Historic Method

Method, a southwest Raleigh neighborhood, evolved from a freedman’s village established in the 1870s. It was one of a dozen or so that surrounded the city in the years after Emancipation, when blacks moved from the countryside in search of work and housing. Of these villages, Oberlin and Method survived, were annexed into the city, and remain vibrant neighborhoods.

In 1872, half-brothers Jesse Mason and Isaac O’Kelly bought sixty-nine mostly wooded acres from William Ruffin Cox, who had been a general in the Confederate army. Mason and O’Kelly began selling multi-acre parcels to family and friends. In the 1870s and 1880s, the area was known variously as Planktown, Slab Town, and Save-Rent. The first two names described the simple log dwellings erected by the new property owners: one-story houses built with “planks” or “slabs” probably cut from the trees felled on site. The third name describes the transformational opportunity for land and home ownership that the place offered blacks.

The nascent village was also called Masonville or Mason’s Village, after Lewis Mason, who had convinced his father Jesse to purchase the land. Lewis bought some acreage from his parents and established a farm, growing cotton and keeping cows and chickens on about fifteen acres. He also wrote a brief history of the establishment of the village.

The community that developed was tight-knit. Several residents together established a grocery store, later purchased by Berry O’Kelly, who would become the village’s most prominent resident. Similarly, the store became an important landmark and social hub. O’Kelly got a post office established in the store, which raised the prominence of the shop and loaned its name to the whole village: Method.

In the twentieth century, Method grew from an agricultural village into a suburb that included a school, churches, and a small grid of residential streets. Those who owned large parcels of land subdivided it for sale or to pass on to heirs. The largest plat was the Method Subdivision, made in 1919 by Berry O’Kelly to divide roughly eleven acres into three blocks totaling sixty-nine parcels. The Lillie Stroud Rogers House on Method Road stands in the Method Subdivision; many other bungalows like this one once populated the platted area.

Churches established in the late nineteenth century remain in Method, including St. James AME Church, which maintains a 1923 Gothic Revival sanctuary. The Oak City Baptist Church has occupied the lot at the corner of Method Road and Ligon Street for a century. Finally, buildings associated with the Berry O’Kelly School still stand at the north end of the neighborhood, in the Berry O’Kelly Historic District. The Agricultural Building is a vocational education building erected in 1926 and expanded by 1950 as part of the school. The gymnasium likewise survives, but the school building was demolished in the 1960s. Berry O’Kelly’s grave and a monument are also in the historic district. Because of the opportunity for quality education that the Berry O’Kelly School offered blacks in Raleigh, the campus remains an important place in the history of Raleigh and Wake County.

Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church

This Gothic Revival brick church was built by a congregation founded in 1873. It is located in the Method community, a post-Civil War freedman’s village since enveloped by Raleigh's growth. The stylish exuberance of its brick detailing is…

Berry O’Kelly School Grounds

In 1894 Berry O'Kelly and others on the School Committee for House Creek Township District # 2 purchased one acre of land for a school. Through numerous additions over the years, including as late as 1962, the campus eventually grew to…

Agricultural Building of the Berry O'Kelly School

Berry O'Kelly School is in the Method community, a freedman’s village established by former slave Jesse Mason and his family. The Agriculture Building is the oldest of only two surviving buildings from the multi-building school complex founded…

Berry O’Kelly Grave and Obelisk

The grave of Berry O'Kelly School's founder is the only grave on the church grounds south of the school parcel. A stone plinth also accommodates a planter with a small boxwood that partially obscures the dressed face of the stone. The…

Gymnasium of the Berry O'Kelly School

Following Berry O’Kelly’s death in 1931, his namesake school continued to serve the community of Method. As more schools for African Americans were established in the area, its enrollment began to fall. The push toward integration further affected…