WAKE FOREST The town has received a $10,000 grant that will help push the rehabilitation of a historic home forward.
Preservation NC will award the Stedman Incentive Grant to Wake Forest at its annual conference in September. The money will be used to begin stabilizing the Ailey Young House, which is a rare example of Reconstruction-era housing for African-Americans, the organization said.
It will also jumpstart the process to designate the home as a national historic site and find a use for it.
“It’s quite a family history we want to preserve,” Wake Forest planner Michelle Michael said.
The Ailey Young House is located just south of the town’s cemetery on North White Street and was home to one of the most prominent black families in Wake Forest history.
The home originally belonged to a professor, who rented the home to Ailey Young, a black woman, and her family. In 1895, Young bought the home.
“It’s very unusual in the 1800s for an African-American woman to own property,” Michael said.
Ailey Young was also the mother of Allen Young, who went on to start the first private school for black children until the 1960s. Later, Allen Young’s daughter, Ailey Mae Young, became the town’s first African-American commissioner and the second female to hold that position.
For a long time, the house was hidden in trees until Ruth Little with Longleaf Historic Resources discovered it during a survey in 2008.
Little said it was obvious the home was historic. Its foundation is made of several stone piers. The building was originally a duplex, but appears to be later joined into one home, Little said. The home’s chimney is visible from the outside of the building and marks where it was previously separated.
In addition to stabilizing the foundation, a fire damaged most of the building at some point, Michael said. In 2014, the town adopted a historic preservation plan to determine how the home could be fixed and ultimately used.
There is still more money to be raised, even with the addition of the grant, Michael said. Stabilizing the house and fixing the roof, which would make the building usable again, will take about $40,000, Michael estimated.
Little, who researches homes like the Ailey Young House across the state, said using historic homes is a careful balance for towns.
“You don’t want to create a drain on taxpayer resources by making (a building) into a museum building,” she said. “It’s better if it has some sort of an adaptive use.”
She’s seen historic homes used as town offices, visitor’s centers and other buildings people use every day.
The town doesn’t own any other historic properties with its history so well-documented, Michael said.
The town does own several historical outbuildings that were on the land that became Joyner Park, she said. Those buildings were built into the the park’s design.
Want to help?
The town accepts donations to help with the rehabilitation of the Ailey Young House. Donors can write checks to the Town of Wake Forest with the Ailey Young House in the memo line.