Category Archives: Newsletter Content

35 years ago…

The year was 1981. Hill Street Blues was the hot new program on that 19-inch TV screen. Car radios blared the hot new single, “The Tide is High” by Blondie. Prince Charles got engaged to Lady Diana Spencer, and Walter Cronkite stepped down from CBS evening news, to be replaced by Dan Rather. Closer to home, enrollment at North Carolina State University topped 21,000, football coach Monte Kiffin was leading the Wolfpack to what would be a 4-7 season, and Raleigh  was in the midst of a growth spurt that would increase the city’s population almost 38% between 1980 and 1990. Recognizing  challenges of the surging growth, a band of homeowners  directly north of the NCSU campus gathered to organize the University Park Homeowners Association. A key figure was of Isabella Cannon, the Scottish-born former mayor of Raleigh.

Founding member Jim Clark says, “I recall that meetings were held in Isabella’s home, with quite a lot of back and forth between Isabella, Tom Quay, Bill Hassler, and several other neighbors. The mood was not always happy, but civility prevailed. Tom Willis was the peacemaker if there was a need for one. A map that facilitated some of our discussions was mine to keep safely at my house for several years. I would pull it out and take it to meetings if called upon.

Isabella’s residence was an archive; no more, no less. One bathroom was used for storage. Even the tub was stacked neatly with papers from the careers and travels of her and her husband Jim.”

UPHA Development Survey Results

The results of UPHA’s comprehensive survey of community opinions on a variety of growth-related issues are in!  The on-line poll elicited 158 responses. They paint a complex and sometimes contradictory picture of neighborhood attitudes on some subjects, such as transit and parking, but on others, such as building height,  community opinion was clear and consistent; smaller is better.

Approximately 80% of respondents favored limiting the height of new construction near single-family homes to three stories or less. Seventy-six percent of respondents also gave a resounding thumbs-down to single structures with one long façade, preferring structures built in increments for a less monolithic appearance.   On questions regarding the pace of growth in the area, respondents were almost evenly divided between those who are satisfied with the current pace (48%) and those who think growth is too fast or too much (49%). Less than 3% desired more growth.

UPHA president Chris Herndon commented, “We had a 50% response rate from our membership and another 30-plus surveys answered by non-member residents of University Park. Nearly 20% of the residents gave us specific feedback in the comments sections. Once again, UPHA members have stepped up and spoken out. We should all be proud of the fact that our neighborhood is engaged as much as it is, and that the membership of UPHA wants to be heard when it comes to future development in our community.”

Survey results will be made available to the city’s planners and decision-makers. To see the see the complete results, click here:

Easter Egg Hunt: A UP Tradition Continues

Egged On!


Easter egg hunters count their finds.

Blustery March winds didn’t keep University Park’s children from a high-spirited romp through Pollock Park in search of hidden Easter eggs on March 28.

The egg hunt is a UPHA tradition, carried on this year by organizers Jeannine Norris and Karen Ralph, with help from Easter Bunny George Norris, and Jennifer Manning, who supervised the jelly bean count contest.


New Documentary Film Tells Oberlin Cemetery Story


Oberlin Cemetery: Cherished Relic of Neighborhood History

Friends of Oberlin

The Friends of Oberlin organization  has released a new documentary film telling the story of one  the neighborhood’s most important  links to its past:  “Historic Oberlin Cemetery: A Hidden Jewel.” The film is a reminder that the northeast subdivision of the University Park district, Oberlin Village, was founded by freed slaves, and was a vibrant  community of artisans and craftsmen, with its own businesses, churches and schools. The Oberlin Cemetery, located behind the Interact building, contains the graves of freedmen  and their families. Many of their descendants still live in our community.

Friends of Oberlin  organizes periodic work days clearing and cleaning the cemetery. Donations are needed to fund markers, pay for location devices to identify graves, and to create paths.

For further information, or to see the film, visit
or visit Friendsofoberlin on Facebook.

Oberlin Cemetary 1 001Oberlin Cemetary 1 007



The next phase of the Cameron Village Area Revisioning Project begins Tuesday, February 10. Members of our community are invited to a round-table workshop  from 7 to 9 pm in the St. Mary’s School dining hall. Given the projected growth in our area, participants will be exploring issues such as transportation, traffic, parking, zoning, building height, and density. This event is expected to be quite different than the kickoff event in December. The community participants will be working with maps, briefing books, and a facilitator. On Thursday, Feb. 12, the results will be presented and discussed.

