From the folks that gave us the term “Ramkat” now comes the term “Industry Hill.” Industry Hill-were history meets marketing. Industry Hill-a new name for a place that you probably never knew had a name. Its name is now Industry Hill!
Industry Hill, we are told from the developers who recently created it, stretches from Seventh Street to Northwest Boulevard and from Martin Luther King Drive over to Trade Street.*
The name Industry Hill has many flaws. First, there isn’t that much industry there. Some traditional manufacturing facilities are still in the area, such as Hanes Dye and Finishing.
But manufacturing activity along North Trade Street is just a fraction of what it used to be. Winston used to be referred to as “The City of Industry.” Gone are those days.
The breweries along Trade Street and West Ninth are a sign of deindustrialization. God bless the breweries, bars, and restaurants in “Industry Hill” but they’re part of the service industry. They don’t provide the jobs and pay that Reynolds, Hanes, or say Westinghouse did in decades past.
Industry Hill is Trade Street Hill, a long sloping hill that stretches down to Northwest Boulevard. That hill doesn’t start on Seventh Street. The hill begins at Eight and Trade.
The neighborhood rebranded as Industry Hill is commonly referred to as the North Trade Street neighborhood. And it has a real history. But that history isn’t very marketable.
Two prominent Black churches along North Trade Street provide a clue to the neighborhood’s past, New Bethel Baptist Church (founded, 1890) and Union Baptist Church (founded, 1922). The historical marker at the bottom of North Trade Street and Northwest Boulevard tells the neighborhood’s actual history.
Much of what developers are now calling Industry Hill has historically been called “The Pond.”
That’s where nine people lost their lives on the morning of November 2, 1904, when the city’s water reservoir (located at Eighth and Trade) collapsed sending a flood of water down Trade Street Hill, destroying a predominately African American neighborhood.
Observers referred to the aftermath of the reservoir’s collapse as “The Pond,” and the name stuck.
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To create a new name for the North Trade Street neighborhood without acknowledging the history of The Pond is problematic.
I understand that the proprietors of Industry Hill need to create a brand with a unique name and available domain for their businesses. I get it.
Industry Hill as a simple name and logo would have been acceptable. But they had to go a step further and craft a historical narrative that ignores the African American history all around “Industry Hill.”
A Neighborhood With Roots:
Encompassing the northern edge of downtown Winston-Salem, Industry Hill boasts a storied working class history. Over the decades the neighborhood has been home to furniture factories, tobacco warehouses, packaging industries and produce dealers.
But Industry Hill isn’t simply a new name for an old place. Amidst the backdrop of historic structures, the neighborhood has become a blooming hub for makers and creatives, entrepreneurs and entertainers. Industry Hill represents the collaborative efforts of community stakeholders who are actively shaping our bright collective future.
The roots of the North Trade Street neighborhood are African American. The neighborhood already has a name that reflects its history, The Pond.
The Pond neighborhood’s name originates from a catastrophe. The Pond neighborhood suffered another mostly ignored catastrophe when the predominately African American neighborhood-like so many other African American neighborhoods in Winston was bulldozed in the name of progress.
As we look back at all the African American neighborhoods that were marginalized or destroyed by urban renewal, perhaps it’s appropriate to use the Arabic word for catastrophe-Nakba to describe the scope of all the damage that was done.
There are some strong historical parallels between the land Israel took from the Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba and the land that was taken from African Americans in Winston by the Jim Crow, white-power-structure of the 1950s and 1960s.
Ultimately names are subjective. Brands are commodified names, they’re marketing, equal parts truth and fiction at best.
Local business owners are free to brand their businesses as they chose, but they don’t have the right to whitewash the city’s actual history. Industry Hill needs to rewrite its brand narrative and stop appropriating the city’s history.
*Tim Beeman, The Less Desirables Podcast, sponsored by Industry Hill.