As always, click the pictures for full size

First, the parking plan. All parking is free, but the surface lot and under building area have no time limits, while the street parking has the usual two hour restriction:

The surface parking lot is diagonally across the Fifth / Spring Street intersection from the Central Library…

There are two ways to get to the new NC Room…first, the simple way…

Use the main entrance on Fifth Street…

Once inside, you will find yourself in a foyer…the shelves of books here are provided for sale by the Friends of the Central Library, who raise thousands of dollars for Central every year…purchase is on the honor system…the cash box is to the right…to enter the library, move to the left through the gates…

Once through the gates, you will see the stairs which will take you to the second and third floors…children’s room and computer lab on the first floor…the NC Room and Teen Central on the second floor…general collection…fiction & non-fiction on the third floor…

If you look back to your right, you will see the elevators, which will take you to the second and third floors and back…press “2” for the NC Room…

At the second floor, you will see the art gallery in front of you and the NC Room to the right…

But if you choose to park in the deck under the building and use the public entrance there, you could find yourself in a situation reminiscent of Ulysses’ wanderings in the Odyssey…the following information is particularly important for those using wheelchairs, walkers or strollers for infants…

Traffic in the parking deck is one way…please enter from Spring Street…

The public entrance from the deck is near the Spring Street end of the building…

The elevator there goes only from the ground floor to the first floor and has buttons marked “1F” and “1R”, with no explanation. Since the “1F” button has a star beside it, most patrons end up choosing that one, only to find that it does not work. Press the “1R” button.

Do NOT lean against the back of the elevator, because when you reach the first floor, the door BEHIND you will open. To the right you will see steps going up to Coffee Park Central. You can go up the steps, walk through Coffee Park Central and find yourself at the main entrance to the library, where you can follow the previous “simple” instructions. Of course, you can pause in Coffee Park Central for some excellent coffee and goodies. But what if you are among the aforementioned users of wheelchairs, walkers or are pushing a stroller? Where do you go?

The only alternative to the steps is this corridor, which seems to lead to an exit. But this is the path you should follow.

Just before you reach the exit, you will see this ramp to your right. If you follow it, you will find yourself in the foyer, and then can follow the “simple” instructions to the NC Room.

At the entrance to the NC Room, if you look to your left, you will find a button that will automatically open the door.

When you are ready to leave, you will find another button to the left of the doors which will open the door automatically.

We hope you can navigate this path, because we are waiting for you, eager to help in your quest for local history and genealogy information. If you encounter problems at any point, please ask…we will do our best to help find a solution.


As always, click on the pic for full size

In the wake of our post on North Carolina’s first all-electric bakery, a number of people complained that we did not include the entire 200 block of West Fourth Street. That happened because we were focused upon a single building. But we had compiled info on all the buildings in the block, so here it is. Enjoy.

Montaldo’s opened in 1919 on Fifth Avenue in New York, a pioneering idea of offering high fashion women’s clothing at ready-to-wear prices. It was founded by two sisters, Lillian and Nelle Montaldo. They soon opened a second store in Paris. Among the third wave of stores was the one in Winston-Salem. A third Montaldo sister, Lenore, moved to the Twin City to manage that store in 1923. She lived at 658 Holly Avenue during her time in the city. Montaldo’s would flourish here for the next five decades. Eventually, Montaldo’s had stores in Richmond, Virginia, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Raleigh and Greensboro, North Carolina, Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio, Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado, St. Louis, Missouri and Bartlesville, Oklahoma, among others. In 1995, Montaldo’s declared bankruptcy and went out of business.

For a time, Montaldo’s advertised itself as being at the corner of Fourth and Cherry, even though they were not. The west end of the 200 block was completed in 1927, when James A. Gray built the corner store for the William T. Vogler and Son jewelry store, which needed a new location since their former spot at the corner of Fourth and Liberty was being demolished to make way for the building that will soon be the newest Hotel Indigo. Gray’s building was designed by Northup & O’Brien and built by Fogle Brothers at a cost of $27,000.

As always, click the pics for full size

The worst eyesore on Fourth Street for many years has been this hideous building at 265 West Fourth. That will soon change. Mike Coe has bought the building and has already removed some of the worst stuff and has begun preparatory demolition with the idea of restoring the original facade. To do that, he will need to know what the original facade looked like. We have already found a few pics that show the upper facade, but will need help in finding ground floor images.

This 1959 photo of high school girls having fun in the snow shows the area in question, extending from 235 to 201 West Fourth. From the left, the businesses are Tiny Town, juvenile furniture and toys; Lynne Shops, lingerie; Ballerina Bootery; Cohen’s-Robin’s, women’s clothing; Marken’s, children’s clothing; Lee’s Shoe Store; Hine’s Shoe Store; Spainhour’s Department Store; Galeski Optical; and the Walgreen Drugstore at the corner of Fourth and Trade. Despite the continuing confusion of street adresses, this was the most promising of the photographs because it clearly showed 217 (Marken’s) with an arched entrance, which could conceivably be the original street level facade. We were told that a later architectural rendering for a proposed renovation showed a similar arch. But as it turns out, that idea was wrong. The arched entrance was probably created in the late 1920s when Cohen’s womenswear moved into the building. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection.


