A Tour of Historic Goldsboro

This fascinating tour began at the Wayne County Museum with Jennifer, the museum director, as our guide. It is a must do for residents and newbies to the area, and occurs twice a month. Contact the museum for specifics. Don’t forget the water and comfortable shoes.

After introductions Jennifer explained the origins of the museum. It began as a Women’s Club by Mina and Gertrude Weil for the ladies of Goldsboro to hold meetings. Mother Mina and daughter Gertrude went to the bank for a loan however were declined as they needed husband approval. Instead of going that route they ran a cafeteria in town along with an Esso Gas Station, and by 1927 had enough funds to pay for most of the building. Upon the demise of the Women’s Club the building was used as a health department and library. In 1988 it became the Wayne County Museum.

Currently, there is a fire fighter exhibit at the museum and on the second floor a USO tribute. The second floor stage also provides for community theater, most recently The Odd Couple.

Leaving the museum area we visited our first destination, The Goldsboro War Memorial. This was constructed in 2004 after the former memorial burned.

Goldsboro was a city formed from the convergence of three different railroads. It was a strategic site half way between the capital Raleigh and coastal New Berne. In 1847 it became the county seat.

Since the city was a junction stop who better to name it after than a train engineer, Matthew Goldborough. Eventually, the name was shortened and stuck.

And why did it take till 1847 to create the city? Prior to 1847 the area was inhabited by Tuscarora Indians and the European settlers came after the Indian Wars.

Our next stop was the Wayne County Court House of 1913.

This building is on the National Historic Site Register. An addition was completed in 1994. There is an interesting historic court room inside. Should you wish to visit contact the County Court Clerk for information.

And where would a court house be without law offices? The picture on the left is the Dortch Parker law office from the 1800’s era. The yellow house on the right was Mr. Dortch’s home. The home is owned by a private family.

Next stop: The National Bank of Goldsboro. This remarkable structure was a bank and later a senior center.

Streetcars once ran through the center of the town to the displeasure of its residents. Despite complaints the train companies ignored the residents request to handle the problematic soot which lent to fire. In 1927, in the dead of the night townspeople tore up all the tracks. While the railroads wanted to sue they couldn’t as the entire town was involved in the endeavor.

On to the Hotel Goldsboro..

This is the 5th hotel to hold this space. David Weil, grandson to the original Weil family renovated the hotel in 1977, and it is now used for affordable housing. Aren’t the windows and terrace beautiful?

The Mission Shop in the retail district sells wares to assist females of need. It was formerly a telephone office transmitting calls throughout the area.

Further down Center Street is another fascinating, historic building, The Gidden Jewelry Store. As our guide stated this store was the “TIffany of its day,” operating as a jewelry store for 130 years. In front of the store is the oldest clock in North Carolina.

Near to Giddens is the Maxway Department Store which was once the location of the Weil Department Store. The Weil’s were German Jews who arrived in Goldsboro in the mid-1800’s. They began their business in merchandising.

Across the street is a former opera house which held 900 seats. Hurricane Hazel removed the second floor so only retail space remains in the now one floor complex.

On the next corner, The Well Travelled Beer sits as a bar and package store, It was formerly a grocery store.

And what do you do with a former gas station? Well, you make it into a flower shop!

This next spot has much history. While it now holds a cigar shop in years past it was the Pepsi bottling plant. At that time Joan Crawford, a famous actress, was married to a Pepsi executive. Taken on a tour of Goldsboro her driver was so concerned for her safety he concealed a gun in the car glove compartment.

The Weil Brothers Homes

Both Weil homes hold interesting history. At one time they were identical, however with new owners the color combinations have changed. The home on the right was the home of Gertrude Weil, whose mother was Mina and father Henry. The home on the left belonged to Henry’s brother, Solomon, and his family.

The homes are adorned with wood trim, and the Henry Weil home has an elevator. These were the first homes in the area to have flush toilets. The Solomon Weil home was gifted to the city as the first public library. Both are now private residences.

This home was occupied in the Civil War by General Shofield of the Union Army. Later it became the residence for the librarian and was also home to a local judge.

At this point my pen ran out of ink, however I was able to purchase another. So, let’s continue….

St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church was built in 1856. The stained glass windows were designed by an individual who worked in the Tiffany studios in New York City. Union army soldiers attended church services here during their encampment in Goldsboro.

Ever wonder what this thing is? It’s the Million Gallon Water Tank built in 1938. The diameter is 87 feet.

Then further down the street is the former Goldsboro Fire Department, a remarkable Art Deco building. Retail and rental space is planned for this historic and beautiful structure.

The Goldsboro Town Hall built in 1902 stands tall with Lady Liberty to the left, and Justice to the right. Once marble statutes they were later gilded.

The sculptures on Center Street are leased by the City for a year. Every October residents vote for sculptures to inhabit these open spaces.

Now on the home stretch.. This is the Weil Esso gas station.

And as we near departure, a tribute to the Air Force. Goldsboro is home to the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and the city slogan is, “We love jet noise.”

St. Mary’s is another historic church. It was founded in 1889 by Lebanese immigrants related to the Mt. Olive pickle founders. Twice a month on Sunday at 5:30 pm Latin mass is conducted here.

Wow. What a great tour by Jennifer, our knowledgeable Museum Director and tour guide. I’ve only given the highlights so make it a point to take the entire tour. As I stated earlier, and worth repeating, it’s a must to do.

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