The western quadrant of Greensboro grew quickly in the late nineteenth century. Residential and commercial growth followed jobs spurred by prime industrial sites adjacent to the North Carolina Railroad and thoroughfares with access to Jamestown and High Point. In 1893, the state established the State Normal and Industrial School (today UNCG) in the area, representing a massive civic investment in public higher education and additional jobs.
Initially, Greensboro’s West End (College Hill) witnessed an initial boom in construction in the 1890s. Located further to the west was the mill village of Pomona, named by entrepreneur J. Van Lindley in 1874 for the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. This settlement grew around Lindley’s Pomona Hill Nursery, but later diversified with new industries such as Pomona Terra Cotta Company (1886), the Hunter Manufacturing Company (1897), and the Pomona Cotton Mill (1905). Pomona grew to become a thriving industrial suburb of Greensboro.
Greensboro and Pomona were linked by a streetcar operated by the Greensboro Electric System in 1902. The electric streetcar network included a site on Spring Garden Street as its westernmost terminus, and the trolley enjoyed an instant customer base of leisurists who sought amusement at Lindley Park, a new resort park composed of wholesome attractions. The amusement park was named in honor of Pomona patron J. Van Lindley, and was constructed on 22 acres of land atop a hill in the 2800 block of Masonic Drive. The property was donated by Lindley to the Greensboro Electric Company on a 15-year term conditional that the land remain used as park space. Initially, the park featured a vaudeville stage and a dance pavilion that was open until 1am! Later, the park expanded to include a shooting gallery, a summer theatre seating 1,000, a refreshment stand, bowling alleys, soda fountains, and a lake.
The streetcar, or “trolley” system was a much-anticipated boost to Greensboro’s civic pride, but it was never fully developed as an efficient or profitable enterprise. On the 25th of June 1902, the Greensboro Patriot announced, “The street car service to the park at Pomona was inaugurated yesterday. The buildings at the park will soon be completed, and it will be one of the most attractive spots in the county.” Over time, users complained about the infrequency and slowness of the trolleys, and by the 1920s use of the trolley was largely supplanted by automobiles.
The establishment of the street car and the amusement park prompted a land rush along Spring Garden Street. Small farms – including portions of the Pomona Hill Nursery – were subdivided for residential lots. Plats indicate new “streetcar suburbs” with names such as Park Place, composed of northbound streets from Spring Garden Street. Scott Avenue, Oak Avenue (today Northridge Street), Lindley Street (today Howard Street), and Park Avenue (today Longview Street) are illustrations of this first period of development between 1902 and 1917.
A significant African American community named “Rhode Island” settled around Rhode Island Methodist Episcopal Church at 1316 Oakland Avenue. Quaker and former Mayor Cyrus P. Mendenhall sold this land in 1872 to Kitty Balsley, who in turn sold property to the church in 1903. Craftsman bungalows and vernacular shotgun-style homes lined Granite Street, Oakland Street, Warren Street, and the 1700 block of Sherwood Street. Their occupants were often employed by nearby UNCG and their children attended a small school that remained open until the 1920s.
The land rush slowed due to the Panic of 1907 and due to competition from other subdivisions closer to the city center such as College Hill, Summit Avenue, Southside, Glenwood, and Fisher Park. Residents found the area convenient to their needs and commissioned Victorian-style homes that constituted a First Period of housing stock. Clyde Harward, a cabinetmaker, built a two-story Queen Anne-style frame house in 1908 with a cross-gable roof and wrap-around porch at 808 Northridge Street. J. S. Moore, owner of a lumber company, commissioned a two-story Queen Anne-style house at 2400 Spring Garden Street around 1905 featuring a Palladian window and a balcony. In 1912, G. P. Phillips, occupied a one-story Victorian cottage at 2000 Spring Garden Street featuring a cross-gable roof and wrap-around porch. In spite of the area’s auspicious location, a majority of the neighborhood’s lots remained vacant until the end of the first World War.
The muffled growth allowed community services to catch-up to constituents, exemplified by the establishment of the Pomona Rural Graded School in 1904. Funded through a grant of land and and building by Van Lindley, the $4,125 schoolhouse contained six classrooms and an auditorium. It was expanded in 1907 to include eighth grade and became a full-fledged high school in 1916. The school, today known as the Pomona High School building at 2203 Spring Garden Street, took its present appearance in 1920 according to designs by architect Harry Barton. In 1995, the school was adaptively reused as apartments, and designated both to the National Register of Historic Places and as a Guilford County Landmark.
The Armistice and the end of World War I initiated a surge of growth in Greensboro, and Lindley Park was well-positioned to benefit from a Second Period of house construction. With the expiration of the 15-year term between Van Lindley and the Greensboro Electric Company for the Lindley amusement park, the park was closed and the land sold to real estate developer Aubrey Brooks of the Real Estate and Trust Company in March 1917. Plans were revealed for replacement of the park with a residential subdivision.
