‘Main Street’ Belongs to All of Us -Another Program Idea For The Restoration of Main Street’s Facades – Part 3

I have sought out Amy Facca again who is a historic preservation planner, architectural historian, and grant writer with a strong interest in economic development. In Oct. 2013 she wrote an informative piece about various emerging facade improvement programs that benefit communities. These are incentive programs created to encourage the restoration of the exterior appearance of buildings and storefronts. Improvements like masonry repairs & pointing; facade painting, repair, reconstruction or replacement of historic features; awnings, signage and exterior lighting, gutters, and downspouts; window & door repair or replacement.

 

Her photos in this article are of Hamilton NY facades before and after to illustrate what can be done.

This pair of commercial buildings were updated with a new color, including a new cornice, siding, windows, doors, awning and detailing.

 

Improvements in the building below included replacing unsightly signage, a new paint scheme highlighting the building’s historic character, a new cornice for the roof gable. The dark paint was used to make non-historic building elements (the garage door) less obvious.

The brick masonry facade of the Nicois-Beal building was cleaned. They painted the turret cornice to minimize attention drawn to the modern window elements in the storefront and upper floors and used a new awning to help conceal the modern, non-historic aluminum windows in the storefront.  We all know the saying,

“Where there is a will there is a way!”

 San Diego named their program “Focus on Downtown. They go on to state, “The program is designed to assist property and business owners in rehabilitating the commercial facades of their properties for the purpose of creating a positive visual impact, stimulating private investment, and complementing other community development efforts.”

We would look to federal and state grants for community and economic development, housing, and downtown revitalization; and municipal revenue. The key question is– Is this possible with our current leadership? These programs are usually developed and managed by the municipality’s planning, community development, economic development office, a Main Street organization, those interested in civic improvements. Obviously, this calls for coordination and cooperation.

Please leave your constructive comments below for saving Main Street. Let’s collaborate here on Mainstreetrockymount, and I’ll put together our suggestions along with a message to the City Council that in part says, “With your leadership, we want to save Main Street. Champion this endeavor or step aside and let those who will lead in this matter…lead!”

Here is our Main Street Rocky Mount – Use your imagination and apply the ‘before and after’ treatment to our wonderful commercial buildings,  one building at a time.

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‘Main Street Belongs to All of Us – Saving Facades -Part 2

“This is the place of places and it is here.”
 Gertrude Stein

Once upon a time in Louisville, Ky. seven historic buildings referred to as the Whiskey Row Stabilization, located at 105-119 West Main Street were stabilized as part of a fascinating project. These buildings were built in the mid to late nineteenth century and are part of Louisville’s rich history in early bourbon and whiskey making. They were purchased by a local group of concerned citizens in order to preserve Louisville’s most important architectural heritage. The City of Louisville also played an important role to preserve these buildings thru funding and project facilitation.

After surveying the existing conditions, it was determined that 4 of the 7 building’s interiors had deteriorated and were in partial collapse. They would need to be selectively demolished. This occurred after the contractor saved historic building elements of the interior and preserved the Main Street façades. At buildings 105 and 107/109, the façade was saved after installing a 6 story steel bracing system, which was attached to the sub-basement level with augur cast piers.

The entire three buildings at 111, 113, and 115 East Main were able to be saved by rebuilding selective portions of the exterior, adding a new temporary roof, and installing temporary interior columns at key locations. Historic tin ceilings, heavy timber trim, and turn of the century molding have been saved to be incorporated in the new building use. These photos demonstrate how historic facades can be stabilized and saved, allowing construction with new purpose while maintaining the integrity of what, here in Rocky Mount, we call the downtown center core.

 

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‘Main Street’ Belongs to All of Us – Part 1

It has been said that Rocky Mount has the best collection of historically significant architecture in the entire state. We’ll take that compliment. We have beautiful examples of what successful preservation looks like thanks to Peter Varney whose watch included the Train & Bus Station, The Imperial Center, the Douglas Block, and StreetScape. You have to ask yourself how that momentum got sidelined and why? As in a relay race, Peter Varney handed the baton to the next runner, but it has been dropped along the way. We have to go back and pick up that baton and get back in the race Peter began. Rocky Mount deserves that! It is past time that all citizens rally around the heartbeat of the city.

