WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION (WPA) PROJECTS

WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION (WPA) PROJECTS


Projects undertaken in Orange County during the 1930s and early 1940s by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and North Carolina Emergency Relief Administration (NC-ERA)

100 W. ROSEMARY ST. / CHAPEL HILL TOWN HALL (FORMER)

100
,
Chapel Hill
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1938
/ Modified in
1963
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Local Historic District: 
National Register: 
Type: 

Built 1938-1939 for use as the town hall and etc., has been leased by the IFC for decades.

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  • Thu, 11/26/2020 - 9:05am by SteveR

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100
,
Chapel Hill
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1938
/ Modified in
1963
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
Local Historic District: 
National Register: 
Type: 

 

View north east, November 1981 (photo by Al Steele, via The Daily Tar Heel)

 

Built 1938-1939 for use as the town hall, police department, jail (which was segregated, BTW), courthouse, fire department, and etc. (Carrboro also utilized this jail until January 1955). The Works Progress Administration (WPA) fronted most of the money via a ,550 grant, with the Town financing the balance via local referendum. Thomas C. Atwood (of the architectural firm Atwood & Weeks) was the architect, J. A. Page was the supervising engineer. 

This was also the site of the previous town hall, which was "auctioned off and removed" prior to the construction of the present building. The building is depicted as a store on the June 1925 Sanborn map of Chapel Hill but as the town hall on a 1934 map of Chapel Hill. It is not shown on the December 1915 Sanborn map of Chapel Hill.

June 1925 Sanborn map of Chapel Hill excerpt

1934 Chapel Hill map excerpt

 

The Chapel Hill Fire Department moved out of the building in late 1959. The building (mainly the interior) was remodelled by the Town in 1963. Most of the other town offices (including the police department) moved out in 1971 when the new municipal building was constructed on North Columbia Street.

It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. The building and property is still owned by the Town, but is currently occupied by the Inter-Faith Council for Social Services (IFC) Community Kitchen. The Town will likely be converting the building into a visitor’s center and museum within a few years.

From the blueprints (via CHHS)

From the blueprints (via CHHS)

From the blueprints (via CHHS)

View west, August 4, 1952 (photo by Roland Giduz)

View south, September 17, 1953 (photo by Roland Giduz)

View north west, 1989 (photo by Mary L. Reeb)

View north west, August 2019 (via Google Streetview)

 

For more information:

 

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MARTINDALE FIELD / CHAPEL HILL AIRPORT / HORACE WILLIAMS AIRPORT

street:
1001
Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1928
Neighborhood: 

 

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  • Mon, 11/23/2020 - 4:11pm by SteveR

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street:
1001
Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1928
Neighborhood: 

 

After US Army service in World War I with Company H, 322nd Infantry Regiment, 81st Infantry Division, Charlie Lee Martindale (6 January 1891 to 19 March 1964) moved to Chapel Hill, where he worked in the construction industry.

In June 1928, Martindale purchased 50.6 acres from UNC Professor Horace Williams (16 August 1858 to 26 December 1940). Initially calling the property Martindale Field, a landing strip, administrative building, and wooden airplane hangar were the first buildings to be built at the airfield. It soon was called Charlie Lee Martindale Airport, and/or the Chapel Hill Airport.
 
Circa 1920's; photo via the Chapel Hill Historical Society via Bruce Martindale (the son of Charlie Lee Martindale)
 
Circa 1920's; photo via the Chapel Hill Historical Society via Bruce Martindale (the son of Charlie Lee Martindale)
 
Circa 1920's; photo via the Chapel Hill Historical Society via Bruce Martindale (the son of Charlie Lee Martindale)
 
Circa 1920's; photo via the Chapel Hill Historical Society via Bruce Martindale (the son of Charlie Lee Martindale)
 
 
In 1931, the U.S. Department of Commerce labeled Chapel Hill Airport as the second official airport in North Carolina (the other being Raleigh Municipal Airport). Until the late 1930s, civilians came to the airport to watch air shows and to take flying lessons. At this time, UNC received funding from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to upgrade the airport.
 
By 1940, UNC was training roughly 30 civilian pilots at the airport (per year?), with backing from the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA). Through a partnership with Duke University, the two schools were approved by the Department of War for a larger CAA program. UNC intended to expand the Chapel Hill Airport, and in 1940 (apparently with some reluctance by Martindale) the property was sold to UNC. An additional 870 acres was donated to the University by Horace Williams' estate after his death in December 1940. These two plots of land were combined to create what became known as Horace Williams Airport.
 
