The Wayne County Memorial Community Building


Wayne County Memorial Community Building project launched in the year 1919, citizens throughout Wayne County joined to honor our local military who lost their lives in World War I. This was accomplished by public subscription, with gifts coming from all townships in Wayne County. There was a groundswell of support from a grateful citizenry, who by 1924 were able to place the cornerstone in what was to become the center of the civic, recreation and patriotic life of this area.

The Wayne County Memorial Community Building was dedicated on June 26, 1925. It provided office and meeting space for various community and charitable organizations as well as organized recreation. It was designed to be a “living memorial” honoring the war dead of Wayne County who died in World War 1, and later, honored the war dead of subsequent conflicts.

The building had a long, productive life. For many years it housed the American Red Cross, the Community Chest, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, the Boys Club and the Bureau of Social Services. The American Legion and its Auxiliary had headquarters and its meetings there.

In January, 1935, the indoor swimming pool was added, a product of the Civil Works Administration and local funds. Many of us here today learned to swim and passed a strenuous Red Cross Life Saving in those waters! Goldsboro competitive swimmers were known for years throughout North Carolina and beyond for their excellence.

During World WarII, the Community Building served military personnel. Its use by civilians and soldiers averaged between 1200 and 3000 people per day. The soldiers were arriving by rail in Goldsboro and transitioning to Seymour Johnson Field and other installations elsewhere in the United States.

In its final years, the building continued as an active recreational facility and as offices for Goldsboro Recreation and Parks. Many citizens used the services there frequently and considered the Wayne County Memorial Community Building a second home.

After successfully honoring its Charter and serving its communities for almost 80 years, the building was tragically consumed by fire in May, 2004. Only the memorial plaques, now installed on the wall at the Wayne County Veterans Memorial, survived. Although the building no longer exists, the memories of the thousands who passed through its doors will continue. Its purpose of honoring those from Wayne County who sacrificed their lives in defense of this country continues.

After the Wayne County Memorial Building burned in 2004, the Trustees met regularly and consulted with veterans and interested citizens to determine future plans for the property. The land and 1925 building had been made possible by generous gifts from throughout the county, and the sole purpose had been to build a living memorial which would honor and forever remember those from here who had lost their lives in war. At a public meeting held in January, 2009, many veterans and other citizens expressed the opinion that this “hallowed ground” should continue being a memorial as it was originally intended. Later that year, after lengthy thought and study, the Trustees launched the Wayne County Veterans Memorial project.

Insurance proceeds from the destruction of the Community Building were used to bring this new project into reality without involving any tax funds. Early on, the Trustees engaged the services of Landscape Architect Jim Davis, originally from Eureka, NC, to work with them in formulating the vision and creating the design. The general contractor, D S Simmons Co., agreed with our desire to use local sub-contractors, and Landscape Design of Goldsboro is responsible for the landscape installation. Many extra hours and material were contributed by members of the community and all involved in the project.

The emphasis on the design is intended to be formal enough to reverently honor those who died to protect the liberties we enjoy, yet informal enough to welcome visitors. Here all can find a place for rest, reflection, and solace. Our intent is that this space be actively used for veterans’ activities, community events, concerts, and visits by Scouts, schools, and other civic groups, thus continuing its role as a living memorial.

The Park and its Monuments


As you walk through the main entrance and along brick walks in this barrier-free setting, you will see over 50 varieties of plants and trees. Your first stop is the Memorial Wall on your left, where the bronze plaques recovered from the fire and restored by Gordon Combs are found. The plaques are inscribed with the names of Wayne County men who died in World War I and in subsequent conflicts. 

On your right you will find the Pavilion, designed to be the site axis that radiates outward in all directions. The Pavilion replicates prominent features of the Wayne County Court House across the street. It has the same Doric-style columns with Scamozzi capitals, dentil and cornice detail and roof tiles as the Court House. 

At the end of this brick walk, you see the Goldsboro Jaycees’ 1974 granite Vietnam Memorial now relocated to this site. 

As you turn east along the walk, you find a brick wall clad in black granite bearing the name of this memorial site and the military insignia of each branch of service. 

Continuing, you find the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base sculpture. It was designed and constructed of steel by a talented Chatham County NC sculptor, Edwin White. In addition to its soaring lines, the sculpture includes plaques describing the history of Seymour Johnson, a chronological account of the rich heritage of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, and a tribute to those killed while serving with the 4th Fighter Wing or its predecessors. 

As you leave the sculpture and continue toward the Pavilion, you walk onto a granite map of Wayne County as it appeared in 1925, the year when the Community Building was dedicated. This map is divided into the twelve townships that were so important during that era, and shows town names, railroads, rivers, and highways as they appeared then. Within each township you will find plaques listing the names of those war dead who have been identified with the township. Intensive research was done to identify and properly locate all who died in the wars. You will find the names from the Memorial Plaque Wall as well as names of those who have subsequently been identified.

As you look back through the Pavilion, you find the fountain with its cascading water feature that adds energy and life to your experience. 

As you continue beyond the fountain you finally reach the three flags: the American flag, the North Carolina flag, and the POW-MIA flag (a reminder from all veterans lest we ever forget). These flags are illuminated and, therefore, will remain flying day and night. In the flag wall you will see another item from the original Community Building – its cornerstone bearing the date 1924.

The park was dedicated on Nov 11, 2011. It is the hope that in this place where we honor those who have died, we can instill in future generations an understanding and respect for the sacrifices made by so many throughout several generations on our behalf.

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