Since the Secrets of Westerwood was published in 2016, the neighborhood’s history has yielded a greater depth and diversity than first realized. Through new research, Westerwood is revealed not as one neighborhood, but a patchwork quilt of ten plats, some layered upon the other, all organized today within one neighborhood association.
Early maps and deeds indicate the land on which Westerwood is located was an assortment of small farms owned by people such as stagecoachman Peter Adams, former mayor Cyrus Mendenhall, and former mayor Robert M. Sloan. These smaller tracts, located just outside the village of Greensboro, contributed to the small-scale development of the neighborhood in the early twentieth century.
The first subdivision of land located west of the College Branch creek and its companion Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad, and north of West Market Street, was a collection of small farmsteads owned by free people of color that were established as early as 1873 along what was then known as Delphina Street, renamed Guilford Avenue. This community grew during the Reconstruction Era to include more Black landowners and renters around St. Paul’s A. M. E. Church.
Precious little remains of this first community today, but three properties remain touchstones: the Esther and William Glover “Glove” Smith House of 1916 located at 806 Guilford Avenue, the Hattie and Rev. Edgar Henry Kemp House of 1907 located at 206 Crestland Avenue; and the Eliza Ella McGregar and Richard Franklin Smith House of c. 1944 located at 204 Crestland Avenue. These houses stand as testimony to the ethnic diversity of Westerwood’ s earliest years and early settlement patterns in Greensboro before restrictive Jim Crow Laws forced segregation by race.
The second subdivision of this section of Greensboro was platted in 1891 immediately to the north of the Delphina Street community. It was established as “The Highlands Addition” by developers L. M. Stewart and L. H. Sturgis & Co. and was platted in a rectangular grid format, but few properties were sold. Houses located at 211 and 216 Woodlawn (initially known as Haywood Street) might have associations with this early phase. They are typical of middle-income suburban housing of the 1890s and 1900s. The former is a one-and-a-half-story frame cottage with a forward-facing gable, a full-width front porch, and a side entrance. The latter house is a one-story variation of a vernacular form known as the Triple-A, featuring side gables and a front gable, a full-width front porch and a central entry.
A third subdivision was made in 1900 under the name of Oakland Park. This section extended the Highlands Addition street grid north of Courtland Street and west of North Mendenhall Street. Though some lots were sold, the subdivision remained largely vacant until after World War I.
The fourth tract of land to be subdivided and developed was likely the Dr. Dred Peacock property south of Guilford Avenue in 1902. Professor Peacock was the President of Greensboro College (1894-1902). The property was developed at his retirement from the college and included today’s Wilson Street, then known as Lucy Street. The original street name was likely inspired by Peacock’s successor as college president, Lucy H. Robertson. This modest subdivision included just a handful of lots with houses that date to the turn of the twentieth century. The house at 605 Guilford Avenue is a well-preserved example of this period. Likely built around 1906 by Cynthia and Calvin H. Hancock, the single-story house features a cross-gabled roofline with closed-pediments and a hipped-roof front porch that wraps-around to a left side entry. The porch is supported by Victorian Era turned posts and the original wood floor has been replaced with concrete.
The next plat in the succession of modern Westerwood was The Cedars subdivision, just north of the Peacock plat. This land was developed from a 14-acre country estate known as the Cedars, built by Branch Hugh Merrimon and his wife Nellie Scales around 1897. Dr. J. T. J. Battle subdivided the estate in 1910, creating sections of Fairmount Street, Fountain Street, and Hillside Drive that are lined with craftsman bungalows and apartment buildings. The house at 601 Guilford Avenue is an interesting representation of this section, having been built by real estate agent Sample Brown in 1914 and sold to Sue and Walter H. Simmons. The distinctive Dutch Colonial two story house would have been an avant-garde choice among the standard cottages built in Greensboro. Here, a full-width front porch is topped by a shingled gambrel silhouette and provides a welcome diversity to the streetscape.
Half a mile to the west, the Fidelity & Security Company began to sketch a large subdivision of 200 lots along and north of West Market Street and the road to Guilford College (Friendly Avenue). The initial sketch of 1907 was an uninspired grid encircled by a narrow avenue. In 1914, a new plat was submitted to the Register of Deeds by developers E. Colwell, W. L. Brewer, and J. L. Howerton. This sixth phase of modern Westerwood’s development was to be known as West Market Terrace, and it focused on two intersecting boulevards with medians: north-south oriented Aberdeen Terrace, and east-west oriented West Market Plaza (today known as West Friendly Avenue).
From its start, the West Market Terrace development was compared to Fisher Park, because developers opined that “We speak of Fisher Park particularly, because about eight years ago…Fisher Park was isolated. There were no residences around it…but today Fisher Park lots are most all holding beautiful residences—and lots beyond Fisher Park are selling at a good price.”
Many of the houses constructed in West Market Terrace continued themes of Craftsman and Colonial Revival architecture. For example, the cottage at 310 Aberdeen Terrace was built for Lake and Numa Knight around 1923. The side-gabled, two-story house features a full-width front porch supported by Craftsman-style battered-post-on-pier porch supports. An oversized dormer window dominates the roofline, with exposed rafter tails and wide overhanging eaves.
