Wood Brothers (fl. 1830s-1880s)

Variant Name(s):

John C. Wood; Robert B. Wood

Founded:

Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA

Residences:

  • Wilmington, North Carolina
  • Southport, North Carolina

Trades:

  • Architect
  • Brickmaker
  • Builder
  • Contractor

Styles & Forms:

Gothic Revival; Greek Revival; Italianate; Neoclassical Revival; Queen Anne

John Coffin Wood (September 10, 1809-December 3, 1873) and Robert Barclay Wood (March 31, 1815-March 15, 1890), brothers and brickmasons from Nantucket, were among Wilmington, North Carolina’s leading builders in the 19th century. The Woods came to the city in the late 1830s to build St. James Episcopal Church and spent their lives there, encompassing a wide range of building types and styles and, with builder James F. Post, producing some of the city’s premier examples of the antebellum Italianate and Gothic Revival modes.

John and Robert Wood were born to Jara Bourn and Caroline Matilda Fanning Wood in Nantucket, Massachusetts. Jara Wood was a brickmason, as was his brother Daniel, under whom he apprenticed. John and Robert moved to Wilmington in 1838 and 1839, respectively, as the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was nearing completion. The railroad encouraged Wilmington’s growth into the largest city in the state, and the demand for substantial and fashionable buildings increased with new wealth and population. Although hundreds of men in the building trades came to Wilmington in the mid-19th century, the Woods along with James F. Post and James Walker, were among the few who stayed.

When they arrived in Wilmington, the Wood brothers’ families lived together, a practice common among transplants in new situations. By 1850, the brothers established separate households. For a time, Robert and his wife Mary Ann Wilbur (1815-1888) and their seven children lived in the Carolina Hotel owned and managed by the family. John and his wife Mary Frances Gardner (1814-1891) and their five children lived at another (unknown) location, but by 1853 they were residing in the large and stylish house John built on Market Street, the Wood-McRae House, later known as “The Castle.” Soon after this, Robert and his family moved into a nearby “commodious” house on the corner of 8th and Chestnut streets.

In their adopted city, the Woods participated in civic organizations. John was “captain of the Fire Engine” in 1849, and Robert served as city fire warden from 1847-1852. John belonged to the Cape Fear Lodge #2, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and Robert was a member of St. John’s Lodge #1, A.F. & A.M., from which he received the third degree on February 1, 1842, and for which he held the office of steward in 1843-1844.

In the operation of their building practice, the Woods like other artisans took apprentices to their trade. These included George W. Griffith in 1842; Maurice Parker, who ran away in 1843; F. M. James, a fellow New Englander, in the early 1840s; and E. D. Sidbury in the 1850s. The Woods also employed slaves in their business. The 1840 census recorded nine slaves in the Wood household, some of whom may have been involved in the brothers’ building business. The 1845 and 1846 tax records listed 29 slaves under the Woods’ account, probably including some employed at their brickyard. Apparently the Woods hired rather than owned slaves as well as free workers, as did James F. Post and some other builders. Little is known of the men in the Woods’ work forces, with an exception coming when the free mulatto builder Solomon Nash died after falling from scaffolding on one of Robert Wood’s jobs.

The project that brought the Woods to Wilmington was St. James Episcopal Church (1839-1840). Their uncle, Phineas Wines Fanning, a printer who had come to Wilmington by 1830, probably lobbied for their selection as principal mason (John) and builder (Robert.). The towered, crenellated Gothic Revival church was the first of a series of Wilmington buildings designed by leading national architects—in this case Thomas U. Walter of Philadelphia, best known as designer of the dome and the house and senate chambers of the United States Capitol. Supervising architect was John S. Norris of New York, who designed other Wilmington buildings including the 1843-1847 United States Custom House before becoming a celebrated architect in Savannah.

Like many builders, the Woods struggled to manage the balancing act required to pay workmen and suppliers and get timely payments from clients. Typically contractors such as the Woods (see also Dabney Cosby) had to find the money or credit to pay workmen and purchase materials for a project; only after a substantial amount of work was completed did they receive payment. Sometimes they borrowed the funds, and sometimes their clients paid late or even defaulted. They also had to juggle between not having enough work and having more commitments than they could meet.

In the wake of a downtown fire in January, 1840, when the demand for brick construction mounted, the Woods advertised in the February 7, 1840, Advertiser that as “operative masons” they were “ready to draught for Blocks, Squares, or any description of Buildings, and will contract to any extent either for the Mason Work Alone or for the Entire Work to a complete finish and delivery of furnishing all materials and executing the whole agreeably to the taste or design of the employer.” Shortly after this, John wrote to his mother on March 29, “We are drove to death with work. We are now employing about 40 hands. We have had 6 vessels come to us from N. Y. & Phil. within the last 10 days. We have got a carpenter with whom at present I am much pleased.” But his wife, Mary Frances, noted in the same letter, “what with the scarcity of money to pay hands and the many calls to do work he [Robert] was nearly bewildered.” On July 5, John told his mother, “Money never was scarcer since the world was made.”

With money hard to come by, John went to Fort Caswell to superintend repair work in 1841 because the pay was good. Robert described their situation in a letter to his mother on April 3, 1843:

I have been in hopes to make a turn & get some money & send you, but I assure you it is hard times with us. It is with great difficulty that we can raise money enough to pay the installments on our notes as they come due. . . . We have good prospect ahead. We have property that is worth about ten Thousand Dollars which now pays us one thousand per annum & when we get clear of this Bank debt that is hanging over our heads we shall have something substantial to work on. If the times were good we would sell the property at once, but it is useless to think of it. We should not get half the worth of it. If nothing happens to us we shall walk clear this summer. . . . I am again left alone in town & have all the business to attend to. John is stationed again at Ft. Caswell. He did not like to go down there again, but as we were in a tight place & as the money is sure he thought best to take the chance again.

As Robert mentioned to his mother in the same letter, the Woods hoped to be employed in a prime project, the United States Custom House, but they did not get the job. By early April, 1843, John Norris of New York had been selected as architect, but he was also appointed superintendent (a job usually given to a local man) as well. He was recommended for the second position by his prominent Wilmington friends (including leaders at St. James Church) in a letter of March 28. There were apparently political factors at work, for in 1845, amid complaints that the work under Norris was going too slowly, some thirty Wilmington men identifying themselves as Democrats wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury requesting that “John C. Wood be appointed superintendent in place of Mr. John S. Norris.” The writers stated that Wood was a “sterling democrat, every way qualified” and a Wilmington resident, whereas Norris was a Whig and a New Yorker. They further asserted that Norris’s friends were “the leading whigs of the place, and we believe he is used by them for the purpose of injuring the resident mechanics who are generally democrats.”

Still, the Woods contracted for several substantial projects in the 1840s. In 1842, they built a brick meeting hall for St. John’s Masonic Hall, where Robert was a member of the lodge and his uncle, Phineas Fanning, was an officer and a member of the building committee. In its design, they incorporated Gothic Revival motifs similar to those at St. James, including crenellated parapets and crocketed, pointed arch windows. For the small congregation of St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church, they contracted for the masonry work for $4,450 of a new brick church, and built a Gothic Revival sanctuary that repeated the design of St. James, but without the tower and some of the ornament. The U.S. Catholic Miscellany of June 6, 1845, identified “Mr. Wood” as “the architect”—probably Robert, who was sometimes cited as “architect” by others though he apparently did not claim the title himself. In another major project, the Front Street Methodist Church (1844), the Woods built a large Greek Revival temple form edifice with massive Doric portico. They also accomplished smaller projects, such as building a stone wall on the north and west sides of St. James Church in 1843 and adding an iron railing in 1846, for which they were finally paid in full in 1848.

During the 1840s, the Woods invested in other enterprises to supplement their construction income. If it had to do with brick or stone, the Woods seem to have been involved. They, like many other bricklayers, diversified their interests by manufacturing brick, for use in their projects or for sale. By 1841 they owned a brickyard on Smith’s Creek, about 3 miles from Wilmington, where according to Robert’s son, Thomas Fanning Wood, they employed a “great number of negro men” and had a kiln that could burn around 120,000 bricks. Between 1844 and 1846 they also bought another property on Smith Creek that included the Little Bridge over the creek and the right to collect the tolls, then leased it to a toll keeper as an additional source of income.

When they sold the brickyard in 1857, the property included a “Culbertson and Scott’s dry Clay brick press” and the patent rights to the press. Robert reentered the brickmaking business after the Civil War. By 1884, according to the Star of October 17, 1884, Robert had a brick kiln in Brunswick County, which was on a plantation near the Brunswick River that he acquired in 1876. In 1890, shortly before his death, Robert told his daughter that he was “making additions to my brick works which will require all my time.” When the 1,200-acre plantation was advertised for sale after his death, it included 800 acres “well timbered with yellow Pine” and a brick yard “successfully worked up to the death of the proprietor a few weeks since.” The notice stated, “The brick made at this place have always met with ready sale. Large engine and boiler have recently been added to the outfit and are now ready to be put for work. To competent brick makers this is a [rare] opportunity.”

The Woods also imported and sold building materials and related items. They had one of several antebellum shops that dealt in marble monuments and gravestones, a logical sideline for masons in a city that had no local source of stone. And in 1851, “John and Robert Wood, Contractors and Builders” advertised for sale “500 barrels of lime, Calcined Plaster, Plastering Hair, Fire Brick, Hydraulic Cement.” They also took contracts for street paving: in 1856 they used stone furnished by the city to pave North Water Street for 17 cents per yard, and after the war, Robert paved parts of Chestnut Street in 1874 and 1879 and part of Water Street in 1884.

Like some other builders, the brothers used their skills and probably their workmen and sources of materials to invest in speculative construction (see Dabney Cosby). On March 3, 1841, the Wilmington Weekly Chronicle noted, “a fine brick building intended for a hotel is being put up by John and Robert Wood” on the north side of Market Street, between North Front and North 2nd.” In April they advertised for lease or sale, “a very commodious Hotel to be fitted up in superior style, with generally single lodging rooms… four stories high, of brick.” An 1851 insurance policy described the building as 42 by 45 feet with a 22-foot rear addition, and 25 fireplaces, 6 with coal stoves. But finding no good takers for the building, the brothers and various partners operated it as the Carolina Hotel until 1857. In 1850, Robert was listed in the census as a hotel keeper rather than a builder, and his family of seven plus his cousin, Thomas Fanning (who helped run the hotel) and family, and 28 boarders.

In the early 1850s, Wilmington entered a flurry of construction that kept the brothers busy at their trade. In April 1850 they contracted to build two “beacons at Price’s Creek” in Brunswick County. Especially important, they established a productive relationship with carpenter-builder James F. Post, who came to Wilmington from New Jersey in 1849. Between 1851 and 1854 Post’s ledger recorded an ongoing business relationship with the Woods, in which they took on the work of their respective trades for several important buildings.

Between 1851 and 1853, Post’s ledger showed that the Woods built at least five Italianate residences in Wilmington, for which they served as the contractors and subcontracted the carpentry work to Post. In these handsome and costly masonry dwellings, the Woods and Post established a bold Italianate vocabulary that dominated Wilmington’s residential architecture for years to come. Among these, the 1851Edward Savage House was the first of many Wilmington houses probably inspired by Andrew Jackson Downing’s popular new book, The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Features used repeatedly in the city’s Italianate architecture in the second half of the 19th century reflect designs in Downing’s book, particularly the design for a “Cubical Cottage,” as well as examples in other popular pattern books by Samuel Sloan, Calvert Vaux, and others. These include a low hip roof; wide eaves supported on brackets; canopy porch roof; and scored stuccoed walls. In addition to the Savage House, the other Wood-Post Italianate houses of the period included the Donald McRae House (MacRae-Dix House), the Duncan K. McRae House (MacRae-Willard House), the Zebulon Latimer House, and probably the H. B. Eilers House. Ship cargo manifests for iron delivered to the Woods reveal that the ornamental iron for these houses came from the foundry of Robert Wood (no relation) in Philadelphia.

The Woods’ 1851 contract for the Zebulon Latimer House, the largest and most ornate of their Italianate houses of early 1850s, highlights their building practices. The agreement cited local buildings—perhaps the Woods or Post’s work—as models for certain features, including a veranda and window frames like Dr. Dixon [Dickson]’s, a piazza like Mr. Kidder’s, and inside carpentry like Dr. DeRosset’s house. The brick house was to be stuccoed and jointed to resemble stone, with trim in Connecticut granite or brownstone. The contract for $7,000 encompassed the masonry work, exterior stuccoing, interior plastering, carpenter’s work, painting and tinning of the roof of the house, the “fence walls,” and the privy. Extras for the porch and portico and other items raised the final account of April 23, 1853, to $9,899.54. This included Post’s carpentry bill of about $3,330, which also had extra charges including wooden columns from Philadelphia (which featured the Tower of the Winds order introduced to Wilmington by John Norris at the 1843 United States Custom House). Robert Wood billed $357.13 for the cast iron veranda from ironmaker Robert Wood (no relation) of Philadelphia, and $15 for its freight and carting.

In 1851 the brothers were prospering sufficiently to buy from their uncle, Phineas Fanning, a lot on Market Street between 7th and 8th Streets, which was at the time on the eastern edge of town in an undeveloped area recently incorporated into the city limits. Here John built his most unusual house, called “The Castle,” a massive 3-story brick residence that featured polygonal corner bays and Gothic Revival details including castle-like crenellation along the cornice. In 1854, the Post and Wood triumvirate constructed the New Hanover County Jail on a contract of $1,800, for which Robert drew the plans.

The trio’s relationship continued with the 1855-1858 construction of the city’s chief public building, the combined municipal office and theater facility known as City Hall-Thalian Hall. The monumental edifice was the Woods’ last building project together or with Post. As the grandest building in the antebellum city, it was a fitting climax to their association.

The city had obtained plans for City Hall-Thalian Hall from New York theater architect John Trimble, but the design of the Italianate-Greek Revival edifice continued to evolve on the local scene. Superintending architect was James F. Post, whose duties included furnishing “all the working plans necessary for the due execution of the work.” Mason Joseph Keen (Kean) and carpenter-contractor George W. Rose won the initial contract on September 20, 1855, on a bid of $35,786, but a week later, Keen asked to be relieved of his commitment. John and Robert Wood, masons, and carpenter Rose then secured the contracts on November 1, 1855.

Robert Wood was not only the masonry contractor but also took a key role in the building’s design. The city leaders were not satisfied with the modest portico Trimble had planned for the City Hall main façade. They wanted a more imposing portico to “add elevation and dignity to the principal front” in keeping with the stature of the city. On December 8, 1855, the Town Commissioners authorized for Robert Wood a payment of $40.00 “for drawing plans and specifications for the Town Hall.” The cornerstone, opened in 1983, contained Robert’s only known architectural drawing—a drawing on linen of the profile of the portico, signed “Robert B. Wood 1855.” He repeated the Corinthian order of the Thalian Hall porch, but at a much larger, exaggerated scale. The Woods’ work on the project was completed by 1858.

Even before completing the City Hall-Thalian Hall project, Robert Wood was pursuing other projects. In June 1857 he bid on a major Federal contract for the Marine Hospital to be built in Wilmington. Although his bid failed, his correspondence to the U.S. Treasury Department reveals much about building in Wilmington. In May, 1857, Wood had consulted the Secretary of the Treasury about the materials required. Noting that the specifications called for “the best quality of pressed face brick” he wrote, “Please inform me whether the iron grey bricks proposed will be received. The Baltimore press brick are considered here to be the most beautiful, but I notice those areas in the Custom House, here, and some other work, that they do not stand our climate. The grey brick made here [perhaps by the Woods] are like those made in Savannah and Charleston, only much smoother.” He also noted that the stone for “the steps and sills of the doors and windows must be of the best quality of stone for the purpose, found in the vicinity.” As he informed the Treasury Department, “we have no stone in this vicinity. We import our granite from Boston and brown stone from New York. Connecticut brown stone is generally used here.” His bid of June 13, 1857, for $37,061.31 presented options for iron grey, Baltimore pressed, and Philadelphia bricks. Despite Wood’s glowing recommendations from fellow Wilmingtonians, the contract went to John Walker of Virginia (see James Walker) on a lower bid. Because neither Walker nor the Treasury Department recognized in advance the dearth of local building stone, he had to stop work, return to Virginia and reopen a quarry before he could complete the hospital.

Despite their building activity in the early and mid-1850s, as well as their income from their complementary enterprises, the Woods encountered financial difficulties. Like many property owners of their time, they sometimes mortgaged their property to obtain loans or credit, and they used as collateral the Carolina Hotel, the Smith Creek brickyard, the toll bridge property, and John’s residence, “The Castle.” In 1854, they put all three business properties up as collateral, for reasons as yet unknown, and between 1854 and 1857 they incurred a number of debts.

The Panic of 1857 hit the Woods hard, as it did thousands of other Wilmingtonians and Americans. After months of national financial problems tied to international events, the Panic was touched off on August 24, 1857, with a bank failure in Ohio, and other banks and businesses failed in ensuing months. Many Americans lost their property, unemployment mounted, and recovery was slow to come. For many, including the Woods, the delicate balance of debt and income collapsed. In addition to dissolving their building partnership in that year, in November 1857 they sold the hotel, the brickyard, and the toll bridge property to John McRae, presumably to pay debts. In 1859 John Wood sold “The Castle” on Market Street to Donald McRae (MacRae) for $5000. Other debts of 1854-1857, however, remained unpaid, leaving the Woods in a precarious financial situation.

Robert Wood continued to seek projects, offering his services to the public in 1859 for “Plans, specifications and every other matter connected with the erection of Buildings or Mason Work in general.” But according to his son Thomas, he found “but little business until he was engaged by Maj. W.H.C. Whiting of the U.S. Engineer Corp [in 1859], to build a light house on Hunting Island about 30 miles south of Beaufort, S.C.”

The Civil War brought sweeping change to the city, including a hiatus in non-military construction. John Wood, “a fierce secessionist” despite his New England origins, served the Confederacy from 1862 to 1865, helping to build Fort Fisher’s casemates of palmetto logs. (He also made 12,862 grain bags and 21,731 sand bags and was paid $451.50 for 602 shirts.) Robert had been a firm Unionist, but when war was declared he joined a company of horse-guards for home defense. After illness forced him to resign from active service, he made salt, an essential commodity, for the Confederacy. In 1862, when Robert’s son Thomas visited Wilmington from Richmond, where he was serving in a Confederate hospital and studying medicine, he found “the family on the Sound (Masonboro’s-Fowler’s) where Pa had gone to make salt and where the family took refuge during the yellow fever epidemic which began in Aug. 1862 and continued until Oct. or Nov. of that year.” Later, Robert and his family left the Wilmington area to “refugee” inland in Lumberton, where they purchased property adjacent to a brick yard and stayed for nearly six years.

When the family returned to Wilmington in 1868, Robert filed for bankruptcy because of his inability to pay debts of about $12,100 dating from 1854 to 1857. His creditors included people and firms in Wilmington, New York City, and Philadelphia who were owed money from the firm of J.C and Robert Wood, from Robert himself, and from Robert and his son-in-law, Nathaniel B. Vincent, with whom he had operated the Carolina Hotel for about a year.

John Wood never fully returned to the building business. He served in the 1850s and 1860s as coroner and magistrate for New Hanover County. (In 1856, he was coroner when railroad conductor Charles Baldwin was killed in a rail accident. Baldwin’s death became the basis for the legend of the Maco Light, which says the flickering light is Baldwin waving a lantern looking for his head.) In the early 1870s, John Wood served occasionally as superintendent for construction projects such as work on the river and the bar at Smith’s (Bald Head) Island and the Adrian and Vollers store and warehouse in 1872. John Wood died on December 3, 1873, at the age of 64 and was buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

Robert Wood continued in the building business alone, with one of his largest projects the United States Post Office and Courthouse (1874) at Second and Chestnut Streets, a 2-story edifice 44 by 60 feet, faced with Baltimore pressed brick. In the 1870s and 1880s, he also designed or constructed several commercial and industrial buildings, the largest being a railroad complex in Florence, South Carolina, built in 1876 for the Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta Railroad when it moved from Wilmington. Robert’s last big project, superintending construction of the Queen Anne style Grace Street Methodist Church (1886), recalled an important commission some forty years earlier, when the brothers built the 1844 Front Street Methodist Church. After that building burned in 1886, the congregation left the fire-prone waterfront location and built their new church at the corner of N. Fourth Street and Grace Street. Robert died on March 15, 1890, and was buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

  • Catherine W. Bishir, Charlotte V. Brown, Carl R. Lounsbury, and Ernest H. Wood III, Architects and Builders in North Carolina: A History of the Practice of Building (1990).
  • Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
  • Susan Taylor Block, Along the Cape Fear (1998).
  • Susan Taylor Block, Cape Fear Lost (1999).
  • Brunswick County Records (Deeds), North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Collector of the Customs for the Port of Wilmington, Robert G. Rankin, contract with J.C. and R.B. Wood for building two lighthouses and keepers’ quarters, North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens and Business Firms 1861-1865, M346, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • Contract between J.C. and R.B. Wood and Zebulon Latimer, and Accounting of costs for building Zebulon Latimer House, Ida B. Kellam Archives, Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • Custom House Records, Wilmington, North Carolina, 1843-1844, Records of General Accounting Office, Record Group 217, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, Quarterly Reports, Minutes of Meetings Conferences held at Wilmington, N.C. from the year 1810, Report of the Board of Trustees to 4th Quarterly Meeting (1844).
  • Ann Howell, unpublished research into the ornamental iron trade of Robert Wood of Philadelphia, copies in possession of Janet K. Seapker.
  • Ida B. Kellam and Elizabeth F. McKoy, St. James Church, Wilmington, North Carolina, Historical Records, 1737-1852, mimeographed transcript by Ida B. Kellam (1965).
  • New Hanover County Insurance Policies, 1849-1853, unpublished typescript, North Carolina Room, New Hanover County Library, Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • New Hanover County Records (Deeds, Wills, Taxes, and Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, June 1842), North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Oakdale Cemetery gravestones and burial records, Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • James F. Post Papers, Ida B. Kellam Archives, Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Inc., Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • William Reaves Files, New Hanover County Public Library, Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • Record Group 121, Letters Received 1843-1910, Entry 26, Box 1644, National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  • Sanborn Insurance Maps, Wilmington, 1884-1955.
  • Nicholas W. Schenck Diary, ca. 1905, Special Collections, Randell Library, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Wilmington, North Carolina, transcript at http://library.uncw.edu/web/collections/Schenck/schenckintro.html.
  • Seaboard Air Line Rail Road, Mercantile Industrial Review (ca. 1908).
  • Janet K. Seapker, “James F. Post, Builder-Architect: The Legend and the Ledger,” Lower Cape Fear Historical Society Bulletin (May 1987).
  • Janet K. Seapker, “Wood Works: The Architectural Creations and Personal Histories of John Coffin and Robert Barclay Wood,” Lower Cape Fear Historical Society Bulletin (Dec. 1994).
  • “St. John’s Lodge # 1, Secretary’s Book, December 27, 1841-1843,” 1-40, Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Minutes and Register, 1858-1917, Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • St. Thomas the Apostle Church Records, 1884, St. Mary Roman Catholic Church Archives, Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • Beverly Tetterton, Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten (2005).
  • Merle Underwood, Records of Front Street Methodist Episcopal Church and Grace Methodist Church, 1796-1905, 2, nd.
  • United States Census, New Hanover County, North Carolina, 1840-1880.
  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Record Group 21, Wilmington Term, Bankruptcy Act of 1867, Case # 337, Robert B. Wood, Box 19.
  • A. Jarvis Wood, Jr., “Letters Received by Keziah Coffin Fanning and Caroline Fanning Wood, 1817-1854,” unpublished manuscript, in possession of Janet K. Seapker.
  • A. Jarvis Wood, Jr., “The Ancestry and descendants of Robert Barclay Wood and Mary Ann (Wilbur) Wood, A Short Biography,” unpublished manuscript in possession of Janet K. Seapker (1993).
  • Thomas Fanning Wood, “Some Recollections of His Life,” unpublished memoir, 1914, New Hanover County Public Library, Wilmington, North Carolina.
  • Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).
Sort Building List by:
  • Adrian and Vollers Store Additions and Warehouse

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, superintendents; John C. Wood, superintendent
    Dates:

    1872

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    SE corner of Front St. and Dock St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial


  • Anderson House

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Dates:

    1843

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    W side of Front St. between Princess St. and Chestnut St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Puslished In:

    Diane Cobb Cashman, Cape Fear Adventure (1982).

    Note:

    The Anderson House became part of the Orton Hotel.


  • Brick Building

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, architects; Robert B. Wood, architect
    Dates:

    1874

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    S side of Market St. between Front St. and 2nd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Unknown

    Type:

    Commercial


  • Capt I.B. Grainger House

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1874

    Location:
    Masonboro, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Masonboro Sound, Masonboro Sound, NC

    Status:

    Unknown

    Type:

    Residential


  • Capt. Samuel Potter House

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Dates:

    1843

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    N side of Market St. between Front St. and 2nd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Residential


  • Carolina Hotel

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Dates:

    1841; 1852

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    S side of Market St. near N. 2nd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Images Puslished In:

    Susan Taylor Block, Cape Fear Lost (1999).
    Beverly Tetterton, Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten (2005).

    Note:

    An 1851 insurance policy described the Greek Revival style structure as being “42’ x 45’, with a 22’ rear addition and 25 fireplaces, 6 of which had coal stoves.” Oddly, the Wood brothers were requesting plans and specifications for extension of hotel, so apparently didn’t expect to build it. The Carolina Hotel built by the Woods was later the Bonitz Hotel owned by the Bonitz family (see Henry E. Bonitz, architect).


  • Central Carolina Railroad Office Building

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1890

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    W side of Front St. between Chestnut St. and Grace St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Transportation


  • City Hall-Thalian Hall

    Contributors:
    Henry E. Bonitz, architect (1901; 1904); Robert Finey, brickmason (1855-1858); William Finey, brickmason (1855-1858); Joseph Keen, overseer (1855-1858); James F. Post, supervising architect (1855-1858); Price Family, plasterer (1855-1858); John M. Trimble, architect (1855-1858); James Walker, foreman and general manager (1855-1858); Wood Brothers, builders (1855-1858); John C. Wood, builder (1855-1858); Robert B. Wood, builder (1855-1858)
    Dates:

    1855-1858; 1901; 1904

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    102 N 3rd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Public

    Images Puslished In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).

    Note:

    In 1901 Henry E. Bonitz planned a redecoration of the clerk’s and treasurer’s office, and in 1904 he made major improvements to the theater in Thalian Hall to keep up with changing theater styles, comply with fire and safety regulations, and make repairs. Updated over the years, the imposing building continues as a civic landmark and still serves its original purposes. It has been the scene of many political events and notable theatrical performances.


  • DeRosset Office

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Dates:

    1851

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Commercial


  • DeRosset Stable and Carriage House

    Contributors:
    James F. Post, carpenter; Wood Brothers, masons; John C. Wood, mason; Robert B. Wood, mason
    Dates:

    1854

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    N side Dock St., between 2nd St. and 3rd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Transportation


  • Donald McRae House

    Contributors:
    James F. Post, carpenter; Wood Brothers, masons; John C. Wood, mason; Robert B. Wood, mason
    Variant Name(s):

    MacRae-Dix House

    Dates:

    1851-1852

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    108 South 3rd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Puslished In:

    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).

    Note:

    See unpublished research in author’s possession by Ann Howell into the trade of Robert Wood of Philadelphia Ornamental Ironworks. Her investigation of US Customs records of coastwise shipment revealed that J. C. and R. B. Wood ordered 13 boxes of cast iron in November 1851 and another 13 in June 1852. On the Donald McRae House, they used pattern No. 248 or 218 for the railing and other (undetermined) pattern numbers for the piazza uprights and arches. These patterns were available earlier, but the number was published in the 1858 Wood and Perot catalogue owned by the Boston Public Library.


  • Duncan K. McRae House

    Contributors:
    James F. Post, carpenter; Wood Brothers, masons; John C. Wood, mason; Robert B. Wood, mason
    Variant Name(s):

    MacRae-Willard House

    Dates:

    1851-1852

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    520 Orange St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Puslished In:

    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).

    Note:

    See unpublished research in author’s possession by Ann Howell, into the trade of Robert Wood of Philadelphia Ornamental Ironworks. Her investigation of US Customs records of coastwise shipment revealed that J. C. and R. B. Wood ordered 13 boxes of cast iron in November 1851 and another 13 in June 1852. On the Duncan McRae House, they used pattern No. 56 for the railing and other (undetermined) pattern numbers for the piazza uprights and arches. These patterns were available earlier, but the number was published in the 1858 Wood and Perot catalogue owned by the Boston Public Library.


  • Edward Savage House

    Contributors:
    James F. Post, carpenter; Wood Brothers, masons; John C. Wood, mason; Robert B. Wood, mason
    Dates:

    1851-1852

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    120 South 3rd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Puslished In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).

    Note:

    See unpublished research in author’s possession by Ann Howell into the trade of Robert Wood of Philadelphia Ornamental Ironworks. Her investigation of US Customs records of coastwise shipment revealed that J. C. and R. B. Wood ordered 13 boxes of cast iron in November 1851 and another 13 in June 1852. On the Savage House, they used pattern No.56 for the railing and other (undetermined) pattern numbers for the piazza uprights and arches. These patterns were available earlier, but the number was published in the 1858 Wood and Perot catalogue owned by the Boston Public Library.


  • Fort Anderson

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, superintendents; John C. Wood, superintendent
    Dates:

    1862

    Location:
    Brunswick Town, Brunswick County
    Street Address:

    Fort Anderson, Brunswick, NC

    Status:

    Unknown

    Type:

    Military

    Note:

    The project is noted as paying $105, voucher 19 (M346, Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens and Business Firms 1861-1865, John C. Wood, National Archives, Washington, D.C. [from Footnote.com]). Thomas Wood recalled “building casemates of palmetto logs” in his Recollections, p. 57. The Wood Brothers worked on fortifications, batteries, and the wharf.


  • Fort Caswell

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, superintendents (1841-1843); John C. Wood, superintendent (1841-1843)
    Variant Name(s):

    North Carolina Baptist Assembly

    Dates:

    1826-1833; 1841-1843 [repairs]

    Location:
    Oak Island, Brunswick County
    Street Address:

    Caswell Beach Rd., Oak Island vicinity, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Military

    Images Puslished In:

    Kenny Carter, “Fort Caswell, Confederate fort located in NC,” http://www.pbase.com/sentforth/fort_caswell_confederate_fort_located_in_nc.


  • Fort Fisher

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, superintendents; John C. Wood, superintendent
    Dates:

    ca. 1862-1865

    Location:
    New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Kure Beach, New Hanover, NC

    Status:

    Unknown

    Type:

    Military

    Note:

    See payment of $105, voucher 19; (M346, Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens and Business Firms 1861-1865, John C. Wood, National Archives, Washington, D.C. [from Footnote.com]); “building casemates of palmetto logs; Recollections, p. 57).


  • Front Street Methodist Church

    Contributors:
    James F. Post, builder (1859); Bradford Sherman, builder (1844); Wood Brothers, contractors (1844); John C. Wood, contractor (1844); Robert B. Wood, contractor (1844)
    Dates:

    1844; 1859

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    NE corner of Front St. and Walnut St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Religious

    Images Puslished In:

    Susan Taylor Block, Cape Fear Lost (1999).
    Beverly Tetterton, Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten (2005).

    Note:

    Post’s ledger records “Contract of Building steeple for the M and E Church,” $1,000.


  • Giles and Murchison Building

    Contributors:
    C. B. Morvill, carpenter; C. C. Parker, painter; Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1885

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Princess St. and Water St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial


  • Grace Street Methodist Church

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, superintendents; Robert B. Wood, superintendent
    Dates:

    1886

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    NE corner of 4th St. and Grace St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Religious

    Images Puslished In:

    Susan Taylor Block, Cape Fear Lost (1999).


  • Granite Row

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, principal masons and builders; John C. Wood, principal mason; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Dates:

    1851

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    SE corner of S. Front St. and Bettencourt Alley, Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial


  • H. B. Eilers House

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, attributed builders; John C. Wood, attributed builder; Robert B. Wood, attributed builder
    Dates:

    1852

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    124 S. 5th Ave., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Puslished In:

    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).

    Note:

    See unpublished research in author’s possession by Ann C. Howell, into the trade of Robert Wood of Philadelphia Ornamental Ironworks. Her investigation of US Customs records of coastwise shipment revealed that J. C. and R. B. Wood ordered 13 boxes of cast iron in November 1851 and another 13 in June 1852. On the H. B. Eilers House, they used pattern No. 57 for the fencing, and pattern No. 17 for the piazza uprights, arches, and railing, and another (undetermined) pattern number for the stairs. These patterns of Wood’s ironwork were available earlier, but were published in the 1858 Wood and Perot catalogue owned by the Boston Public Library.The marked iron (Robt. Wood Phila Maker) on the step and the date on the gate of 1852 led to the attribution to J. C. and R. B. Wood as the architect/builders.


  • J. A. Bradley, C. B. Walker and D. B. Baker Stores

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Variant Name(s):

    Bradleys Exchange Corners Exchange Corner

    Dates:

    1846

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    20-26 Market St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Images Puslished In:

    Susan Taylor Block, Along the Cape Fear (1998).

    Note:

    The Richard A. Bradley Store, which the Woods were “now erecting” (Weekly Chronicle, April 8, 1846), was cited in an insurance policy as a 3-story, new brick building, 33’ x 15’. It may have been part or the beginning of Exchange Corner.


  • Meares-Bridgers House

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Dates:

    before 1849

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    416 S. Front St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Note:

    The building was originally located at the SE corner of Front St. and Chestnut St. It was moved to its current location in 1889.


  • New Hanover County Jail

    Contributors:
    James F. Post, carpenter; Wood Brothers, architects and masons; John C. Wood, mason; Robert B. Wood, architect and mason
    Dates:

    1854

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    201 Princess St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Altered

    Type:

    Public


  • Price's Creek Lighthouses

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Dates:

    1851

    Location:
    Southport, Brunswick County
    Street Address:

    Archer-Daniels property near Fort Fisher Ferry Landing, Southport vicinity, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Transportation

    Images Puslished In:

    Lighthousefriends, “Price’s Creek Lighthouse, North Carolina,” http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=351.

    Note:

    The Woods’ agreement with the US Collector of Customs for the Port of Wilmington called for theme to be paid $5660.00. Only remnants of one lighthouse remain.


  • R. R. Bridgers Store

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1876

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    2nd St. near Post Office, Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial


  • Sprunt and Hinson Warehouse

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, architects; Robert B. Wood, architect
    Dates:

    1871

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Nutt St. between Grace St. and Walnut St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Note:

    The warehouse, for which Robert Wood “drew plans,” was “to be constructed of the finest pressed brick, manufactured in this city by the Messrs. Kidder” (Wilmington Star, July 22, 1871).


  • St. James Episcopal Church

    Contributors:
    Christopher H. Dall, principal carpenter (1839-1840); Henry C. Dudley, architect (1871); John S. Norris, supervising architect (1839-1840); Thomas U. Walter, architect (1839-1840); Wood Brothers, brickmasons (1839-1840); John C. Wood, principal brickmason (1839-1840)
    Dates:

    1839-1840; 1871; 1885

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    1 S. 3rd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Religious

    Images Puslished In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
    Frances Benjamin Johnston and Thomas Tileston Waterman, The Early Architecture of North Carolina (1941).
    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).


  • St. James Home

    Contributors:
    J.L. Boatwright; Wood Brothers, superintendents; Robert B. Wood, superintendent
    Dates:

    1875

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Block bounded by Ann St., Orange St., 8th St. and 9th St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Institutional

    Note:

    The Wood Brothers performed repairs on the building.


  • St. John's Masonic Hall

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder; Robert B. Wood, builder
    Dates:

    1841-1842

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    125-127 Market St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Fraternal

    Images Puslished In:

    Beverly Tetterton, Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten (2005).

    Note:

    The masonic hall was altered beyond recognition in a 1913 remodeling. It hosted many illustrious visitors including Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. The hall stood next door to the Wood Brothers’ Carolina Hotel, as illustrated by Beverly Tetterton.


  • St. Thomas the Apostle Roman Catholic Church

    Contributors:
    James F. Post, architect (1884); Wood Brothers, architects and builders (1845-1847); John C. Wood, builder (1845-1847); Robert B. Wood, architect and builder (1845-1847)
    Dates:

    1845-1847; 1884 [addition]

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    208 Dock St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Religious

    Images Puslished In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).

    Note:

    James F. Post designed the 1884 addition.


  • Star Building

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1890

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    N side of Princess St. between Water St. and Front St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial


  • United States Post Office and Courthouse

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1874

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    SW corner of 2nd St. and Chestnut St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Public

    Note:

    The federally sponsored building was “to be surmounted by a tower; of Baltimore pressed brick.” No images of it have been located.


  • Wheeler and Wilson Sewing Machine Agency

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors and architects; Robert B. Wood, contractor and architect
    Dates:

    1875

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    S side of Market between Front St. and 2nd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial


  • Wilmington Compress

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1879

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    NW corner of Nutt St. and Harnett St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Industrial


  • Wilmington and Weldon Railroad Warehouse

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1876

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Nutt St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Transportation


  • Wilmington, Columbia and Augusta Railroad Workshops

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, contractors; Robert B. Wood, contractor
    Dates:

    1876

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    Nutt St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Transportation

    Note:

    The Wood Brothers worked on the main building, round house, car shops, foundry, machine and blacksmith shops.


  • Wood-McRae House

    Contributors:
    Wood Brothers, builders; John C. Wood, builder
    Variant Name(s):

    The Castle

    Dates:

    1853

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    N side of Market St. between 7th St. and 8th St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Puslished In:

    Susan Taylor Block, Cape Fear Lost (1999).
    Beverly Tetterton, Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten (2005).

    Note:

    John C. Wood built the Gothic Revival style brick house as his residence.


  • Zebulon Latimer House

    Contributors:
    James F. Post, carpenter; Wood Brothers, masons; John C. Wood, mason; Robert B. Wood, mason
    Dates:

    1852

    Location:
    Wilmington, New Hanover County
    Street Address:

    126 South 3rd St., Wilmington, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Puslished In:

    Catherine W. Bishir, North Carolina Architecture (1990).
    Catherine W. Bishir and Michael T. Southern, A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Eastern North Carolina (1996).
    Tony P. Wrenn, Wilmington, North Carolina: An Architectural and Historical Portrait (1984).

    Note:

    See unpublished research in author’s possession by Ann Howell, Ph.D., into the trade of Robert Wood of Philadelphia Ornamental Ironworks. Her investigation of US Customs records of coastwise shipment revealed that J. C. and R. B. Wood ordered 13 boxes of cast iron in November 1851 and another 13 in June 1852. On the Latimer House, they used pattern No. 246 for the veranda railing and grapevine uprights and arches, pattern No. 17 and pattern No. 480 for pair of panels beneath rear casement windows. These patterns of Wood’s ironwork were available earlier, but were published in the 1858 Wood and Perot catalogue owned by the Boston Public Library.


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