If you travel down to the north end of Main Street in downtown Smithfield, you’ll end up in the historic Wharf Hill area, and where Wharf Hill Brewing Company now sits.
At the bottom of the hill, the Pagan River flows peacefully by and runs along Commerce Street. Wharf Hill in the 1760s saw steamboats, ham curing, and related trade.
After a fire in 1921, most of the buildings were abandoned and sold. The area became the “Black Business District” and included such businesses as barbershops, funeral homes, restaurants, cleaners, and shoe repair shops, as well as theaters and social clubs.
The Smithfield Elks Lodge #65, was an important African American civic organization located on the strip. The building was constructed in 1905 to house a farm equipment business. Acquired by the Smithfield Elks Lodge soon after the 1921 fire, the building became the center of black commerce during the years of segregation and Jim Crow, serving (among other functions) to secure loans for black entrepreneurs.
After integration, business declined and eventually the Elk’s building came up for sale. In 2011 Lee Duncan purchased and renovated the space, where Wharf Hill Brewing Company now sits.
Duncan’s renovations incorporated all of the original building materials, plus items from other local historic structures. To see a full list of local treasures incooperated into the restaurant, check out: https://www.wharfhillbrewing.com/renovation-history
12”x16” acrylic on canvas.
Framed in a matte black, ready to hang.
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