Maybe you never go downtown but that doesn’t change the fact that Main Street is like our living room and deserves protection. What happened to our concerted effort to save our Main Street architecture and what we think of as our downtown city core? It seems no one is actually responsible for seeing that these efforts are ongoing?  I know we have codes that are not being enforced. I know we have buildings leaking into others and nothing is done. I know there are broken windows, boarded up facades, exterior proof of the deterioration that is on-going.

At this point, I no longer accept the premise that it’s the absentee landowners that have been holding us hostage. No, it is the lack of will to do something about that. I feel like everyone is saying, “This is not my job.” I am proud to sit on the board of Preservation Rocky Mount but since I’ve been involved we still haven’t found time to discuss what this organization might do to bring attention to the present preservation crisis of these buildings. I visit the Historic Preservation Commission who are responsible for maintaining our historic district guidelines, and as important and imperative as that is, their influence in this matter is vital too. The downtown neighborhood belongs to all of us!

I believe that Main Street Rocky Mount can be the most beautifully, restored and preserved, downtown in the State. If you, in any of your spheres of influence, can help in this matter, you’re badly needed whether you are a disgruntled citizen over the matter or a CEO that can exert economic pressure.   We must stop electing and hiring people who will not help save Main Street and surrounds. We need tangible proof that the Mayor, City Manager right on down the leadership roll can not only bring into existence our new Event Center, which was to help promote downtown but start immediately to tackle the problems on ‘Main Street.’

Because we have lost a great cheerleader for Main Street, John Jesso, we are now in further peril of losing our masterpieces. It was he who courted and inspired investment and development downtown. Why would the rug be pulled out from under the economic momentum of new investors buying our commercial buildings? John helped new investors believe in the revitalization of our downtown city core. With the city not restoring and preserving this architecture, we only have these new investors to rely on.  Now the successful growing economic development downtown has been derailed? WHY? Who is profiting from stifling the growing success that can lift up our low-income population and change our economically depressed statistics?

These buildings can’t afford further neglect. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our leadership turned into heroes and took charge of saving Main Street?  There isn’t a chance of that as things stand. It is up to us to build a consensus that the taxpayers are not satisfied with the lack of leadership in this matter. It is our ‘Main Street’ and we want it back.

(We could have commercial buildings that look like this)

 

Join me for Part 2 with a fascinating look at saving facades

Leave a comment below on your thoughts about this. Thanks.

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Company is Coming! Thoughts About The City Council and Our Downtown

   “You cannot score a goal when you are sitting on the bench. To do so,                                  you have to dress up and enter the game.”

I would never want the positive attitude this blog is about to change.  I am, after all, a Pollyanna at heart: everything is beautiful, in its own way. But this quotation has caught my attention and I have taken it seriously. Though this post falls into a controversial category, I hope you agree that we can talk about problems from time to time. Let’s begin by acknowledging that everyone who grew up in and around Rocky Mount has a story to tell about their memories of going downtown with Grandma to pick up her prescriptions, or buying ‘back to school clothes’ at Belks or having a soda at the drugstore. That was then.

We have today what I like to think of as a brand new sparkling red barn sitting adjacent to a faded, neglected farmhouse. Something seems bass-ackward about this scene in spite of the barns usefulness and addition to the community. With the opening of the barn doors, we have company coming to town. Looking at Main Street through the eyes of these strangers, I say, “Lordy, Lordy, what are they going to think of us with so many of our downtown commercial buildings looking awful? We have SO MUCH to be proud of, but will our guests see the beautifully restored Train Station, Bus Station, Imperial Center, the Douglas Block, and Streetscape or understand the investment and creativity that is at work at The Mill, and in our new downtown businesses? Or, will they take home the picture of Main Street with many peeling facades, boarded up, with broken glass and vegetation growing out of cracks in the bricks?

We like to blame others for the neglected farmhouse, but the truth is, it’s all of our faults put together! We have allowed our leadership to remain in place year after year who won’t enforce codes or make policies, to keep our beautiful commercial buildings and historic neighborhoods from further deterioration.  Yet we seem so hesitant to demand what as taxpayers we should expect. It reminds me of Harry Potter and The One Who Shall Not Be Named syndrome.

