Created By: Preservation Forsyth
Waughtown began with a disgruntled son, Charles Bagge of the Moravian town of Salem. Charles, the son of Traugott Bagge, a prominent and wealthy general store owner in Salem, had worked in his father’s store for a number of years and expected to inherit the store upon his father’s death in 1800. Church leaders in Salem decided otherwise, however, passing management of the store to Conrad Kreuser. Unhappy with this decision, Charles briefly moved north, but by 1801 was back in this area. Having received a large inheritance from his father, he soon bought a substantial tract of undeveloped land about 2 ½ miles southeast of Salem near the homestead of Michael Rominger, a saddle maker and member of the Friedland Moravian Community. Charles and his wife Christina joined the Friedland Congregation, then in 1806, built a combination home and store on the well-traveled road to Dobson’s Tavern. (Now the site of Waughtown Baptist Church.) This site was also strategically situated near the Clemmons/Davie County Road. (Now Clemmonsville Road).
[Sidebar on Kernersville: Dobson’s Tavern, also known as Dobson’s Cross Roads was built in 1771 by William Dobson. In 1813, the entire tract was sold to Gottlieb Schober of Salem, who then transferred the land’s title to his son Nathaniel Schober. In 1817, Nathaniel sold it to Joseph Körner, who had immigrated from what is today Furtwangen, Germany (at that time part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire), first to Philadelphia (1785) and then on to the Wachovia Tract in 1787. Joseph also joined the Friedland Moravian Congregation, living for a time with Michael Vogler while he established a successful clock and watchmaking business. Over the next decade, he bought 200 acres in the Friedland community, married Christinia Kastner, and had three children. In 1817, he bought Dobson’s Cross Roads and moved his family from Friedland into Dobson’s Tavern. Dobson’s Tavern became Körner’s Tavern and eventually, Kernersville.]
Shortly after Bagge's settlement in the area, he was joined by several other early entrepreneurs. Peter Transou, a hatmaker; Jacob Ferguson, a blacksmith; and John Simon Leight, a spinning wheel and clock maker, came from Salem, establishing workshops and building homes. John S. Leight, who arrived around 1812, purchased the 1806 Michael Rominger house which sat near present-day 1811 Waughtown Street. (The Rominger-Leight House was moved to a site near the Yadkin River in the mid-1900s). The community well, a gathering place and water source for the stage coach and teamsters traveling the Dobson Road, was located across the street from the Leight House, very near Bagge’s store.
As trade expanded, the settlement became defined as a village in its own right, now known as Baggetown. Over the next few years, Moravians and non-Moravians joined the little community and Bagge's store prospered. Apparently Bagge's success prompted Salem leaders to rethink their earlier position and call for his return, thus, in August,1813, the Bagge family moved back to Salem. (But still not as manager of the community store.) Bagge gradually sold off his Baggetown property, selling his house, store, and 200 acres to James Waugh in 1815. Outside the fact that James Waugh was born on January 1, 1768 in Adams County, Pennsylvania, little historical information has been found about him. The Moravian archives record only that he was a successful businessman who amassed considerable property, including as many as 19 slaves. HIs surname, however, was quickly adopted with Baggetown becoming Waughtown.
The Waughtown Cemetery, the oldest extant historic resource in the historic district, tells a rich history of the community. While records of the original layout and development of the cemetery have not been found, it is believed that the cemetery was loosely associated with Waughtown Union Church, a non-denominational log church built in 1820 near the southwest corner. Ministers of all faiths led services at the church with the congregation remaining at this location until 1878. Visual investigation of the cemetery has revealed that the oldest grave markers are located near this southwest corner with at least two headstones dating from 1816 and several others from the 1820s - 1840s. The 1816 markers suggest the establishment of a community cemetery prior to the construction of the Union Church. (Unfortunately, a number of these markers are unreadable today.)
