North Carolina Architects and Builders - A Biographical Dictionary

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Humphreys, C. Gilbert (1867-1945)

Variant Name(s):
  • C. Gilbert Humphries
Birthplace: London, England
Residences:
  • Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Trades:
  • Architect
NC Work Locations:
  • Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
  • Forsyth
Building Types:
  • Commercial;
  • Educational;
  • Religious;
  • Residential
Styles & Forms:
  • Colonial Revival;
  • Gothic Revival;
  • Neoclassical Revival

Estella Nissen Montague Building [Winston-Salem]

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Estella Nissen Montague Building [Winston-Salem]

Biography

C. Gilbert Humphreys (1867-1945), a native of London, England, worked in New York City before coming to Winston-Salem, N. C, where he established a successful architectural practice in the fast-growing and prosperous industrial town. His expertise in various revival styles appealed to the city's social and business leaders, and his work is especially notable in Winston-Salem's premier early 20th century residential suburbs and churches.

Humphreys is said to have attended Cornell University, then studied art in Paris. He worked in New York City for some 25 years with prominent architects George B. Post and Bradford L. Gilbert. In 1914, he moved to Winston-Salem, a booming industrial city that was the wealthiest city in North Carolina for a time, and which had many prosperous and taste-conscious citizens desirous of fine buildings. Other architects active in the city during his tenure there included Northup and O'Brien, Charles Barton Keen, William Roy Wallace, and Harold Macklin.

In Winston-Salem Humphreys entered into a variety of associations with other architects. In June 1914, the Winston-Salem Journal announced that J. S. Zimmerman (who had planned the North Carolina Building at the Jamestown Exposition, 1907) and C. G. Humphreys had started a partnership in town. Humphreys was identified as an artist who had practiced in New York City as "Humphreys Studios". In 1915, the Ohio Architect, Engineer, and Builder, vol. 25 carried an announcement that C. Gilbert Humphreys of New York and C. R. Faw of Winston-Salem had incorporated as Humphreys and Faw with architectural offices in Winston-Salem's Pilot Theatre Building. (Faw had previously worked with the firm of Northup and O'Brien.) The Manufacturers' Record carried numerous notices of drawings prepared by the firm for proposed buildings. In 1916, Humphreys was the corporation architect for Piedmont Amusement Company, which operated the Pilot, Elmont, and Paramount theatres in Winston-Salem. Although the partnership with Faw continued for several years, Humphreys also advertised regularly on his own with a "card" in the local newspaper, and he also advertised as C. Gilbert Humphreys and Joel R. Hill, "Associate Architects." According to the March 23, 1917 Winston-Salem Journal, Humphreys and Hill remodeled an old shoe factory on 4th Street between Poplar and Spruce Streets into an 80-room apartment building known as the Jefferson Apartments. He also designed a hotel in Wilkesboro. One of Humphreys' most striking buildings is the Estella Nissen Montague Building (1918) at Mars Hill College, an example of expressive stonework using large, irregular local stones fitted to resemble dry-laid work. It was funded in part by a Winston-Salem donor.

The Faw-Humphreys partnership was dissolved in 1918, when Faw became director in the department of mechanical drawing at the local high school (Winston-Salem Journal Nov. 12, 1918). During World War I Humphreys was involved in construction work at Camp Bragg (now Fort Bragg) near Fayetteville (Western Sentinel, Feb. 21, 1919). In about 1924, Humphreys formed an association with French-born architect Joseph Levesque, who had worked in Spokane, Washington, and Great Falls, Montana, before moving to Winston-Salem. Levesque was a manager in Humphreys' firm and designed several Tudor Revival-style houses in Winston-Salem and Lexington, N. C.; he continued in the firm until 1930.

Humphreys' projects in Winston-Salem as reported in various publications also included a hotel for A. H. Galloway (Electrical Record and Buyer's Reference (1919); a Christian Church on the corner of Fourth and Broad Streets (1920); conversion of old Phoenix café into a modern deluxe cafeteria (1921); a graded school in Central Salem (1921); the Southside Baptist Church (1922); a garage for Smoak Motor Company (1922); and the Shenandoah Apartments (1923) and other apartment buildings. He also designed the gardener's and chauffeur's cottages at Reynolda in 1918.

Humphreys was especially well known for his high quality single-family residences. For several years, the Manufacturers' Record frequently cited his firm's designs for 2-story brick residences in Winston-Salem. Much of Humphreys' work appeared in Winston-Salem's prestigious new suburbs at a time when, as the Twin-City Daily Sentinel of May 20, 1922, reported, "The people of Winston-Salem believe in spreading out and finding for themselves comfortable homes with large grounds and ample space in which to enjoy the freedom that the country allows, and at the same time have all the privileges and conveniences of the city." As in other towns and cities, the suburban developments of the 20th century were clearly defined by race and class, and Winston-Salem's wealth produced some of the state's most elegant and spacious suburbs with residences designed by an array of architects.

Humphreys is credited with at least six residences in Winston-Salem's West End neighborhood, the city's initial picturesque suburb, which was developed by local business leaders and served by the streetcar line and then the automobile: the J. J. Gentry House, the Wingate M. and Undine Futrell Johnson House, the Norman Stockton House I, and the Marion C. Thompson House all displaying various renditions of the Colonial Revival style. Others included the shingled Craftsman bungalow for Hanes Hosiery executive James N. Weeks and a stuccoed residence for E. F. Legrand that was featured in Artwork of the Piedmont (1924). In 1920, Humphreys designed apartments on Brookstown Avenue, which have recently been renovated.

