Goodnight Raleigh - a look at the art, architecture, history, and people of the city at night

Marking the Historic Neighborhood of Idlewild

This past Thursday while waiting for (a very delicious) Thanksgiving dinner at the home of some friends of mine, I decided to walk down to Big John’s Community Grocery, which is on the corner of Edenton Street and Idlewild Avenue. It’s within eyesight of their front porch, and I’ve witnessed some interesting activity there for some time. Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to walk down to the store and talk to some of the people hanging around outside. While on my way there, I noticed the historic ground marker above.

The inscription reads:

Idlewild Neighborhood, 1891. Idlewild Avenue is the center of Idlewild, an early area of African-American home ownership named after the Battle Family Estate on Cotton Place south of New Bern Avenue. The Raleigh Land and Improvement Company subdivided Idlewild, and the neighborhood grew in the early twentieth century. Bounded by Swain St. on west, Oakwood Avenue on north, Tarboro Road on east, and Edenton Street on south.

Until I saw this marker, I had assumed that Idlewild was simply a road, perhaps named after a long deceased resident. As I mentioned in the previous post about Idlewild Avenue, it is an area frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers, especially at night. If you drive your car on this road, there is a good chance someone will approach you if you come to a stop. I’m guessing it’s an offer of drugs, but I can’t say for sure. Having said that, I should note that I frequently ride my bicycle down this road, and have never been harrassed or felt unsafe in any way. I’ve even walked down it a couple of times, and everyone I came in to contact with was very friendly, if not naturally curious as to what I was doing there.

Idlewild Avenue at night

Sadly, I can find no historical information on the community of Idlewild. Unlike African-American communities such as Oberlin or Method, there are no online records of any kind that document this neighborhood. As noted in the marker, it is bounded by the Oakwood community on the north. The specific part of Oakwood on the north is the revival district, where new homes are taking the place of the former decrepit ones. Swain Street to the west has already transformed in to a beautiful residential area. With both Edenton Street and Jones Street going through such a revitalization, it will be very interesting to see if Idlewild is included in this process.

I’m guessing that most, if not all, of the residents of Idlewild would gladly welcome the elimination of drugs and prostitution that currently exist there. However, it seems that when this takes place, the long time residents move elsewhere. It would be a shame to have yet another historically African-American community eroded in the name of progress.

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