East Greensboro is rich with historic and cultural sites, ranging from Dudley High School to the L. Richardson Hospital and War Memorial Stadium, as well as the campuses of Bennett College for Women and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University (A&T).
However, one asset has been forgotten by historians and neighborhood advocates – the Bluford Street neighborhood. Once the prestigious home of academics, administrators, professionals, and even a participant in the Manhattan Project, the future of this important historic neighborhood is bleak.
The community aligns along Bluford Street (formerly the eastern extension of Lindsay Street), a residential lane adjacent to the A&T campus that once catered to professors and administrators of the university. The street was laid out around 1900 from land previously owned by the North Carolina Steel and Iron Company and later by the Cone family. The Cones sold the property for residential use after the construction of the nearby A&T campus in 1893.
Bluford (then Lindsay) Street was quickly established as a convenient location for professors and administrators to live close to the university across the street. They built sturdy Craftsman bungalows and rectilinear Foursquares with generous front porches beneath pendulous oaks. Throughout the 20th century, professors and students could make the quick commute across the street to the university for classes and special events.
The oldest home on the street is likely Nelson Station, the home of Walter N. Nelson at 903 Bluford Street (image, right). The Queen Anne-style house was built around 1903 and features turned porch posts with sawn brackets, a cut-away bay window with corner brackets, and decorative sawn shingles in the gables. Nelson and his wife Agnes were natives of Georgia, where Walter earned a degree from Georgia State University before studying at the University of Chicago and Columbia University. He began work at A&T in 1903 where he taught carpentry in the school’s Mechanical Department.
In 1918, Nelson left his position at A&T served in the U. S. Army in Europe during World War I. By the 1930s, the Nelsons returned to their Greensboro home where they lived the remainder of their lives. Walter was hired by the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, where he worked until he passed away in 1966. Agnes died ten years later. In 2006, Nelson Station was recognized as a Guilford County Landmark property for its intact Queen Anne architecture and its strong historical ties with A&T.
A block east of Nelson Station is the Bluford-Jeffries House at 1007 Bluford Street (iamge, right). This handsome American Foursquare house was constructed in 1916 and features Prairie-inspired details, such as boxed and broad overhanging eaves, a full-width front porch and a central hipped-roof dormer window. The home was built for Dr. F. D. Bluford and his wife Hazel. Dr. Bluford was a native of Virginia where he attended Virginia Union University and later Howard University. He was hired by A&T in 1916 where he quickly rose through the ranks.
In 1925 Bluford was appointed acting president upon the death of A&T President James B. Dudley. Bluford’s 30-year career at A&T is legendary. The campus (image, right) was expanded, numerous buildings erected, and enrollment expanded ten-fold. Bluford boosted the accreditation of the institution to an A-rating and A&T grew into one of the largest and most prestigious historically black universities in the nation. Bluford passed away in 1955 and Lindsay Street was renamed in his honor in the 1960s.
Hazel Bluford sold the home in 1963 to Dr. Jasper Jeffries and his wife Marguerite. Jeffries, a native of Winston-Salem, earned degrees at West Virginia State College and the University of Chicago before serving as Chairman of the Department of Physics at A&T. Jeffries was one of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project developing the first atomic bomb during the close of World War II. He was one of eight former members of the project who received the Distinguished American Award.
Bluford Street began to change in the late twentieth century as homeowners retired or moved away and their homes were converted for rental use. Poorly maintained older homes were condemned and destroyed for parking or multi-tenant housing. As neighborhood land values continued to decline, A&T saw opportunity to expand its campus north across the street. The current campus master plan calls for the streetscape to be destroyed and replaced with green space within a 10-15 year timeline.