Friday, January 30, 2015

When Billy Arthur lived in New Bern

Billy Arthur standing in front of the New Bern Tribune office, ca 1933. Collection of John B. Green III.
By John B. Green III

William Joseph Eudy "Billy" Arthur was a newspaperman and a character.  Few people were as fondly recalled by the previous generation of New Bernians.  Whether it was for his newspaper column which detailed the people and politics of New Bern, his humor and exploits (see photo below), or his appearance (he was born with a form of dwarfism) Arthur was always remembered.  Though he lived in New Bern for only a few years from 1933 to 1940, he made a lasting impression.

Billy Arthur at liquor still raid, Craven County, ca. 1933.  Collection of I.I. Blanford.
Detail of above photo showing Arthur.
Billy Arthur was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1911.  He attended the Charlotte schools and graduated from Charlotte Central High School in 1928.  Arthur traveled on the Vaudeville circuit from 1929 to 1930 and then enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1931.  He served as head cheerleader 1931-1932 and graduated in 1933 with a degree in journalism.

Arthur came to New Bern in 1933 to work as a columnist, and eventually, as city editor of the New Bern Tribune.  He soon became involved in nearly every aspect of the community, distilling his observations into his regular column  "About Town."  At the same time he became a free-lance journalist contributing articles and regular features to The State Magazine in Raleigh.  Billy Arthur left New Bern in 1940 when he purchased the weekly newspaper in Jacksonville, North Carolina.  The paper became a success as Arthur chronicled the building of Camp Lejeune and other military bases in eastern North Carolina.  So popular was Billy Arthur that he was twice elected to represent Onslow County in the state legislature 1943-1945.  Arthur sold the Jacksonville paper and associated businesses in 1953.  His later life was centered around Chapel Hill where he wrote, published, and owned and operated a hobby store.  Arthur died in 2006 at the age of 95.  He was survived by his wife, son, daughter, and grandchild.

Two New Bern institutions, Gilbert Waters' Buggymobile and Billy Arthur, from the front cover of The State, Jan. 31, 1942.

We'll close with a sample of Billy Arthur's wit and wisdom from a random issue of New Bern Tribune.

New Bern Tribune, Sunday, 15 Oct 1933.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Vanished New Bern, No. 15

a series of views of lost area buildings

By John B. Green III

The Christian Church

The Christian Church, from Illustrated City of New Bern, North Carolina, 1914
Before the congregation of Broad Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) began to worship in their present 1926 sanctuary they had an earlier church home at another location - Hancock Street.  This wood-framed, Gothic-detailed church stood on the west side of the 300 block of Hancock Street near the middle of the block (approximately where the rear of the CenturyLink building is now located).  Constructed between February 1887 and November 1889, the church was dedicated on Sunday, December 1, 1889.  An article in the December 3, 1889 issue of the New Bern Daily Journal described the building:

The new church is a neat, attractive building.  It is 60 x 34 feet in size; the top of the steeple is 108 feet from the ground; the pitch of the ceiling is 21 feet; the walls, inside, are imitation stone; the ceiling overhead is of native woods, beautifully painted and finished with gilded trimmings; stained-glass windows; gallery in front end; very comfortable pews; handsome pulpit furniture; the room is heated by one of Mott's furnaces; well lighted at night by gas, one of I.P. Frinks' silvered corrugated glass reflectors being used, besides a gas-light on each side of the pulpit and two in the gallery

The Hancock Street church would serve the congregation for the next twenty-nine years until the early morning hours of December 30, 1918 when a fire of undetermined origin gutted the building.  Plans to rebuild were begun almost immediately but it would take more than seven years before their new, larger church was completed at 802 Broad Street.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Portico, portico, who's got the portico?

or, How the Donnell House Portico came back home to New Bern

By John B. Green III

Peter B. Sandbeck and John B. Green III, portico porters, 1985.
In a previous post (Vanished New Bern, No.3) we described the destruction of the John R. Donnell House and the scattering of its various parts.

The John R. Donnell House was perhaps New Bern's finest residence of the Federal Period.   Constructed for Judge Donnell between 1816 and 1819, the house and adjacent law office displayed the handiwork of Asa King, New Bern's premier builder of that time.  The house was quadrupled in size by a three-story apartment building addition to the rear in the 1920s and throughout much of the 20th century was known as the Hughes Apartments.  A spectacular fire on January 24, 1970 destroyed the apartment house addition and damaged the original house.  The Donnell house was stripped of its fine architectural details and demolished following the fire.  Some of the interior woodwork was taken to Mobile, Alabama and used in the construction of a new home, while the front portico and other elements were taken to Charlotte.  The Donnell law office was moved intact to nearby Trent Woods.   After many years of storage, the Donnell House portico was returned to New Bern in April 1985 and is now displayed in the New Bern Academy Museum.