With the establishment of the cemetery, church, and small businesses along the main road, Waughtown developed many signs of a permanent community during the first quarter of the 1800s, and this growth accelerated by the 1830s. About 1828, David Blum established the village's first inn. In 1834, John Vawter established a cabinet, furniture, and wagon-making shop diagonally across the road from Waugh's store (near today’s Marble Street); and John Phillip Nissen, with Dan Clodfelter as his blacksmith, began Nissen Wagon Works directly across from Waugh's store. (Nissen also established other businesses including a distillery that, in 1850, was the largest whiskey producer in the county!) In 1854, furniture maker William Spach founded Spach Wagon Works and what had been informally known as Waughtown Road became part of the Fayetteville to Salem Plank Road. (Spach Wagon Works was located just west of today’s Waughtown-Belview Historic District on Glendale Street.)
Post-Civil War, the village of Waughtown had fully coalesced with wagon-making as the principal industry in a primarily agricultural economy. Vawter's wagon shop had disappeared, but the Spach and Nissen shops had expanded. Nissen Wagon Works grew rapidly during the mid-1800s and significantly outpaced the Spach Wagon Works in size. By the mid-1870s, the George E. Nissen Wagon Works (now named after John P. Nissen's first son) had spread over a 600-acre tract on the north side of Waughtown Street and employed about one hundred men. By 1876, the company was producing 427 wagons a year at an average price of $120 each, realizing a profit of about $13,000 annually. In contrast, the Spach Wagon Works produced about 20 wagons a year and was dependent upon the Nissen plant's blacksmith shop for hardware.
Schools were established in Waughtown during this period and included private home schools, Sabbath schools, and subscription schools called "academies." In 1890 land was purchased for the first public school from John F. Brendle at the site of the partially remaining Waughtown Elementary School (2266 Marble Street). Waughtown School was either replaced or enlarged several times, including a 1920s design by local architect Willard Northup. The only remaining structure is a Modernist building designed by architects Macklin and Stinson as an extension of the campus in 1951. (In 1976, Waughtown School closed and students moved to Hall Woodward Elementary and Easton Intermediate School.)
Economically, the village prospered as the Nissen wagon company grew more successful. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, the main shop increased production while five of John P. Nissen's sons began new ventures in wagon-making. Following the 1874 death of founder John P. Nissen, his sons George Elias and William M. inherited the business. William Nissen bought George's interest in 1909 and the wagon works' name was then changed to Nissen Wagon Company. John Israel Nissen, the second son, opened the J. I. Nissen Wagon Works in the 1400 block of Waughtown Street during the late 1800s. (Just two blocks away.) He sold this business to his younger brother, Christian Frances Nissen, in 1910. C. F. Nissen manufactured wagons under his own name, developing and patenting the "mitered spoke," until he consolidated with his younger brother William M’s Nissen Wagon Company in 1910. (To recap, by 1910 C. F. Nissen owned both the J. I. Nissen Wagon Works and William’s Nissen Wagon Company.) The youngest Nissen son, Samuel Jacob Nissen, built the S. J. Nissen building (with Henry Roan) at the corner of Patterson and Third Streets in downtown Winston about 1895. He manufactured spring wagons used by grocers, bottlers, drays, hacks, milk deliverers, and ice wagons there until 1929. The quality of all of the wagons the Nissens produced, especially those from the main shop, was recognized nationally. (https://www.cityofws.org/DocumentCenter/View/3909/123---SJ-Nissen-Building-PDF.)
Despite the significance of wagon manufacturing and the development of institutions such as churches and schools, Waughtown might have remained a rural community but for two important events – the construction of the Roanoke and Southern Railroad by 1892 and the completion of the streetcar line into southeastern Winston-Salem by 1901. The railroad was located at the western edge of Waughtown, near the newly platted Sunnyside development. It was incorporated into the Winston-Salem Southbound Railroad in 1910 and is currently paralleled by U.S. 52.
With the construction of the railroad, Southside Cotton Mills, associated with the Fries family's Arista Mill in Salem, was built in 1896 on Goldfloss Street in the Sunnyside development. The construction of Southside Mills (demolished) was quickly followed by other industrial facilities in the Sunnyside area, including the Forsyth Chair Company and the Forsyth Furniture Company. This development, where much industrial growth occurred, was platted immediately west of Waughtown (just across the railroad) in March of 1892 by the Winston-Salem Land and Investment Company.