On January 11, 1941, ten airplanes and the (original) hangar burned after a massive fire caused by an an electric droplight (likely misplaced by an 18-year-old mechanic) started in one of the airplanes (Piper Cubs) and spread to the others, igniting their fuel tanks. According to a newspaper account, "Nothing remains of the hangar but the melted beams of the steel framework and the concrete foundation. The wooden weather boarding collapsed even before the composition roof caved in." However, "The small house directly behind the hangar contained student flight statistics and escaped the flames."
 
UNC students inspecting the ruins of the burned hangar and planes (UNC Yackety Yack, 1941)
 
The airfield being expanded, 1941 (via Chapel Hill Weekly)
 
(UNC Yackety Yack, 1942)
 
 
In February 1942, the United States Navy announced the establishment of a pre-flight school to train naval pilots on the campus of the University of North Carolina. The University hosted the second stage of a one-year training program for the servicemen. Cadets began arriving in May 1942 at the rate of approximately 300 cadets every two weeks until a quota of 1,875 was reached. Horace Williams Airport was an integral part of this flight training. The U.S. Navy Pre-Flight School at UNC trained over 18,000 cadets by the end of World War II, including later Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush.
 
1940s aerial photo, view southwest
 
1946 topographical map excerpt
 
March 31, 1951 aerial photo
 
 
President John F. Kennedy visited UNC on October 12, 1961, arriving and departing via Horace Williams Airport.
 
1970s photo
 
April 1981 map excerpt
 
 
1993 aerial photo, view north
 
 
As of May 15, 2018, Horace Williams Airport is closed to the public.
 
 

 

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110 E. KING ST. / 109 COURT ST.

110
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
circa 1938
/ Modified in
circa 1955
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Local Historic District: 
National Register: 
Type: 

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Last updated

  • Mon, 11/02/2020 - 9:47am by gary

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110
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
circa 1938
/ Modified in
circa 1955
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Local Historic District: 
National Register: 
Type: 

 

This property/lot was sold to Orange County by the Webb family in May 1936. It was the former site of a one-and-a-half story building (used as a warehouse and for flour storage) for the adjacent mill building (to the property's south).

The original part of the structure was built in the mid-to-late 1930s by Orange County and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) for use as the county agricultural extension office.

Circa 1940, view south east (image courtesy of Orange County DEAPR)

Circa 1940, view south west/rear of structure (image courtesy of Orange County DEAPR)

1943 Sanborn map excerpt

View south east, June 2019 (via Google Streetview)

07.02.2016 (G. Kueber)

(Below in italics is from the National Register listing; not verified for accuracy by this author.)

This two-story, parapet-roofed, Colonial Revival-style building is thirteen bays wide with the right four bays recessed slightly from the façade. The building has a brick veneer laid with cast-stone windowsills, a cast- stone cornice, and cast-stone coping at the parapet. It has six-over-six wood-sash windows with flat brick arches. The six-panel door has four-light-over-one-panel sidelights and a classical surround with broken swan’s neck pediment. The right (west) elevation, facing Court Street, is a single story due to the slope of the site. It has a twelve-light-over-one-panel door with four-light-over-one-panel sidelights and is sheltered by a small pedimented, roof. An integrated planter extends across the façade and left (east) elevations. The building appears on the 1943 Sanborn map. According to Bellinger, the left side of the Agricultural Services Building was completed before World War II with the right side completed after the war.

(Note: Bellinger had it backwards: The right side of the structure/the rightmost "four bays" is the oldest section, the left side is the "newer.")

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CONFEDERATE MEMORIAL LIBRARY

201
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1934
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Local Historic District: 
National Register: 
Use: 
,

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  • Thu, 09/01/2016 - 3:06pm by gary

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201
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1934
Architectural style: 
Construction type: 
,
Local Historic District: 
National Register: 
Use: 
,

 

From http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~orangecountync/

The corner of N. Churton and W. Tryon was the location of the "Session House" for the adjacent Presbyterian Church. The Session House was built in 1836 for use as a Sunday school and meeting ("session") room by the Presbyterian congregation, and the property upon which the structure was built was leased to the church by the town for 99 years at .00 a year.

Drawing of the Session House, looking ~north.

1905 Sanborn fire insurance map, showing the Session House on the corner.

In 1910, the structure was loaned to the newly-formed local library association and converted into the town library.

