Wendover Avenue

ROAD HAS LONG, WINDING PAST

Greensboro News & Record- Sunday, November 13, 1994
Author/Byline:MIKE FOLEY Staff Writer
Edition:ALL
Section:GENERAL NEWS
Page:A1
From a trail known as Dun Settlement Road to a paved corridor with car dealerships and traffic jams,Wendover Avenue's history reflects the history of Guilford County.

The road is more than two decades older than the United States.

Its name has changed more than a half-dozen times.

It began as a rutted wagon trail, evolved into a soft-dirt country road and then a hard-packed red clay road. It was finally paved.

Still, it retained its rural nature as its two lanes slashed through farms and multi-acre homesteads, past the sites of all-but-forgotten grain mills and Confederate gun shops strung along the banks of the Deep River before crossing into the heart of Greensboro and Guilford County.

Today it's arguably the county's fastest-growing commercial and residential corridor and it's poised to become a high-speed link between High Point and Greensboro - as soon as widening and otherconstructionis complete on its western end in June 1996. It'sWendover Avenue.

The road, or a portion of it, was created as Dun Settlement Road on Sept. 21, 1753, at a meeting of the Rowan County Court. The road was designated by the court - the forerunners of today's county commissioners - before Guilford County was split into existence from Rowan and Orange counties in 1771.

The road would start at Dun Settlement north of current-day Greensboro, then travel to Peter King's mill near current-day Summerfield and on south to the Rowan County Courthouse in Salisbury.

Records, and obviously recollections, of the road fade until the early 20th century. Maps of the 1800s show the road, but don't label it.

It reappears on maps in the early 1900s, when it is noted as Pomona Road. It then alternately became known as - depending on which map you read or who you talk to - Deep River Church Road, Red Road, Old Pomona Road, Clifton Road and several state secondary road and U.S. highway numbers.

Its current moniker was designated Jan. 20, 1971, when the Greensboro City Council - after a nearly $100 million widening and straightening project in the late 1960s and early 1970s - named the section of road under its jurisdictionWendover Avenue. The rest of the county soon followed Greensboro's lead.

DUN SETTLEMENT ROAD

A Guilford County map created by historian Fred Hughes in 1980 portrays land holdings, trails, paths and roads, as well as historic occurrences of the county in the mid to late 1700s. The map shows Dun Settlement Road stretching from Deep River Meeting in High Point east toward present-day Greensboro.

But Jack Perdue, former chairman of the Guilford County Joint Historic PropertiesCommission, doesn't think the road traveled a direct east-west route.

Still, Perdue said a road did travel - indirectly - along a route similar to the current Wendover as it linked the heavily developed stretch of Deep River where grain mills and gun shops proliferated along the water source.

"That roadbed probably doesn't exactly follow present-day Wendover. The old road (from Deep River Friends Meeting) ran up Hickory Grove Road to Guilford College Road and Sapp Road," Perdue said. "It was likely straightened out during this century."

Perdue, a real estate appraiser, has spent years researching and physically searching for clues to Guilford's history. He said many roads never had names, or were known by various names.

"In the old days, out in the country, they didn't have formal names for roads," Perdue said. "Or if they did, the Jones would call a road Jones Road and the Smiths, who lived on the same road, would call it Smith Road. There was no uniformity or agreement."

DEEP RIVER CHURCH ROAD

The Quaker settlement established its Deep River Friends Meeting in 1754, and the road, which ran to the church from the east and then forked south as well as continuing west, became associated with it.

The name that appears on numerous maps of the mid- to late 20th century - Deep River Church Road - is a misnomer since Quakers don't use the label "church." Whether the road was ever known as Deep River Friends Meeting Road has been lost over time.

Still, the road name persisted, much as Deep River Friends Meeting has over part of three centuries. The name appears on maps as late as 1978, a full seven years after the road's name was officially changed toWendover Avenue.

POMONA ROAD/OLD POMONA ROAD

The Pomona Community, in what is now southwest Greensboro, was centered around the Pomona Mill and the Pomona Terra Cotta and Pipe plant. The community had a strong sense of identity and is even labeled as a town on several maps dating to the1950s.

