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Greensboro is a city in the U.S. state of North Carolina. It is the third-largest city, by population, in North Carolina and the largest city in Guilford County and the surrounding Piedmont Triad metropolitan region. As of the 2000 census, Greensboro was home to 223,891 residents. Its estimated 2007 population was 248,111. On June 30, 2008, Greensboro annexed more than 10,000 residents over an area of slightly more than 8 square miles, bringing its population to 258,671.
The city is located at the intersection of two major interstate highways (I-85 and I-40) in the Piedmont ("foot of the mountains") region of central North Carolina.
In 2003, the previous Greensboro - Winston-Salem - High Point metropolitan statistical area (MSA) was re-defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, resulting in the formation of the Greensboro-High Point MSA and the Winston-Salem MSA. The 2008 population estimate for the Greensboro-High Point MSA was 709,751. The Greensboro - Winston-Salem - High Point combined statistical area (CSA), popularly referred to as the Piedmont Triad, had an estimated population of 1,552,495 in 2007 making it the 30th largest metropolitan area in the USA. Source: US Bureau of the Census, Annual Estimates of the Population Table CBSA-EST2007-02
In 1808, Greensborough (as was the spelling prior to 1895) was planned around a central courthouse square to succeed the nearby town of Guilford Court House as the county seat. This act moved the county courts closer to the geographical center of the county, a location more easily reached by the majority of the county's citizens.
Much has changed since then. Greensboro has grown to be part of a thriving metropolitan area called the Triad, which encompasses three major cities (Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem) and more than a million people. Greensboro evolved from a small center of government to an early 1900s textile and transportation hub, and today is emerging as one of the South's upand-coming centers for relocating businesses. Two centuries later Greensboro is still collecting accolades for its beauty and livability. In 2004 the Department of Energy (DOE) awarded Greensboro with entry into the Clean Cities Hall of Fame.
The city was named for Major General Nathanael Greene, commander of the American forces at the Battle of Guilford Court House on March 15, 1781. Although the Americans lost the battle, Greene's forces inflicted such heavy casualties on the British Army of Lord Cornwallis that Cornwallis chose to pull his battered army out of North Carolina and into Virginia. This decision allowed a combined force of American and French troops to trap Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, where the British were forced to surrender on October 19, 1781, after a 20-day siege, thus ending the American Revolution. As such, Greene's successful efforts at weakening the British Army played a key role in securing America's victory over the British.
Greensboro was established near the geographic center of Guilford County, on land that was "an unbroken forest with thick undergrowth of huckleberry bushes, that bore a finely flavored fruit." Property for the future village was purchased for $98, and three north-south streets (Greene, Elm, Davie) were laid out intersecting with three east-west streets (Gaston, Market, Sycamore). The courthouse stood at the center of the intersection of Elm and Market streets. By 1821, the town was home to 369 residents.
In the early 1840s, Greensboro was selected by the state government at the request of then Governor Morehead (whose estate, Blandwood, is located in Greensboro) for inclusion on a new railroad line. The city grew substantially in size and soon became known as the "Gate City" due to its role as a transportation hub for the state. The railroads transported goods to and from textile mills, which grew up with their own mill villages around the city. Many of these businesses remained in the city until the 21st century, when most of them went bankrupt, reorganized, and/or merged with other companies. Greensboro remains as a major textile headquarters city with the main offices of International Textile Group (Cone, Burlington Industries), Galey & Lord, Unifi, and VF Corporation (Wrangler, Lee, North Face, Nautica). The importance of rail traffic continues for the city, as Greensboro serves as a major regional freight hub, and four Amtrak passenger trains stop in Greensboro daily on the main Norfolk Southern line between Washington and New Orleans by way of Atlanta.
A Picture of Blandwood Mansion, an Alexander Jackson Davis designed Tuscan Villa
Though the city developed slowly, early wealth generated from cotton trade and merchandising led to the construction of several notable buildings. The earliest building, later named Blandwood Mansion and Gardens, was built in 1795. Additions to this residence in 1846 designed by Alexander Jackson Davis of New York City made the house an influential landmark in the nation as America's earliest Tuscan Villa. Other significant estates followed, including "Dunleith" designed by Samuel Sloan, Bellemeade, and the Bumpass-Troy House (now operating as an inn).
