303 Sowell Street/coal Chute Alley

35.982206, -78.88628

Year built
Year demolished
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National Register
Building Type
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This was the home of Edward Motley in 1926, and the Reverend David Williams in 1936.  An Ethel R. Williams, possibly David's widow, lived here in the 1950s. The house no longer shows up in tax records, so I imagine it was demolished between the Google Streetview image above taken in 2007 and 2012. 



Sowell Street/Sowell Alley is named after the Reverend Frank W. Sowell, who was the pastor at Methodist Independent Community Church (formerly Coppin AME) which was located 2 blocks west on Glenn. Sowell and his wife Rhettie (or sometimes Rettie, Rattie, Retta) lived at 313 Sowell Alley and ran a grocery store out of their home. Numerous Sowell family members lived on this street and taught at the local "colored" schools. In later years, the Sowells moved into the home at 1508 East Pettigrew Street, which was next door to Sowell family members William, Lensey and Ozela at 1510 East Pettigrew. 

Throughout the years this unpaved street changed names numerous times from Clyde Alley to Coal Chute Alley to Sowell Avenue to Sowell Alley to Sowell Street.  I had assumed that Coal Chute Alley was in reference to the Glenn Coal Company at the top of the street next to the railroad tracks, but the name pre-dates the company. Before the area was assigned house numbers, numerous residents were listed as railroad hands, and I assume the name was then in reference to coal being used to power the trains.  There are census records of Sowells living in the area as early as 1880, although Sanborn maps don't include this neighborhood until much later. Another prominant last name in this neighborhood is Bailey, of which the street directly west is named for.  At one point in time Sowell Alley extended much further south and created a loop with Bailey's Alley.  The entire neighborhood was cut in half with the building of 147. 

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