E.E. Farley: Civic Leader and Real Estate Developer
These history excerpts are from a variety of sources, including: Carver Village, Columbus' First Post WWII Segregated Neighborhood compiled by Students of Cultural, Urban Geography and GIS courses at CSU and CSU Professor Amanda Rees; Red Clay, White Water, and Blues by Virginia E. Causey, Walking Through Black History Digital Humanities Project by Dr. Amanda Rees and students, and Builder of the American Dream (historic marker) by Dr. Amanda Rees and Turn Around Columbus.
Edwin Edward Farley (c. 1902 – 1956) was one of the busiest citizens of his generation. Along with the assistance of his wife Ella, he was a successful Columbus realtor and developer. Farley was a graduate of Morehouse College and was very active within the local community. He led the local chapter of the NAACP and he also served as executive secretary of the Army and Navy YMCA at Fort Benning. His membership within the local African American fraternal organizations also helped him build strong friendships with other influential civil rights leaders such as Dr. Thomas H Brewer, Primus King, and A. J. McClung.
In 1907, George Foster Peabody and his brothers donated $20,000 that resulted in the first constructed and fully equipped African American YMCA in the country on 9th Street and 6th Avenue (pictured below). In 1925, additional improvements were needed to be made to the building and through funds contributed by the Army and Navy Board of the YMCA and local citizens, E.E. Farley led the effort to make it happen.
Farley, Dr. Brewer, A.J. McClung and other prominent local African Americans also orchestrated the inaugural football game between Tuskegee and Morehouse held at the city’s Memorial Stadium in 1936. In 1941, he made a personal appeal to Elizabeth “Lizzie” Lunsford (you will hear much more about this incredible woman in a couple of weeks to kick off Women’s History Month) for the funds to construct a new African American USO on 5th Avenue (pictured below).
E.E. Farley’s civic leadership was just one facet to the man. He also wanted to provide access to good housing through his realty company and from his own development. Finding accommodation was challenging for newly arriving Black middle-class in the post-war period. Like many of their neighbors, E.E. and Ella regularly rented rooms upstairs to recently graduated schoolteachers from Tuskegee Institute. These professional women regularly located to the city for their first teaching position. This trend extended across the neighborhood as homeowners rented rooms to African American military families, who, unlike their white counterparts, found very little housing at Fort Benning. Postwar population growth meant that private housing remained in high demand. Developers built large apartment complexes, including the 400 unit Camellia Apartments, which opened in 1949 near Fort Benning. From 1946 to 1949, the Jordan Company built not only apartments, but also between 500 and 600 houses. At the same time, increased automobile ownership allowed Columbus residents to move out of urban areas. Businesses, as well as residents, also began moving from the traditional downtown area to the suburbs after World War I. Typically, segregated suburban developments constructed for African American residents were divided into two major types: suburbs that combined residential and work spaces and welcomed blue collar residents; and suburbs for a small but growing Black middle class.
Sign advertising both lots and homes in the new Carver Heights subdivision purchased through Farley Realty courtesy of CSU Archives.
Carver Heights was built and marketed to African American military – active duty and veterans. Architecturally, the development primarily contains two styles typical for post-war America: the American Small House and the Ranch. You see an abundance of these architectural styles in both white and Black mid-century neighborhoods in Columbus.
The Carver Heights subdivision stretches over 84 acres and now includes approximately 430 homes. The first home was built in 1946. The subdivision was located just outside of the city’s eastern boundary at the time and was the first African American suburb built in Columbus after WWII. The land was platted for a series of cottages of both architectural styles. There were also several duplexes, one apartment building, and a commercial section planned into the development.
This subdivision allowed African American veterans and active-duty service members the opportunity to use their earned military benefits to purchase and/or build homes in a segregated Columbus. The new subdivision would also honor African American leaders and institutions as it bears the name of renown scientist George Washington Carver, who conducted his research forty miles away at Tuskegee Institute. There are streets named for Carver and Booker T. Washington, and historically Black colleges and universities such as Fisk University and Morehouse College.
Students standing in front of the Farley's home, courtesy of CSU Archives. A current photo of his home is placed at the end of the story.
E.E. and Ella Farley lived in what is now called the Liberty Heritage Historic District from 1930 until 1954 at 934 Fifth Avenue. They moved to 807 Illges Road (pictured above) to a new home he built on the edge of his development. Farley died of a heart attack in late 1956. Ella continued their business, Farley Realty Company, until selling it in 1971. It was located at 812 5th Avenue for many years. The business was purchased by Booker Edmonds and continues under the name Edmonds-Farley Realty.
Springer-Bize-Coffee House, 930 5th Avenue (right) and Springer-Bize-Farley House, 934 5th Avenue (left)
These identical Eastlake cottages were built by Emelie Springer, widow of Francis J. Springer who created the city’s opera house. They were constructed as rental property between 1898 and 1900. The lot had been in the Springer’s family since 1878. The houses passed to the Springer’s daughter, Anna J. Bize in 1903. Abraham Lafkowitz, a local merchant, lived in 934 Fifth Avenue as a renter for a period of time. Both houses were sold in 1930 to E.E. Farley. He maintained ownership of 934 Fifth Avenue and sold 930 Fifth Avenue to E.B. Coffee, who lived in the home until 1980. 930 Fifth Avenue was demolished, and 934 Fifth Avenue was moved to the Columbus Historic District in 1994 (pictured at its present location below on 7th Street).
The Farley’s office building was recently purchased by an individual, rehabilitated, and adaptively re-used to once again become a vibrant structure in the Liberty District (pictured below).
At least eight additional segregated subdivisions were subsequently constructed in Columbus, including: Willis Plaza (developed by Farley in 1954), Washington Heights, Bel Mar, Quail Creek, East Carver Heights, Cedar Hills, Dawson Estates, and Mount Vernon. After WWII, Black leaders saw these separate suburban communities as a source of Black improvement and as a solution to current conditions. This contrasts with the North, where white civic leaders contained Black housing developments to the central city. Carver Heights symbolizes strong leadership of developer E.E. Farley and his colleagues and the remarkable opportunity for African American advancement. Carver Heights became home to the families of active-duty military members and to veterans who became a part of the post-war labor force as teachers, housemaids, ministers, and employees in local business, mills, and factories.
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Historic Columbus is celebrating Black History Month by sharing some of our community's history through the stories of individuals, places, and events in our town. There is so much history that needs to be shared, and what you will see this coming month is just the beginning. More stories will continue to be shared each week throughout the year. Our community and our people have incredible stories, and Historic Columbus certainly doesn't know everything. We hope you will help us learn the rest of the story...your story, your family's story. Please consider sharing these stories with HCF to help create an oral history collection. You can email email@example.com. And don't worry, we will keep asking for your stories each month!