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Wake Forest was born as a college town and for more than a century the Town and the college grew up together with intertwined histories. The original 1830's campus has changed owners and names, but remains a geographical focus of the community that has grown around it.
Development began in 1820 when Dr. Calvin Jones from New England bought 615 acres in "Wake Forest Township" from Davis Battle. Dr. Jones may have built a sturdy, two-story frame house in the center of what became Wake Forest College. In 1832 the North Carolina Baptist Convention decided to establish an educational institute and it happened when Dr. Jones had placed an advertisement in the Raleigh papers offering his farm for sale. The setting was in the "forests of wake county".
The advertisement described the community: "One of the best neighborhoods in the state, the Forest District containing three schools (one classical) and two well constructed and well filled meeting houses for Baptists and Methodists, and has a lawyer and a doctor. The inhabitants, without I believe a single exception, are sober, moral and thriving in their circumstances, and not a few are educated and intelligent."
John Purefoy, a Baptist minister, learned of the property and convinced the North Carolina Baptist Convention to purchase the farm for $2,000 on which to establish the school it had been planning named the "Wake Forest Institute". It opened to boys in February, 1834.
Seventy-two students were enrolled by the end of the first year, so architect John Berry of Hillsborough was hired to enlarge the facility. Berry designed three brick buildings and one classroom structure to replace the Calvin Jones House (which was relocated) and two professors' houses. All three buildings were constructed between 1835 and 1838. The professors' houses, known as the North Brick House and the South Brick House because of their locations, were first occupied by Professors C. W. Skinner and Amos J. Battle. The classroom building burned in 1933 and the North Brick House was demolished in 1936, leaving the South Brick House as the only survivor of the early Berry-designed campus buildings.
The Raleigh and Gaston Railroad, constructed along the eastern border of the school, was completed in 1840. The closest depot was in Forestville, so students got off the train there and walked to the Institute. Due to the railroad, the school grew rapidly, changing its name in 1838 to "Wake Forest College".
With an increasing need for space and money, the College decided to divide the Calvin Jones farm into lots and sell them for $100 each, with those on the west side of Main Street selling for $150. Eighty one-acre lots north of the campus and west of the railroad were put on the market in 1839. The central street became known as Faculty Avenue and today constitutes the greater portion of the locally designated Wake Forest Historic District.
The Civil War caused the College to close in 1862. When it reopened in 1865, there were still very few buildings on and around the campus.
The Raleigh and Gaston Railroad was a controversial subject for Wake Forest College since the station was in Forestville. The Railroad refused to finance two stations so close together, so the College worked to move the existing station near to the campus. The relocation finally took place in 1874, though there were still no buildings east of the railroad tracks.
The arrival of the Raleigh and Gaston Railroad station was the beginning of the commercial development around Wake Forest College. Between 1880 and 1905, several of the businesses operating in Wake Forest were established: Powers and Holding Drugstore, W. W. Holding Cotton Merchants, Dickson Brothers Dry Goods and Jones Hardware. The Bolus, Wilkinson, Keith and Joyner families established businesses between 1910 and 1920. This growth allowed the community to draft its first charter and became incorporated on March 26, 1880 as the Town of Wake Forest College. In 1909 the charter was amended and the town renamed, Wake Forest.
Another aspect of Wake Forest's growth at the turn of the last century was the Royall Cotton Mill, just north of Faculty Avenue. W.C. Powell, R.E. Royall and T.E. Holding established the mill in 1900 to produce muslin sheeting. The mill buildings and adjoining workers' housing had one of the earliest major impacts on Wake Forest not brought about by the College.
Wake Forest College moved to Winston-Salem in 1956, selling the campus to the present occupant, the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Southeastern College. The Seminary and College serves a wide geographic area and has an enrollment of about 3,000 students. Though the Town of Wake Forest continues to enjoy the beauty and dignity of the centrally located campus, it now has its own identity as it successfully responds to new roles and opportunities.