 25, 1946, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company offered the college $40,000,000 if it would relocate its campus to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Of course the North Carolina Baptist Convention, which owned the college, accepted the offer because the school needed to grow and did not have the funds to do so in Wake Forest. Many feared that the town of Wake Forest would die without the college at its core. Ultimately the town survived the exodus of its central institution and remained a college town.
In 1950 the North Carolina Baptist Convention sold the campus to the Southern Baptist Convention to establish a theological seminary. In 1951 the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary was founded on campus with Dr. Sydnor L. Stealey, president, and three professors, with eighty-five students in the first class. By 1955 there were fourteen full professors and 459 students. The seminary coexisted with Wake Forest College until its buildings were completed in Winston-Salem and the college relocated in 1956.
After Wake Forest College left in 1956, the seminary made a number of changes to the old campus. Wait Hall was renamed Stealey Hall, for the first seminary president, and became an office building in its entirety. A new cafeteria was built, the chapel interior was finally completed, the old section of the library was replaced with a three-story building, and the two dormitories were converted into married student housing. Four old buildings were demolished. Lolly Hall, a women's dormitory, was built about 1963. A health center and a student union were built. (These have been demolished). At Dr. Stealey's retirement in 1963, Dr. Olin T. Binkley became the second president.
The town of Wake Forest has prospered since 1956 when Wake Forest College moved to Winston-Salem and its old campus became the Southeastern Seminary. The seminary has grown steadily and made incremental changes to the campus (see above). Southeastern Seminary faculty and staff purchased many of the faculty houses vacated by professors. Other college personnel retired and remained in Wake Forest. The town received a number of new industrial facilities that provided jobs and boosted its economy. The Royall Cotton Mill closed in 1977. Soon afterward, the town of Wake Forest received a UDAG grant to build the present Town Hall at 401 Elm Avenue. Suburban development has gradually extended north from Raleigh along the U.S. 1 highway up to Wake Forest. Most of the population now commutes to work in the nearby cities of Raleigh, Durham, or Chapel Hill, or at Research Triangle Park. New subdivisions are being built on available land all around the Wake Forest Historic District boundaries. The historic core of Wake Forest provides an important reminder of the town's long and distinguished educational history.
Education Context: Religious Colleges in North Carolina
Wake Forest College has statewide significance as the oldest denominational college in North Carolina. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, chartered in 1789 and opened to students in 1795, was the oldest institution of higher learning in the state, and the only one until the 1830s.
During the quarter century prior to 1860, the leading religious denominations established colleges in North Carolina in order to provide an educated ministry. The Presbyterians established Queen's College in Charlotte in 1771, but it was short-lived. The Baptists were the first denomination to create a viable college. In 1830, the same year that the Primitive Baptists split from the main body of the Baptists over the issue of education for the clergy, the main body organized the Baptist State Convention, with Samuel Wait as secretary. In 1833 the convention chartered the Wake Forest Institute, a manual labor school, at Wake Forest, and the institution opened in 1834 with twenty-five students. By 1856 there were 127 students. In 1838 it was rechartered as Wake Forest College, a classical school with a liberal arts curriculum. The Presbyterians established Davidson College in Mecklenburg County in 1837 as a manual labor school with sixty-five students. In 1841 it was converted to a classical college, and by 1860 had six professors and 112 students. The Methodists established Trinity College in the community of Trinity in Randolph County about 1838. In 1841 this was chartered as Union Institute, then rechartered as Normal College in 1851, and became Trinity College in 1859. In 1860 it had six professors and 194 students. The Quakers founded New Garden Boarding School, a preparatory school and college, in Guilford County in 1833. In 1889 this became Guilford College. During the 1850s the German Reformed and Lutherans also chartered colleges.
Civil War, Reconstruction, and political turmoil from the 1860s to the 1890s severely damaged North Carolina's institutions of higher education. During the Civil War, Wake Forest College and Davidson College closed down, but Trinity preserved a student population by admitting girls. Guilford, coeducational from its beginning, remained open as well. Wake Forest, Trinity, and Davidson reopened in 1866. During the Reconstruction era and throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, denominational colleges in North Carolina, like the public university, were small, poor, and struggling.
