We’re Headed to Villa Place Historic District – One of the stars in Rocky Mounts Crown

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An Invitation
Come with me on an adventure
Destination: Villa Place Historic District
Walking Tour
October 21, 2017

Recently I visited friends at Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill. I noticed an elderly lady concentrating on a puzzle that residents can work on if so moved. The image of this solitary woman has stayed with me. I know it’s because I think of the revitalization of Rocky Mount like a puzzle worked by individual people, groups, and organizations who are placing one piece at a time.

Carrying this puzzle idea with us in the weeks to come, I want you to concentrate on the Villa Place Historic District Neighborhood Pieces, a source of pride and a neighborhood that is vital to the future of Rocky Mount. It is the first of the 7 historic districts Preservation Rocky Mount plans to focus their attention upon believing that the preservation of our neighborhoods is of historical, economic and social significance for a successful future. 

If you are of a certain age, you were allowed to run free in the neighborhood where you grew up. You rode your bicycle everywhere and nobody worried. When the fireflies began to light up in the shrubbery, or the street lights came on, it was time to head home. All these years later if we close our eyes, we can transport ourselves back to the neighborhood we call home where memories still abide of our parents, the children we once were, the ‘kids on the block’ jumping rope or playing hop scotch on the sidewalk, playing baseball in the park.

Villa Place was such a place on the west side of the business district of Rocky Mount. Now a designated Historic District, it spans approximately 35 acres and is composed of all or part of 23 blockfaces. 171 structures contribute to the historical significance of the District. Though Machaven sits vacant, this Neoclassical Revival residence at 306 S. Grace still presides in a stately fashion over the neighborhood but is by no means the end-all of the story. The ladies reading this will understand the image of a lovely necklace with Machaven as the center and largest bead, but the rest of the beads that are different in size and color, are what make the piece.

In future posts throughout the summer, we’ll get ready for the tour with some architectural information that makes up this beautiful necklace, give you some behind the scenes tour goings on, and hopefully, peek your interest as we make our way towards October. (Just so you know, if I win the lottery, the house on the corner of Villa and Nash is mine.) It’s a gem longing for a new life and purpose, a family to shelter, perhaps a bread and breakfast offering hospitality. Sherry & Jack Dunn, sitting on their porch right across the street, are members of the  Advisory Team that will help Preservation Rocky Mount plan this tour and make sure it’s a great experience. You’re going to love these neighbors, envy their quiet streets and beautiful homes. Let me know if you would like to help PRM with the planning and successful outcome of honoring the past of Villa Place while building a future here in Rocky Mount. We would welcome your local knowledge of this wonderful neighborhood. It’s going to be great fun!

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Welcome to Washington Street Grille – A NEW Downtown Restaurant to Love – PART 2

You too can put your hand on the beautiful old brick at the Washington Street Grille. In fact, I insist. Show others what they are missing, help them look up and SEE what is going on around them. Besides the ambiance the preservation of this architectural building provides, there must be good food. At the WSG, there is an ample menu to select from, an appealing presentation, everything made from scratch.

 

 

 

Starting with Sweet Tea (of course) my choice…salmon on a bed of greens. Very good.

 

 

 

 

My friend, Polly Warner, picked three side dishes, which she loved. Collards, black-eyed peas, and the succotash dish she raved about.  You could go straight for the dessert menu. There will be gluten-free choices in the future. Before Polly took over, I was able to scrape around the edge of a yummy mixed berry (blueberries and strawberries) cobbler with homemade vanilla ice cream, avoiding the cobbler part. The restaurant is not ready for Sunday brunch, but our meal, service, (everybody checking to be sure we were happy,) was a great way to spend a few Sunday hours.

If you missed PART ONE about The Washington Street Grill –Click Here

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Welcome to Washington Street Grille – A NEW Downtown Restaurant to Love

 110 N. Washington Street

Around the corner from Prime Smokehouse

Steps away from the new Edgecombe Community College Building

It starts with a dream, a vision of what is possible if you renovate a beautiful old building, give it a new life and a reason to carry on. In this case, Garland Clark was the dreamer, who renovated this wonderful building back in 2014- 2015  and has now passed his work and effort on to partners Robert McBride and Darrell Brown, owners of the NEW Washington Street Grille.  Their official opening was Saturday, July 17th. I got there as soon as I could.

