Shotgun houses to tiny homes: Wilson natives hope to preserve history, add modern touches

WILSON, N.C. (WTVD) — Wilson natives Monica Therisa Davis and Antonio Jenkins bought historic shotgun houses in the East Wilson Historic District with plans to restore them and turn them into trendy tiny houses.

“I hope it’s pretty modern but also keep the historic features,” said Jenkins, who owns the construction company, Tee O’s Luxury Renovations LLC.

Davis, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, studied the shotgun houses as part of her thesis. She partnered with her friend Jenkins to purchase five shotgun houses and two lots.

“We want to make sure that these homes are available for home ownership for these people that can own shotgun houses in the future,” Jenkins said. “We want to also uplift the community of East Wilson and also the African Americans that live in the area.”

Jenkins said her research showed there were 301 shotgun homes in the East Wilson Historic District in 1988, when they started being counted. Now, there are only 88.

“They were built for the African Americans who worked in the tobacco industry in this area so they’re small shotgun houses built compactly on the lots to best serve the working class of their time,” Davis said.

“A lot of people from where we are from around here don’t know about our history and the main thing about this area over here,” Jenkins said. “This is our history.”

Davis and Jenkins walked ABC11 through one of the shotgun houses they own on Ash Street. It’s less than 700 square feet and has one bedroom and one bathroom.

They plan to keep the original floors, brick fireplace and windows.

But they’ll add contemporary touches to the homes built between 1890 and 1940, Davis said.

The houses will be rentals for five years, then they hope community members will have the opportunity to buy them through the nonprofit they founded, Rebirthing our Cultural Kingdom Foundation. The plan is to teach African Americans in Wilson about homeownership and the cultural significance of East Wilson.

Built out of necessity, these shotgun houses have the potential to be trendy, thanks to the tiny house popularity.

“I think they are appealing to the millennials or empty nesters of this time period now,” Davis said.

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(WTVD, 12/9/19)