The Winston streetcar system, which had such illustrious investors as Frank J. Sprague and Thomas Edison, opened in 1890 and was purchased by Henry E. Fries in 1899. The company was known as Southern Public Utilities and was later acquired by Duke Power. (Sprague Street was probably named for inventor Frank J. Sprague, president of the streetcar company prior to Fries' purchase.)
The extension of the streetcar line by Fries southeastward from Sunnyside to the "George E. Nissen shops in Waughtown" around 1901 was a more direct factor in residential growth in Waughtown. The line was extended to Nissen Park northwest of the Nissen wagon works by 1914. The end-of-the-line pleasure park was a common feature in early streetcar systems as they helped promote usage of the car by providing a destination in the midst of a rural landscape. The park was, however, apparently defunct by the late 1920s.
By 1911, descendants of early Waughtown settlers had begun subdividing large family holdings into small developments, such as C. F. Nissen and Peter Leight, son of John S. Leight. The creation of Leight Street and the development of speculative housing like that on Nissen Avenue occurred within ten years of the streetcar's extension into Waughtown; and was certainly part of the residential growth spurred by the streetcar and by the industrial development in Sunnyside during this period. The residential boom in the district between 1900 and 1915 saw the construction of at least 200 new residences. (In fact, between the 1000 and 2600 blocks of Waughtown Street there are more than sixty pre-1920 buildings.) This prosperous period was also when a few of Waughtown's most noted families built some of the area's most distinctive structures.
By 1915, Waughtown and the Wachovia Development neighborhood (now known as Belview) became closely linked as residential development filled the gap between them. (Belview is slightly to the south between Waughtown and Sunnyside.) These two areas were also increasingly tied to the industrialization and economic prosperity of the city of Winston-Salem. While wagon-making and the building trades continued to be the dominant occupations in Waughtown throughout the 1900s and 1910s, the first fifteen years of the twentieth century brought about significant growth and change in Winston and its sister town of Salem. This economic growth and change culminated in 1913 with the merger of Winston and Salem into a single political entity. As the new city grew, downtown neighborhoods became more crowded, drawing the working and middle classes outward to the more affordable rural areas made accessible by the streetcar, and later the automobile.
In Waughtown, growth during this period was closely related to the emerging tobacco and textile industries in Winston-Salem along with the peak of the wagon-making industry that occurred between 1900-1920. By 1919, production at the Nissen Wagon Company had increased to about fifty wagons a day, allowing the company to rebound after a disastrous fire that consumed the company's buildings that year by building an even larger and better plant during the 1920s. In 1925, William M. Nissen, foreseeing the eventual decline of the wagon in favor of the truck (and in declining health), sold the Nissen Wagon Company to F. B. Reamy for almost $1,000,000. Reamy continued making wagons (about 4,000 per year) until the mid-1940s. After selling the wagon works, William invested much of his proceeds in the construction of a skyscraper, the Nissen Building, at the corner of Fourth and Cherry Streets in downtown Winston-Salem. (https://www.cityofws.org/DocumentCenter/View/3896/110---Nissen-Building-PDF?bidId=)
The sale of the Nissen Wagon Works and the construction of the Nissen Building in Winston-Salem foreshadowed a shift in the character of Waughtown after 1925. The well-to-do in Waughtown became fewer in number while the working class moved from employment in the wagon works, blacksmithing, and farming to factories. This economic shift ties the district closely to the history of the city of Winston-Salem. Many people living within the district, particularly those living in Belview, were employed at "local" factories such as Forsyth Manufacturing, Forsyth Iron Bed Company, or Southside Mills; but many more rode the streetcar or drove automobiles downtown to work at the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company or the P. H. Hanes Knitting Company.
The 1928 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps show that Waughtown's development had blossomed from houses along the primary roads with only a few side streets into an area growing quickly eastward and northward. This expanding development illustrated the dichotomy of the Waughtown area; it simultaneously followed the national trend of platted suburban developments while also continuing the practice of early Waughtown families subdividing their large land holdings. The intensive residential development in Waughtown culminated in the 1923 annexation of Waughtown and Belview (along with Sunnyside and Washington Park) by the City of Winston-Salem.
