The ongoing efforts of the Southwest Renewal Foundation and the recent opening of the long-time Winston-Salem music venue, Ziggy’s, have brought attention to High Point’s “West End.” In 2013, UNC Greensboro graduate student Kimberly Mozingo completed a project and exhibit about this once-vibrant neighborhood for the High Point Museum. The exhibit on the rise and decline of the West End revealed the pride of the families who owned businesses there and a determination to restore the neighborhood’s prosperity. Her research on the neighborhood’s history created a permanent display at West End Ministries. In Part Two of a two-part blog, we’ll spotlight efforts to revitalize the West End.
The 1500 block of West English in 1954. The neighborhood mills, Melrose and Glenn, employed over a thousand men and women in the 1950s. These workers patronized the businesses in the West End and many lived on nearby residential streets.
The post-World War II period continued prosperous times for the West End. Apartments, cafes, grocery, drug, and jewelry stores lined the main business block surrounding Melrose Hosiery plant. Heritage and Dallas furniture factories and other manufacturing facilities moved in a few blocks away. In 1947, Gray Engineering, Melrose, and West End merchants donated two lots and playground equipment for a playground on the corner of Phillips and Bradshaw Streets.
Times were changing, however. Many workers at the nearby mills now drove to work from High Point’s growing residential suburbs and shopped at new shopping centers near their homes. Although lauded in the 1930s, later street widening and changing traffic patterns eventually eliminated on-street parking, making doing business on English Street even more difficult. Businesses saw fewer customers, closed, or relocated.
Ernest and Esther Anderson operated Anderson’s Drug Store in the middle of the busy West End neighborhood. They opened a new store at 2401 West English in April 1960 but maintained the 1550 location for some years.
A fire destroyed Ring Drugs and two other stores on April 20, 1961, and Happy’s Sandwich Shop and Basic Furniture were also destroyed by fire in February 1971. Both fires left vacant lots and damaged buildings. Another fire in late 1971 destroyed three more buildings which were never rebuilt. As businesses left and the factories employed fewer people, rundown homes became common in the surrounding neighborhoods. The major loss to the West End occurred when Melrose Hosiery Mills closed on January 22, 1971, removing the main source of income for most businesses.
The High Point Enterprise, January 22, 1971.
The High Point Enterprise, August 15, 1972.
Since 2000, concerned citizens have been working to revive the neighborhood. Pastors Jim Summey, Lee Pollack, and Don Stevenson joined together to form West End Ministries as a way to bring attention to the area and combat crime and poverty. Their efforts were grassroots, and their requests for help found partners including the City Council and law enforcement. By 2008, crime declined by half due to a Community Against Violence program and inventive policing techniques. The community was helping itself by establishing a food pantry, a Boys and Girls Club, and a community center.
Grants from local organizations like the High Point Community Foundation helped develop the West End Community Center in the 900 block of West English. Learn more about West End Ministries: http://wemhp.org/
More recently, attention has turned to the commercial block – the heart of the old West End. Cohab Space, a hub for design professionals, opened in the former Melrose Hosiery building in 2017. And, while the 1500 block streetscape still shows vacant and boarded-up buildings, work is going on all around southwest High Point to make those old spaces inviting to new businesses. Closer to downtown on West English, Congdon Yards opened in the old Adams-Millis factory complex surrounded by the downtown baseball stadium and numerous business and entertainment developments. Legendary Winston-Salem live- music venue, Ziggy’s, announced in early 2022 that it was moving to the Cohab Space campus. In May 2022, the City of High Point purchased a former Harriss & Covington hosiery plant on Oak Street for a future small-scale manufacturing hub.
Southwest Renewal Foundation of High Point has led the way for much of the economic and cultural rebirth. Starting in 2011, the Foundation has successfully brought attention and dollars to the area, focusing on adaptive reuse of the historic industrial buildings, infrastructure development, and economic opportunities. It also works with community and neighborhood groups to increase quality of life, art, and cultural enhancements. The Heritage Greenway, proposed and championed by Southwest Renewal, recently received a $19.8 million federal Rebuilding America Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant—a grant on top of many local and state grants received over the past few years to create greenspaces, biking and pedestrian trails, and greater connectivity for the southwestern quadrant of High Point.
Just like the old streetcar line of a century ago that connected the West End to High Point’s Main Street, the Heritage Greenway will connect residents and workers in the area to downtown High Point. It will also connect the rest of High Point to the business and cultural opportunities underway in this corner of the city. Perhaps soon, the West End will be back on the High Point map as a busy, prosperous commercial district.
Contributed by Marian Inabinett, Curator of Collections at the High Point Museum. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.