We Built This

We Built This: Profiles of Black Architects and Builders in North Carolina
Portrait of Gaston Alonzo Edwards, with image of Shaw University's Tyler Hall
Architect Gaston Alonzo Edwards and Shaw University's Leonard Medical School Hospital, now Tyler Hall

Nov. 21–March 27
Historic Oak View County Park

This traveling exhibit, presented by Preservation North Carolina, highlights the stories of those who constructed and designed many of North Carolina’s most treasured historic sites. Spanning more than three centuries, We Built This provides 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.

Stop by the Farm History Center at Historic Oak View County Park any time during building hours (8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 1 to 5 p.m., Sunday) to experience this extraordinary exhibit, which includes profiles of:

  • Gaston Alonzo Edwards (1875–1943), the first Black architect licensed in North Carolina. He worked at Shaw University, where he planned and superintended construction of key buildings such as Leonard Medical School Hospital (1910), now Tyler Hall, using students in the construction.
  • Stewart Ellison (1834–1899), an enslaved carpenter hired out in Raleigh, where he helped construct 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.
  • William B. Gould (1837–1923), an enslaved plasterer in Wilmington who 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.