Often our efforts with the City Council, if criticized or questioned, get derailed by derogatory name-calling: telling someone they are a racist seems to work well. This is a fallback accusation when there really isn’t any justification that can be offered for why we have a brand new barn but no fields to graze the animals or plant crops. I would say the word is ‘ticked’ when we learned that the taxpayers have just paid thousands of dollars to send newly hired people off for training. We look at each other and ask, “Why are we not hiring people in the first place that come to us with the appropriate educational background and laudable credentials that make them ready to ‘have at it’ on day one?” What leadership, with our best interests in mind, keeps spending thousands of dollars on parades rather than using that money to start stabilizing facades along Main Street or fix a block of houses in terrible disrepair? We don’t need more low-income housing, we need to clean up and save what we have and turn neglected homes into neighborhoods to be proud of again.

We don’t expect or want city government to fix everything, but we need leadership to care more for the city than a tightly guarded power base, we the taxpayers, are continually having to quarrel with. It is not fair to suggest, and I’m not, that nothing good has been accomplished, but honestly, folks, since no one is irreplaceable, term limits should be put on the ballot. After all, if something like a 3 term limit of say 2 years each isn’t enough time to accomplish the job,  you get what we’ve got.

 

I would love to read your comments left below.

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Another Star in Rocky Mount’s Architectural Crown – Paying Tribute to Architect George Matsumoto – A West Haven Gem

If you have been following my Main Street posts, you know that I have recently been pushing for an updated, honest architectural inventory. Here is one of Rocky Mount’s treasures that is a Mid-Century modern home built originally for Thomas and Marian Hicks at 718 Evergreen Road, Rocky Mount NC. I’ve done some research for us. This architecture is closely associated with the period from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, With a few pieces of information, we will better appreciate this home designed by George Matsumoto.  (Modernism, as a global movement, spanned five decades–from the 1930s to the 1970s.)

Key Elements in these designs • Flat planes. The geometric lines of the house are regular and rigorous. Flat roofs are common, though modern ranch-style houses had gable roofs. • Large windows. Sliding-glass doors and other expansive panes of glass allow light to enter rooms from multiple angles. • Changes in elevation. Small steps going up and down between rooms creates split-level spaces. A midcentury modern might have partial walls, or cabinets of varying heights to create different depths in the space. • Integration with nature. Rooms have multiple outdoor views, or multiple access points, encouraging an appreciation of healthy living.

We are honoring George Matsumoto (July 16, 1922 – June 28, 2016) a Japanese-American architect and educator who is known for his Modernist designs. Matsumoto houses share common characteristics, including; a flat roof, an unobstructed internal view from one end of the house to the other, terrazzo floors, natural woods for walls and ceilings, mahogany cabinetry, large windows in the rear, and small but functional kitchens. We will skip his considerable education but mention his North Carolina years.

In 1948, Henry Kamphoefner, then head of Oklahoma’s architecture program, was appointed the first dean of the School of Design at North Carolina State University. Matsumoto, along with several other faculty and students, left Oklahoma with Kamphoefner to start what became an epicenter for Modernist architecture education in the US. During Matsumoto’s tenure at the NCSU School of Design between 1948 and 1961, Matsumoto won more than thirty awards for residential work. He designed a Modernist addition to the school.  (Picture on the left) In 1961 he returned with wife Kimi and their children to California to teach at Berkeley until 1967 and then went into private practice. Raleigh, NC has many mid-century modern homes as a result of the NCSU School of Design.

We are fortunate to have these photographs when the Evergreen Road home was being built.                   The original configuration of the rear facing the Tar River.

The original configuration of the front, with the garage, served to make the rest of the residence private.  The features such as press-to-open teak cabinets, black countertops, and pass-throughs from the open-style kitchen to the outside were all revolutionary at the time.

Our architecture is one of the greatest assets Rocky Mount has. We must recognize it and protect it.

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Rocky Mount – “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” – Any More

Bob Houghtlin, my late husband, spent all but a few years of his working career at the same company – Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago, IL. He wore a suit and tie every day. Usually, he rode the Northwestern Train into Chicago from Winnetka, IL. and walked across the Loop to the same building. I’m proud to say that he became one of the five Media Director-Vice Presidents in the company and was responsible for Leo Burnett’s largest client: Phillip Morris. Here is one variation of a working career you recognize from way back when.