A year later, in 1918, Lindley announced plans for the development of his property surrounding Brooks’ purchase. He gifted 44 acres along the North Buffalo Creek including floodplains and woodland to the city of Greensboro for use as a park and hired landscape architect Earl Sumner Draper, of Charlotte, to coordinate boundaries for the park and its subdivision. Draper prepared a master plan with parkland fringed with curvilinear streets and intersected at acute angles. Triangular parks existed at both ends of Masonic Drive, and the area south of that drive was initially a formal plan centered on an entrance with a median.
Draper’s plans were amended, and the final plat of the neighborhood was penned by engineer George L. Bain. Bain demonstrated a pragmatic and efficient interpretation of Draper’s plan with uniform lots and squared intersections. The final rendition of Lindley Park featured nearly 60 acres of park space and 1,406 building lots. Construction was restricted to one residence and outbuilding per lot. All residential structures were to cost at least $7500 and had to obey setbacks of 45 feet from the front property line. Sales were racially restricted, though domestic servants and their families were permitted residency. No religious restrictions were placed in the deeds. All property restrictions expired on June 1, 1950, but restrictions based on race were ruled unenforceable by the Supreme Court in 1948.
The first residences erected in the Lindley Park plat were along Willowbrook Drive and Lindell Road, overlooking a greensward and stream. Perhaps the first was the c.1924 Ethel and Jonathan Hardin House at 809 South Lindell Road – a blend of Colonial and Craftsman styles reminiscent of the resort cottages built in Pinehurst. The 1925 Nancy and Henry Clendenin House at 904 Willowbrook took a Dutch Colonial appearance with a side gambrel gable roofline and full width front porch. The Victoria and Percy Siler House at 902 Willowbrook was completed around 1928. Siler was a brick contractor, and enjoyed a brick home with an English theme featuring a clipped gable and façade of irregular symmetry.
Unbuilt lots on the older Park Place subdivision also developed during the Roaring Twenties, including the Stafford House at 809 Northridge Street. Built for Chase and Don Stafford in 1923, this charming two-story brick house features a hipped roofline, a brow dormer, and a Philadelphia-style pend roof. In 1922, Rufus and Cora McClamroch moved their previous home across Scott Avenue and built a new residence, “Beechwood”, at 632 Scott Avenue. Their brick English Cottage featured an irregular façade of brick with a prominent cross-gable roof of deep green clay tile.
The John Van Lindley elementary school at 2700 Camden Road was completed in 1929 to address enrollment pressures at the Pomona School. The school was occupied by first, second, and third grade students from Sunset Hills and Pomona, and contained nine classrooms, an auditorium, cafeteria, offices, a library, and a health clinic. The two-story brick building is in the style of collegiate Neoclassical architecture.
Construction slowed with the Great Depression and World War II. By 1945, the residential real estate landscape was quite different from the 1910s and 1920s. Higher income housing was trending to the outskirts of the city and sites remaining in and around Lindley Park were attractive to speculators who catered to young GI’s returning home from service.
Post War housing represented a significant shift in American residential architecture in terms of technology, size, affordability, and style. Materials were mass produced and often experimental, including the use of plywood, asphalt shingles, and asbestos siding. The creation of the long-term fixed rate mortgage by the Federal Housing Act of 1933 allowed more people to afford to own their home. Styles grew increasingly simple with lower rooflines and a preference for single story height.
The Ruby and Ray Banner residence at 2621 Beechwood Street exemplifies trends in post war architecture. The single-story house built in 1933 sports an eye-catching façade of gables, a double-shouldered chimney, and even a garage. Had it been built a decade earlier, this English Cottage theme might have been further embellished with diamond-pane windows, a high-pitched roof, and stonework, but as an example of Minimal Traditional architecture, such details are restrained and fleeting.
In 1961, Mozelle and Adrian Lancaster purchased a sleek modern home at 2600 Sherwood. At only 1508 square feet, the one-story home features a low pitch-roofline and a brick gable that crosses the otherwise Ranch-style façade. A decorative brick screen with square piercings shelters the front door from unwanted peeks from passersby.
Not all houses in Lindley Park of the post-War period were modestly modern. In 1947, Flossie and Sgt. Paul Crayton began construction of their residence at 802 Willowbrook Drive. The $9,700 residence was like few others in Greensboro, taking a Streamline Modern style – mimicking a steamship with engine room, round window, and even wide chimneys evocative of smokestacks (image, right).
Lindley Park was not solely a single-family neighborhood. Multifamily housing ranged from single room rentals to duplex housing, and even multiple tenant housing. Weaver Construction developed a series of large-scale apartment projects across the city after World War II. In 1948, the company broke ground on the Lindley Park Manor Apartments in the 300 block of Ashland Drive. The complex was financed through Federal Housing Administration Title 2 mortgage program. The $1.4 million complex contained 176 units spread across 44 separate buildings. Units ranged from three room with one bath units that rented for $75 per month to four room with one bath units that rented for $85 per month. These apartments were at the mid-level spectrum of Greensboro’s rental housing market at the time and were popular with newlyweds and retirees.