You’ll be proud of me. Walking into this great space to meet a young friend I got teary, of course, but I didn’t rush right over to put my hand on the beautiful old brick. I saved that for last.  I was meeting Carole Mehle (Click Here – For Previous Post About Carole) for an overdue catch-up. I met Carole not long after starting the Main Street blog at the Belmont Artisans Center where she has a small studio. Carole is a Rocky Mount native and cheerleader for the revitalization taking place. She is looking to move downtown, she has vast local knowledge. Though it was Carole’s first time at the Grille, she knew many of the young people, former & current students that were either dining or working. Owner McBride visited the table, welcoming us, full of enthusiasm, asking for patience should we encounter a glitch….we had none! Good food, good service, we were thrilled to support this new endeavor.

You do get it right?…… stepping out of your car where the future is happening, admiring the “wanna be” buildings that are full of promise, a street on the edge of ECC that is excited to have this restaurant, and YOU are there in the midst of it. Come downtown with friends, family, add your footprint, leave some money, enjoy good food and an atmosphere even a cynic can’t deny. One day when you can’t find a parking space and have to wait in line at one of the many new restaurants, you can claim…I KNEW THIS REVITALIZATION WAS GOING to WORK!

252-985-8709

Delicious menu posted on website: http://www.washingtonstreetgrille.com

Monday-Thursday    Lunch 11am – 3pm  Dinner 5pm – 10pm  

Friday     Lunch 11am – 3 pm  Dinner 3 pm – 11pm  

Saturday    Lunch 11am – 3pm  Dinner 3pm – 11pm 

Sunday  Brunch 10am – 2pm  Dinner 2pm – 9pm

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Pedal Taverns – Are they in Rocky Mount’s Future? – We Gotta Look Into This Folks –

     I suppose all of my readers on Main Street know about Pedal Taverns, but without a granddaughter who lives in Milwaukee celebrating her 25th birthday, I would still be in the dark. It took my daughter, Debbie, to explain what Meghan’s celebration on a pub crawl was about.  You know me well enough by now, I had to start this day watching Youtube videos and finding photographs. I insist that Senior Citizens like myself can still say, “Now this is cool!”

Start by looking at this short video. Click Here for the Link

The Pedal Pub™ – Hammacher Schlemmer

This is the vehicle that accommodates up to 17 people who pedal, serve, drive, and imbibe as it travels. Invented in the Netherlands as a way to promote a local tavern, its high-grade steel chassis provides a reliable, safe, and open deck ideal for socializing. With five pedal seats per side, 10 pedalers propel the vehicle up to 5 mph on flat surfaces with grades up to 6%. A bench in the rear and two additional seats provide seating for five passengers. The final spots are taken up by a driver who sits in front at the wheel and a bartender who serves revelers while standing on a low interior deck that runs the length of the vehicle. An empty wine barrel accommodates a keg of your preferred brew; it connects to a tap and overflow tray at the bar (linkage required), which has cup holders to secure beverages. The included sound system places four speakers in the bar’s overhead storage racks beneath its wooden roof, allowing you to play music from an integrated AM/FM radio that supports MP3 connectivity (required). Supports pedalers up to 300 lbs. each. Special conditions and guarantee limitations apply. 20′ L x 8′ W x 10′ H. (2,300 lbs.) Item: 12225  Price $40.000  WE GOTTA LOOK INTO THIS TO RIDE BETWEEN THE MILL & DOWNTOWN!

 HAPPY BIRTHDAY MEGHAN
SOME DAY ROCKY MOUNT MAY HAVE A PEDAL TAVERN TOO

 

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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!

WHY NOT FOLLOW MAIN STREET ROCKY MOUNT AND NEVER MISS THE FUN

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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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