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  • Thea Grace Morgan

Lost Turn of the Century Architecture

There are more than 500 intact 18th, 19th, and 20th century historic structures in New Bern. But for many reasons—not all of them tragic or short-sighted—landmarks do disappear. Four such late 19th century and early 20th century buildings are the Glenburnie Pavilion, the James Blades mansion, the Waters Buggy and Carriage Factory, and the Hughes-Stewart House. All were built by innovators during times of change, and none survived.


By late 1913, the Glenburnie Pavilion was attracting hundreds of customers. Its first floor rink was packed with skaters. There was dancing in the ballroom and promenade above, and the third floor had a music room and convenient restroom. Sited where present-day Glenburnie Park is today, the rambling wooden structure had magnificent views of the river and was wired throughout with electricity.

photo courtesy the New Bern Historical Society


But a mere fifteen years later, it was destroyed by fire. An article in that day’s Sun Journal indicates that by 1928 it was “long-disused” and had deteriorated due to neglect. The Pavilion was then owned by the City, and presumably New Bern and its residents had lost their appetites for such amusements so shortly after the fire of 1922.

The Queen Anne Hotel may have been built due to sibling rivalry, but its grandeur and architectural brilliance were not diminished by that. Like its sister structure, the existing Blades Mansion, structure that became the Queen Anne Hotel was built by H. W. Simpson for one of the Blades brothers. James Blades was William Blades’s younger brother. Both made their fortunes in lumber and associated products at their many New Bern mills.

photo courtesy the New Bern Historical Society

When William built the present-day Blades Mansion on Middle Street, it was the grandest home in town. At more than 21,000 square feet, it was filled with modern conveniences and fine Federal woodwork incorporated into it from the previous mansion on the site. Not to be outdone, brother James commissioned Simpson to build a far new and larger home, filled with every modern extravagance including multiple bathrooms, central heating and electricity throughout, and sumptuous Colonial Revival and Queen Anne woodwork.

The home became a hotel in 1939. It was considered the epitome of H. W. Simpson’s Southern Colonial design, his largest and most beautifully rendered building. The James Blades mansion was razed in 1967 and is now the site of the downtown branch of First Citizens Bank. It is estimated that the three floors of the James Blades mansion contained at least 36,000 square feet of fine craftsmanship.



The barnlike G. H. Waters and Son Buggy and Carriage Factory at 400 Broad Street was demolished after the business moved to larger quarters in 1917. An important and beautiful brick structure was built in its place, though: the fire station that is now the Firemen’s Museum. Still, in its time the Carriage Factory was a hub of creativity and innovation worthy of note. It was the birthplace of the “buggymobile.”


When G.H. Waters and his son Gilbert arrived in town in 1890, Gilbert took a job at the James Stewart carriage business. Within a year, Gilbert had persuaded his father to purchase the business. The renamed G. H. Waters & Son Buggy and Carriage Factory opened in 1891. In 1899 Gilbert visited Baltimore, where he saw many horseless carriages in use. He was inspired to make his own.


By then a proven carriage designer, Gilbert sought financing from his father and other bankers, but this time he was turned down. According to the North Carolina History Project, one banker told Waters, “Buggies without horses will never be practical, and they would be too expensive and dangerous anyway.”


So Waters financed the venture himself. His first buggymobile was completed in 1899. It was steam-powered, with one cylinder and a water-cooled engine, North Carolina’s first horseless carriage. Its maiden voyage was down Broad Street, where it achieved the impressive speed of twelve miles an hour.



Another short-lived new-fangled treasure was the Hughes-Stewart House, built on Pollock Street in 1892 by John Washington Stewart, a prosperous livery stable owner. The ornate Eastlake Victorian mansion was wired for electricity throughout. The Sun Journal described it as, "not ... outrivaled in conveniences and modern architecture by any in the city." Sadly, the Hughes-Stewart House house only existed for fifteen years; it was destroyed by fire in April 1907. These four may be lost landmarks, but they are not entirely forgotten.

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