Other pics taken in the early 1960s provided no help. Both Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection.

At this point, there was nothing left to do except a complete history of that block. The research was hindered by confusing street addresses, garbled city directory information and mistakes in the Winston-Salem Journal. Fortunately we could eliminate the late 19th / early 20th century era, because only two buildings had stood on that block prior to 1906. One was the Wyatt F. Bowman (one of the founders of Wachovia National Bank) residence at the corner of Cherry and Fourth. The other was the Piedmont Warehouse at the corner of Trade and Fourth.

In 1905, the Piedmont Warehouse was demolished to make way for the Masonic Temple, completed in 1906 at the corner of Fourth and Trade. Nothing else happened until 1912, when C.J. Ogburn put up a building that wrapped around the Masonic Temple from Trade to Fourth, which soon became the Ideal Company, general merchandise, with entrances on both Trade and Fourth.

Later in 1912, the Stewart Printing Company building nearby at 116 West Fourth burned. The Stewart brothers purchased a lot on Fourth near Ogburn’s building and erected a new home for their printing operation in 1913. The Stewarts installed their printing plant on the second floor and leased the street level to Ogburn & Weir’s grocery business. In 1915, Ogburn added a second building between his 1912 structure and Stewart’s Printing house and leased it to Efird Hine, who moved his growing shoe business from Main Street to the new building.

Finally, in 1916, Bunyon Womble, one of the founding partners of what would become the Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge & Rice law firm, built a large store building to the west of the Stewart shop. That building was immediately occupied by the Anchor Department Store. So by 1916, the block looked like this.

This photograph, taken between 1916 and 1919, shows a parade of city and county school children. The flag at the left is that of the new Winston-Salem Central School at the southern end of Salem. The buildings, from left to right, are the Womble Building (Anchor Department Store); the 1913 Stewart’s printing house; the 1915 Hine’s Shoe Store; the 1912 Ideal Store (east of the telephone pole); and the Masonic Temple. Beyond Trade Street can be seen the 1912 Efird’s Department Store, the 1915 O’Hanlon Building and, in the distance, the 1892 Winston Town Hall. The focus of our interest is the vacant space between the Womble Building and Stewart’s, where the structure now known as 265 West Fourth Street would soon be erected. Most viewers think that the ad on the side of the Stewart Building is for Coca Cola. But it is not. After about 1895, the Coke logo was always written in script. The ad is for Chero Cola, whose advertising signboard can be seen at the left. That will be explained in a postscript at the end of this post. Old Salem Museums and Gardens.

So now all the buildings in that part of the block are accounted for. Let us fill in the missing link. On Friday, October 9, 1919, the Winston-Salem Journal announced a new business in that spot. A new, purpose built structure would house the Winston-Salem Bake-Rite Bakery, the first all-electric bakery in North Carolina, opening that Saturday morning. The article contained a lengthy description of the business, including the fact that the interior would be finished in white enamel for sanitary purposes, and that the main feature would be the electric oven, which would be located in the street level window of the business. There, citizens passing by on the sidewalk would be able to view through a window in the oven a ferris wheel type apparatus doing the actual baking of the bread. For centuries, certain types of merchants had made it possible for the public to observe the process of making their products, but this was a major breakthrough in the marketing of the staple of life, bread.

The Journal article gives a detailed description of the building, something very rare at the time. But there are two mistakes in the first paragraph. The lesser is the misspelling “Make-Rite”. The more egregious is “located in the Womble building”, which is, at least, corrected in the second paragraph, which tells us that the building is brand new and purpose built. This was not just the first all-electric bakery in the Twin City, but also the first in the entire state.

We have been unable to find any picture of that particular building. But the business was a franchise, so we knew that all of the buildings had to be essentially the same. The Bake-Rite franchise originated in Chicago. A search of the Chicago Tribune newspaper of the time turned up a couple of the ads used to promote the franchise, which contained drawings of the stores. So we know that the street level facade was a simple glass construction which allowed potential customers to view the operation of the oven from the sidewalk.

One of the patent drawings for the Bake-Rite oven. The viewing window is at the left.


This pic of the Yakima, Washington store shows the same staggered entry as the ads, so we can assume that that was the standard design.

The Bake-Rite bakery did not last long. In 1922, the building was purchased by the Quality Bakery, which removed the electric oven and replaced it with a standard coke fired oven which was placed at the rear of the store. After a second bakery failed at the site in the mid-1920s, Cohen’s, a womenswear store, moved in. They would remain in the building until around 1950, when they merged with Robin’s, another womenswear store, to form Cohen’s-Robin’s and moved into the Womble Building next door. They were replaced by Marken’s, which sold children’s clothing.

