Then & Now: Historic Washington Street’s Time Capsule

When it comes to Black History in High Point, Black entrepreneurs, leaders, and teachers laid a path for growth in our city – both for Black citizens and for High Point as a whole. The recorded history about these former citizens is largely thanks to the work of the High Point Historical Society and Glenn Chavis, a longtime High Pointer and local historian. If you haven’t read our article on Glenn Chavis and his beloved walking tours of historic Washington Street, click here to read his story of how he took matters into his own hands to preserve and honor High Point’s Black History. 

But in the years since Glenn Chavis discovered the lack of documentation around High Point’s rich and vibrant Black history and the contributions of Black citizens over the decades in our city, there has been a resurgence of discovering the deep history that runs through Washington Street. Today we are sharing some of the photos from High Point’s time capsule (thanks to the High Point Historical Society), as well as some photos that connect to the current efforts and work happening on Washington Street today!  

First Baptist Church & Mt. Zion Baptist Church

First Baptist Church on Washington Street stood from 1907 to 2015. While the building has since been demolished due to structural damage, its legacy lives on.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church stands in the last remaining original church building on Washington Street, led by Reverand Dr. Frank Thomas. The church, organized in 1982 by the Rev. Emmanuel T. Rucker, was built on the desire to serve the community, and Dr. Thomas says that even before the building became Mt. Zion Baptist Church, spiritual leaders laid the foundation for the ministries taking place on Washington Street today.

The famous Kilby Hotel & Arcade has long since lived in the lore surrounding High Point’s deep Black history. We shared its roots of hospitality and hosting guests from around the country when we spoke with the founders’ great-great-great-granddaughter, Myra Williams. (You can read the story here.)

Today, the legacy of entertaining and gathering is continued by the descendants of Jackie Haizlip, another Washington Street matriarch, at the venue, Jackie’s Place. (You can read that story here.)

Ramsey Drug Store & Becky’s and Mary’s

Many dining establishments lined Washington Street for decades – including soda shops, ice cream parlors, restaurants, and more! Ramsey Drug Store was photographed in 1915, showcasing High Pointers of the past enjoying a stop at the store.

Today, Becky’s & Mary’s stands as a beloved High Point restaurant on Washington Street. Serving up daily specials of fried chicken, meatloaf, fried fish, greens, mac ‘n’ cheese, and more, the owners of this longstanding High Point spot continue to legacy of delicious food served on Washington Street!

High Point Normal and Industrial School & Penn Griffin School of the Arts

Washington Street was home to High Point Normal and Industrial School, founded by the Quakers in the 1890s. Years later, the school became William Penn High School, and eventually, Penn Griffin School of the Arts, named for the first Black principal at the Normal and Industrial School, Alfred J. Griffin (pictured in the center below).

Today, Penn Griffin is one of the top 10 magnet schools in the state and leads High Point students in academics and arts. Offering specialty electives in eight art disciplines – orchestra, band, chorus, classical guitar, piano, dance, theatre, and visual arts – Penn Griffin continues to raise up strong, artistic minds in High Point on Washington Street.

Downtown Businesses & D-UP

The streets of Washington Street used to bustle with a variety of businesses and industries – from insurance to banking, to law, to dental practices, to physicians’ offices, to hair salons, to tailors and dressmakers.

Today, D-UP, a High Point-based non-profit located on Washington Street, continues to mentor and develop young minds through nutrition and fitness classes, SAT-prep and after-school tutoring, trade and skills classes, and more. Their goal is to raise up a new generation of well-rounded citizens to continue the legacy of Washington Street. (You can read their story here.)

With each glimpse of High Point’s history, we gain a better understanding of our present and our future. It is those who went before us who were some of the first discoverers of our city, that give us the foundation to create and discover more good today!

Discover our High Points, 

The HPD Team

Historic Images Courtesy of the High Point Historical Society

Modern-Day Photography by Maria West Photography

Photo of Penn Griffin School of the Arts by Alicia Schwanke