By the 1960s, property values in Lindley Park were quite stable compared to older neighborhoods closer to the city center that lost value. Good schools, younger housing stock, and convenient transportation to employment and shopping choices likely contributed to the steady real estate market. However, in the 1960s, transportation changes forever changed the landscape of Lindley Park.
As early as 1918, City planning consultant Charles Mulford Robinson made recommendations for “a fine boulevard to skirt the northwestern portion of the city”. He explained, “…this boulevard would hug the bank of rambling North Buffalo creek, from the lake to the prolonged street which bisects the West Market terrace; and…north to enter battleground road.” This plan was continued through the Babcock Thoroughfare Plan of 1954, with a sketch of an east-west crosstown expressway that is today recognized as Wendover Avenue.
The project was held up for years by the Greensboro School Board for land condemned on the Brooks-Kiser campus. Lindley Park residents also led the opposition. “Surely we have men farsighted enough running for city council for election to see the wisdom of retaining, such areas as beauty spots within our city and surely our engineers at City Hall can come up with a solution to this particular problem which would be just as good or better than continuing to whittle away at Lindley Park-type lands inside our city,” argued Hugh Gray, spokesperson for the Wendover opposition. Proponent Ceasar Cone argued the alternative, “I believe it is better to go through a park than through homes”. An estimated 750 petitioners objected to the highway, including Mrs. Emily Gardner, who suggested building the expressway west of Muir’s Chapel Road, or building helipads to transit patrons to the Greensboro-High Point airport. By 1969, construction began on the new road that removed 25 acres from Lindley Park and it opened to traffic in August 1972.
Although Lindley Park was bisected by Wendover Avenue, the city made additional investments in the park to expand it from passive use. In 1955, the city opened the Lindley Park Swimming Pool. The $200,000 investment was the first public swimming pool in the city and could accommodate 800 swimmers. An adjacent bathhouse was constructed with dressing areas and showers. The swimming pool was restricted for use by white citizens. In 1971, a community recreation center was constructed across from a shared parking lot.
In the tradition of Van Lindley, the Lindley Park Garden Club was established in the mid-1930s in the spirit of civic improvements, social engagement, and education among its female membership. The group was most active in the 1950s when it showcased plants through competitive shows and lobbied city government for care and improvements in Lindley Park.
In 1955, the Greensboro Council of Garden Clubs leased land in Lindley Park to commemorate the organization’s silver anniversary. The Anniversary Garden initially featured 6,000 bulbs, iris, azaleas, flowering crabapple, white pines and hemlocks. It eventually grew to include benches and sculpture amid 500 different trees and shrubs. With leadership from Greensboro Beautiful and the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department this garden grew into the Greensboro Arboretum in 1991, a 17-acre space that now includes fourteen plant collections, display gardens and educational opportunities for landscape designers, and homeowners.
Historic preservation gained a foothold in 1997, when the Lindley Park Neighborhood Association initiated a Restoration Campaign to provide much needed restoration of the park. With Preservation Greensboro serving as a fiscal agent for the fund, the campaign raised $10,000 to repair the deteriorated stone entrance columns, build four stone bridges, repair steps and create walking trails, and to plant new trees.
Historic preservation continued as a concern in 2004, as the Lindley Park Neighborhood Association and the City of Greensboro composed the Lindley Park Neighborhood Plan, a thorough document adopted by city council that sought a proactive approach to needs and strategies for the neighborhood. Lindley Park was a pilot for the neighborhood planning service. The community-based plan reviewed demographic trends, land use, reinvestment, and transportation to create recommendations on a variety of issues such as water quality, walkability, and community.
Today, the Lindley Park holds a reputation as a safe, affordable, and diverse neighborhood that remains conveniently located to UNCG as well as a collection of restaurants and boutiques along Walker Avenue (referenced as “the Corner” by the locals) and along Spring Garden Street. In 2013, neighboring Sunset Hills became the largest National Register Historic District in Guilford County, and opened opportunities for those residents to utilize Historic Tax Credits for home improvements and investments. Lindley Park may likely be eligible for the same designation and related benefits…or the neighborhood might choose an alternative path to forge its future.
Vintage homes in the Lindley Park neighborhood will open their doors to ticketholders during Preservation Greensboro Incorporated’s ninth annual Tour of Historic Homes & Gardens on May 18-19, 2019. The tour will highlight charming features of early twentieth century architecture, including Vernacular farmhouses, examples of Craftsman architecture, a Colonial Revival design, and a Tudor house.
The tour is the flagship fundraiser for Preservation Greensboro. For more information visit our tour webpage.