The American Civil War and Final Days of the Confederacy
Although Guilford County did not vote for secession, once North Carolina joined the Confederacy the men of the county joined the Confederate cause, forming such infantry units as the Guilford Grays. From 1861 through March 1865 the city was relatively untouched by the American Civil War, with the exception of dealing with shortages of clothing, medicines, and other items caused by the U.S. naval blockade of the South. However, in the final weeks of the war Greensboro played a significant role. In April 1865 General P.G.T. Beauregard was instructed by the commanding officer of the Army of Tennessee, General Joseph E. Johnston, to prepare for a defense of the city. During this time, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the remaining members of the Confederate cabinet had evacuated the Confederate Capital in Richmond, Virginia, and moved south to Danville, Virginia. When Union cavalry threatened Danville, Davis and his cabinet managed to escape by train and reassembled in Greensboro on April 11, 1865. Thus, Greensboro was the temporary capital city of the Confederacy. While in Greensboro, Davis and his cabinet decided to try and escape overseas to avoid capture by the victorious Union forces; they left Greensboro and separated. As such, Greensboro is notable as the last time the entire Confederate government met as a group, and Greensboro is thus the "final" capital city of the Confederacy. At nearly the same time, Governor Zebulon B. Vance fled the capital of North Carolina in anticipation of the arrival of Union General William T. Sherman. For a brief period beginning April 16, 1865, the capital of North Carolina was maintained in Greensboro. After the negotiations were completed at Bennett Place, now in present day Durham, North Carolina, between General Johnston and General Sherman on April 26, 1865, Confederate soldiers stacked their arms and received their paroles in Greensboro, and then headed for home.
Industrialization and growth
In the 1890s, the city continued to attract attention from northern industrialists, including Moses and Caesar Cone of Baltimore. The Cone brothers established large-scale textile plants, changing Greensboro from a village to a city within a decade. By 1900, Greensboro was considered a center of the Southern textile industry, with large scale factories producing denim, flannel, and overalls. Prosperity brought to the city through textiles resulted in the construction of notable twentieth century civic architecture, including the Guilford County Courthouse, West Market Street Methodist Church by S. W. Faulk, several buildings designed by Frank A. Weston, and UNCG's Main Building designed by Orlo Epps.
During the twentieth century, Greensboro continued to expand in wealth and population. Rapid growth led to construction of grand commercial and civic buildings, many of which remain standing today, designed by hometown architects Charles Hartmann and Harry Barton. Other notable industries became established in the city, including Vicks Chemical Co. (famous for over-the counter cold remedies such as VapoRub and NyQuil), Carolina Steel Corporation, and Pomona Terra Cotta Works. During this period of growth, Greensboro experienced an acute housing shortage. Builders sought to maintain a construction goal of 80 to 100 affordable housing units per year in order to provide homes for workers. Greensboro's real estate was considered "the wonder of the state" during the 1920s. Growth continued through the Great Depression, as Greensboro added an estimated 200 new families per year to its population. The city earned a reputation as a well-planned community, with a strong emphasis on education, parks, and a profitable employment base.
As Greensboro evolved into one of North Carolina's primary cities, changes began to occur within its traditional social structure. On February 1, 1960, four black college students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College sat down at an all-white Woolworth's lunch counter, and refused to leave after they were denied service. Hundreds of others soon joined in this sit-in, which lasted several months. Such protests quickly spread across the South, ultimately leading to the desegregation of Woolworth's and other chains. The original lunch counter and stools now sit in the Smithsonian, but a museum is under development in the original building where the event took place. (As of May 2007, efforts to finally open the International Civil Rights Museum were postponed due to budget constraints.)
Prosperity brought new levels of development involving nationally and internationally known architects. Walter Gropius designed a factory building in the city in 1944. Greensboro-based Ed Loewenstein contributed designs for projects throughout the region. Eduardo Catalano, and George Matsumoto both brought designs to the city that challenged North Carolinians with modernist architectural concepts and forms.
In spite of this period of progress, old wounds had yet to heal. On November 3, 1979, members of the Communist Workers Party (CWP) were holding an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally, when a group of KKK and neo-Nazis caravaned into the Morningside Heights neighborhood where the rally was being held and ambushed the protest. Four local TV news stations filmed the event as it happened. Although a pistol likely was fired by a CWP organizer (allegedly into the air) and the Klan caravan was beaten with sticks prior to stopping, only the anti-Klan protesters were injured and killed. Five CWP members died and seven were wounded. Television footage of the event was shown nationwide and around the world, and the event became known as the Greensboro Massacre. The accused Klansman and neo-Nazis all were acquitted by an all-white jury in two separate criminal trials. In 1985, a civil suit found five police officers and two other individuals liable for $350,000 in damages to be paid to the Greensboro Justice Fund.
In 2007, Greensboro voters elected the first African-American mayor of the city, Yvonne J. Johnson.