All of the institutions of higher education made great progress in securing funding, attracting students, and expanding their curricula in the first quarter of the twentieth century. In 1900 Davidson College had eight professors and 173 students; in 1925 it had eighty-three professors and 639 students. In 1905 Wake Forest College had seven professors and 150 students; by 1927 it had thirty-seven professors and 716 students. Trinity College grew from nine professors and 153 students in 1894 to thirty professors and 600 students by 1916. During the twentieth century, Trinity College and Wake Forest College were lured to large Piedmont cities, received large donations from industrial philanthropists, and became the two major private universities in North Carolina. Davidson and Guilford Colleges also made steady progress during the century, but have remained in their original locations and have remained small.
Of all North Carolina's denominational colleges, Trinity College became the largest and most prestigious. In 1892 the college moved to Durham. In 1924 it became Duke University when James B. Duke, the tobacco industrialist of Durham, created the Duke Endowment. Its Law School, School of Forestry, and Duke Hospital and Medical School achieved national distinction by the mid-twentieth century.
In the 1940s Wake Forest College was lured away from its historic base by the same type of massive philanthropic gift from a tobacco industry fortune that had resulted in the establishment of Duke University at Durham. In 1941 Wake Forest College received a large bequest that led to the establishment of the Bowman Gray Medical School at Winston-Salem. In 1946 the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, the philanthropic organization established by the heir of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company of Winston-Salem, made a large bequest contingent upon the college's relocation to Winston-Salem. The college began operation at its new campus, built on the 400-acre R.J. Reynolds estate, in the fall of 1956. In 1967 it became Wake Forest University. Of the twenty-six church-related senior colleges in North Carolina in 1960, with an enrollment of 20,610 students, Wake Forest and Duke, two of the original four, remained the largest.
Architectural Context: Wake County Architecture
The period of significance begins ca.1820 with the oldest Wake Forest Historic District building, and continues to 1953 when historic development of the district was completed.
The Wake Forest College campus contains a number of architecturally significant buildings designed by noted architects, and is historically significant as a center of community development in Wake County. The campus buildings meet National Register criterion as notable examples of institutional architecture in Wake County. The campus is the chief distinguishing feature of the Wake Forest Historic District. At every stage of growth of the campus and town, an unusually high percentage of its buildings have been designed by architects, indicating a high level of aesthetic sophistication. The oldest campus building, Lea Laboratory (National Register, 1973), designed by Baltimore architect John Appleton Wilson and built in 1888, is the earliest known example of the Colonial Revival style in North Carolina. The tripartite building, with a two-story gabled center section flanked by one-story wings, represents an elegant early interpretation of Colonial Revival style, charmingly blended with a few late Victorian features such as paneled doors and Queen Anne chimneys.
During the Depression, architect William H. Deitrick of Raleigh created the defining architectural character of the campus — a dignified brick Georgian Revival idiom with nicely detailed white classical trim. The three Colonial Revival style buildings that set the campus's present architectural theme are Stealey Hall (1934; 120 South Wingate Street), Simmons Hall (1936; 115 East North Avenue), and Binkley Chapel (completed 1944; central east side of campus). Stealey Hall, the administration building, is a three-story brick building with a central pedimented wing facing into the campus green and also facing the outer boundary of Wingate Street. It is crowned by a cupola set on a balustraded tower. The rich colonial details include fanlighted classical entrances, quoined corners, stuccoed flat arched window lintels, and an ornate cupola. The conception recalls such eighteenth century public buildings as the Colony House of Newport, Rhode Island. Simmons Hall is a dignified three-story brick dormitory with a pedimented entrance pavilion with lunette window, and an entrance with a fanlight and balcony. Binkley Chapel is a massive brick sanctuary with a Corinthian portico and a three-stage steeple that faces the center green. The theme was carefully continued in the 1940s buildings constructed before Wake Forest's move to Winston-Salem. Appleby Hall, a classroom building, and Johnson Hall (Goldston Hall), a dormitory, were built about 1946 in response to post-World War II growth. Both have Flemish bond brickwork and center entrance pavilions with Colonial Revival entrance details. The buildings added by the Seminary — Stephens-Mackie Hall (ca.1959) and the Jacumin-Simpson Missions Center (2001) maintain the theme.
The Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and Minimal Traditional style houses that surround the campus represent an unusually well-preserved townscape that reflects the history of the campus and of the town of Wake Forest. The Federal style Calvin Jones House (414 N. Main Street) is singled out as one of a small group of intact Georgian and Federal style houses in Wake County. A similar vernacular plantation seat built by a Wake County planter is Beaver Dam, Knightdale vicinity, ca.1810 (NR, 1987). The South Brick House (112 E. South Avenue) is the only intact antebellum brick house out of two that survive outside Raleigh in Wake County.
