Pavie, Edward M. (1837-1891)
Edward M. Pavie (1837-August 11, 1891), was a New Bern carpenter-builder and contractor active in the years after the Civil War. Born in New York, he came to New Bern during the Union occupation and soon established a large building business in which he employed a large number of black artisans. Able to form working relationships with all components of the population, he became a successful and respected member of a community filled with newly freed people of color, longtime white residents, and newcomers from other states and countries.
According to a long article about him in New Bern Daily Journal of August 12, 1891, Pavie “came to New Berne in Quartermaster’s Department of the Federal army in 1862, and made the city his home from that time.” Immediately after the war, the article said, he served on the city council, “he and one New Bernian being the only Democratic members of the board at that time.” In this highly contentious period in the town’s politics, Pavie’s identification as a Democrat indicates that he formed connections with the local white establishment. He did not engage in political affairs after this, however, “but allied himself with the industrial interests of the city.”
As an “architect and builder,” promptly after the war Pavie formed a partnership with builder Frederick Lane, a New Bern native and one of three builder sons of the town’s leading antebellum builder, Hardy B. Lane, Sr. Frederick’s younger brother, John, later became one of the leading builders in town. The Lane partnership, indicative of Pavie’s connections with established New Bernians, probably aided the development and acceptance of his business. The partnership lasted until Frederick Lane’s death in 1868 at age 44. Pavie continued the business for the rest of his life, becoming “one of the best known contractors in the city.”
With his business established, by 1870 Pavie was well placed to serve a community beginning its recovery after the Civil War. Building was slow in New Bern for a few years after the war, but in the 1870s and 1880s, construction soared with population growth and increasing prosperity among merchants, manufacturers, and lumber mill owners. According to Peter B. Sandbeck in The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina, these decades brought a building boom which “far exceeded the city’s previous great boom of the early Federal period.” Established builders struggled to meet the demand for construction, and new builders were attracted to the town.
In the 1870 census, Pavie was listed as a native of New York, aged 32, with his wife, Emma B., 29, also of New York (who died in 1873), and he owned $1,300 in real estate and $3,000 in personal estate. His operation was by far the largest of the two carpenters and builders listed in New Bern in the 1870 United States Census; in that year he employed some twenty hands and constructed twenty-five buildings. By 1880, after a decade of growing construction in town, the census showed him with the second largest of five major local contractors, with eight to twelve workers. A cheery editorial in the New Bern Daily Journal of July 15, 1882, found “The prospect for the erection of new buildings in the city for the next year . . . very flattering,” and cited among the leading builders E. M. Pavie as a contractor and builder who “keeps several hands employed.”
Especially notable is Pavie’s relationship with black workers in New Bern. Many builders employed black artisans, to be sure, but it appears that most of these hired workmen on a job by job basis. So, too, most building artisans reported that they worked for themselves or for a family member and presumably had various employers and clients. Yet an unusual number of black building tradesmen reported that they worked for Pavie, suggesting that Pavie employed these men on a long-term basis, rather than job by job. Such an arrangement enabled Pavie to have a ready work force of trusted and competent employees he could assign to projects as needed; and for at least some of his employees it provided a relatively steady source of work for a reliable employer. In their applications to the Freedmen’s Bank, those who cited him as employer included house carpenter William Rue in 1870, carpenter Simon Croom in 1871, mason John Smith in 1872, and carpenter James Weston (brother of Simon Croom) in 1873. Even more striking, in the city directory of 1880-1881—where most black carpenters and masons were listed as working for themselves—of those few who identified an employer, all nine said they worked for E. M. Pavie. These men included carpenters William Barrum, Archie Blunt, Charles Disbrew, Abram Dudley, William James, Abe Jones, Henry J. Long, James West (Weston?), and Charles Whitfield. (Other large employers of black workers included a local wooden plate factory and the sash and blind factory of George Bishop.) In addition to employing black artisans, in the late 1880s, Pavie developed a small suburb of rental properties called “Pavie Town” in the city’s predominantly black section north of Cedar and west of West Street, and rented houses to many black families.
Given the scale of his business, relatively few projects are documented as Pavie’s. His first documented jobs date from 1869: he completed work on the J. E. Nash Store in September; and by November he had begun the Sebastian Bangert Market House for the 60-year-old baker from Baden, Germany, adjoining his bakery on Middle Street. He also contracted with George Claypool to build a large 2-story house on his marble works lot. In 1871 Pavie erected a major downtown commercial building, the Baer and Eppler Building for the prosperous German-born dry goods merchants whose earlier store had operated at (old) 42 Pollock Street by 1867. According to the New Bern Times of June 15, 1871, Pavie’s carpenters did all the woodwork, and the masonry work was completed by June, 1871. Two months later, “the energetic Pavie” agreed to build a saloon and dwelling on Middle Street for Mr. F. Ulrich—another German immigrant—on the site of William Dunn’s house, which had burned. At the same time, he received a commission to design a stylish house for William Dunn, also on Middle Street. Described in the New Bern Times of August 29, 1871, as a mansard-roofed cottage, this was evidently the first example in town of the fashionable Second Empire style. Whether Pavie also built any of the other examples of that style in New Bern—now mostly lost—is unknown. To keep business going, he published an advertisement in the New Bern Times of June 10, 1872, and other editions, offering “All kinds of carpenter work done at the lowest Cash Price. Contracts made and guaranteed.” At that time his office was located on Middle Street near Broad, a prime location.
