Editor’s note: This installment is the second in a series of stories following the grassroots effort to document Greensboro’s South Benbow Road area as a candidate for the National Register of Historic Places.
GREENSBORO — A study group has narrowed the list of mid-modernist buildings off South Benbow Road that will be included in an application for the National Register of Historic Places.
The properties include the home of the late Dr. Alvin Blount, who was among the Greensboro doctors who asked courts to integrate Moses Cone Hospital and led to hospitals across the country having to do the same.
Blount’s house at 1224 East Side Drive was built in 1964 and designed by Gerard E. Gray.
Also included is the 1960s modernist-style home of noted civil rights attorney J. Kenneth Lee, who was a student plaintiff in the successful fight to integrate UNC-Chapel Hill. Lee talked strategy with the likes of future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. while gathered around a large table in an office at the home.
Built in 1959, Lee’s home at 1021 Broad Ave. was designed by W. Edward “Blue” Jenkins, the third licensed black architect in the state.
The study group, brought together by architectural buff Eric Woodard, began documenting the distinct styles of the homes and the impact of its residents on American history. The group hopes the South Benbow Road area will gain a spot on the North Carolina Study List, a preliminary determination of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places.
The register is the government’s official list of cultural resources worth preserving. There are no restrictions on what the owner can do with the property, as long as the owner doesn’t take state or federal money to restore the property.
A property must also meet certain criteria before it is placed on the register. It usually must be more than 50 years old, is associated with important historical events or personalities or represents an important architectural design.
Heather Slane of HMW Preservation, an architectural history and historic preservation firm, investigated the Benbow Road properties on the list.
The properties are all connected to Benbow Road, which for locals is a catch-all term encompassing many of the neighborhoods off the main road, including Benbow Park, Clinton Hills and Washington Street.
Like many segregated areas at the time, the range of black economic classes were often separated by just blocks.
Many of the homes were designed by black architects — some of whom taught or attended N.C. A&T.
Many of the black architects who designed houses in Greensboro were proteges of Edward Lowenstein, whose large architectural firm was based in the city. It was the first white architectural firm in the state to hire black professionals, including Jenkins, William Streat, Major Sanders and Clinton Gravely.
Other properties could be added later. The ones now on the list include:
The Dr. Frank & Gladys White House
The property at 1206 E. Side Drive was built in 1965 and designed by William A. Streat Jr.
Frank White was the former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at N.C. A&T. Gladys White was an associate English professor who tutored students for college placement tests into her 80s.
St. Matthews United Methodist Church
The church at 600 E. Florida St. was built in 1970 and designed by W. Edward Jenkins.
The congregation’s history includes the founding of Bennett College in 1873 in the church’s basement. The first African American Boy Scout troop (#441) was organized there as well.
Windsor Community Center
The center at 1601 E. Gate City Blvd. was built in 1968.
Annie Lee Holley House
The home at 1206 Julian St. was built circa 1963.
Holley is the sister of Kenneth Lee, the civil rights attorney.
The home at 2219 Lakeland was built circa 1963.
Metropolitan United Methodist Church
The church at 1701 E. Market S. was built in 1976 and is near N.C. A&T.
W. Edward Jenkins House
The home at 1208 Ross Ave. was built circa 1959 and designed by W. Edward Jenkins.
Jenkins designed Dudley High School’s original gymnasium.
William Streat House
The home at 1507 Tuscaloosa St. was built in 1962 and designed by William A. Streat Jr.
Streat also was chairman of the architectural engineering department at N.C. A&T.
The home at 1810 South Benbow Road was built circa 1973.