Chero Cola

In 1905, after a price dispute with the distributor of Coca-Cola syrup, Claud Hatcher of Columbus, GA developed his own soft drink brand. The first product was Royal Crown Ginger Ale, followed closely by Royal Crown Strawberry and Royal Crown Root Beer. In 1910, Hatcher introduced a new cola drink and renamed the company for it…Chero Cola. Because of the popularity of its fruit flavored drinks, the company was again renamed in 1925 as the Nehi Corporation. But in 1935, Chero Cola was reformulated as Royal Crown Cola and the company name changed once again…the rest, as they say, is history. In 1954, RC became the first canned soft drink, and a few years later the first in aluminum cans. In 1958, they introduced the first diet soft drink, Diet-Rite. Ever have an RC and a Moon Pie for lunch?

Arson on Fourth Street

When the Stewart Printing building burned in 1912, it was clear to firefighters on the scene that the fire had been deliberately set. An investigator from the state insurance commission arrived in town two days later. After a thorough workup, he handed over his information to the district solicitor, and even as the Stewarts were erecting their new building across the street, the Forsyth County grand jury indicted them for arson. A series of continuances stretched the timeline, until, in May of 1913, with a new trial opening days away, the elder brother, Moses I. Stewart, was committed to the state insane asylum in Morganton. Of course, that brought about yet another continuance. Moses spent several weeks in a private hospital near Morganton, then returned home, but was declared too ill to attend trial. A couple of continuances later the Winston-Salem Journal noted that there would be no trial until Moses Stewart was available, and added the opinion that the end of the matter had been reached. Moses Stewart then left for the Pacific Northwest, where he continued his recuperation for several months, returning in August of 1915. The case, having been declared a nol pros with leave, was reinstated. Moses moved to a sanitarium in Richmond and the case was again declared nol pros with leave. Moses Stewart then moved permanently to Denver, CO and the case was never reinstated. The Stewart Printing House remained in operation under John C. Stewart well into the 1920s.

As always, click the pic for full size

Winston-Salem Journal, November 10, 1922

Dr. Vines O. Thompson came to Winston in 1874 from Vance County and established a medical practice. That same year, he opened Winston’s first drugstore in a building on the west side of the square near where the Pepper Building is located today. Around 1880, he dropped his medical practice to focus on the drug business and moved to Fourth Street opposite the courthouse. In 1912, he moved the business next door to the corner of Fourth and Liberty Streets.

Fourth at Liberty, c 1912-13

This placed him directly across Liberty Street from the O’Hanlon Drugstore. The soda fountains of those two stores became the center of the Winston universe, because they were visited daily by a most diverse assemblage, consisting of farmers from the surrounding area, shop girls and store clerks, police officers, railway conductors and streetcar motormen, politicians, lawyers, teachers and preachers, high school students, and, of course, R.J. Reynolds, P.H. Hanes, Colonel Francis Fries, the Gray brothers and other leading citizens…all bearing bits and pieces of gossip and news from their own corners of the local universe.

O’Hanlon’s soda shop (seen here) and the one across the street at Thompson’s were the local newsroom and rumor mill…Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection…

When Thompson died in 1905, his son, Peter A. Thompson took over the business. He retired in 1917 and moved to California, selling the business to Allison A. James and Dr. Frank Lunn, a 1912 graduate of the UNC school of pharmacy. They continued the business as the Thompson Drug Company. In 1922, out of space, they moved the business to West Fifth Street across from the US Post Office and directly across Liberty from the soon to become State Theater where they would continue to prosper for many years. In the late 1920s / early 1930s, Thompson Drug opened a second store at 103 South Hawthorne Road in Ardmore and a third at the corner of Patterson Avenue and Glenn Avenue. But by the mid-1930s, the Thompson Drug Company had been sold off to several independent druggists.

Allison James

Frank Lunn

In those days, all drugstores sold cigars. But only one in the entire state sold cigars that they also made. From the start, V.O. Thompson, a cigar aficionado, had been unhappy with the quality of cigars available locally. In 1883, he met Isadore Leopold, a New Yorker who had been operating North Carolina’s only cigar factory in Raleigh. The two formed a partnership, leased the former Winston Male Academy building on Third Street, just behind the current Our Lady of Fatima chapel, and, in January, 1884, opened the V.O. Thompson Cigar Company.

Leopold arranged to import Vuelta Abajo, the queen of Cuban tobaccos, along with large supplies of Connecticut burley. Business boomed from the start. In 1887, Leopold purchased a machine that could make 3,000 cigars a day, while 8-10 highly skilled hand rollers continued to make the upper end stuff. By 1888, they were producing 100,000 cigars a week.

The most popular brands were Wachovia, Queen of Sumatra, J.C.B. (a genuine 5¢ Habano) and The Winston Leader, named for a local newspaper whose publisher, James A. Robinson, was Leopold’s greatest booster. Robinson was also probably the best writer to publish in any local paper in the 19th century.

One day in late October, 1889, Leopold was taken ill as he was leaving the factory for home. Assistance was summoned, but he died a few days later, on October 29, of Bright’s disease. He was only 41 years old. He had trained his workers well and his wife Rachel was able to continue the business for a few years. But shortly after Dr. Thompson’s death in 1905, the business expired.