The Wake Forest Historic District's finest Greek Revival style houses are the South Brick House (1838; 112 E. South Avenue), the Taylor-Purefoy-Poteat-Swett House (ca.1840; 118 E. South Avenue), the Wait-Taylor House (ca.1842; 315 N. Main Street), and the John Brewer Raised Cottage (ca.1860; 229 N. Main Street). Berry's Brick House shows the influence of Asher Benjamin's pattern books, with Palladian windows in the gable ends and bold Greek Revival woodwork. The Brewer Cottage is one of a small group of coastal cottages in Wake County, although with its double pile floor plan and stylish Greek Revival finish, it is the most architecturally sophisticated. According to local tradition, it was copied from a house in Suffolk, Virginia, and has a handsome Greek Revival style entrance porch and interior finish. The two-story, single pile Taylor-Purefoy-Poteat-Swett House, before the addition of the twentieth century portico, was somewhat similar to the Alpheus Jones House (NR, 1975), built in 1847 north of Raleigh of straightforward Greek Revival design. However the Swett House, with its stylish crosseted exterior window and door surrounds and a front tripartite window, is more elegant than the Jones House. The Wait-Taylor House is also a distinctive Greek Revival style structure in Wake County because it is a temple-form house with a Palladian window in the front pediment, an unusually academic form of Greek Revival architecture. Perhaps Dr. Taylor, a native New Yorker, was influenced by houses of this style that he had seen in the state of New York. The temple form of the house was changed in the 1870s when it was enlarged with a side addition.
Wake Forest has a fine group of two-story front winged houses of Italianate style, now a rare style in Wake County. Common features are arched windows, bay windows, bracketed cornices, robustly turned porch balustrades or flat sawnwork balustrades, and small side porches that resemble balconies. These houses were built by Wake Forest College professors along North Main Street and East Juniper Avenue from the 1870s to the 1890s. Only two other Italianate style houses of the 1870s stand in Wake County, neither resembling the Wake Forest group. The Rufus Ivey House north of Raleigh is a two-story T-shaped house of brick with arched windows. The Avera-Winston House near Wendell is a T-shaped frame house with ornate trusswork in the eaves and an Italianate porch.
The group of ornate Queen Anne style houses in the Wake Forest Historic District, built in the 1890s and early 1900s, are far more stylish than the vernacular versions of the style found throughout Wake County. In fact, high style Queen Anne was limited to the county's municipalities. The Dr. Charles Brewer House at 327 North Main Street, built in 1892, is pictured in the county architectural catalogue as the most stylish Queen Anne house in Wake County outside of Raleigh. No architects are known to be associated with the Queen Anne houses, but Tom Hicks, builder of the ca.1903 Queen Anne style Andrew Davis House, 637 North Main Street, may be Benjamin Thomas Hicks, a Franklin County builder who built one hundred mill houses for the Glen Royall Cotton Mill Village [see Glen Royall Cotton Mill Village Historic District] between 1900 and 1920. Davis may have built several of the other Queen Anne style houses in the Wake Forest Historic District as well.
The Colonial Revival theme of the college campus shaped the design of a number of Wake Forest Historic District houses as well. One of the district's most architecturally significant houses is the late 1890s summer cottage of W.C. Powell of Savannah, Georgia at 565 North Main Street. The large two-story frame house, designed by Raleigh architect Charles W. Barrett and featured in his 1900 publication, Colonial Southern Homes, features Barrett's own distinctive blend of the Queen Anne, Shingle style, and Colonial Revival styles, which he called "Southern Colonial." Distinctive features are the steep hip roofline, the deep one-story porch that wraps around both sides, the pedimented window above the main entrance, and the large dormer above it with diamond-paned windows and a balcony. Next door, W.C.'s son, William Royall Powell, built another version of the Southern Colonial next door at 555 North Main Street in 1912. With its monumental Ionic portico enclosing a one-story wraparound porch, this is the quintessential "cotton mill owner" house, a house of the Southern textile aristocracy of the early twentieth century. Both of the Powell houses were mill owner houses, since W.C. Powell was a founder of Wake Forest's first mill, the Royall Cotton Mill, and his son succeeded to ownership.
Examples of the later, academic phase of the Colonial Revival style are found in the Wake Forest Historic District. The two-story frame Colonial Revival style house that John Brewer Jr. built at 233 North Main Street about 1910 for his second wife is an academic Colonial Revival style house that is, according to local tradition, a copy of an eighteenth century house in Newport, Rhode Island. Professor Hubert Poteat, Sr. hired an architect named Morgan from Marion, North Carolina, in 1925 to design his house at 545 North Main Street. The large two-story frame house of distinguished Georgian Revival design has a hipped roof, a pedimented center pavilion, corbeled cornices, and a columned entrance porch. Architect William H. Deitrick designed an academic Colonial Revival style residence for Dr. George C. Mackie Sr. at 528 North Main Street in 1938.
