Forgotten Greenville community gets history preserved

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - A community wiped off the map in one city is about to get a rebirth.

Before there were walking trails and park benches along the Tar River in Greenville, the Town Common was once a community called Sycamore Hill.

The residents who are now in their mid to late 60's recall what it was like to live there and thanks to a project with East Carolina University, residents of the Sycamore Hill community will now have their history preserved.

"You have the new town people, the over the hill people, we're the downtown people or the Sycamore Hill people," says Eleanor Grimes Howard.

Howard and her 11 brothers and sisters lived at the corner of Cotanche and First Streets in a three-room house.

Before the Grimes children were born, the first African Baptist Church was built in 1917 and was called Sycamore Hill Missionary Baptist.

It was a focal point in the community for many years until their community was forced to move and residents were sent to the south side of the city in a process called urban renewal.

"This is like a community erased because so many people don't know that it existed down here, they don't know about this life," she says.

"This was once a vibrant neighborhood, there houses here, there was an African American dentist and an African American lawyer, there were stores, this was just anything you would want was here," recalls Heather White with ECU's Joyner Library.

On Wednesday, White recorded their stories for their digital collection to preserve the history of this lost community. It's a project called Beyond Bricks and Mortar.

"It means a lot to me because it lets me know and lets people know who are going to see this interview, we really did have people who cared about people," says Howard.

25 people from the old Sycamore Hill community came out in the two days for this project and their interviews, along with their pictures, will be presented starting in mid-January.