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Reynoldstown gets historic marker

Reynoldstown  gets historic marker
November 19
00:00 2015
Above: Photo by Todd Luck- Former Reynoldstown resident James Grace recalls the neighborhood’s heyday.

Reynoldstown, a neighborhood originally created for tobacco workers that has a rich African American history, got a historic marker on Saturday, November 15.

The marker unveiling was held at the corner of Cameron Avenue and Eighth Street at one of the entrances to the neighborhood. Reynoldstown, originally called Cameron Park, was built in 1919 by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company as a neighborhood of rent-to-own bungalows to ease a housing shortage.  Initially most of the homes were rented to white Reynolds employees. But by 1937, the neighborhood had become populated by black homeowners.

The shift happened after Atkins High School was a built just a few blocks away in 1931.

Forsyth County Historic Resources Commissioner Langdon Oppermann said that black teenagers would walk through the neighborhood, which is on Cameron Avenue between 8th and 10th streets, to get to school. She said this resulted in white residents moving out and in about a year the neighborhood had become predominately black. She said black residents not only bought the houses, but also the side lots in which they built houses in the styles common to the 1940s. She said the alternating architectural styles are still present in the neighborhood today.

“This neighborhood visually tells a story, it tells a story of a switch from the white to African-American, from renter to owner,” said Oppermann, who helped get the neighborhood on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008.

Oppermann said well-known past residents in the neighborhood included former U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Togo West, funeral home owner Clark Brown and Principal Albert Anderson, who the Anderson Center at Winston-Salem State University is named after.

During the marker ceremony, Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burke, East Ward City Council Member Derwin Montgomery, who represents the area, and Northwest Ward City Council Member Jeff MacIntosh also spoke.

“We have a wonderful story in this area,” said Burke remarking about the distinguished community members that have lived in Reynoldstown.

Despite it’s proud history, some houses in the area are in need of repair. Montgomery said the neighborhood is included in the $4 million TURN (Transforming Urban Residential Neighborhoods) program that was a part of the city bond that passed last year. The new program provides neighborhood groups with up to $45,000 per residential property for infrastructure improvements. He said that this will help preserve the historic buildings in Reynoldstown.

“There’s a need again for the investment in the neighborhood today,” he said.

Former resident James Grace spoke and fondly reminisced about growing up in the neighborhood with eight brothers and sisters. He recalled attending Atkins High School, walking downtown to the movie theater, and going to house parties in the various other black neighborhoods in the city.

“We had everything, at least we thought we had everything,” he said.

Caroline Henry has resided in Reynoldstown for 62 years. She said she’s well known because her father, Willie Henry, owned a grocery store that was located just across Cameron Avenue from where the marker was dedicated. He ran the store until he died in 1965 and it was torn down a few years later. There’s now a street where the store once stood, but a small portion of the brick store wall still remains on the roadside.

She said the neighborhood has more renters now and some of the houses need fixing up, but it’s still a place she’s proud to call home.

“It’s a still good neighborhood,” she said.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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