Hey, Riverside: You’re not New Bern’s oldest suburb

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).

September 1st, 2018 by
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