John R. Donnell House and Office, 712 Craven Street, photo c. 1965.
The paragraph above makes it seem as though the location of the Judge Donnell portico had always been known, yet such was not the case.  Although it was generally remembered that various architectural elements of the Donnell house had been sold away from New Bern, the fate of the portico had been all but forgotten.  So it came as quite a surprise to the members of the New Bern Historical Society when Dr. C. Hal Chaplin of Charlotte, North Carolina contacted the society in 1985 with news of the portico.  He informed them that he had the portico and would like to return it to New Bern.  Dr. Chaplin had purchased the portico and other woodwork in 1970 with the intention of incorporating the material into a new house he was building.  He never used the portico and it was stored in pieces in his garage where his children played on and under it.

Donnell House portico in situ, 1936. Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston.
After some discussion (What do we with do with a portico?), Dr. Chaplin's kind offer was accepted and a crack team of professional portico porters was assembled (Peter B. Sandbeck and John B. Green III).  Dispatched on April 21, 1985 in a truck borrowed from Askew's Hardware, the intrepid pair made their way to Charlotte, loaded up the portico, posed for a photograph (see above) and returned to New Bern the next day.  Once in New Bern they drove the portico up Craven Street to its former site, then out National Avenue and Oaks Road to a disused dairy barn owned by Mr. F. Murray Phillips where the portico was to be stored.  The Donnell portico would remain there for nearly two years before a permanent home was found for it.

Donnell House portico as displayed in the New Bern Academy Museum, 1990.
In February 1987 the New Bern Historical Society donated the portico to the Tryon Palace Historic Sites and Gardens for display in the New Bern Academy Museum.  The portico made one final trip from the dairy barn to the Academy where, over the next three years, it was studied, reassembled, and restored.  The Donnell House portico became the centerpiece of the architectural history room of the Academy museum when it opened in December 1990.  The portico had finally returned to public view after an absence of twenty years.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vanished New Bern, No. 14

a series of views of lost area buildings

By John B. Green III

The Glenburnie Pavilion

Glenburnie Pavilion, photo ca. 1913.
The short-lived Glenburnie Pavilion, also known as the Glenburnie Casino, was constructed between August and October 1913.  The structure was intended to be the centerpiece of Glenburnie Park which was owned by the Eastern Carolina Fair Association.  The park had been developed adjacent to the fair grounds and occupied the same area as the present city-owned Glenburnie Park as well as the land presently covered by the city's waste treatment plant.  The pavilion was also intended to attract buyers for lots in the nearby subdivision which was being laid out at the time.

The pavilion was described as being sited on a prominent hill overlooking the Neuse River with excellent views in all directions.  The building had three stories with the first floor being occupied by a skating rink, the second floor serving as a dance hall and promenade, and the third floor housing a restroom and music room.  The building would be lit in the evenings by electric lights and cooled in the summer by electric fans.  The large, nearby wharf could easily accommodate vessels bringing visitors from New Bern.

For all its amenities and the natural beauty of the site, the pavilion lasted a scant fifteen years before it was destroyed by fire late on the evening of May 4, 1928.  The fire, of undetermined origin and beginning around midnight, leveled the structure which was described the next day as long-disused and much deteriorated.

The building, which long since lost its grandeur, was property of the city of New Bern, but had not been used in several years - since the last efforts to establish the place as the city's park.  In these years it had depreciated until it was but a shadow of the original handsome structure. (Morning New Bernian, 5 May 1928, 1:6)

The next day's paper brought the news that, following the destruction of the pavilion, the wharf had also been set ablaze and destroyed.  Thus ended, at least for a time, Glenburnie's attraction for recreation-seeking New Bernians.

Glenburnie Park wharf, photo ca. 1910.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The house that was cut in half

or, Half a house is better than none?

By John B. Green III

Photocopy of sketch of the Cole House dated June 1885. New Bern Craven County Public Library.
The Cole House once stood on the north side of the 500 block of Pollock Street.  Probably dating from the first quarter of the 19th century, the house was acquired by James Carney Cole in 1858 for his residence.  Cole and his family remained in New Bern during the Union army occupation and he died during the great yellow fever epidemic of 1864.  The property passed to his daughter Mary Catherine Cole.  It was during the ownership of Miss Cole that the house began its piecemeal progression to demolition.  Some time in the late 1890s the house was enlarged to the west and converted to a duplex with a second entrance and porch added.

Detail of 1898 Sanborn Insurance Map of New Bern showing the Cole House converted to a duplex.
Mary Catherine Cole sold the property to her sister Lavinia Cole Roberts (Mrs. Frederick C. Roberts) in 1904.  In 1910 the Roberts sold a portion of the property containing the old Cole House to their daughter Annie Roberts Boyd (Mrs. W.G. Boyd).  The Boyds proceeded to demolish the eastern half of the Cole House.  They are said to have reused some of the materials from the Cole House in the new house which they constructed on the eastern portion of the lot between May 1910 and January 1911.  The remaining western half of the Cole House was repaired and retained as a rental property.