As always, click the pics for full size

Trade Street looking north from Liberty around 1900. At left is M.W. Norfleet’s 1875 Piedmont Tobacco Sales Warehouse. Beyond it, the former Vaughn & Co tobacco works, by this time operated as a furniture sales and storage facility. From the right, the 1882 Bitting and Poindexter building. H.D. Poindexter’s grocery and dry goods business was in the near half, while the Bitting portion of the building was occupied by the Criterion, restaurant and saloon…Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection


Despite the ever present demolition mindset, downtown Winston still has a goodly collection of commercial buildings ranging from 1882 through the 1920s and 1930s. Fourth Street, between Main and Poplar Streets, with a few exceptions, is mostly a 1920s zone. South of Fourth, we find our best collection of modernist buildings, notably the Winston Tower, the entire Liberty Plaza block, the Forsyth County Hall of Justice, the BB&T building and the Wells Fargo Building. The oldest buildings are found north of Fourth, in an area bounded by Liberty, Fourth, Trade and Sixth Streets.


Trade Street looking north from Fourth around 1917-18.From the left, the 1906 Masonic Temple, the 1912 Ogburn building, the 1908 Fogle Block and the 1915 Odd Fellows building. From the right, the 1912 Efird’s Department Store, the 1882 Poindexter building and the 1907 Boyles Brothers men’s clothing store…Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection

We decided to see which group of buildings in that area was the oldest. Via rough dating, it quickly became apparent that the west side of the 400 block of Liberty held that title, with the 400 block of Trade next, followed by the 500 blocks of Liberty and Trade. Getting precise dates turned out to be much harder. Our next two blog posts will look at the two oldest commercial clusters, starting with the 400 block of Trade. We have already done a fairly thorough job on the 500 block of Trade:

The 500 block of Liberty, lately the hottest development area in the city, will come a bit later.


The 400 block of Old Town / Trade Street


The buildings with dates are still standing, although some are only partial

The earliest development in the 400 block of Old Town / Trade Street was mostly industrial. In 1875, M.W. Norfleet built the Piedmont Tobacco Sales Warehouse on the west side at the corner of Fourth. With its associated wagon parking lot and stables, it took up over a third of the block. Soon, two brick tobacco factories, Vaughn & Company (later W.W. Wood) and the T.L. Vaughn tobacco works, filled the remainder of the space northward to Fifth.

On the east side, Sihon A. Ogburn built a brick residence at the corner of Fourth in the 1870s. On his back lot he had a small wood frame cobbler’s shop and meat market. Soon, another tobacco warehouse, Farmer’s, built by A.B. Gorrell, occupied the center of the block, with its associated parking and stables extending southward to Ogburn’s line. To the north was a small ice house and another meat market, with a two story brick general merchandise store at the corner of Fifth.

Little change occurred in that block until the 20th century. On the west side, the Vaughn & Company building was taken over for furniture sales and storage, then demolished to make way for a row of two story brick buildings housing a variety of businesses. By 1900, the T.L. Vaughn building had been taken over by the Huntley Hill Stockton Company, furniture and undertakers. On the east side, Joseph Bitting and Henry Dalton Poindexter built a Siamese twin pair of two story brick buildings in 1882 between the Farmer’s Warehouse and Ogburn’s line.

East Side

1882 Poindexter Building, 419 North Trade Street

Henry Dalton Poindexter came to Winston from Yadkin County in the 1870s and worked for some years for the J.F. Prather dry goods, notions, hats, shoes and boots business at the corner of Main and Fourth Streets. In the spring of 1881, he opened his own dry goods and grocery store near Brown’s warehouse on Main Street. In 1882, he and Joseph Bitting built a pair of Siamese twin buildings, connected by a central wall on Trade Street. Almost immediately, R.R. Crawford, whose hardware business was in the 1882 Bitting Block on Liberty, expanded into Bitting’s part of the Trade Street building.

The Crawford ad above contains a mistake…his store fronted on Liberty, which is where the post office was, not Main. An article about his business contained the same mistake. In 1891, Crawford moved his business to Fourth Street and his space on Trade was occupied for the next decade by the Criterion cafe and saloon

Bitting’s building was demolished and replaced in 1907. But Poindexter’s half has contributed to a small misconception of history. The inscription on the facade of that building says “1882”. But, according to the city directory and his own advertising, Poindexter’s business remained at the Brown’s Warehouse location throughout 1883. And Poindexter did not move into the building until August, 1884. Perhaps Poindexter began the building, then ran a bit short of funds, so was forced to delay completion. That would not be unusual, as we shall see when we get to the five story O’Hanlon building, which never quite happened. In any case, historic photographs show that the parapet that contains the date was erected much later.


Poindexter’s ad of July, 1883, shows that he was still located on Main Street next to Brown’s Warehouse.

