Historic Bellemonte House on Wesleyan College Campus – Soon to be a B & B – Hopefully Serving Tea


The Bellemonte House, constructed between 1817 and 1825, may not be on your radar screen, but it soon will be. It was moved last year to a beautiful wooded lot on Bishop Road on the back side of Wesleyan College. I became aware of the house recently on a tour of Rocky Mount that John Jesso conducted for the Rocky Mount Blackbirds – class of ’62. Wonderful people! (I was delighted when invited to join them for a few hours.) Intrigued, I went back for photographs to share with you. The restoration is nearly complete by the looks of the outside. There are no signs of a semi-formal garden with period fencing that is planned, but as a gardener, I await this addition with anticipation.

The Bellemonte house sat in the front of the Wesleyan College for 28 years until Oldham House Moving of Ramseur and Oldham House Movers of Seagrove came together and relocated the structure a quarter of a mile away. Bishop Beat, a N.C. Wesleyan College Newsletter, wrote that the move would make room for the constructed of a new building at the college’s main entrance “to accommodate much-needed classrooms and office space.”

Here’s a little history….Bellemonte was originally the home of Dr. John R. Bellamy (1794-1846), a physician who owned a large tract of land north of Rocky Mount. He began construction on Bellemonte, a Federal architectural style home in 1817. There is a two-tier portico with balustrades that are a Chippendale- inspired pattern The house was developed in stages over several years and follows the I-house form.

In 1918, Bellemonte was acquired by Mack C. Braswell of Battleboro, a landowner, and merchant. In 1956, the Braswell heirs donated 200 acres of farmland adjacent to the Bellemonte House to become the site of N.C. Wesleyan College. In 1988, the Pearsall family donated the Bellemonte House to the college and it was moved 400 yards south to the front of the college. In 1989, the house was restored and listed as one of 28 Nash County sites on the National Register of Historic Places. The beautiful restoration of this historic home is something to celebrate along with so many things that are happening on Main Street Rocky Mount and the surrounding area. It is all endlessly fascinating and important in the drama of building a future while honoring the past.

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Three Days at the Beach with Martha Battle Mebane – (1923-1996) – Day 3

Meeting on Main Street, as we do, you know I have written about the outstanding men of the community. They have left an ever-lasting mark, rising to the top of their professions through hard work, intelligence, good business practices, and are known for their philanthropical endeavors. They were church-going and patriotic souls. Far less has been written about the women of the same day. We rely on the stories family and friends tell about the significant women in their lives. It is important to me to write about Martha Battle Mebane, a woman, who has left behind a successful and endearing family.  

Compared to the lives of women today, I suppose some might judge Martha’s life as small, having never worked, a stay at home wife and mother. But it would be a grave mistake to discount the value of women of Martha’s generation that way. My own mother, Madeline, never learned to drive a car, and she too focused her life upon her only daughter and husband. I celebrate the lives of women today, of course. I’m intensely proud of my own eight adult granddaughters who have spread their wings academically, traveled aboard,  have entered into interesting and demanding professions. In the light of today’s political correctness, however, I am uneasy that in trying to change our history, we will try to diminish the Martha’s of the world. In honoring Martha Battle Mebane, it is also about the women in those days who made their families their life’s work; this remembrance is of their steadfastness and sacrifice.

I am opposed to erasing our history, removing statues, changing the words of a song, looking at the world through a politically correct lens. In the end, our own life/histories are the totality of both success and failure. I don’t want anyone to edit my life which includes mistakes that helped me become who I am. And, I don’t want anyone to diminish the lives of women like Martha Battle Mebane because they stayed home and raised a family. That family has grown over time and flourished. How proud and amazed she would be. She is remembered with love and affection and has left behind the best of who she was for her family to be going on with. It’s quite marvelous really. It is forever!




