On June 8, 1917, the first of 2,300 Germans arrived by train at Hot Springs to begin life in a World War I internment camp. Their civilian merchant ships had been docked in various American ports two months earlier when the United States entered the war. At that time, the government seized the German vessels and declared their officers and crews “alien enemies.”
Unable to return the men home while war was raging, the government leased the luxurious Mountain Park Hotel in Hot Springs to house them. Each of the hotel’s 200 steam-heated, electric-lighted bedrooms accommodated between three and five German officers, while rows of barracks and accessory buildings were constructed on the resort’s grounds and golf course to house crew members.
When not farmed out for harvesting lumber or road building projects, homesick internees inside the barbed wire-enclosed camp created a Bavarian village—including houses, a church and even a carousel—using driftwood from the French Broad River, tin cans and other materials. They also crafted furniture, grew gardens and played sports. A German brass band provided concerts for the townspeople every Sunday afternoon.
After living in the camp for 17 months, many internees developed close friendships with local families. Some returned to visit after the war ended.
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On June 8, 1933, William Edward Dodd, a Johnston County native, was appointed ambassador to Germany amid rising tensions in Europe.
Born in 1869 near Clayton, Dodd studied history at what’s now Virginia Tech, earning a master’s degree in 1897. Shorty thereafter, he sailed for Germany and entered the University of Leipzig in pursuit of a Ph.D. in history. Dodd returned to America in 1899, and later taught history at Randolph-Macon College and the University of Chicago, where he became a nationally-renowned expert on the history of the Old South before taking up his diplomatic assignment.
Dodd’s tenure as ambassador to Germany coincided with the rise of the Nazi Party. Having run afoul of the State Department in 1937 for writing materials critical of the Nazi-controlled government, Dodd was recalled the following year. He returned to his farm in Virginia, where he died of pneumonia in 1940.
During the Nuremburg Trials in April 1946, Dodd’s detailed diary was used as evidence against Hjalmar Schacht, Adolph Hilter’s Minister of Economics and the president of Reichsbank. Having been arrested by the Germans during the war, and serving time in a concentration camp, Schacht ultimately was acquitted of charges.
Read more about the Tar Heel State’s role in both world wars in North Carolina and the Two World Wars from N.C. Historical Publications.
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On June 8, 1868, architect Robert R. Taylor was born in Wilmington.
Taylor learned construction from his father Henry, the son of a white slave owner and a black mother, and a successful builder.
Taylor worked for his father until entering MIT in 1888, where he was the school’s first black architecture student. While at MIT, Taylor met Booker T. Washington. Their friendship drew him to the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, where he went to work after graduating in 1892.
At Tuskegee, Taylor designed and oversaw the construction of 45 campus buildings and drew up plans for many others. The campus chapel, completed in 1898, is considered to be his crowning achievement. He continued to work at Tuskegee as architect and director of “mechanical industries” until his retirement to Wilmington in 1935, except for a brief three-year stint in Cleveland around the turn of the 20th century.
Two highlights of Taylor’s career are his 1929 trip to Liberia to plan the “the Tuskegee of Africa,” and his appointment to the Mississippi Valley Flood Relief Commission by President Herbert Hoover.
Taylor remained active in North Carolina’s civic and religious life until his death in 1942. He is buried at Pine Forest Cemetery in Wilmington.
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