Perdue said many roads got their names as designation between two points of interest. Thus, Pomona Road was likely labeled such because it connected the community to Greensboro and High Point.

"If a road went to Salisbury, it was called Salisbury Road, and then when a better road was built, the old one was known as Old Salisbury Road and the new one as Salisbury Road," Perdue said.

RED ROAD

Current residents along WestWendover Avenuenorth of High Point readily recall Red Road, even though the red clay road has been paved, and therefore black, for at least three decades.

B.A. Dameron and his wife, Thelma, bought their house and land at the corner of Wendover and Hickory Grove Road 29 years ago. The house's deed lists its address as Red Road.

But for many years, Thelma says the family was on a rural post office route - Route 11. That was how mail was addressed and that was what many people called the road.

The Damerons say the rural location was a good place to raise their two children.

"The children would go up to the corner (Wendover and Hickory Grove) and literally count the cars that passed," Thelma said. "And there weren't many."

When the Damerons bought their home, it was surrounded by farms and pasture land on the north side of Wendover and the Boy Scouts' expansive Camp Uwharrie on the south.

"We could hear them at night, blowing their trumpets," B.A. Dameron said about the scouts.

Now, the sounds the Damerons are likely to hear are motorists blowing horns in frustration at the constant stop-and-go traffic.

"We don't even try and get on Wendover," B.A. said. "Luckily we can use Hickory Grove and travel that way. I've spent 15 minutes trying to get out of my driveway onto Wendover."

Even though the section ofWendover Avenuebetween Guilford College and Penny roads is being widened from two to four lanes, many road residents don't think that's enough.

"By the time they're done with it, it'll be obsolete," says Carl Swiggett, who has lived along the road for 32 years.

Except for a stint in the Navy, Swiggett, 68, has lived his whole life along the road. His family lived in a house on Clifton Road in Greensboro when he was growing up and he later bought about four acres of land along Red Road in High Point in the late1950s. Today, Swiggett has about three acres of land left as roadconstructionalongWendover Avenuehas slowly eaten away his homestead.

Swiggett and wife raised a son and daughter in their snug brick home just west of the Wendover and Guilford College Road

intersection.

He can readily reel off the names of neighbors, both current and long gone, along the road he describes as once being a "quiet country road." Now traffic constantly drones past his home, and his nearest neighbor is a Citgo service station.

"You could sit out here on a weekend and not hardly see a car pass all day," Swiggett said. "Now, from about 8 to 5 it's always rush hour."

CLIFTON ROAD

Records at the city of Greensboro are exact for the date whenWendover Avenuetook on its current name through the entire route: Jan. 20, 1971.

That was the death knell for most of Clifton Road. The name change occurred from Wendover's current intersection with Clifton and proceeded west to the city limits.

About a half-mile of Clifton still exists. The two-lane remnant parallels the currentWendover Avenuefrom its intersection with Wendover on the west and continues east to an abrupt end on Merritt Drive at Cotton Mill Square shopping center.

While the city can trace the origin of Wendover at that spot, the origin of the Clifton Road name is unclear. There's even some confusion over whether it was official.

A newspaper story about the grand opening of the widenedWendover Avenuein early 1971 detailed an exchange between city officials and the governor. The officials took the governor to task for allowing signs along I-40 to still designate the exit at Wendover as "Red Road."

WENDOVER AVENUE

Car dealer Dean Green began buying land alongWendover Avenuein 1972. He opened his Ford dealership the next year, before the road was paved.

Over the years, numerous car dealers followed his lead and the stretch of road on the western edge of Greensboro is known to some as the million-dollar mile. That nickname stems from the

now-understated value of the vehicles along Wendover. But it also aptly describes land values.

In 1972, Green bought 33 acres as a home to Green Ford for $6,600 an acre. Now Green owns 100 acres, and recent nearby land sales indicate land fronting Wendover is worth more than $500,000 an acre.

While Green pioneered the parade of auto dealers to the area, he wouldn't be anywhere else today.

"Location for us is everything," Green said. "If you're in the car business in Greensboro, you have to be on Wendover."

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