Oak View, located four miles east of downtown Raleigh, is a former farmstead representative of the agricultural economy that once sustained most of piedmont North Carolina. In 1853, Benton S. D. Williams purchased 930 acres extending along the south bank of Crabtree Creek. On a small ridge, he built a simple Greek Revival style dwelling, with a fashionable two-tiered portico framing the front entrance. Williams named the property Oak View after the four large oaks that marked the boundaries of the yard. Williams became a prosperous producer of cotton. In 1868, he was named one of four Wake County delegates to North Carolina’s Constitutional Convention, which crafted the document that still guides the state.
Williams died in 1870. His widow, with the help of other family members, wage laborers and possibly sharecroppers, continued the farm’s 10-bale cotton operation until Mrs. Williams' death in 1886. At that time, Job P. Wyatt acquired the house and immediately surrounding acreage. Wyatt was the founder of Job P. Wyatt and Sons, a local farm supply business, and of the Wyatt-Quarles Seed Company, firms both still in business in the Raleigh area. Wyatt’s ownership coincided with the dawn of a new era in local agriculture--rather than live on the property, Wyatt hired resident managers to oversee farm operations. Tenant workers performed most farm labor. Cotton was the farm’s primary product until the 1920s. Numerous outbuildings came to dot the landscape, including a large horse barn and a two-story cotton ginhouse, both of which survive. Additionally, during the late 1910s through the 1920s, the farm manager planted the large grove of pecan trees that became one of the farm’s most prominent features.
By 1929, boll weevil infestation forced Wyatt to diversify farming operations. Cotton production was largely replaced by vegetable growing. A herd of cattle produced milk and butter for local markets. In 1940, Wyatt sold the property to Julian M. Gregory, a local general contractor, who in turn sold it to his business partner, James G. Poole. Poole had the house remodeled in the Colonial Revival style, adding an asymmetrical one-story wing. A succession of owners followed. At the same time, local farm employment dramatically declined due to industrialization and urban growth. In the 1970s, a substantial portion of the property was carved off for the construction of the Raleigh Beltline (I-440), forever eliminating most of Oak View’s remaining cotton fields.
In 1984, Wake County acquired the house and 72 acres, and began construction of an office park on a large neighboring tract. Rather than raze the house and remaining outbuildings, however, the county restored them as a farming interpretive center. Despite significant damage to the pecan grove inflicted by Hurricane Fran (1996), today the farm complex offers hands-on contact with a way of life fast fading before present-day urbanization. Oak View is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark.
Oak View, now a county park, is located at 4028 Carya Dr., immediately east of the Poole Rd. exit of I-440. The facility is open Monday-Saturday, 8:30am to 5:00pm, and Sunday, 1:00pm to 5:00pm; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. For further information call 919-250-1013 or visit the park’s website.
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