One of the grandest landmarks of the early twentieth century is the Wake Forest Baptist Church, designed in 1913 by Charlotte architect James M. McMichael on a lot created out of the college campus at 107 East South Avenue. The cruciform brick church, with a tall copper-covered dome and dual entrance porticos — one facing the campus, the other facing town — has a sophisticated Beaux Arts style that makes it the most ornate church in Wake County outside of Raleigh.
The Colonial Revival style even appeared in vernacular house types in the district. L. Bruce Powers (son of Dr. John Powers, 112 West North Avenue), built a large one-story hip-roofed house about 1910 next door at 126 West North Avenue. This vernacular version of the Colonial Revival style is a house type known as a pyramidal cottage, with such stylish Colonial Revival trim as large windows with tiny panes, hipped dormer windows, and a wraparound classical porch
The Bungalow style, ubiquitous throughout North Carolina towns in the 1920s, is very slightly represented in the Wake Forest Historic District due to a lull in residential building activity in Wake Forest during this decade. Faculty and townspeople had largely met their dwelling needs earlier in the century, and a second wave of house construction did not commence until the late 1920s, when the Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival were the styles of choice. About 1911 Professor Timberlake remodeled his own house at 213 North Main Street into a large Bungalow with a wraparound porch. W.D. Holiday, the grounds superintendent at Wake Forest College, remodeled his house at 409 North Main Street about 1925 into a substantial Bungalow.
In a district known for its Colonial Revival architecture, there are few examples of more exotic revival styles such as Tudor Revival or Spanish Colonial Revival. The three most outstanding examples were built in the late 1920s. Raleigh architect H.P.S. Keller designed an imposing English manor house for Wake Forest College president Francis P. Gaines in 1928 at 308 Durham Road. Constructed of rustic stone, the two-story house with two gabled wings has bands of wooden casement windows and an entrance with a bracketed hood. President Gaines is said to have based his house at 308 Durham Road on a country estate that he saw on a trip to England. Keller is known for his early twentieth century classroom buildings with eccentric brickwork at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In 1928 clothing merchant George Bolus built a two-story stone house of Spanish Colonial Revival style, with a red tile roof, and an entrance porch and side wings with parapets and a tiled pent roof, at 429 South Main Street. In 1929 a member of the prominent Holding family built an ornate two-story stuccoed Spanish Colonial Revival style house with a red tile roof and a porte-cochere at 555 South Main Street.
The Wake Forest Historic District possesses a unique architectural character in Wake County. The buildings include examples of each historical period and style from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, many of them designed by notable local, state, and out-of-state architects. The campus of Wake Forest College and the surrounding town constitute one of the most significant groupings of historic buildings in Wake County, outside of the city of Raleigh. The Wake Forest Historic District's central significance is as a physical testament to the spirit of enlightened religious education that flourished at Wake Forest College, as well to the elevated level of architectural taste manifested in residential design throughout the district.
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Division of Archives and History Survey and Planning Branch survey files, Raleigh, N.C.
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Interviews by M. Ruth Little: Adolphsen, Jeff, Wake Forest resident, April 2003. Capps, Gene. Director, Wake Forest College Birthplace Museum, March-April, 2003. Holding, James, Wake Forest resident, April 2003 Murphy, Melanie, Wake Forest resident and principal investigator, Wake Forest Historic Architecture. Squires, Ruamie, Wake Forest resident. April 2003. Steely, Donna, Wake Forest resident, April 2003.
‡ M. Ruth Little, Longleaf Historic Resources, Wake Forest Historic District, Wake County, North Carolina nomination document, 2003, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Cedar Avenue West • College Street North • College Street South • Durham Road • Elm Avenue • Front Street South • Juniper Avenue East • Juniper Avenue West • Main Street North • Main Street South • North Avenue East • North Avenue West • Owen Avenue West • Pine Avenue West • Railroad Street • Rayburn Avenue • Route 1 • Route 98 • South Avenue East • South Avenue West • Sycamore Avenue East • Sycamore Avenue West • Vernon Avenue West • Walnut Avenue East • Walnut Avenue West • Wingate Street North • Wingate Street South • Woodland Drive