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.