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Three Days at the Beach With Martha Battle Mebane – (1923-1996) – Day 2

 My mother used to call it…living to the other side of things. Here in this charming photograph, still at the beach are Martha Battle Mebane and John Marvin Mebane. They have made it to the other side of things! When I first went to U. of Ky. and joined  a sorority, I didn’t understand the question that was asked during rush chapter meetings.”Who is her father?” The answer is a southern ‘thing’ that places a person in a family and a setting. (My mother may have dated your father during college, our families might have spent summers at the same beach.) I came to embrace the question rather than thinking it was the height of …what difference does it make.

Who was Martha Battle’s father? He was Thomas Hall Battle. Lawyer, Banker, Treasuer of Rocky Mount Mills, Mayor of Rocky Mount, and was    head of the school board when he met his third wife, Mary Weddell who had come to interview for a job. (His first two wives died in child birth.) They had two daughters, Martha and Mary Thomas, who is still alive and cherished. Every summer the family headed to Mile Post 13-Nags Head.

Martha and her future husband, John Marvin, known as Marvin or Spike. met while Martha was at St Mary’s and Spike at Davidson. In 1942-43 Martha transferred to Converse College near Davidson. Martha was outstanding in every way and it makes us smile to know she was even a member of the May Court.  The couple married in June of 1944. Spike left in July for France and joined Patton’s army. He was a Lieutenant promoted to Captain at the end of the war. In the 1950’s the family lived on Taylor Street. In 1961 they moved to 1404 West Haven Blvd. Sunday evenings in West Haven Martha and Spike, with close friends, always gathered. This was typical for the social times of that period. Spike owned a shoe store downtown on Main Street, a kind and generous man who was known to give away a pair of shoes when someone couldn’t pay.

Martha & Spike with their growing family continued the trek to the beach each summer where they took the ferry to reach Nags Head. Martha packed pimento cheese sandwiches and brought along Cokes for the journey. At sixty-five years of age, Spike retired and closed the shoe store. We don’t want to forget Lizzie….considered family, she looked out after the Mebane’s; cooking, caring for the house, the children. Lizzie’s place in the Mebane family is guaranteed with love and gratitude.

Martha’s mother, Mary Weddell, was a loving and generous woman. She was the official babysitter for Martha’s five children. Called ‘Gran’ she died in 1978 at age 87. She lived in the beautiful home at 132 N. Church with a large wrap around porch. Like her daughter Martha, she was active at Good Shepherd Episcopal Church. Mary moved to Lafayette Ave close to her grandchildren, who would ride their bikes to visit, to play cards,  bake cookies, and read stories. She taught Mary Kemp how to ride her bike. We find ‘Gran” and her oldest daughter, Martha, in these old black and white photos.

This picture on the right was taken at Nags Head about 1953 at the Kemp Battle Cottage, called the “B Hive.”  ‘Gran,’- Mary Weddell, sits on the left and is holding Mary Kemp. Martha and Spike Mebane are on the right side.  Mary Tom is sitting in front of her mother and baby Mary Kemp. That’s young John with his boots on!  Some members of the Billy Harrison family are also in this picture.  Click on the photo and zoom in.

The second photo is taken on the front side porch at ‘Gran’s’ house on Church Street. Martha is holding Mary Kemp, Mary Tom is in the middle and ‘Gran’ is on the far right. That’s sister Marty and brother John at the front. Am I foolish to think you will strain to see these faces, to put the story together with them? I call it honoring the past, a past we must not forget because it is my family, your family, on whose shoulders we stand. Let’s join Martha Battle Mebane and her family over a glass of sweet tea and pimento cheese sandwiches on the porch. See you tomorrow for the final Day 3 at the beach. 





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Three Days at the Beach with Martha Battle Mebane – (1923-1996) – Day 1


The family of Martha Battle Mebane and John Marvin Mebane (Spike) spend time every summer in Nags Head. A summer tradition Martha’s adult children have continued throughout their lifetime. Using our imaginations, it is a perfect opportunity to revisit a time and place when Martha Mebane was still alive, her precious family gathered around. Pick a summer in the 1950’s when Martha would have been in her mid-thirties. I highly recommend you read David Halberstam seminal book, The Fifties, which is the setting for our story. Are you ready? From the radio in the kitchen, there are love songs of the 1950’s playing quietly while Martha prepares for a few guests and family to arrive for the evening porch party – gin and tonic time.  We don’t want to intrude so I will speak softly.