Boyles Brothers / Gorrell Building, 1907. North Trade Street

In July, 1907, the North Carolina secretary of state granted a charter for the Boyles Brothers Company, clothing and men’s furnishings, $6,000 capital subscribed by J.R. And C.O. Boyles and R.W. And P.A. Gorrell. The Boyles brothers were both salesmen for the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, with J.R. traveling out of Charleston, SC and his brother Olie working out of Birmingham, Alabama. The Gorrells were also brothers, the sons of the founder of the Farmer’s Warehouse, A. B. Gorell, and thus the owners of the property just north of the old Poindexter store on Trade. Boyles Brothers would occupy the building that they erected there for many years.

Boyles Brothers ad, 1909

Efird’s Department Store, 1912. Fourth at Trade Street

Efird’s Department Store, with the 1931 Walgreen’s Drugstore beyond, ca 1940. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection.

In 1905, Rosenbacher Brothers built a grand new two story brick building to house their ever growing department store at the northeast corner of Fourth and Trade Streets. In 1912 that building caught fire and burned, leaving only some walls standing. Rosenbacher Brothers moved to a temporary location a few doors north on the west side of Trade Street. Judge Henry D. Starbuck, the executor of the estate that owned the building, announced that the store would be rebuilt for the Rosenbachers. But by the time that the rebuild was completed, the Rosenbachers were happy with their new location, so the building was leased to the Efird brothers of Charlotte, who already operated department stores in Charlotte, Gastonia and Concord. Efird moved to Winston to oversee the new project. A few years later, when the Rosenbacher concern was shut down, the Efirds opened a department of their store in the former Rosenbacher space across the street.

West Side

1908 Fogle Block

In 1908, Fogle Brothers erected a four bay building on North Trade Street which would be known as the Fogle Block. Construction began on September 21, 1908 and was completed by the end of the year. The two story building was designed to have two more stories added if needed. The first tenant, in the latter part of the year, was McDowell & Rogers, mens clothiers, occupying the southern bay of the building. On January 13, 1909, the NC secretary of state issued a charter to the Reece-Mock-Bagby Company, authorized stock $50,000. They would soon open another men’s clothiers in the next bay of the building. Reece had been associated with the N.L. Cranford clothing business. Mock and Bagby were former associates of the Huntley-Hill-Stockon Company. Mr. Reece would soon withdraw, to be replaced by M.D. Stockton, also an officer of the Huntley-Hill-Stockton Company, and his son, Norman V. Stockton. This business would eventually become the font of two legendary Twin City men’s clothiers, Hine-Bagby and Norman Stockton, the latter of which is still operating.

Two gentlemen from Statesville leased the third bay for another clothing store, and the fourth bay was leased by the Sharpe-Modlin Company, a department store. The Statesville store never materialized. Sharpe-Modlin moved into that space as well, and the next year sublet the northernmost bay to the Jones Brothers Furniture Company. That lasted less than a year, as Sharpe-Modlin’s rapid growth pushed them into the Jones space by 1909.

Sharpe-Modlin was chartered November 24, 1908, by B.L. Sharpe, H.L. Modlin & J.R. Modlin of Harrelsville, Hertford County. $12,000 subscribed. Sharpe-Modlin would operate at that location for many years.

Ogburn Block, 1912. North Trade and West Fourth

In November, 1909, Alex Hanes sold the lot between the Masonic Temple and the Fogle Block to C.J. Ogburn for $12,500. The lot extended westward 101.4 feet parallel to Fourth Street.

In 1912, Ogburn erected a new commercial building on the lot that wrapped around the Masonic Temple to Fourth Street. It was built by Fogle Brothers at a cost of $16,000. Ogburn originally announced that the Trade Street portion would be occupied by a drugstore and the Fourth Street portion would be occupied by the Myers-Westbrook Department Store. But when the building opened in late 1912, the entire building was filled by the Ideal Company, dry goods.

Today, the Trade side is occupied by the Guru Convenient Store, while the Fourth side houses King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar.

Walgreen’s building, 1931. Northwest corner of Fourth and Trade Streets.

Masonic Temple, 1906. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection.

In 1929, the Masonic Temple was sold and demolished. For a time, the Masons occupied a space on the second floor of a building across Fourth Street until they moved elsewhere. In 1954, they built a new Masonic Temple on Miller Street. In 1931, the Walgreen Drugstore chain built a new Art Deco building on the site, now occupied by CVS.

International Order of Odd Fellows Building, 1915

In January, 1851, Francis W. Miller received the degree from Yadkin Lodge #10 of the International Order of Odd Fellows at Clemmons and set about establishing a lodge in Salem, which was accomplished by him and Joshua and Thomas Boner, D.H. Starbuck and A.T. Zevely that same year, with headquarters over the Sister’s House in Salem. For the next 30 years, they occupied several sites in Salem. After the great fire of 1882, they moved to Winston and joined with the Masons to construct a third floor above the new two story building next to Sihon Ogburn’s three story brick building at the corner of Fourth and Liberty Streets. When the Masons built their own building in 1906, the Odd Fellows began planning their own free-standing building, following the Masons’ idea of erecting a much larger structure than needed, with the lower floors leased for retail businesses and offices. The old lodge was sold to the owners of the current building, and on April 29, 1915, they dedicated their new building on Trade Street. The first two floors were leased for a ten year period to the Rosenbacher & Bro. Department Store. The third floor housed the main lodge hall, reading and lounging rooms, shower areas and other amenities. The fourth floor had a large banquet room and facilities for the Rebekahs, the women’s auxiliary, including lockers and both shower and tub baths.