Other houses built in the West Market Terrace were more adventurous. A house constructed at 1405 Northfield Street represented one of only two examples of Spanish Revival architecture in the neighborhood. The one-story house, known by some affectionately as “the Alamo,” had stucco walls and a low parapet roofline. The main entry was covered by a Spanish tile roof, and an arcade to the right sported a rounded arch. Though it was remodeled and no longer represents the Spanish style, a second house, located at 1507 Mimosa Drive, features stucco walls, a semicircular porch with balustrade, and Spanish tile pent roofs.
It was not until 1919 that the name “Westerwood” was introduced to Greensboro’s lexicon. Though it now dominates the narrative of the amalgamation of smaller neighborhood plats, Westerwood was developed by the Guilford Insurance & Realty Company, renamed from the earlier Highlands and Oakland Park neighborhoods. Developer A. K. Moore, fresh off a successful campaign of sales in Fisher Park, launched an aggressive re-branding campaign that retained the plats of earlier roads and property lines but renamed streets and invested heavily in ads to promote Westerwood. Moore’s timing was perfectly synchronized with World War I veterans returning from Europe to start families.
Westerwood lots sold briskly, enhanced by Moore’s first model home in Westerwood that he publicized as “Castle Charming” in 1922. The next year, the second phase of Westerwood extended the neighborhood west of Crestland, including Courtland Street, Fairmount, Guilford Street, and the south side of Hampton Street. This phase connected to the earlier West Market Terrace by way of a streamside park between Mimosa Drive and East Lake Drive with Fairmont Street as a unifying cross street.
The architecture of the Westerwood development is representational of the Roaring Twenties, with diverse styles such as Craftsman Bungalows, Tudor Cottages, and Colonial Revivals erected of brick, stone, and wood. On occasion, an unusual design would be inserted into the mix, such as the Lillian and Alec Fetter Residence at 1005 Courtland Street, a c. 1925 Mediterranean Revival design with arched windows and textured brick. Just up the street at 910 Courtland Street is the Emma Corbett Thomas Residence, a rare example of an Airplane Bungalow. The Airplane Bungalow is a subtype of Craftsman architecture that earned its name from a second floor that was largely wrapped in windows.
More traditional is the Annie and Van B. Nicholson Residence at 415 Woodlawn Avenue. This Colonial Revival-style house was constructed around 1923, featuring a symmetrical façade with scrolled rafter tails along the eaves and whimsical eyebrow vents in the roofline. Another is the Jimmie Sue and Wallace Harvey House at 909 Fairmont Street. Constructed in 1924, the house takes design cues from the architecture of the Colonial Period, including an entry stoop inspired by an early house in New Bern.
Lake Daniel was the final section of modern Westerwood. It was planned as early as 1923 around a municipal reservoir that was fed by North Buffalo Creek. Garland Daniel owned the land north, south, and west of the stream, and he saw opportunity for a park-oriented development overlooking the proposed reservoir. The Lake Daniel development was launched in 1926 with the sale of 26 properties. The last of its three phases was platted in 1935 including properties between Crestland, Courtland, and East Lake Drive. Its namesake reservoir was never constructed. Despite ample publicity and even a high-profile relocation of the city’s oldest house to 409 Hillcrest Drive in 1929, the development grew little before the curtain closed to speculative development of the Roaring Twenties with the stock market crash.
The Mary and Norman Jarrard Residence at 616 East Lake Drive is an interesting representation of the final phase of the Lake Daniel development, and the tenth plat of modern Westerwood. The Mid-Century Modern house was built in 1969 for an English professor at NCA&TSU and Greensboro College. The home was designed by Jarrard himself, as inspired by his favorite designs and architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright. Construction of his 3,874 square foot home on one of the last remaining lots in the neighborhood included an open floor plan, large windows, and indoor-outdoor connectivity.
Although Westerwood is arguably the most complex neighborhood in the city in terms of development, it stands today as a charmingly cohesive community with a remarkable diversity of history and architecture. No less than ten distinct neighborhood plats now comprise modern Westerwood with a range of 200 years of housing (including Greensboro oldest documented residence). Earliest houses representing free people of color are complimented by a striking Mid Century Modern house, all united within a context of mature oaks, dogwoods, and pines.
Lake Daniel Park is the pride of the neighborhood, a center for recreation and open space, and the recent focus of new riparian buffers that have enhanced water quality along the North Buffalo Creek. To the east, the Downtown Greenway brings art and nature together through the installations of “Westwoods,” “Meeting Place,” and a new piece by artist Paul Evans. In the present day, many residents seek smart solutions to growing traffic, pressures for redevelopment, and enhancement of historic community character.
Six vintage homes in the Westerwood neighborhood will open their doors to ticket holders during Preservation Greensboro Incorporated’s 13th annual Tour of Historic Homes & Gardens on May 20-21, 2023. The tour will highlight charming features of early nineteenth and twentieth century architecture, including Craftsman bungalows, and examples of Colonial Revival design.
Written by Benjamin Briggs
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