This 1820s map of New Bern shows the Downtown, Lawson Creek (Long Wharf) left of Downtown, and Dryborough above Downtown.

Riverside, Ghent, or DeGraffenreid Park — which holds title as New Bern’s first subdivision?

None of them, actually. That title goes to Long Wharf, followed by Dryborough:

  1. New Bern–1710. The historic downtown section.
  2. Lawson Creek (Long Wharf )–1797. Between Tryon Palace, First Street, Pollock Street and Lawson Creek.
  3. Dryborough–1806. North of Queen Street.
  4. Riverside–1894. East of Dryborough.
  5. Ghent–1912. West of First Street.
  6. DeGraffenreid Park–1926. North of Ghent.

Lawson Creek has long since lost its identity as a distinct neighborhood, but Dryborough continues to this day and, along with Downtown, Riverside, Ghent, and DeGraffenreid, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an area of historical significance.

Still, Dryborough often gets short-shrifted when New Bern’s history is told. Case in point: The New Bern Historical Society’s Lunch & Learn topic coming up on Sept. 12 is titled, “Riverside: New Bern’s First Suburb.”

Without a doubt, Riverside has an interesting history, but being called “New Bern’s first Suburb” is not rightly part of the narrative.

According to “A History of New Bern and Craven County,” “the area north of Queen Street had been acquired from the Pollock family by William Dry, a wealthy resident of the Cape Fear, who bequeathed it to his daughter and son-in-law, Sarah Dry Smith and Benjamin Smith.

“Smith, governor of the state in 1810-1811, subdivided the acreage into streets and lots; in 1806, the General Assembly approved his plan for the town of Drysborough.

Now a historic neighborhood of New Bern, Dryborough’s enduring legacy is as the social and cultural center of African American life in New Bern even after the Great Fire of 1922, which greatly impacted the people and area both economically and culturally.

According to the National Register of Historic Places Program, Historic Dryborough community is a strongly African American neighborhood that originated in the early 19th century and grew in population during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Initially it was home to both blacks and whites, but the proportion of black residents increased gradually, so that Dryborough and the area around it became an important center of African American civic life in New Bern. (Full description here).

7 Comments

  1. A suburb is different from a subdivision. Maybe that’s why Riverside is being called the 1st suburb.

  2. It’s really a matter of semantics. The author wrote “suburb” in the title of the article and mentions “suburb” in the text. Riverside was indeed a “suburb” whereby the first mention of the word was in the early 14th century compared to American subdivisions first mentioned in or around the 1920’s during the Coolidge Administration.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subdivision_(land)

  3. Dear Randy & readers:

    What’s in a name? “Suburb,” “subdivision,” “historic district,” “neighborhood” – they all have subtly different meanings and are not necessarily interchangeable. Without dispute, Dryborough is older than Riverside. Dryborough was incorporated in 1806 as a separate town and eventually annexed into New Bern in 1859. Riverside was dubbed “New Bern’s first suburb” in 1894 when it was created from farmland, in reflection of the nationwide movement of home building away from the more congested urban environment to the semi-rural suburbs.

    Also without dispute is the responsibility to tell all of New Bern’s stories, not just those that are popular, conventional, or convenient. This is a responsibility the Historical Society embraces. I could recite dozens of African-American programs, articles, and features the Society has produced in just the past couple of years, including, yes, a lunch & learn program on the history of Dryborough. Without dispute, it is all part of New Bern’s story.

    Thanks for letting me take up some of your Sunday evening….

    Mickey Miller, Executive Director
    New Bern Historical Society


  4. Hey Mickey,
    What is your definition of FIRST? My Father was born in 1905. My Mom was born in 1908.
    Can we dubbed Mom was the first born? Like wise, Dryborough was not incorporated. It did nor have a self governing body/officials. Had it been incorporated, it could not have been annexed to New Bern. As Executive Director of the Historical Society, are you also a/an historian?
    Net

  5. When I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox
    and now every time a comment is added I get four emails with the exact
    same comment. Perhaps there is an easy method you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks a lot!

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