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Wilson, North Carolina: Freeman Round House and African American Museum

Circular dwelling built in 1946 by Oliver Nestus Freeman using bottles, tree saplings, rocks. He built homemade concrete creations in his yard, including one dinosaur. African American Museum added in 2018.

1251 Hines St. SE, Wilson, NC
On the southeast edge of town. From US 301/Ward Blvd turn west onto Nash St. The museum is two blocks straight ahead, at the corner of Nash and Hines Sts.
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Freeman dinosaur sculpture.

Freeman Round House (plus a dinosaur)

I was driving through Wilson, NC when I noticed a small round stone house at the corner of Nash and Hines Streets. It looked like it was open to the public, so I stopped in. Turns out it was built in the 40's by Oliver Nestus Freeman, moved to its current location in the 90s, restored, and now serves as a showcase for Freeman's work as well as an African American History museum.

Freeman was a stonemason and artist who built a number of homes and a couple of churches in East Wilson. He attended Tuskegee University in the 1910s and briefly taught there, before returning to Wilson to work. Many of the stone homes he built are still standing, and a couple can be seen from the museum. Freeman's own stone home is across the street from the museum, and in the '40s and '50s it was the social center of the neighborhood.

The yard was filled with Freeman's concrete creations, including benches, statues, fountains, and other works of art. There was also a zoo that included, among many other animals, chinchillas, iguanas, and two bears (!) The house is still owned and occupied by the Freeman family, and while many of the stone and concrete yard statues haven't survived, there's still a six foot concrete dinosaur near the edge of the road. The dinosaur was the last piece Freeman worked on before his death in the 70s.

On the day I visited, Freeman's granddaughter was working at the museum, and it was really great to get the full history from someone so close to the subject (and I apologize if any of this info is wrong, but I'm writing it all from memory).

[Dean Jeffrey, 06/16/2002]

May 2010: Debra Jane Seltzer writes that Freeman died in 1955. " I also am not sure if the Round House was ever moved. It sounds like it was built there as a rental property." 2003 Update from Dean: "The dinosaur has been moved, from Freeman's home across the street, to the grounds of the museum."

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