The traveling exhibit, “We Built This: Profiles of Black Architects and Builders in North Carolina” will be on display March 6 through May 28 at the Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City.
Presented by Preservation North Carolina, the exhibit that spans more than three centuries highlights the stories of those who constructed and designed many of North Carolina’s historic sites.
The exhibit includes more than two dozen personal profiles and historic context on key topics including slavery and Reconstruction, the founding of historically Black colleges and universities and Black churches, Jim Crow and segregation, and the rise of Black politicians and professionals.
Featured among the profiles are the first Black architect licensed in the state, Gaston Alonzo Edwards; Stewart Ellison, an enslaved carpenter hired out in Raleigh; and William B. Gould, an enslaved plasterer in Wilmington.
Edwards, 1875-1943, worked at Shaw University, where he planned and superintended construction of key buildings such as the 1910 Leonard Medical School Hospital, now Tyler Hall, using students to help in the construction.
Ellison, 1834-1899, helped build the North Carolina Hospital for the Insane, now Dorothea Dix Hospital. He became one of the state’s longest-serving Black legislators of the 19th century, representing Wake County in five legislative sessions. He was also the first Black citizen to serve on what is now the Raleigh City Council.
Gould, 1837-1923, made his mark on the elaborate plasterwork at the Bellamy Mansion. His initials, WBG, were found on the back of decorative plaster pieces during the 1993 restoration of the mansion.
The Museum of the Albemarle is at 501 S. Water St., Elizabeth City. Visit the website at www.museumofthealbemarle.com.