Buildings with dates are still at least partially standing.


Trade Street, 1936. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection.

Trade Street, 1950s. Forsyth County Public Library Picture Collection.

Late at night in 1964 smoke pours from the Hine-Bagby menswear store in the 1908 Fogle Block as firefighters battle to control the blaze. The Eckerds at right was on the ground floor of the 1915 International Order of Odd Fellows building. The Betty Gay women’s clothing shop on the left was managed by Omia D. Jones. The new fire department “snorkel unit” was not actually engaged in the action, but provided firefighters with a good view of what was going on. They did a magnificent job and no buildings burned to the ground. Photo was taken by Journal staffer Bill Ray.

Grady Allred built a cafeteria empire

In 1927, Charles Apostle and John Campourakis opened the Carolinian Coffee Shop at 422 North Cherry Street, between the Union Bus Station and the Hotel Robert E. Lee, in Winston-Salem. Things went well at first, but when the Great Depression struck in 1929, business began to decline. The cafe was acquired by brothers Thomas, Kenneth and William Wilson, who were soon joined by their brother-in law, T.K. Knight. On Thanksgiving Day, 1935 Grady Allred went to work there. The first day, he noted that only $42 had been taken in. He would not receive a paycheck for several months.

But in early 1936, good fortune struck. The annual Northwest Basketball Tournament, sponsored by the Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel, began in early March. Over a three week period, about 2,000 high school basketball players, coaches and officials would need to be fed. Tournament founder and director Frank Spencer awarded the food contract to the Carolinian. Grady Allred finally got paid.

Probably the first K&W menu, 1937…at the time K&W was a straight up restaurant, not a cafeteria…

In 1937, the partners changed the name of the cafe, choosing K (for Knight) and W (for Wilson). Allred soon became a partner. Knight left, and in 1941, Allred bought out the last Wilson brother and became sole owner. He opened a second K&W in High Point.

K & W, 422 North Cherry Street

In 1951, a fire shut down the Cherry Street cafe, which would take nearly a year to rebuild. But that turned out to be a good thing, because Allred had noticed that cafeteria style service was a growing trend. So when the K&W reopened in 1952, it had become a hybrid cafe/cafeteria. Soon, both the High Point and Winston-Salem locations had been converted to cafeteria only operations.

K & W, 1950s…Forsyth County Public Library picture collection…

In 1960, Allred opened his second Twin City location in the new Parkway Plaza Shopping Center on Corporation Parkway, now Silas Creek Parkway. It was an instant success. The original downtown cafeteria continued to thrive.

In 1971, the legendary Hotel Robert E. Lee closed its doors for good. At that point, a very bad decision was made under the influence of the fad for “urban renewal”. The northern portion of the block between Fourth, Fifth, Marshall and Cherry Streets would be demolished. Down came the Robert E. Lee. Down came the magnificent Art Deco bus station. And down came the K&W. Allred reopened in a new building near the Memorial Coliseum.

Around 2:30 AM on January 18, 1988, the K & W on Knollwood Street, across from the Thruway Shopping Center, exploded, leaving nothing but a pile of rubble. The Sheraton Motor Inn next door was so badly damaged that it had to be demolished. Three people were injured. Investigators later determined that the cause was a spark that ignited a poorly maintained natural gas line.

From the time that Allred became sole proprietor in 1941, he had made the K&W into a family operation. When he died in 1983, he had expanded the business to 16 K&W locations in the Carolinas and Virginias. He was succeeded by his sons and grandsons and daughters. K&W is still a family centered business, with 35 cafeterias operating in the Carolinas, Virginia and West Virginia, a bona fide Twin City institution.

No doubt, nearly everyone has heard someone complaining about the block of Fifth Street between Cherry and Marshall Streets being blocked off for months now. That is the heart of what is known as the “Twin City Quarter”. The quarter consists of the Benton Convention Center, two hotels and some parking decks. The blockage is caused by the fact that the Benton Convention Center is once again undergoing a serious renovation. That is inconvenient, but we might do well to consider that over the last half century, the convention center and the hotels have been the most consistently positive part of the downtown economy.

That did not happen automatically. There have been ups and downs. But it might not have happened at all, as we shall see. Here is the story.

Winston-Salem had been a convention location for many years before the term “convention center” was coined, beginning in the 1880s. The earliest conventions were religious gatherings, and state meetings of confederate veterans, political parties, educators and groups like the North Carolina Firemen’s Association.

Eighteen cities were represented at the1905 firemen’s convention. In addition to business sessions, there was a grand parade and a number of competitions such as reel and ladder races, all attended by thousands of spectators. The top event was the engine competition. Elizabeth City won the timed getting up steam competition in 3 minutes, 8 and 4/5 seconds, edging New Bern by an eyelash. But New Bern won the water distance pumping with a throw of 230 feet, 11 inches, almost a foot better than the Elizabeth City boys.