Humphreys' work continued in the more spacious automobile-oriented Buena Vista suburb, where several of the residences were like small estates. Notable among these is the William L. and Mary Ferrell House (1920) at 2034 Buena Vista Road at the intersection with Stratford Road, a graceful composition in a Mediterranean inspired mode with an arched loggia above the central entrance porch. In typically boosterish terms, the Twin-City Daily Sentinel of May 20, 1922 highlighted the rapid development of Buena Vista, "one of the most beautiful of Winston-Salem's suburbs," and called attention to four houses then under construction. These included "perhaps the most pretentious of all the homes in Buena Vista," the J. Porter and Lucy Lybrook Stedman House, built by C. A. Herring from plans by Humphreys, a 2-story brick house with three bathrooms, a solarium, and a terraced porch. Humphreys also designed residences on Georgia Avenue and Runnymede Park. Some sources credit to Humphrey some of the large houses on Cascade Avenue, another suburb area encouraged by the streetcar line.

Beyond Winston-Salem, Humphreys is credited with a few buildings and likely designed others. American Architect and Architecture, vol. 113, no. 2203 (1918) reported that Humphreys was the architect for a $35,000 school building to be erected in Sedalia for the Palmer Memorial Institute, of which Charlotte Hawkins Brown is principal." Located near Greensboro, the Institute was a pioneering school for black students created by Brown, a North Carolina native educated in the North. This building has not been identified.

The Winston-Salem Journal of October 20, 1916, carried an announcement of the marriage of Gilbert Humphreys and Ella Gale Morriss in Petersburg, Virginia, on the previous day. The couple was listed in the United States Census in 1920 in Winston-Salem, with Gilbert noted as a native of England who had immigrated in 1881 and was a naturalized citizen. In 1930, Humphreys and his wife, known as Gale, retired to Winter Park, Florida, where he died in 1945. She survived him for many years. Both are interred in Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg, Virginia.

The accompanying building list is selective. More information may be found in Heather Fearnbach, Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage (2015).

Authors: Catherine W. Bishir and Margaret Supplee Smith

Published 2018

Building List

Shenandoah Apartments (Winston-Salem, Forsyth County)

Forsyth Winston-Salem

1923

Contributors:
Dates: 1923
Location: Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
Street Address: 72 West End Blvd., Winston-Salem, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Heather Fearnbach, Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage (2015).
Note:

The Shenandoah Apartments, rendered in an eclectic, somewhat Spanish mode, exemplified an important building type that too seldom survives in North Carolina towns: a stylish and well-appointed small apartment house, here 2 stories tall and arranged for about six families. Providing respectability and density within the context of residential neighborhoods, such multi-unit buildings were erected in many cities across the nation; of those built in North Carolina, only a fraction survive.

William L. and Mary Ferrell House (Winston-Salem, Forsyth County)

Forsyth Winston-Salem

1920

Contributors:
Dates: 1920
Location: Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
Street Address: 2034 Stratford Rd., Winston-Salem, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina (2003).
  • Heather Fearnbach, Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage (2015).
Note:

One of the architectural gems of Winston-Salem's early 20th century residential architects, the graceful composition in a Mediterranean inspired mode features an arched loggia above the central entrance porch.

Wingate M. and Undine Futrell Johnson House (Winston-Salem, Forsyth County)

Forsyth Winston-Salem

1918

Contributors:
Dates: 1918
Location: Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
Street Address: 405 Summit St., Winston-Salem, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Note:

The eclectic wood-shingled residence is among the earliest examples of the Humphreys' houses still standing. After the Johnsons moved to Buena Vista, Mrs. Johnson's sister Louise Futrell established Summit School in this house.

J. Porter and Lucy Lybrook Stedman House (Winston-Salem, Forsyth County)

Forsyth Winston-Salem

1921

Contributors:
Dates: 1921
Location: Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
Street Address: 2034 Buena Vista Rd., Winston-Salem, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Residential
Images Published In:
  • Heather Fearnbach, Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage (2015).
Note:

The large, red brick Colonial Revival residence with robust detailing was built for a niece of R. J. Reynolds whose husband was an R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company officer.

Southside Baptist Church (Winston-Salem, Forsyth County)

Forsyth Winston-Salem

1925

Contributors:
Dates: 1925
Location: Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
Street Address: 401 Sprague St., Winston-Salem, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Religious
Images Published In:
  • Heather Fearnbach, Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage (2015).
Note:

The large brick church in Gothic Revival style features a pair of towers flanking a central gabled entrance front. It is a landmark in the Southside area of the city.

Estella Nissen Montague Building (Winston-Salem, Forsyth County)

Forsyth Winston-Salem

1918

Contributors:
Dates: 1918
Location: Winston-Salem, Forsyth County
Street Address: Mars Hill College Campus, Winston-Salem, NC
Status: Standing
Type:
  • Educational
Note:

The elegantly rustic building, erected as the college library, was funded in part by Col. Henry Montague of Winston-Salem in honor of his wife. The college matched the donation with local volunteer workers and stone hauled from nearby Bailey's Mountain. The stonemasons have not been identified.

Estella Nissen Montague Building

C. Gilbert Humphreys's Work Locations

Bibliography

  • Heather Fearnbach, Winston-Salem's Architectural Heritage (2015).
  • Langdon Edmunds Opperman, "Washington Park Historic District," National Register of Historic Places nomination (1991).

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