North Carolina Humanities has awarded a grant to help preserve the legacy of historic shotgun houses in Winston-Salem.

The money awarded to Triad Cultural Arts will be used to restore a shotgun house from the early 20th century. But the buildings themselves date back to 1872 and the city’s first planned Black community: Liberia, later known as Happy Hill.

The homes were small, narrow, economical single-story homes with a living room, two bedrooms, kitchen in the back and front porch to let in a cross breeze in the hot summers.

Project historian Anita Justice says the architectural style that can be found scattered across the south originated from formerly enslaved people from Africa, and later Haiti, who petitioned for land in the Piedmont after emancipation. The Shotgun House Legacy Site project aims to honor these unique structures and the people who lived within them by collecting and preserving their stories and memories.

"What was a shotgun house like? How did they occupy the space? What did they look forward to doing in the yard? What kind of plants did they have? What were the activities like?" asks Justice. "So, that’s what we’re doing now. We’re trying to understand those lived experiences of those individuals and we’re trying to engage the community so we can find out more and we can share these stories and illuminate them."

Narratives will be recorded during the first community engagement session which takes place Tuesday at the Mallory/Jordan East Winston Heritage Center Branch Library. Additional sessions are planned from March through May.

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