It appears that at some point after 1911, the north tower was removed from the building; a shed porch and door were added to the west side of the building.

In 1934, the building was torn down and a new library building was built on the site as a United States Federal Civil Works Administration (CWA)/Federal Emergency Relief Administration (ERA)/North Carolina Emergency Relief Administration (NCERA) project at a cost of ,466.10. The building was named the Confederate Memorial Library by a "local historical group" [i.e. Daughters of Confederate Veterans and others) who donated money to the library in lieu of erecting a memorial obelisk to the Confederacy in Hillsborough.

1942 Sanborn fire insurance map.

From the National Register Nomination

The design of this WPA project reflects a Colonial Revival dwelling, with a raised basement, side- gable roof with cornice returns, and four gabled dormers on the facade. The building has exterior stone chimneys in the gable ends, a wide denticulated cornice, and wood shingles on the gabled dormers. Eight-light casement windows on the main level and four-light casement windows at the basement level are grouped and have cast-stone headers and windowsills. There are twelve-light windows in the dormers, paired eight-light casement windows with eight-light transoms in the gable ends, and quarter-round multi-light windows flanking the chimneystacks. The replacement front door has an original surround with eight-light-over-one-panel sidelights and three panels separating the door and sidelights from the multi-light arched transom. The entrance is sheltered by a pedimented front-gabled porch supported by grouped Doric columns with a denticulated cornice.

07.02.2016 (G. Kueber)

Until 2015, this building had the words "Confderate Memorial Library" in the gable of the front portico. After the shooting of 10 people in an African-American church in Charleston, SC by a white supremacist on June 17, 2015, Hillsborough was prompted, along with other communities, to re-examine commemorations of the Confederacy. The town council utlimately decided to remove the words, which removal was completed in January of 2016.

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Chapel Hill Post Office 1921Chapel Hill Post Office 1920sChapel Hill Post Office 1924Chapel Hill Post Office 1931

U.S. POST OFFICE (1917)

179
,
Chapel Hill
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1917
/ Modified in
1937
Construction type: 
Local Historic District: 
Type: 

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  • Wed, 11/11/2020 - 11:55am by SteveR

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179
,
Chapel Hill
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1917
/ Modified in
1937
Construction type: 
Local Historic District: 
Type: 

 

Built in 1917, renovated in 1937. It is still in use as a U.S. Post Office (and court rooms, with public space in the basement)

Chapel Hill Post Office 1921

1921

Chapel Hill Post Office 1920s

1920s

Chapel Hill Post Office 1924

1924

1925 Sanborn map excerpt

Chapel Hill Post Office 1931

1931

Chapel Hill Post Office 1939

1939 (photo by Marion Post Wolcott)

Chapel Hill Post Office 1940s

1940s

1950s (at right)

October 6, 1958 (photo by Roland Giduz, via UNC)

CHPO 1963

December 1963 (photo by Jim Wallace)

 

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OLD HILLSBOROUGH JAIL (FIFTH)

103
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1836
/ Demolished in
c. 1935
Builders: 
Construction type: 
,
Type: 
Use: 

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  • Sat, 12/21/2019 - 4:44pm by gary

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103
,
Hillsborough
NC
Cross street: 
Built in
1836
/ Demolished in
c. 1935
Builders: 
Construction type: 
,
Type: 
Use: 

 

Circa 1900, view south east (jail indicated by red arrow)

From "History of the Town of Hillsborough 1754-1966," p. 31

Per HotToH:

"In a hundred years Orange County had at last five jails. In 1752, a contract was given to build a jail near Piney Ford. The contract was evidently not carried out. In 1755, Alexander Mebane, Josiah Dixon, and William Churton laid out the first prison in Hillsborough on Lot No. 1. Lot No. 1 was reseved for a market house, courthouse, prison, pillory and stocks.

A second jail was erected about 1765. After the second jail burned, a district jail was built in Hillsborough in 1771. Another district jail was authorized by the legislature in 1798. Building commissioners were appointed for a new prison in 1836, which was to be 45 ft. long, 24 ft. wide, and two stories high. John Berry was awarded the contract for the stone building which was completed in 1837."

The 1798 jail was burned down by a prisoner, Henry Harris, who had been captured without papers (i.e. he likely was a free person of color) some time after possibly taking part in the "Nat Turner Rebellion." He escaped, was recaptured, and was taken to Yanceyville, in nearby Caswell County, and hanged.