Not long after the Civil War, local reunions of veterans became popular. Soon there was a statewide association. The town of Winston hosted several state conventions. Seen here, some of the attendees in 1894, with their venue, Brown’s Tobacco Sales Warehouse in the background.

The earliest venues for such gatherings were Brown’s Opera House, Brown’s tobacco sales warehouse, the original Zinzendorf Hotel, and, after 1896, the county courthouse. When the second Zinzendorf Hotel, considered one of the finest in the South, opened in 1906, it became the focal point of a variety of events, including several “Good Roads” point-to-point rallies, and the first organized motorcycle races in North Carolina, which were held in 1912 at Piedmont Park, near the current Smith Reynolds Airport.

Lobby of the second Zinzendorf Hotel on Main Street


Large events were held in the tobacco warehouses. Here, legendary evangelist Billy Sunday, a former major league baseball player, preaches in Brown’s Warehouse, 1925

But as Winston-Salem Journal reporter Chester Davis wrote in 1969: “This city’s real involvement in the inter-city scramble for the convention dollar began in the 1950s when the War Memorial Coliseum was finished and a Convention Bureau was established by the Chamber of Commerce. These moves were by no means original. In the same general period other majore cities in the state – Asheville, Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh and Durham – moved in the same general direction. It was a response to the times.”

War Memorial Coliseum, 1954

Before that, Asheville and Pinehurst had been the primary convention destinations in the Old North State, but by 1963, the Twin City was in the thick of the competition. That year, the city hosted a record 93 conventions representing 61,905 delegate days and adding an estimated $1.4 million to the local economy. But there was trouble on the horizon.

In the 1950s, the downtown area had accounted for 25% of all city tax income. But since then, retail sales had fallen 20% and tax listings were down 25%. Most downtown business and property owners were in a “wait and see” mode.

The original Robert E. Lee Hotel, 1921

As it turned out, the coliseum was too large for all but a handful of conventions and local motels were too small for even little ones, so the Twin City’s hopes rode on the aging 1920s Hotel Robert E. Lee, which had 12 public rooms capable of handling between 12 and 450 persons, so could accommodate conventions up to about 600 people. The hotel owners had joined with the Jack Tar chain in an ambitious project to add a 200 car parking deck, an auditorium-ballroom capable of serving 800 people and 40 new motel-like units across Fifth Street from the old hotel. They bought the land for the motel units for $400,000, but then could find no more money and the plan collapsed.

The Robert E. lee with 1928 addition


Robert E. Lee lobby

In 1964, the number of conventions fell to 72. That same year, Robert Ellett, the chairman of the Chamber’s Convention Bureau, suggested spending $445,000 to convert the old 1920s city market into a convention center. For a number of very good reasons, that suggestion was rejected out of hand. But a seed had been planted. In 1964 and again in 1965, the struggling Robert E. Lee asked the city and county to lower their tax valuations. Something had to be done.

In early 1965, the City-County Planning Board developed a concept for a convention center on Second Street between Trade & Liberty Streets. A model was even created.

Mayor Red Benton, city manager John Gold, and Chamber members Robert Ellett, Jim Haley and a few others began putting together a plan for the revitalization of the local economy. After a few false starts, in 1966 Benton introduced a $15 million city bond package that included $3.5 million for a new convention center. The Chamber of Commerce did not like the idea of spending public money to build a convention center, but endorsed the bond package anyway. The bonds passed readily. Two sites, one on the Coliseum property, the other near the intersection of I-40 and Silas Creek Parkway were suggested and quickly rejected. Virtually everyone agreed that the center needed to be downtown. Two more, one on Second Street between Trade and Liberty, the other the block directly across Fifth Street from the Robert E. Lee, were then floated. For a time it appeared that the Second Street location would win the day, but after some consideration, and a good bit of bickering over the mayor’s supposed conflict of interest, since he was also a board member of the hotel corporation, the latter was chosen.

Once the site was selected, the existing businesses on the block had to be relocated. All did so successfully except for the Robert E. Lee Billiards, which was located beneath the Formal House with an entrance on Cherry Street

The internationally known St. Louis firm of Helmuth, Obata & Kassabaum was chosen to design the building, with Colvin, Hammill & Walter as local associates. Their original plan came in over budget. So trimming began. Ten feet were lopped off one side of the building. The number of elevators was reduced from two to one. Even so, when the construction contract was awarded to Fowler-Jones, there was already another shortage. Money was appropriated from the street repair fund. By January, 1969, there was still a deficit of over $330,000 required to complete the building. The money was borrowed from the construction and equipment account of the Reynolds Memorial Hospital, with a firm commitment to repay.

The original design for the convention center had the building sitting right at the sidewalk line. But once people saw the simple, somewhat stark modern lines, they found it off-putting. The architect suggested moving the building back about thirty feet and placing a sunken garden between it and the sidewalk, with a bridge over the garden to the entrance. That worked. The building itself was a handsome edifice.

