Jenkins Shoe Factory

Born: 1867 in London, England

Died: 1944 in Winter Park, Florida

Known as: One of the more prominent residential and commercial architects in 20th century Winston-Salem.

Winston-Salem has neighborhoods of distinguished and beautiful buildings from colonial Old Salem to the West End, the downtown North Historic District to Buena Vista — and Charles Gilbert Humphreys was among a handful of architects who designed those very buildings.

His known works include South Side Baptist Church on East Sprague Street, the Shenandoah Apartments on West End Boulevard, Montague Hall at Mars Hill University (which houses the Rural Heritage Museum), and the West End home of Dr. Wingate Johnson; the structure became the original home of the Summit School.

Born in London, England, Humphreys studied architecture at Cornell University in New York and art in Paris before immigrating to the U.S. permanently in 1881. He worked for architectural firms in New York City for 25 years before opening his own Winston-Salem firm in 1914, designing for the business and social leaders of the growing 20th century industrial city. He was a master of several revival styles but particularly excelled at the Craftsman style that dominated the period. The profession was just rising in prominence as industrialization made materials and transportation more accessible. Towns and cities expanded at unprecedented rates as people left rural areas in search of city jobs. At the same time, city construction moved away from wooden structures in favor of fireproof brick and stone.

Humphreys designed buildings and homes for many of the city’s business leaders including at least six homes in the West End Historic District, and more in other neighborhoods such as Buena Vista. He also worked for the government and other organizations rendering plans for Camp Bragg (now known as Fort Bragg) as the U.S. entered WWI, and maintained a branch office in Fayetteville for years as a result. He assisted in plans for the renovation of Jenkins Shoe Factory (pictured) on W. Fourth Street into an 80-room apartment building with steam heat, cold storage, and elevators; a school for the Palmer Institute in Sedalia, North Carolina; and for the “colored orphanage” in Winston-Salem. He retired to Florida in 1930.

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