Wilson, North Carolina, was once home to a vital tobacco industry and the largest population of working-class African Americans in the state. Many resided in one of 301 “shotgun” houses in the area until the tobacco industry moved overseas in the ’80s, resulting in many of these homes becoming abandoned and eventually demolished.
Eighty-eight shotgun houses remain today, and the majority of them have been renter-occupied for decades, leaving many residents of the historic district without the opportunity to own a home.
When interior architecture master’s student Monica T. Davis was deciding on the focus of her thesis, she felt compelled to help her hometown.
After learning about the cultural significance of the East Wilson shotgun houses, she seized the opportunity to turn the abandoned, historic dwellings into tiny homes that could bring back life and culture to the area.
“I am passionate about preservation, and a lot of times, preservation isn’t prevalent in African American culture. To be able to preserve the culture and historic character of these homes while educating the people of my hometown is very rewarding.”
The project began last spring, at 132 Ash St. East, with the goal of rebuilding four more houses by the end of the year. Monica is the architect behind all of the floorplans and renovations. Her vision is to preserve the historic character of the homes, but with a modern twist.
“My goal is for the people of East Wilson to have a beautiful home to go back to after work.”
In addition to bringing work back into the area as she employs members of the community to help restore the houses, she teaches community members about architecture and craftsmanship.
“The cultural heritage of this neighborhood is very significant, so we are rebirthing what has been lost for so long.”
By Alexandra McQueen