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A Short History of Wake Forest

April 18, 2018 6:06 pm

People are moving to the greater Wake Forest area, including Rolesville, Youngsville, and communities around Falls Lake, as quickly as contractors can build homes for them. Two of the top ten fastest growing towns in North Carolina are in this area north of the state’s capital. Rolesville took the crown as the fastest growing municipality in North Carolina, expanding by 317 percent between 2000 and 2010. Wake Forest itself was also in the top ten and is a strong contender for these newcomers to North Carolina.

New residents may see the bustling suburban community that exists today in Wake Forest and never needs to know the journey Wake Forest has gone through over the centuries. For those who are curious, here are some of the highlights of how this town came to its current popularity.

The Forests of Wake

As Wake County was being settled just before the American Revolution, large tracts of land were being claimed in the northern parts of the county. The area was so undeveloped in the 1700s; it was referred to as the Forest District or as the Forests of Wake.

One of these large tracts of land was bought by a New Englander named Dr. Calvin Jones who later sold it to the North Carolina Baptist Convention in 1833. This purchase by the Baptists was a defining moment for what would become Wake Forest.

A town, a railroad and a college

The Baptist Convention bought this land to build a college, which initially had the somewhat intimidating name of the Manual Labor Institute. Students lived in Dr. Jones’ former quarters and were required to work in the fields when not in class. Despite this, the school grew.

At this time there was no Town of Wake Forest. The closest thing to it was a village a mile from the college called Forestville. For the students, this was the place to head for any entertainment or commerce. In 1840, the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad was completed, and the depot was naturally placed in Forestville, not at the college. The trustees resented this and fought for the next 30 years to have it moved.

The rise of Wake Forest

When the trustees of Wake Forest College finally succeeded in having the station moved in 1874, the town of Forestville never recovered. Wake Forest went from being simply a college to being a village, then a town. In 1880, the Town of Wake Forest College was incorporated, and the word college was dropped from the name a few decades after.

Wars came and went, with a different conflict every thirty years or so. When the Civil War hit, most of the students (at the time all males) were conscripted. This almost brought the school to an end. With some work, Wake Forest College was brought back to life, but then World War I had a similar effect. When World War II arrived, the school decided to allow female students and avoided a repeat of the impact from the last two conflicts.

Wake Forest moves

In 1956, the town was hit by maybe its most significant challenge. Rather than losing a majority of students to the military, they lost the entire school. The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation made an offer to bring the school to Winston-Salem in exchange for a financial partnership. The school accepted and changed its name to Wake Forest University.

Despite this move, the town bounced back after some time. The campus was turned into the Southeastern Theological Seminary, still in operation today, and Forestville was eventually annexed by Wake Forest in 1988. The town, which was initially defined by its relationship to the college, is charting its path now. The unbelievable growth of the past few years suggests this story is long from over as homeowners begin to make their mark on their properties and real estate throughout the town.

While architecture trends change over the years, Winslow Homes understands the desire by homeowners to make their space their own. Our in-house architect will work with our clients to ensure every need and want to be incorporated into the final product, so the day to day recognizes the individuals’ tastes and respects the history of the Wake Forest community.

Winslow Homes

Wake Forest Weekly, our hometown paper, has repeatedly named Winslow Homes as the “Best of the Best” home builder of the area, now three years in a row. This town went from a “Forest District” to a small college town, and now it is considered one of the fastest growing areas in the country, and we are helping build this future.

It’s a role we are proud to fill, and it’s an honor to be recognized by our neighbors as the most trusted company ensuring a town with a great history has an equally promising destiny.

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