The Feb. 10 and 12 events focus on Cameron Village and Oberlin Road.  A similar workshop for the Hillsborough Street commercial district and surroundings will take place on March 24 and 26.

The City of Raleigh has hired consultants to help develop a plan that will guide growth in a study area that runs from St. Mary’s to Chamberlain streets, and from Hillsborough Street to Wade Avenue. However, community participation is essential. Nobody knows our neighborhoods and their needs better than the people who live here.

Among the concerns expressed at the December meeting were traffic on Oberlin Road, need for more  and safer pedestrian crossings, building height,  park preservation and enhancement, improved public transportation, and bus shelters.

Hamburgers and History at Community Deli

Neighborhood Eatery Nearly a Century Old:  The Story of Community Deli                                             


Community Deli, 901 Oberlin Road

By Ruth Little and Ann Sides

University Park’s boundaries include a former grocery store at the corner of Oberlin Road and Van Dyke Avenue that is nearly 100 years old.  Surprised? So was the flooring crew that found a 1906 coin as they replaced the floor of the Community Deli earlier this year. The former neighborhood food market has undergone a transformation since its earlier days, and is now an eatery, offering breakfast and lunch to neighborhood workers and residents.   Older residents in Oberlin Village, however, remember it as the “Community Gro”. (There was not enough room on the sign to spell out “grocery.”)  An African-American, A.J. Jeffreys, ran his grocery business at  that location in the mid 20th Century.

Written histories of the neighborhood mention a white Jewish man who operated the grocery earlier in the 1900s. There were a number of little wooden stores up and down Oberlin Road in those days, but the Community Deli is the only one left. Dan McGee, who worked for Mr. Jeffreys, eventually bought the store, converted it to a corner deli about 1973, and operated it for about twenty years.

John Henry worked in the grocery store  in Sam McGee's time
John Henry worked in the grocery store in Dan McGee’s time

Four years ago, Crystal Bish bought the deli. She had been a regional inspector for Burger King until the day that Burger King was bought out and the new owners fired 650 people in one day. Crystal had never even seen the “Community Gro,” as it used to be known, when she saw a For Sale ad for it on Craigslist. She bought it with her severance package from Burger King. She has shaken up the food menu and the ambience considerably without changing its humble exterior. Rather than using frozen hamburger patties, she grinds fresh hamburger every day and has introduced a number of specialty burgers, including the “Seth Bomb” and the “Southern Comfort.”

Her fresh-cooked collards can be pre-ordered and picked up to serve for Thanksgiving or other holiday dinners. She sells 200 quarts of collards the week before Thanksgiving. WRAL TV recently recognized the deli as one of the top five places to get good soup in Raleigh. The soup is available by the quart for pre-orders. She sells breakfast all day long.

The deli now has three or four tables of outdoor seating.
Crystal’s 18-year-old son Josh Braun has been working here for four years, but you’ll have to get over to the deli quickly to meet him, because he’s enlisting in the Navy in a few weeks.

Josh Braun of Community Deli
Josh Braun of Community Deli

401 Oberlin, Our New Neighbor, Opens

401 Oberlin, Our New Neighbor, Opens

After many months of earth-movers, cranes and traffic cones, 401 Oberlin, our new neighbor at Clark  Avenue and Oberlin Road, is finally open. Finishing work continues, but Chris Garrard, assistant community manager, said that 110 of the 244 available units are already under contract, and more than 70 are occupied. The new rental community consists of one, two and three bedroom apartments and 16 two-story townhouses with direct access on Clark or Stafford Street. Nine of the units are equipped specifically for people with physical limitations.

Main entrance of "401 Oberlin" apartment community
Main entrance of “401 Oberlin” apartment community
401 Oberlin’s pool and courtyard

“Folks are moving in at the rate of 20 per week,” Garrard said.

The 401 complex rents only to persons 22 or older, and is entirely nonsmoking. Occupants so far include graduate students, professors, bankers, researchers, and retired people. Work on the Oberlin Road frontage retail space is still continuing, and will eventually house a 5,800 square foot Tupelo Honey restaurant featuring regional cuisine, an ATT Wireless store, and a nail salon.