 

Do you remember the line from this Leo Burnett ad, “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile?” I’ve spent time with an amazing young man that John Jesso courted and enticed to Rocky Mount. His name is Jesse Gersti.  He is a managing partner at LarGerKo. This successful man was wearing a tee shirt, pegged blue jeans and a pair of tennis shoes. His office is where ever he happens to be and he usually has a phone in his hand. He and others like him are investing millions of dollars in Rocky Mount, NC. Jesse is the new “Oldsmobile.” As I followed him in and out of commercial buildings on Washington Street, up flights of stairs, through the Carlton House that is being brought back to life in an exciting way, I wish you had been with me. The new entrepreneur may not be wearing a coat and tie, but I definitely caught sight of a  Superman’s cloak as Jesse shared his Rocky Mount projects.

 

Come and sit with me on a bench downtown, and we can discuss the far-reaching implications of the verse – Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. We need these hosts of angels like Jesse Gersti who are preservation-minded, are bringing a new vision, a new economic reality. This is the new version of that old Oldsmobile. The community is thankful for the Jesse Gersti-like investors that have embraced our amazing commercial architecture and are helping to save the buildings. Properties such as the Carleton House where new memories will be made in the reimagined, restored and preserved space thanks to Jesse and his investment group,

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Posted in Economic Development in Rocky Mount NC, Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings, Rocky Mount Building Preservation | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Magnificent Piece of Property and Home in the Edgemont Historic District is a Source of Pride for a Reemerging Neighborhood – 800 Tarboro Street

Who can ever affirm, or deny that the houses which have sheltered us as children, or as adults, and our predecessors too, do not have embedded in their walls, one with the dust and cobwebs, one with the overlay of fresh wallpaper and paint, the imprint of what-has-been, the suffering, the joy?”
Daphne du Maurier, Myself When Young

There has never been any doubt in my mind that this quotation written by du Maurier is true. I continue to dream about the house I grew up in. I know that some part my parents and their only child, Stepheny, remain in the dust motes that are captured in the sunlight on the staircase.

One of the great homes in Rocky Mount, built by DJ Rose, sits on the corner of 800 Tarboro St. Many of you have been guests in this home of Jean Bailey. Perhaps you attended one of the outside Courtyard Parties or the wedding reception of Jean’s daughter that must have been magical. This past weekend, friends helped with an estate sale at the house. During my shift, I did my best to hide the emotional roller coaster I was riding knowing that the chapters Jean and her family have added to the story of this home, are winding down. I can tell the house is reluctant to have Jean finally close the door behind her, as are her neighbors, but it’s time now; this magnificent home and garden have a life to be getting on with.

You know how fairy tales start…once upon a time…the iconic Edgemont neighborhood had two-parent families, fathers walking to work, washing cars in the driveway on Saturday, ballgames on the radio, children safely riding bikes all over the neighborhood. Moms took their aprons off and had dinner on the table at the same time every day. Each newly built home was a marvel. I will admit to you that some of the neighborhood is in various states of disrepair, but I guarantee you that the residents want the same things we all want: Safe neighborhoods, good neighbors, reasonable taxes, decent education, adequate healthcare. Investors recognize the beauty of the architecture, the proximity to downtown, and best of all, they bring no baggage to the dreams of a happily-ever-after restoration of this neighborhood.

I want your word that you will think nothing but positive thoughts about the future of Edgemont, which must include an up to date inventory of properties along with accountability from the City Government that should be enforcing the rules on the books that effect neglected properties. You may not be able to buy this beautiful DJ Rose home on Tarboro, but you could start insisting that preserving our neighborhoods is more important than some parade that costs us $60,000-$80,000 and more important than hiring more city employees that we don’t need. If we have that kind of money to do these kinds of things, let’s put those dollars towards stabilizing the facades along Main Street and saving the homes in our neighborhoods.

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CLICK HERE for an earlier post featuring interiors of  Jean Bailey’s home.

CLICK HERE for an earlier post on Edgemont -A Jewel in Rocky Mount’s Crown #1`

Posted in Architectural Inventory of Rocky Mount, D.J. Rose Contractor -Rocky Mount NC, Edgemont -A Star in Rocky Mount's Crown | Tagged , , | 9 Comments