Picket fences, porches with rockers and swings, dappled sunlight filtering through the many trees that line East and Bloodworth streets in Historic Oakwood. These views of Raleigh were almost destroyed 40 years ago.
[media-credit name=”The Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood” align=”alignright” width=”320″][/media-credit]In the early ’70s the City of Raleigh was working on an urban renewal plan, and officials hired a consulting firm. The consultants recommended a north-south expressway in an effort to enable traffic to get in and out of downtown Raleigh quickly. That expressway would have run along what was then and now East and Bloodworth streets. The move would have effectively cut Oakwood in half, leaving a decimated neighborhood community.
The residents of Oakwood became alarmed. Many were new Oakwood residents, having just bought an old house for between $10,000 and $25,000 and were now beginning their renovation and restoration projects.
The controversy grew in the fall of 1972 when the expressway was designated a high priority in the urban renewal plan.
Residents formed The Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood. The temporary chairman of this new organization, Ames Christopher, said the organization was formed to oppose city and State Highway Commission plans to run a highway through their neighborhood.
When it came to a vote before the Raleigh City Council meeting, more than 70 residents turned out to protest. Councilors approved the downtown revitalization plan — minus the expressway.
“The North-South freeway is not really a part of the downtown plan. Right now that line is just a line on a map,” then Mayor Tom Bradshaw told the Raleigh Times in 1972.
Representatives of the Oakwood residents said these residents were performing their own form of “urban renewal” with their many restoration projects.
This week residents are celebrating the 40 years of an intact neighborhood. Purple ribbons have been wrapped around poles on the east side of Bloodworth Street and the west side of East, which marks the boundaries of where the expressway would have been.
Vallie Henderson, an Oakwood resident since 1934 and since deceased, told the News and Observer at the time, “We are not opposed to the downtown plan. We think it’s great. But we are opposed to taking the most gracious, most beautiful and most historical places we have.”
Today her words seem prophetic, Oakwood is one of the most gracious neighborhoods in Raleigh and today’s residents support all efforts to keep downtown Raleigh diverse and vibrant.
Below, check out some photos of the neighborhood today.
A Forum held at Burning Coal Theater
1:30 to 5 p.m.
Experts discuss how a neighborhood saved history and houses from a highway’s path 40 years ago and how that experience applies to current and future planning issues.
Saturday Sept. 29, 2012
Burning Coal Theater presents a collection of vignettes celebrating Oakwood’s history and people.
Both events are free but seating is limited and reservations are encouraged.
For more information, visit www.HistoricOakwood.org.
Click on an image to view full size.