Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse and African American Museum
“He was a community man who was always thinking about others.” Bill Myers, Executive Director of the museum
The Oliver Nestus Freeman Roundhouse was built by Oliver Nestus Freeman in 1946 as affordable housing (500 sq/ft) for returning WWII veterans in Wilson, NC. Mr. Freeman was a well-known stonemason and builder who was deeply connected with the East Wilson community, a predominantly African American neighborhood. While Freeman’s family was rooted in Wilson, he attended Tuskegee Normal School where he learned much about his trade and skill. Freeman returned to Wilson and went on to build many churches and buildings in his trademark style, using stone and unconventional building materials like sticks, concrete, and shells. He also traveled to multiple states in the US for work. He was even asked to help build part of the Presidio in San Francisco; a handwritten letter from the project architect can be seen as part of the exhibit.
The museum highlights the story of East Wilson through community leaders like Samuel Vick and developments in schools, education, and healthcare. It celebrates the creative culture and preserves the history and traditions of the progressive citizens of Wilson.
The new museum was designed and built from the ground up, right beside the existing Roundhouse that was relocated for preservation in 2000. Now visitors can tour the museum and visit the original structure. Both sites house exhibits, artifacts, models, and interactive elements.
Exhibit Writing and Development: Lisa Y. Henderson and Gloria Freeman