Ailey Young House
In 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), The historic house coincidentally happened to be located on Town-owned property. The Town's administration and the Wake County Tax Office were unaware of the house's existence, however 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.
The Ailey Young House may be the oldest remaining African-American historic building in Wake Forest. It also has historical significance as the dwelling of one of the town's most important African-American citizens Allen Young. 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, but 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 Northeast Community.
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. The name was soon changed to the Wake Forest Normal and Industrial School and was the first school for black children in Wake Forest. Allen Young served as its principal and 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 Rosenwald 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, but the home has remained vacant 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 female commissioner. She was first elected to office in 1971 and re-elected in 1975. The Ailey Young Park is named for her.
Site & Structural Conditions
The Town purchased the parcel several years ago for cemetery expansion. At the time, the Ailey Young House sat in the middle of the lot surrounded by dense undergrowth allowing it to remain undetected for quite some time.
Over the years the house suffered fire damage, and lost its windows, doors, and front porch, despite this its quality of construction has allowed it to survive to this day. Original structural elements remain today such as the sturdy stone piers allowing the house to perch high off the ground.
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. In addition to fire damage, the structure had also been vandalized at various points while it sat empty.
The second story ends of the house were 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 floorboards on the first and second floors of the west end of the house were destroyed by the fire.
Nature also took its toll on the structure while it sat empty; overtime a tree branch grew to touch and eventually push the roofing service, resulting in several holes that left the chimneys and/or flues open to the elements. The window sashes and doors were also missing leading to several points of access to the interior. However, the foundation, sills, joists, walls, exterior board and batten siding, and central chimney were in good condition.
Architectural Description & Significance
The long abandoned, partially burned 1 ½-story saddlebag house sits on high, 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 was destroyed in the fire. The right pen has horizontal sheathed walls and a mantel. Each pen has a front door that opened onto a porch with a shed roof that has since collapsed. Window openings have lost their sashes with the exception of one 4-pane upper sash surviving on the rear. Evidence suggests some of the larger openings may have held 6-over-6 sashes. The home’s sills and the boards of the walls are circular sawn. Visible nails include square, machine-cut nails, finish nails, and wire nails. Its likely 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!"
The Wake Forest Board of Commissioners authorized the Historic Preservation Commission to conduct a fundraiser for the basic rehabilitation of the Ailey Young house, similar to the level of the historic farm buildings located at Joyner Park. The estimated cost of such a renovation is $100,000. This cost includes: a new roof, replacement of burned-out structural members and flooring, the reconstruction of the front porch, and construction of an accessibility ramp to the porch.
The Historic Preservation Commission received a $10,000 grant from Preservation NC in 2015 to begin stabilization of the structure. The foundation and first floor were successfully stabilized in 2016.
The second floor was stabilized in 2020 and the new roof installation was complete. Evidence of paint on exterior door frames and siding suggested the house was at one time painted. In Spring of 2020 a paint analysis was performed to determine what color the home originally was. Results found that the home was likely first painted a pale-yellow color around 1895. Soon the house will be repainted using historically appropriate linseed oil paint in Benjamin Moore’s Linen Sand an excellent match to its original color.
If you would like to make a tax exempt donation to this important project, please donate online or send a check made out to the Wake Forest Historic Preservation Commission, write Ailey Young House in the memo line, and mail it to:
Wake Forest Historic Preservation Commission
Town of Wake Forest
301 S. Brooks St.
Wake Forest, NC 27587