Ailey Young House

Ailey Young HouseIn 2008 the Town of Wake Forest conducted a Historic Buildings Survey designed to identify the Town's historic properties. The survey's most significant find was the Ailey Young House (identified in the survey as the Allen Young House), which by coincidence happened to be located on Town-owned property! Neither the Town's administration nor the Wake County Tax Office were aware of the house's existence, although local residents had long known of its location. Employees of the Town's Utilities Department were also aware of the presence of the house because of its proximity to a utility easement access driveway.

Site & Structural Conditions

Sited in the middle of a wooded lot with dense undergrowth, the lot on which the house sits had been purchased many years ago by the Town of Wake Forest for future cemetery expansion.

Although the house has suffered some fire damage, and lost its windows, doors, and front porch, its quality of construction has allowed it to survive to this day. The house sits high off the ground on sturdy stone piers.

The structure has been damaged by vandals, who may have started the fire. The house burned sometime between the 1970s - when the house was last occupied - and the mid-1990s. There is some speculation that the house was burned when a fire was set, in an inappropriate spot, for warmth.

The second story ends of the house have burned out, along with a significant portion of the north wall on the backside of the house, indicating a probable point of origin. Structural members at those locations and the roof have been severely damaged. The floor boards on the first and second floors of the west end of the house were destroyed by the fire. The roof was severely damaged by a tree, which as it grew pushed into the roofing surface causing several holes and leaving the chimneys and/or flues open to the elements. The window sashes and doors are missing. However, the foundation, sills, joists, walls, exterior board and batten siding, and central chimney are in good condition.

Architectural Description & Significance

The long-abandoned, partially-burned 1 ½-story saddlebag house sits on high, finely crafted fieldstone piers on a lot located on North White Street, north of Spring Street and south of the town cemetery. The saddlebag house consists of two frame pens flanking a very large stone chimney with a brick stack. Large fireplaces served the main room of both pens. In the right front corner of the east pen, a stair ascends to the second floor. A similar stair accessed the second floor on the west pen but these were destroyed in the fire. The right pen has horizontal sheathed walls and a mantel. Each pen has a front door that opened onto a shed-roofed porch that has collapsed. Window openings have lost their sashes with the exception of one 4-pane upper sash surviving on the rear. Apparently some of the larger openings held 6-over-6 sashes. Its sills and the boards of the walls are circular sawn. Visible nails include square, machine-cut nails, finish nails, and wire nails. Its apparently original board-and-batten siding, with beveled battens, is in sound condition.

The saddlebag style house was commonly in use as slave housing. This house, however, is a much grander version. It was likely built around 1875, or perhaps a little earlier. It is most certainly a rare example of Reconstruction Era post-Civil War housing for the African American working class. According to local restoration carpenter, Patrick Schell, "There's just nothing like this left. The fancier houses tend to survive, but something like this, the housing for regular folks, especially African-Americans, is extremely rare!"

Historical Significance

The Ailey Young House may be the oldest African-American historic building in Wake Forest, and has historical significance as the dwelling of one of the town's most important African-American citizens. The house was constructed as rental housing by Wake Forest College Professor William G. Simmons and was one of a number of houses along a stretch known as "Simmons Row." These houses appear on the 1915 to 1936 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps. All the other houses are long gone. After Professor Simmons' death his widow sold the houses to families and subdivided land in the area. This area formed the beginning of what is now known as the East End area.

Ailey Young purchased the house and raised her family there. The house was the childhood home of her son, Allen Young, the town's most significant African American educator. He taught public school in Wake County until 1905 when he and others organized the Presbyterian Mission School for Colored Boys and Girls, a name that was soon changed to the Wake Forest Normal and Industrial School, the first school for black children in Wake Forest. Allen Young served as its principal. At least one of his children taught there. The school was a thriving private institution in the 1910s and attracted boarding students from northern states in the 1920s and 1930s when over 300 students were enrolled. The reduction in attendance after the opening of the DuBois school, a Rosenthal public school, finally resulted in its closing in the 1950s. Allen Young also founded the Presbyterian Church for African Americans and operated a dry cleaning business that catered to Wake Forest College. The last family member to live in the house was Hubert Young. No one has lived there since the 1970s.

Allen Young's daughter, Ailey Mae Young, a schoolteacher, was the first African-American town commissioner, serving in the 1970s, and the second woman. She was first elected to office in 1971 and re-elected in 1975. The Ailey Young Park is named for her.

All buildings associated with the Young family or with the school have been destroyed.

Ailey Young House
Senior Planner (Historic Preservation)
Ailey Young House Rehabilitation Project