A prominent project came in 1873, when Pavie glazed (without charge) the “magnificent church windows” of stained glass at the newly rebuilt Christ Episcopal Church at 320 Pollock Street (see Hardy B. Lane, Sr.). The early 19th century church had suffered from a fire in 1871, and the church was rebuilt within the old walls with redesigned upper stories. Whether Pavie was involved further in the church rebuilding is not known. Also in 1873 he erected the frame of the T. H. Huddleston Office Building on Pollock Street, which was soon occupied by Dr. D. E. Everett, a dentist, and Dr. George S. Attmore. Doubtless other projects followed during the ensuing years. One of the few documented late works came in 1889, when he billed John N. Whitford for a minor job in October—$9.95 for twenty-seven hours of work and supplied a door, frame, and hardware for an unidentified building—and another small job in December for $34.95. His last documented project was the interior remodeling of the old George Allen and Company store on Pollock Street for the firm of Hackburn and Willett, a project he had just begun when he died in August, 1891.
In his adopted city, Pavie participated in various civic affairs. In 1874, for example, he was among a number of prominent local men who formed the “honorary committee” hosting a ball in honor of the Elm City Ball Club. He was also active as a fireman, having served as a member of the New York volunteer fire department and for twenty-six years in New Bern as a member of the New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company. For several years he was elected chief of the New Bern Fire Department. In that capacity, in 1890, he led a group of “visiting firemen” to participate in the procession for the unveiling of the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia. After his unexpected death on August 11, 1891, Pavie was lauded in the newspapers, and the city council ordered the city bell to be tolled throughout his funeral service, which that group attended en masse.
Despite his importance in his day, none of the small body of documented work by Pavie is known to survive—with the exception of the stained glass windows he glazed at Christ Church. Many of his buildings were located on Broad and Middle Streets, in blocks that were largely rebuilt in the 20th century. Moreover, as in many communities, the works of major builders of the late 19th century suffered especially from losses because of changing tastes and changing uses in the 20th century. Still, given the scale of his building operations, unidentified examples of Pavie’s work probably still stand among the surviving late 19th century buildings in New Bern.
- Lynda Vestal Herzog, “The Early Architecture of New Bern, 1750-1850,” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California (1977).
- New Bern Daily Journal, Aug. 11, 1891; Aug. 12, 1891.
- New Bern Republic and Courier, Nov. 22, 1873.
- New Bern Times, Mar. 5, 1867; Sept. 12, 1869; Nov. 14, 1869; June 15, 1871; Aug. 29, 1871; Jan. 10, 1873; Oct. 24, 1873; Nov. 23, 1873.
- Edward M. Pavie, Invoices for John Whitford, Oct. 7, Dec. 16, 1889, John Whitford Papers, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
- Lavinia Cole Roberts, “New Berne Within the Memory of the Oldest Inhabitants, 1830-1860,” n. d., private collection, descendants of Mrs. L. C. Roberts, New Bern, North Carolina.
- Peter B. Sandbeck, The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina (1988).
- Dates:1891Location:New Bern, Craven CountyStreet Address:309 Pollock St., New Bern, NCStatus:AlteredType:CommercialNote:According to the New Bern Daily Journal of August 11, 1891, at the time of his death, Pavie had begun an interior remodeling of George Allen and Company's store for the firm of Hackburn and Willett. As Peter Sandbeck notes, that store was built about 1865-1870, and after Allen's death was occupied by the hardware and general merchandise firm of Hackburn and Willett. It still stands, though it was much altered in the mid-20th century. The 3-story Italianate storefront of ca. 1870 is pictured by Sandbeck (New Bern and Craven County, p. 188); the newspaper of August 11, 1891, described the planned interior renovations in detail, but that was the day Pavie died. Whether the project was completed to his designs or whether any of that phase survives is unknown.
- Dates:1871Location:New Bern, Craven CountyStreet Address:Middle St. just N. of Broad St., New Bern, NCStatus:No longer standingType:ResidentialNote:According to Peter B. Sandbeck in The Historic Architecture of New Bern and Craven County, North Carolina, the house built by Pavie for Dunn was the first Second Empire style house in New Bern.