Aerial Photo of Wake Forest College Campus, 1920

1920 Bird’s-Eye View

This 1920 aerial photo of campus and a portion of downtown is packed with tantalizing details!

The image appeared in the 1921 Bulletin of Wake Forest College, a booklet the administration published to promote the school, its classes, and the local buildings.

So we thought it would be interesting to add some numbers and do an inventory.

How many are still part of the landscape–and how many are gone?

We’ll start on the left and move around clockwise.

1. Wake Forest Baptist Church was founded by the students of Wake Forest College in 1835, but the structure wasn’t built until much later. It was completed in 1915, about five years before this aerial was taken.

2. The Alumni Building was a three-story structure on the south end of campus. It was completed in 1906 and put to various uses over the years. With laboratories, offices, and lecture rooms, it was home to the early Schools of Biology and Medicine. After the medical department moved away, the Army Finance School took over for its stay during WWII. Afterwards, the English Department moved in. In 1964 it was torn down. The SEBTS Jacumin-Simpson Missions Building now stands in its place. (The roof visible to the right is Hunter Dorm, also torn down.)

3. Wingate Memorial Hall was erected to honor Wake Forest College President Washington Manley Wingate, who died in 1879. The building contained an auditorium, chapel, and classrooms. Wingate Hall was one of the buildings that burned to the ground in 1933-34, victim of a string of unsolved arson fires that struck the campus and town.

4. Wait Hall, built in 1838 and originally called the College Building, was a large, plain brick building. It had twenty-four bedrooms in the north wing, another twenty-four in the south wing, and a central section that held a chapel, lecture rooms, and society halls. This building also burned in the 1930s arson fires. It was replaced with a new Wait Hall, and is now part of SEBTS as Stealey Hall.

5. Built in 1878, the Heck-Williams Library was funded by Col. J.M. Heck and John G. Williams of Raleigh. The Wake Forest College Law School began here in 1894. Although parts of the building still exist, it’s had a major overhaul and now serves SEBTS as Denny Library.

6. Lea Laboratory was one of the most modern academic science facilities in the South when it was completed in 1888. It held a lecture room, private laboratory, dispensing room, specimen room, three classroom labs, and had an observatory on the roof. This is the oldest original building still on campus. Now called Broyhill Hall, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

7. An interesting image at the northern edge of this photo is a glimpse of what may be the John M. Brewer House. The identification of this property is debatable (due to perspective, it’s not clear if the house pictured is directly north of campus or slightly northwest). However, the property does closely match the architecture of the Brewer House, which still stands in the second block of North Main Street. Brewer built a log cabin on this site around 1853, with the addition going up in 1860.

8. The Wilkinson Building at S. White Street and Wait Avenue was built in 1899 and over the years has housed restaurants, retail shops, doctor’s offices, a movie theater, an ice cream parlor, and even upstairs student apartments.

9. These two little side-by-side structures stood along Wait Avenue near the railroad tracks and served for a time as the Wake Forest Hotel.

10. Here’s another view of the same commercial strip, this time including the Powers-Barbee Building. The three-story structure was put up by Dr. John B. Powers as a pharmacy. Wiggins Drug Store and Hardwicke’s Drug Store later operated in the same space (where Sweeties Candy Shop is today). This was the site of two train accidents (in 1928 and 1942), each time the locomotive jumped the rails and ran into the ground floor.

11. That’s the roof of the old Freight Depot, which was on the east side of S. White Street, roughly where the parking lot beside the North Carolina General Stores building is today.

12. And that is the Passenger Depot. Passenger trains made regular daily stops in Wake Forest when the College was here. But that stopped in 1956 when WFC moved to Winston-Salem. The Passenger Depot was torn down in 1964 and replaced with a small brick building.

13. Here’s the roof of the Brewer Building, home now to North Carolina General Stores. It went up around 1915.

14. We cheated a little on the clockwise pattern by putting the famous Campus Arch at the end of the list. But it’s saving the best for last. This served as the entrance to Wake Forest College. For those arriving by train, it was a literal gateway to the campus grounds. It was presented by the Class of 1909, but changing modes of travel triggered some changes.

Soon after this picture was taken, the arch was removed and kept in storage while road crews constructed Highway U.S. 1 along the east side of campus. In the 1930s it was moved to its current location as part of a Works Progress Administration project to create a safer railroad crossing by adding the traffic underpass.

Now that we’ve reached the end of the list, we do have a question.

How do you think this photo was taken? It’s too high to have been from the top of any town building. The water towers were in other locations. Right now, our guess is hot air balloon.

Please comment if you have an idea or any information!

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