According to Federal and State Emergency Relief Administration (ERA) records from 1935, the "old" two-story jail and "town building" (i.e. mayor's office), which was located on the courthouse square (the jail was at the southeast corner of Margaret Lane and Court Street), was "torn down so that a proper setting could be provided for the courthouse. The demolition of the old jail was followed with much interest as it was rumored that the ancient hanging pit would be brought to light--but no trace of it was found. The walls of the old jail, which were thirty-two inches thick, made of flagstone laid in clay, provided the material for all the flagstone sidewalks built on the square."

1888 Sanborn map excerpt

1911 Sanborn map excerpt

Location of the old jail, view west, 07.31.2016 (G. Kueber)

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HARGRAVES COMMUNITY CENTER / HARGRAVES CENTER / ROBERSON STREET CENTER / NEGRO COMMUNITY CENTER

216
,
Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1945
/ Modified in
1960, 1980
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

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  • Sat, 11/21/2020 - 9:27am by SteveR

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216
,
Chapel Hill
NC
Built in
1945
/ Modified in
1960, 1980
Construction type: 
,
Neighborhood: 
Type: 

 

(Note: Most of the following history of the Hargraves Center was compiled by a Parks & Recreation intern in the late 1980s. The intern interviewed several long-time users of the facility, including Lucille Caldwell who was the first paid director of the Center.)
 
 
The Hargraves Recreation Center, originally known as the Negro Community Center, followed by the Robeson Street Center, was renamed in 1973 for William M. Hargraves, Jr., a former Chapel Hill Parks & Recreation Commission member who died in an automobile accident.
 
The idea for the construction of a community center for African Americans originated due to the concerns of the local Negro Civic Club. The founders of the club noted the lack of a facility for black residents to socialize and participate in organized recreational activities. A few key members of the club included Hubert Roberson (Chair), A.D. Clark (Vice Chair), Eugene White (Secretary/Treasurer), Charles C. Craig (Business Manager), Harold W. Holmes, E.T. Sellars, Walter Hackney, Kennan Cheek, and Charlie Maddax.
 
Due to the efforts of the Negro Civic Club, with the promotional help of Louis Graves, editor of the Chapel Hill Weekly, the idea of the community center was brought to the attention of the public in 1939. A Negro Community Center Association was formed for the purpose of securing a site and raising funds for construction and operation of the Center.
 
The land for the Center was purchased on September 8, 1939. The land was deeded to the Town of Chapel Hill on July 29, 1940 with the stipulation that it be used as a site for a community center and other recreational activities for African American residents. Most of the actual funding for construction of the Center was provided through the Works Progress Administration. Other assistance, in the form of money, labor, and materials, was contributed by citizens of the community.
 
Construction of the Center began on January 9, 1941 but was interrupted by the onset of World War II. Progress was slow until May 22, 1942, when the building was loaned as housing for the University of North Carolina’s B-1 Navy band. The band agreed to complete construction of the building and provide for upkeep until such time that it was no longer needed by the band.
 
The B-1 Band completed construction of the building and returned the Center to the Town on October 24, 1945. At that time the Town hired Mr. & Mrs. Henry Edwards to reside in the building and serve as custodians. They also offered several recreational programs.
 
The first paid director of the Center, Lucille Caldwell, was hired in February 1951. Ms. Caldwell served for twelve years, resigning in 1963. She was the first African American professional recreation administrator in North Carolina.
 
In 1959, Cornelia S. Love donated ,000 to build a swimming pool at the Center. The pool was completed in 1960 and dedicated to Mr. A. D. Clark.
 
On May 9, 1960, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a talk at the Center while visiting Chapel Hill.
 

May 9, 1960 (photo via UNC's SHC and Chapman Collection)

May 9, 1960 (photo via UNC's SHC and Chapman Collection)

 

In 1978, the Town acquired a tract of land south of the Center which was used to build three tennis courts. The original Center building was renovated and enlarged in 1980 with the addition of a 1,500 square foot auditorium. The gymnasium was built in 1997-1998, and opened to the public June 15, 1998.

 

View east, 11-3-2020 (photo by S. Rankin)

View south east, 11-3-2020 (photo by S. Rankin)

View north east, 11-3-2020 (photo by S. Rankin)

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Other Orange County WPA projects:

Chapel Hill High School (1937)

Woollen Gymnasium (1938)

"Laying the Cornerstone of Old East" (mural in the Chapel Hill post office) (1941)

 

List of Orange County ERA projects: