Boykin, A. L. (1872-1943)

Variant Name(s):

Arnold Lincoln Boykin; A. Lincoln Boykin; “Link” Boykin

Birthplace:

Sampson County, NC

Residences:

  • Sanford, Lee County, NC

Trades:

  • Builder
  • Contractor

Styles & Forms:

Colonial Revival; Tudor Revival; Craftsman

A. L. or Arnold Lincoln (“Link”) Boykin (September 14, 1872-March 31, 1943), an African-American native of Sampson County, moved to Sanford as a young man and became one of the community’s leading builders in a career that extended from the 1890s into the 1930s and encompassed a wide range of building types in Sanford and beyond. One of numerous black builders who translated his artisan and personal skills into a contracting business, he is considered one of Sanford’s most prolific builders and its leading African-American businessman of the early twentieth century. This account comes primarily from J. Daniel Pezzoni, The History and Architecture of Lee County, North Carolina (1995), supplemented by information provided by Greg Stoch of Sanford (email, January 25, 2019).

Boykin was the son of Arnold and Elyza Boykins (Boykin) of Sampson County. In his youth he found employment constructing Seaboard Air Line railroad facilities and lived for a time in the Moore County town of Cameron. By 1895 he moved to the burgeoning railroad town of Sanford in present Lee County (then in Moore County), where he purchased a lot beside the railroad line south of the downtown. In 1895, too, he wed Lula T. McIver of Jonesboro, N. C. (marriage bond; also identified as Leila Street, son A. Lincoln Boykin’s death certificate).

Boykin’s residency in Sanford corresponded with a period of growth in both industry and transportation, including railroads in the late 19th and early 20th century and construction of national highway U. S. 1 through the town and county in the 1920s.

Boykin formed an association with (white) developer John D. McIver, who employed him for several projects, probably including speculative housing in Sanford’s African-American neighborhoods. By 1910 Boykin had joined with John Toomer, a fellow African-American, in the firm of Boykin and Toomer, which advertised in the Feb. 25, 1910, issue of the Sanford Express as “contractors and builders.” The United States census of 1910 listed Boykin as a mulatto carpenter born about 1872, a homeowner, and a head of household living in West Sanford on Blue Field Street with his wife Lula and their children Hattie and Edward (Arnold Edward, 1900-1966). Diversifying his interests, Boykin joined with two other local men to found the Phillips-Boykin Drug Company in the 1910s, which was located at the corner of Pearl and South Moore streets; by this time Pearl Street had become the commercial and institutional center of Sanford’s African-American community. By 1930, the census listed A. Lincoln Boykin and his wife Leila residing on Wall Street in West Sanford, with their grown children living with them. A. Lincoln Boykin was listed as a contractor and son Arnold E. as a carpenter.

A. L. Boykin (sometimes with Toomer and with a growing cadre of employees) constructed or executed the carpentry work on a substantial number of buildings in Sanford. In addition to his son, he reportedly employed as many as fifty carpenters and brick masons, of whom the Goldston brothers, Coley Hooker, A. E. Quick, Henry Robinson, and Guilford Smith have been identified.

Some of Boykin’s building projects were for African-American individuals or institutions, such as the Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Parsonage (1912) and Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Church (1923-1924)—his home church. In 1927 he built the W. B. Wicker School , a one-story brick facility originally known as the Lee County Training School, which was designed by architect Herbert B. Hunter and had financial support from the Rosenwald Fund and assistance from prominent local architect L. M. Thompson. It was named for longtime principal W. B. Wicker in 1954. Boykin also built his own family residence, which like several other prominent African American buildings, stood on Wall Street.

Boykin also built many houses for Sanford’s white residents. These include several in the Rosemount and McIver Park neighborhoods in the 1920s such as the Heins House and the Isaacson House, He built the 2-story weather-boarded and wood-shingled S. L. Long House in 1924 at 220 N. Gulf Street for a railroad engineer and the nearly identical James A. and Susie B. Overton House at 323 N. Vance Street in the same year. Directly reflecting the importance of travel to and through Sanford was Mediterranean-influenced brick tourist home he built for Ida Coulter at 503 Sunset Drive about 1926.

Boykin was also evidently involved in the construction of such major projects as the Planters Tobacco Warehouse (1925, no longer standing) and the Sanford Post Office (1936-1937), the latter a Federally funded project that employed many workmen.

In about 1930 A. L.’s son Arnold Edward Boykin joined his father in the business. Arnold Edward had studied in the architectural engineering program at MIT in the 1920s and brought new expertise to the firm. The younger man operated the firm for several more years.

Beyond Sanford, Boykin and especially A. L. Boykin and Son reportedly erected residences and commercial buildings in Chatham, Cumberland, Durham, and Harnett counties. Of these, the Regal Theater in Durham is well known, and others may be identified with further research.

On October 23, 1931, The Pilot newspaper of Vass, N. C., carried a detailed and laudatory account of A. L. Boykin and Son’s efficient operation on a “New Colored School Building” in Pinehurst by “Colored Contractors Doing Good Work with Men of Own Race Exclusively.” Boykin’s son was “the man on top of the wall hustling roof timber to the top of the structure.” There was a sign posted saying, “Do not talk to the workmen.” The firm had been the low bidder, and the job appeared to be well done and likely to come in under the bid. “Considerable comment is heard concerning this job, for it is no doubt the most ambitious that has been undertaken in this section by exclusively colored labor.” “Every man on the job was moving, and it is doubtful if any job in this section has been carried on with less lost motion, less time for aimless talk, or less time to turn around.” The writer predicted that “if it is carried through with the efficiency that it seems, apparently the new school house will be something of a monumental [sic] evidence of the [progress] colored folks are making in the Sandhills.” http://newspapers.digitalnc.org/lccn/sn92073968/1931-10-23/ed-1/seq-4/ocr/

After his death at age 70, Arnold Lincoln Boykin was buried at the Star of Hope Baptist Cemetery in Sanford. In 2016 (see Sanford Herald, April 1, 2016), the third of several downtown Sanford murals of important local figures and events was completed. It depicts prominent black educator W. B. Wicker and Arnold Lincoln Boykin.

  • J. Daniel Pezzoni, _The History and Architecture of Lee County, North Carolina_ (1995)
Sort Building List by:
  • A. L. Boykin House

    Contributors:
    A. L. Boykin, builder
    Dates:

    ca. 1925

    Location:
    Sanford, Lee County
    Street Address:

    Street Address 705 Wall St. Sanford, NC 27330

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    J. Daniel Pezzoni
    The History and Architecture of Lee County
    North Carolina
    (1995)

    Note:

    Note: A. L. Boykin began purchasing lots on Wall St. about 1910. He built this substantial 2-story frame house for his wife and family about 1925; it displays a blend of the Craftsman and Prairie styles. Boykin’s son, A. E. (Arnold Edward) Boykin, who had recently completed 3 years of architectural study at MIT, may have participated in the design. A. E. later joined his father’s building business. A. L. and his family had previously resided in a 1-story frame house at the corner of Pearl and South Moore streets


  • Coulter-Lano House

    Contributors:
    A. L. Boykin, builder
    Dates:

    ca.1926

    Location:
    Sanford, Lee County
    Street Address:

    503 Sunset Dr. Sanford NC 27330

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Commercial
    Residential

    Images Published In:

    J. Daniel Pezzoni
    The History and Architecture of Lee County
    North Carolina
    (1995)

    Note:

    The Mediterranean–or Florida?–style house was built for Ida Coulter as a tourist home. Its style may have been chosen to suggest to travelers the possible destinations on the north-south “National Highway” (US 1) that ran through Sanford.


  • Edward and Ethel Heins House

    Contributors:
    A. L. Boykin, builder
    Dates:

    1928-1929

    Location:
    Sanford, Lee County
    Street Address:

    410 N. Gulf St. Sanford, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    J. Daniel Pezzoni
    The History and Architecture of Lee County
    North Carolina
    (1995)

    Note:

    The Heins House is one of several Tudor Revival houses credited to Thompson and Boykin.


  • Fair Promise A. M. E. Zion Church

    Contributors:
    A. L. Boykin, builder; Benjamin D. and Max Charles Price, mail-order architects
    Dates:

    1926

    Location:
    Sanford, Lee County
    Street Address:

    712 Wall St. Sanford, NC 27330

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Religious

    Images Published In:

    J. Daniel Pezzoni
    The History and Architecture of Lee County
    North Carolina
    (1995)

    Note:

    The imposing brick church with corner entrance tower was modeled on a design published by Philadelphia church architects Benjamin D. and Max Charles Price; that firm also designed other churches in North Carolina, and an account of them is forthcoming. Boykin, a member of the congregation, was the contractor, and the workforce included carpenter Daniel White and brickmasons Daniel and Houston Goldston and the Hooker brothers. The congregation is among the oldest in Sanford, and its original church building is cited as the first built downtown.


  • James and Susie B. Overton House

    Contributors:
    A. L. Boykin, builder
    Dates:

    1924

    Location:
    Sanford, Lee County
    Street Address:

    323 N. Vance St. Sanford, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    J. Daniel Pezzoni
    The History and Architecture of Lee County
    North Carolina
    (1995)

    Note:

    The substantial residence was built for Boykin and his family.


  • Regal Theater

    Contributors:
    A. L. Boykin, builder
    Dates:

    1930s

    Location:
    Durham, Durham County
    Street Address:

    334 E. Pettigrew St., Durham, NC

    Status:

    No longer standing

    Type:

    Commercial

    Images Published In:

    http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14279

    Note:

    The Regal Theater was built to serve African-American customers and opened by 1940. It stood on E. Pettigrew St. (next to the Hotel Biltmore) and was demolished in 1977. One advertisement in an unidentified newspaper of March 1, 1940 announced, “See your friends in this All-Durham Movie, Tobaccoland-U S S. . . .All scenes filmed in Durham County.” See http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/14279. A suit filed in 1932 under the Mechanics Lien Law for payment to Boykin by the owners of the theater confirms that Boykin was involved in its construction. See North Carolina Reports, Vol. 203: Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of North Carolina, . . . 1932 (Raleigh, 1933).


  • S. L. Long House

    Contributors:
    A. L. Boykin, builder
    Dates:

    1924

    Location:
    Sanford, Lee County
    Street Address:

    220 N. Gulf St. Sanford, NC

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Residential

    Images Published In:

    J. Daniel Pezzoni
    The History and Architecture of Lee County
    North Carolina
    (1995)

    Note:

    The 2-story, weatherboarded and shingled house was built for railroad engineer S. L. Long


  • W. B. Wicker School/Lee County Training School

    Contributors:
    A. L. Boykin, builder; Herbert B. Hunter, architect
    Dates:

    1927

    Location:
    Sanford, Lee County
    Street Address:

    806 S. Vance St. Sanford NC 27330

    Status:

    Standing

    Type:

    Educational

    Images Published In:

    J. Daniel Pezzoni
    The History and Architecture of Lee County
    North Carolina
    (1995)

    Note:

    The 1-story brick building, part of an extensive complex, was built as the Lee County Training School to serve black students. It was designed by architect Herbert B. Hunter and had financial support from the Rosenwald Fund and assistance from local architect L. M. Thompson. It was named for longtime principal W. B. Wicker in 1954.


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