You see the beautiful woman just there….that’s Martha. Even here at the beach, she is dressed smartly. Thrifty as she is, a habit of her generation, she loves clothes and has a style about her we appreciate. Like other Rocky Mount ladies, she shops at Rosenbloom’s and Daniel’s and of course, her shoes come from her husband’s shoe store. But it is her family and their history that she loves best.

She is a wonderful mother and role model to her five children: Marty, John, Mary Kemp, Bill, and Thomas. I am privileged to know John and Mary Kemp, and it is through them that I am able to glimpse Martha. John Mebane is a presence when he walks into a room, full of energy with a positive attitude, good humor, and generosity, a certain shine that surely mirrors his mother. I know how sweet Martha was because I see it in her daughter, Mary Kemp, whose caring and loyalty today make her the best kind of friend, family member, mother. She is loving and sees after others.  Amazed by all the friends who came to her mother’s side near the end of her life in January 1996, Mary Kemp’s life is rich with friendships too.  Mary Kemp took me to visit Carolyn Weeks, still beautiful; she and Martha were best-best friends. I loved watching Mary Kemp with this lovely woman, her love, and respect for Carolyn allowing me to see Martha Battle Mebane as she surely was, like this daughter.


The Children of Martha Battle Mebane








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The Wall Murals of Rocky Mount, NC Inspired By Quebec City Canada

The walled murals of Quebec City,  which depict the history of the city and its inhabitants, were commissioned between 1999 and 2008 to celebrate 400 years of the city’s existence. Although the pieces are fairly recent, they have nonetheless become part of the city’s artistic and cultural heritage. These frescoes depict the history of the city and its inhabitants and help visitors discover or recall fragments of the past. The murals, which are an ongoing heritage project, continue to change the face of Quebec City; they captivate passers-by and add a splash of color and history to once-anonymous urban spaces. We could do this! Are these murals as costly as the bronze sculptures of famous people scattered on a walk through downtown Greenville, SC? Not too long ago I wanted to raise money for a Peter Varney Bronze and certainly a Thomas Battle Bronze and…..I still want all of our ghost signs to be saved and preserved, but can’t we have this fabulous mural concept too?

Fresco Murals – An Urban Artistic Practice

Quebec City’s murals are part of a rapidly-growing contemporary fresco mural movement. The use of murals as an urban art form can be traced back to the post-revolutionary muralist movement in 1920s Mexico, whose goal was to use murals as a way of denouncing the current social, political, technological and artistic trends in the city. The practice spread throughout North America and Europe in the 20th century, its form conforming to the urban reality of the cities in which it developed, rather than by any specific artistic trend. According to Suzel Brunel, such pieces are “created in the city for the city and they are closely tied to the physical and social environment.”The murals play a variety of roles: urban renewal, redevelopment, and regeneration of the city, support for the artistic community, social reintegration, propaganda, education, etc. In Canada, and especially in Quebec, urban murals have become increasingly popular in recent years, of which a majority have been historical frescoes.  Take a look at these examples and if you are artistic at all, take time out from your craft and your adult coloring books and sketch a few murals that capture our story. This would make a great project in our schools for the budding artists of the future. Link it with the city’s history: There is plenty to depict of the railroad, the mill, tobacco, famous citizens, our sports figures, and musicians.  Can’t you see it now? Scroll down and let me know what you think in the comment section.

