WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — This week’s Marking History focuses on a local man who became something extraordinary. You could say it was by design.
Robert Taylor was born in Wilmington in the 1800s and ended up becoming a pioneer in the field of architecture. His life is a story of firsts.
First off, he was born in Wilmington in 1868. He attended Williston School and the Gregory Normal Institute and was urged by his father to have lofty goals. You could say he succeeded, because he went on to attend the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study architecture. He excelled in his time there, and became well connected, establishing relationships with giants such as Booker T. Washington.
In 1892, after excelling at school, he became the first black graduate of MIT, and by some accounts, the first professionally-educated black architect in the country.
His relationship with Washington brought him to the famed Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he would not only teach courses in architecture, but also design and oversee the construction of 45 buildings on campus. After 40 years associated with the university, he returned to Wilmington where he retired to a neighborhood on McRae Street and finishing his life right where it started.
Wilmington’s Robert Taylor Homes bore his name until they were replaced in 2005. In Chicago, a massive public housing development is also named after Taylor.
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