So when the Winston-Salem Convention Center opened on October 8, 1969, the $3.5 million estimate had become $4.5 million in reality. And that did not include the several hundred thousand dollars still needed for street and parking improvements and the extensive landscaping required by the plan. The final figure would reach $5.1 million. In a rare burst of honesty, one city official admitted that the $3.5 million number had been “pulled out of the air” because it sounded like a reasonable figure. Those who are paying attention will note that nothing much has changed in that respect over the last half century.

Under construction

The North Carolina Rehabilitation Association paid $550 to become the first group to use a portion of the new Winston-Salem Convention Center. By October 10, Ray Baker, the manager of the facility, announced that he already had bookings for about 200 days. The center was off to a good start. A couple of weeks later, 2,000 people showed up for a barbershop quartet convention. As it happened, that was the week that the Dixie Classic fair set a new record for attendance. And on Saturday afternoon, a huge crowd packed Bowman Gray Stadium to watch Atkins High School pull off its first ever football win over Reynolds High School, 7-6. So by late afternoon, there were thousands of hungry people out and about looking for somewhere to eat.

They found that the K&W cafeteria had been closing on Saturday and Sunday for two months. Owner Grady Allred later explained that there was a severe shortage of restaurant workers in the city and that his staff had flatly refused to work weekends. The cafes at the Robert E. Lee and the bus station were packed, with long waits for tables. At the Downtowner Motor Inn, people without reservations were turned away. The same thing happened at the Sir Winston restaurant in the basement of the Pepper Building. At all the shopping center eateries, long lines snaked down the sidewalks. There are no reports of anyone starving to death, but local leaders were alarmed. They promised fixes, but they were a long time in coming.

The tunnel under Fifth Street was completed and is still in use. All parts of the Twin City Quarter are connected by covered passageways today.


Journal reporter Joe Goodman did an assessment of the aesthetics of the new building

It had been assumed that the convention center would automatically cure the ails of the Hotel Robert E. Lee. Part of the plan was a tunnel under Fifth Street connecting the center and the hotel, which would have a right of way through the hotel to connect with a planned pedestrian walkway system connecting it to the rest of downtown. The tunnel was built up to the curbline on the north side of Fifth Street. But more than one local businessman said “That is as far as it will go. It will be too expensive to go under Fifth, and nobody will be willing to pay for it.” The tunnel was completed, but it was too late to save the hotel.

At 7:30 AM, March 26, 1972, an explosion shook the downtown of the Twin City. It originated in the south side of the basement of the Hotel Robert E. Lee. 8.2 seconds later, the ten story hotel had become a two story pile of rubble. The grand facility that had hosted Joe Dimaggio, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Ike and Mamie Eisenhower, Elvis Presley, the Monkees and dozens of governors, senators and other celebrities was no more.

That was the result of “urban renewal”, a disastrous idea that brought down whole city blocks of historic buildings and replaced them with chaff. All the old Robert E. Lee really needed was a thorough renovation, a bit of expansion, some visionary leadership and a new name. If we had it back today, it would be worth its weight in gold.

The Robert E. Lee was quickly replaced by a downsized clone of Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency. It had a spectacular nine story atrium with an indoor “sidewalk cafe”, but the best part of it was the separate building behind it known as Beneath the Elms, a parking deck that incorporated a basement level ice skating rink and sidewalk cafe and a cluster of trendy retail spaces.

The new Hyatt House, with Beneath the Elms behind

By then, that space was connected by a pedestrian walkway system extending from Cherry Street to the new pedestrian mall, a closed to auto traffic two block area of Trade Street extending from Sixth to Fourth Street, which connected to a pedestrian bridge that led to the new NCNB Plaza, Winston-Salem Savings & Loan and Liberty Walk on Third Street. The architecture there was the best integrated of any in the city because all the space was designed by the same architectural firm. Just across the way was a new Federal Building and Fred Butner’s spectacular new Forsyth County Hall of Justice.

The pedestrian walkway between Cherry and Trade Streets


Trade Street, before and after the Mall

There was a lot of promise there, but in the end, for the most part, the concept failed. The heart of the whole thing, the Trade Street pedestrian mall, needed new businesses that would attract people, especially young adults, to that part of the city. But local businessmen were still in “wait and see” mode, so nothing much happened. Instead, the most memorable businesses there ended up being drab discount stores and a wannabe art theater that quickly transformed into a triple-X haven. The mall is long since gone and Trade Street restored to a two-way traffic setup.

The Winston Plaza was originally a Stouffer Hotel

But the convention center and the Hyatt hotel flourished, to the point that within ten years a much larger hotel, the Winston Plaza, was built across Cherry Street from the Hyatt. Since then there have been a number of changes at the hotels and at the convention center, with major renovations made at the center in 1994 and 2006.

In 2006 the Benton Convention Center got a new entrance, but the bulk of money was spent on new carpets

In 2004, the Atlanta-based Noble Investment Group bought both hotels and assumed management of the convention center as well. The area was given a new name, the Twin City Quarter. The old Hyatt is now called Embassy Suites…the old Stouffer is now the Adams Mark Winston Plaza. It will be interesting to watch as the area continues to develop.

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