Surviving western half of the Cole House, photo ca. 1950. N.C. Division of Archives & History.
The Boyds sold the 1911 house to D.W. Hanks in 1923.  It was demolished ca. 1970.  The western half of the Cole House lived on until 1968 when it was purchased from the Boyd heirs by the New Bern Historical Society.  The society demolished the structure to make way for a new rear driveway to their headquarters building, the Attmore-Oliver House.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Vanished New Bern, No. 13

a series of views of lost area buildings

By John B. Green III

The Washington Hotel

Trade card c. 1858, Washington Hotel, 400 block Broad Street, north side.
The engraved trade card seen above is the only known image of the sprawling Washington Hotel which was once located on the northeast corner of Broad and Hancock streets.  It bears an ink inscription which reads "Just as it look[ed] before Newbern was Capt[ured] 1860."  Established by Joseph Bell before 1818, it served as hotel, stage office and stop, and venue for countless social and political events.  Bell sold the complex to Henry G. Cutler in 1834 who operated the hotel for three years before selling it to William R. Street in 1838.  Street sold the hotel back to Cutler in 1852.  Cutler again sold the property in 1856 and it passed through a number of owners including W.J. Smith who briefly owned the hotel in 1858 (and had the trade card printed.)  It was owned and operated at the time of the Civil War by William P. Moore.  The Washington Hotel met its end during the Union Army assault on New Bern, March 14, 1862, when it was set ablaze by retreating Confederates.

Monday, January 5, 2015

How do you name a neighborhood?

You hold a contest!

How DeGraffenried Park got its name.

Mack Lupton House, DeGraffenried Park. Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County.
By John B. Green III

The arcane methods that today's developers use to name new subdivisions are a mystery, but in New Bern in 1926 they held a naming contest complete with prizes.  The area where the future DeGraffenried Park would be located had been agricultural land for generations.  In the 1920s it was open fields owned by E.H. and J.A. Meadows and a pecan orchard owned by John H. Jones.  Jones and the Meadows contracted with J.S. Miller and Son and the Atlantic Coast Realty Company to develop and promote the property.  Beginning in November 1926 the development was touted as an exclusive, high-class residential area with large lots set among wide concrete-paved streets and sidewalks.  City water and sewer and electric and telephone service would be supplied to every lot.

The developers announced a contest to name the property and its principal streets.  The judges would be Mrs. Clyde Eby, Mrs. Richard N. Duffy, and Miss Bettie Windley.  Either the judges or the contest participants were in an historical mood, for when the results were announced, all the winners had picked names from New Bern's early history. 

Sun-Journal, 11 November 1926
First prize of $25 went to Miss Jessie Farrior who was the first of many to suggest the name of New Bern's founder Christoph De Graffenried for the new settlement.  The other winners, whose suggestions would be used for street names, were:  Miss Carlton Montford, $15, for Lucerne Way after the largest city in Switzerland;  Mrs. E.K. Bishop, $10, for Tryon Road after royal governor William Tryon;  Miss Gertrude Carraway, $5, for Queen Anne Lane after the English monarch at the time of the founding of New Bern;  and Virginius Kasey of Greenville, $5, for Chattawka Lane after the Native American village which had existed on the site of New Bern.

Sun-Journal, 8 March 1927
The new DeGraffenried Park was quickly laid out and the promised broad streets and sidewalks were paved.  Lot sales were initially brisk and a number of handsome residences were constructed but activity slowed and then all but ended as the United States slipped into the Great Depression.  The neighborhood survived, however, and today DeGraffenried Park is one of New Bern's loveliest areas with houses of the 1920s, '30s, and 40s set on pecan-shaded lots.

Intersection of Lucerne Way and Fort Totten Drive, c. 1927, looking east toward earthworks of Fort Totten.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Vanished New Bern, No.12

a series of views of lost area buildings

By John B. Green III

J.W. Stewart House

J.W. Stewart House, 400 block Pollock Street, north side. Photo dated April 1900.

John Washington Stewart, prosperous livery stable owner, is most often associated with the sprawling house, formerly at the corner of Pollock and Craven streets, which he purchased from Dr. F.W. Hughes in 1900.  Stewart had an earlier home, however, which he had constructed in 1892.  This house, located on the north side of the 400 block of Pollock Street, was as exuberantly ornamented as any of New Bern's late 19th-century houses.  At the time of it's construction it was described as "not ... outrivaled in conveniences and modern architecture by any in the city" and as "a remarkably beautiful and convenient residence."  The first mention of Stewart's new house occurs on April 7, 1892 in the New Bern Daily Journal when it was reported that "Mr. J.W. Stewart has had the plans drawn for a residence which he intends to build on the vacant part of the lot which he recently purchased from Mr. C.H. Blank.  It will be of the East Lake pattern, finely finished, and rank among the most beautiful in he city."  The house was completed by November 6, 1892 which the Daily Journal reported that "Mr. J.W. Stewart is now comfortably fixed in his new home."  Although Stewart moved from the house in 1900, he continued to own it until it's destruction in the fire of April 2, 1907.  The fire began in the early morning hours in J.M. Arnold's livery stable located to the north in the center of the block.  Gale force winds soon drove the fire south to Pollock Street where it consumed the Stewart House and three other houses before being contained. 

Ruins of the Stewart house and other structures after the fire of April 2, 1907.