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The interior design of 401 reflects up-market taste, and many of the fixtures are  by local artists and craftspeople.  The common room features an extraordinary 20-seat table handcrafted from wood reclaimed from a tobacco barn.The tenants will also enjoy use of a patio and pool, barbecue cookers, and an exercise room.  In a nod to promoting a  “neighborhood feel,” Garrard said the various floor plans for “401” are named after streets in the vicinity: Vanderbilt, Rosemont, Everett, Bedford, Stafford, Chamberlain, Dawson, and Wade. He said “401” tenants are drawn to the neighborhood by amenities such as the Greenway, Rose Garden, Little Theater, and shopping center. They’re eager to participate in community activities.



The Kit Homes of University Park

Once upon a time in America, it was possible to order a complete house from a Sears-Roebuck  catalog and build it on your own lot. The do-it-yourself kit contained everything needed to assemble a ready-to-occupy house, from joists to roofing shingles. Each piece was numbered, and instructions were included.  Between 1900 and 1940 Sears and its competitors sold hundreds of thousands of kit houses.

About 50 of these comfortable, sturdy homes still exist in Raleigh, and at least six are in  UPHA subdivisions.  A booklet published by the Raleigh Historic Development Commission and the Raleigh City Museum lists the six as 117 Chamberlain St., 208 Chamberlain St., 2820 Everett Avenue, 902 Brooks Avenue, 906 Brooks Avenue, and 2830 Barmettler St.  Some of the homes look almost exactly like the images in yellowing catalogs from the 1920’s. Others have been altered over the years, but still retain a few identifying features.

Kit House Chamberlain St 002

Kit house at 208 Chamberlain St.

The heyday of kit home construction in the 1920’s coincided with the expansion of Raleigh from downtown to new developments in areas that were to become part of what is now University Park, such as Fairmont and Forest Hills. The appeal of kit homes was primarily price; components were mass-produced and therefore cheaper, much of the work could be done by the homeowner and friends, and skilled labor was needed primarily for specialized tasks like electricity and plumbing.  Hundreds of off-the-shelf design options eliminated the cost of hiring an architect. The kit home varieties ranged from rustic cabins (outdoor privy optional), to spacious, multi-story homes. The most popular models were three bedroom, single story family bungalows with wide porches. Today, these  homes still blend smoothly into their University Park setting.

Kit House Chamberlain St 003

Kit house at 2820 Everett Avenue.

For further information about kit homes, you may want to consult books by historian Rosemary Thornton, who identified those mentioned in this article.  Please respect the privacy of the occupants.

Doggie-bag Donation–the Straight Poop

"Say ahhh!" Fanny, 15, of Roberts Street, gets a checkup from Dr. Page Wages and assistant Cameron Overbey at Care First Animal Hospital
“Say ahhh!” Fanny, 15, of Roberts Street, gets a checkup from Dr. Page Wages and assistant Cameron Overbey at Care First Animal Hospital

Care First Animal Hospital has made a $600 donation to pay for the animal waste bags loaded in  neighborhood dispensers  by UPHA volunteers.  Next time you see a  dog walker with a plastic bag in hand,  have a good thought not only for a considerate neighbor, but also for a public-spirited local business.

The so-called “doggie bag” project is a key element in keeping this pet-loving neighborhood a low-risk area for unwelcome surprises on shoes. Although contributions of money and newspaper delivery bags have helped keep the  11 dispensers stocked,  it has at times been difficult to keep supplying the demand. The dispensers are maintained by  community  volunteers.

Care First Animal Hospital, at 1016 Oberlin Rd.,  has served the UPHA community  for 26 years.  Their generous donation will make possible almost a year’s supply of bags.  Thank you, Care First !

The doggie bag donation is part of what Care First Animal Hospital’s director, Dr. Joe Gordon, describes as “a strong community service background.” Also, he said, ” picking up dog waste  helps prevent helps prevent the spread of intestinal parasites and worms.”

Fanny at the Vet 002 CareFirst Animal Hospital

Care First Animal Hospital promotes events for the SPCA, participates in a spay-neuter program, and has a adoption program for cats. Visitors to the clinic can often see the cats on display in the waiting room, hoping to be “homed.”