Examples from La Fresque des Québécois, the first mural (Lead Photo Above) to be completed in 1999  is located near Place Royale, on the wall of Soumande House on Notre-Dame Street. The 420 square meters mural pays homage to the history of Quebec City by depicting a number of its key figures,a number of the city’s most notable architectural monuments such as Place Royale’s historic homes, the stairs connecting upper and lower town, the walls surrounding Old Quebec, and cultural elements such as the city’s coat of arms, and Bonhomme Carnaval. Finally, the mural celebrates the various cultural communities that were and are part of life in the capital, namely Amerindians, French and British settlers, and Irish immigrants. The following two images are part of this mural.

On the right a close-up of La Fresque de la bibliothèque Gabrielle Roy – This mural project was also completed in 2003 by Murale Création, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Gabrielle-Roy library. The mural, which covers 600 m2 of the rear wall of the library and overlooks Du Roi Street, depicts key moments in the history of literature, as well as the history of Quebec City’s public libraries in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Below: La Fresque BMO de la capitale nationale du Québec -Completed in October of 2008 by Murale Création, the 450 m² BMO mural commemorates the province’s political history and celebrates QuebecCity’s status as a provincial, regional and cultural capital. It is located on the west side of the Marie Guyart building. Depicting the facade of the National Assembly building, home to a number of key figures from Quebec’s political history. It’s all wonderful, don’t you think. Graffiti can take on a whole new meaning in Rocky Mount,NC


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Stonewall Manor Open House Weekend – May 20-21, 2017

L.M. Montgomery in Emily’s Quest says that an old house that had lived its life long ago seems quiet and wise and a little mysterious. Also a little austere, but very kind.

Historic Stonewall Manor OPEN HOUSE                                                                            May 20-21                    2-4:00                                                                                                                          $5.00 donation.                                                                                                                                                

No refreshments but a wonderful opportunity to bring friends and family to this Rocky Mount treasure. Please share this invitation with friends. If your Saturday is filled like mine, I hope to see you Sunday. Can’t wait.


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The Home of Z.B. Bulluck – An architectural gem – Renaissance Revival

I stood in silence, alone, with only bird song to welcome me to the Z.B. Bulluck home. The house stands empty of laughter and hospitality, though I am sure it remains filled with memories of the man responsible for this particular Renaissance Revival gem and his family. I imagined the day Z.B. ushered Foy Mae Williams Bullock through the door of her new home. Could she possibly have imagined that her young husband would prosper and flourish through his good works and one day provide a home of this magnitude that she would come to preside over? I wonder how much she even knew about the elements and style of the house. It is cause for weeping that this amazing home, on a piece of land with beautiful old trees only a few miles from Main Street, continues to wait for a new life. If only I could win the lottery, I would buy it and turn it into a retreat center, a sanctuary for people to come and catch up with themselves, to participate in silent or lead retreats for all denominations across the state. (But I digress.)

While I walked around the house taking photos, I imagined the four Bulluck children playing, free and safe to roam the considerable property. Growing up in Evanston, IL. the first suburb on the lake north of Chicago, the city provided many examples of Renaissance Revival buildings. You will recognize the style even if you couldn’t name what you are familiar with.

Chicago Loop area, Wacker Drive

Picture 1: Includes rusticated (heavily outlined) stonework on the ground floor, large round-arched windows, triangular pediments over the side windows, oval windows, and quoins to emphasize the corners.


Picture 2: Chicago, IL. Colonnaded, round arched windows supported by columns (below the string course), and gigantic triple-arched window reminiscent of the biforate windows of Renaissance palaces.




Picture 3: Chicago, IL. Includes arched, ground-floor windows, ornate window balconies.




Here is a great example of a residence in the Rennasance Revival style. 

For middle and upper-class suburban homes and townhouses, the style often displays a low-pitched, hipped, or flat roof, often with ceramic tiles to hint at its Mediterranean source region. Like the Italian Renaissance palazzo, the roofline includes wide, overhanging eaves with large, decorative brackets under the roofline. Doors and windows are often framed with round arches, primarily on the first floor, sometimes in the form of an Italian loggia or covered patio.

             The magnificent home of Z.B. Bulluck – A Rocky Mount architectural treasure


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