Residential construction in Waughtown continued at a rapid pace through the 1920s with the northward extension of Waughtown spurred by the development of a granite quarry (Piedmont Quarry, now Quarry Park) near the north end of Leight Street. (The quarry site includes two quarries, the older of which has been suggested as a stone source for the town of Salem.) Growth in the community was accompanied by an increase in commercial activity. Always a major thoroughfare, Waughtown Street became increasingly important in the community's economy during the early years of the automobile age as service stations sprang up along Waughtown and Sprague streets, including the now National Register listed seashell-shaped 1931 Quality Oil Station. (https://www.cityofws.org/DocumentCenter/View/3878/092---Shell-Service-Station-PDF?bidId=)
The prosperity of Waughtown was also reflected in the construction of larger, more ornate sanctuaries by churches, and in new school buildings. Waughtown Baptist Church built an elegant Neoclassical Revival sanctuary in 1919, followed by First Reformed Church’s Romanesque Revival style building in 1927. Waughtown School (demolished), was built in the 1920s, accompanied by Forest Park Elementary School (Milford Street, outside district) in 1925.
The automobile now dominated transportation, thus, the streetcar ceased operation in 1936. Its route was taken over by the more flexible bus operated by the former streetcar company, Duke Power. By the eve of World War II, Waughtown and its adjacent communities had been transformed from a singular village and isolated streetcar suburbs into a large residential area composed of growing automobile suburbs that was fully integrated with the City of Winston-Salem.
As in most suburban locations in North Carolina, the immediate post-war period brought intense residential development to the Waughtown area. Many Minimal Traditional and Ranch style houses were built as infill in previously developed areas. Waughtown quickly emerged as one of the most desirable middle-class neighborhoods in Winston-Salem, drawing an increasing number of middle and working class residents, although the number of wealthy families declined.
Commercial development was still expanding at a steady pace. New, larger service stations, groceries, and general merchandise stores were built along Waughtown and Sprague streets, especially between 1955 and 1965. The fuel for this residential and commercial growth was R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, P. H. Hanes Knitting Company, and other industries in downtown Winston-Salem. By the early 1950s, the number of employees at Reynolds Tobacco had swelled tremendously, far outstripping any other occupation as the primary income source for the district and the city generally. Local industries such as wagon-making and furniture had ended in Waughtown and Sunnyside by 1950, although the Southside/Arista Mill on Goldfloss Street managed to hang on through the 1950s.
These industries were augmented by the addition of the Western Electric plant in the old Nissen Wagon Works building during the 1950s. The Western Electric Company moved into Winston-Salem in 1946, occupying several pre-existing buildings and drawing ninety percent of its 1,600 person workforce from the local area. Besides making a positive economic impact in the area, Western Electric also drew other corporations to the area. With the new influx of technicians, engineers, and management personnel, a "new" middle class began to emerge that supported arts programs, boosted civic clubs, changed the character of the consumer market, and strongly supported local churches.
This economic boom, however, eventually slowed as this secondary wave of companies closed (as did the downtown tobacco and knitting plants), resulting in a loss of good-paying local jobs. The last few decades have not always been kind to Waughtown, yet so much of the historic fabric remains within this National Register historic district. Local investment in Waughtown is key to its community revitalization, with historic preservation an essential element in that effort.
Fearnbach, Heather. Winston-Salem’s Architectural Heritage. Winston-Salem: Forsyth County Historic Resources Commission and City of Winston-Salem, 2015.
Harris, Cyril M. American Architecture: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.
McAlester, Virginia and Lee. A Field Guide to American Houses. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1989.
Taylor, Gwynne Stephens. From Frontier to Factory: An Architectural History of Forsyth County. Winston-Salem: City County Planning Board of Forsyth Co. and Winston-Salem, 1981.
Wyatt, Sherry Joines. “Waughtown-Belview Historic District, 2004.” National Register Nomination, Raleigh: State Historic Preservation Office.