Station Square – Lynell Bynum: Are You Committed to Downtown? – Part 2

“In my opinion, cities have got to be committed to downtown if they are going to save it.   If they aren’t committed, they can’t expect other people to be.”              -Lynell Bynum                                  

City of Rocky Mount NE Main St_1962

On the right, you find a photograph of the Municipal Offices in downtown Rocky Mount, NC. before the city made a commitment to build a new city hall in a part of downtown that needed revitalization. Enter Lynell Bynum along with Errol Warren, a local architect, and Sandy Bulman of Bulman-Frazier Design Studio in Raleigh, who together would redevelop an entire city block across from the city hall and turn it into a modern shopping center and office space.

Mr. Bynum proposed a partnership with the City of Rocky Mount offering the city a 3-1  proposition. I don’t know the exact figures but let’s just say Mr. Bynum put up three million dollars of his own money and asked the city to provide one million to acquire property which would provide parking for the retail area. I wrote in Part 1 why Mr. Bynum would be predisposed to do such a thing. Click Here to read the ‘greatest generation’ aspect of this story.

When it was all said and done, the Station Square project, named for the railroad station next door became the gold standard for how private and public partnership can develop projects together within the community. The significant renovation of the Douglas Block in 2010 is another prime example.

Let investment in the preservation of our commercial downtown buildings take inspiration from Mr. Bynum who took basic commercial structures, some in dreadful condition, and restored them with a sensitivity to their glory days. Other downtown buildings were then restored by following this great example of Mr. Bynum’s imagination and commitment.

In the light of today’s revitalization of historic downtown Rocky Mount and beyond, Ben Braddock, real estate investor and general contractor has stepped forward and is once again offering Station Square as a model of ‘how you do it.’ In my estimation, he has appropriated the same set of American values that underpinned Lynell Bynum’s risk. The next phase in the life of Station Square requires a strong work ethic, courage, and faith in this community. We honor Mr. Bynum, and we vigorously shake Ben Braddock’s hand for what he is doing on many fronts.

 

 

 

 

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Telling The Station Square Story – Mr. Lynell Bynum -Part 1

Why would Mr. Lynell Bynum, (1924-2002) decide in the early 1970’s to buy up an entire block of buildings in downtown Rocky Mount NC? How is this connected to real estate investor and general contractor, Ben Braddock, and his business partner, who have purchased from Chambliss and Rabil Commercial Reality, Station Square, a 65,000 square foot facility.

We have before us men whose names are now allied: Lynell Bynum, the creator of Station Square and Ben Braddock, who like a long-distance runner in a relay race has already taken off down the track, the baton firmly in his grasp. He has turned towards the new possibilities of Station Square. I hope you will help line the sidewalks to cheer him on in his endeavors. 

Go and see for yourself the new opportunities there are to shop, soon to eat, and where there is impressive space for your business. On the right: Station Square freshly painted. It’s fabulous. We will have the opportunity to talk further with Ben, but what about Mr. Bynum?

Knowing Mr. Bynum could have spent his considerable dollars on anything, why on a bunch of old buildings he restored and connected, giving them a new purpose in downtown Rocky Mount? I’m certain Mr. Bynum would be leading the charge for the revitalization of downtown Rocky Mount today. Ahead of his time, he believed in the preservation and the restoration of commercial architecture for new purposes.

To understand Mr. Bynum, we need a context in which to place him and we can find answers amongst The Greatest Generation at the end of WWII. Lynell belonged to the Army Air Corp and flew B24’s. He was 18 years old in 1942 having experienced the great depression. (1929-1941) This becomes significant to our story in remembering that there is a common theme for the great generation which was self-sacrifice.

They’d experienced the harsh economic realities of the depression, seen the worst there was to see during the war and came home having developed values of personal responsibility, duty, honor, and faith. Tom Brokaw writes that these characteristics helped them to defeat Hitler, build the American economy, give succeeding generations the opportunity to accumulate great economic wealth, political power, and the freedom from foreign oppression to make whatever choices they liked.

When we speak of Lynell Bynum, there is a litany of American values that explain why he would invest in a place called home that subsequently benefited from his leadership, values and his determination to make a contribution in Rocky Mount. Mr. Bynum reminds us of what we must not forget, which seem under threat…..words to live by….. personal responsibility, accountability, a strong work ethic, the ability to be self-sufficient/reliant, the capacity for loyalty, courage, honor, a sense of duty and unabashed patriotism along with a strong sense of gratitude, pride in accomplishments, all with quiet humility. We thank Mr. Bynum for reminding us of the under-pinning of his life and for his contributions.

Next time: Mr. Bynum’s partners with the City of Rocky Mount.

 

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Historic Villa Place District Has Its Own Realm……

“Architecture has its own realm…a sensitive container for the rhythm of footsteps on the floor, for the concentration of work, for the silence of sleep.”
Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture

I’m feeling a bit nervous like when I was first taken home to meet the parents of the boy I was in love with. Would they like me? Would they appreciate my hidden talents? Would they see past my obvious flaws and embrace the possibilities of me?

What’s Stepheny going on about now?  You’re coming to the Historic Villa Place District home and walking tour on Saturday, at least I hope you are. I fell in love with the neighborhood the first time Charles Dunn (Rocky Mount Way Back When) drove me to see where his grandparents lived on the south side of Hammond St. (413), Two of his great-aunts lived at 206 Villa Street, one of whom, Miss Fannie Gorham, I have written about earlier.

The question I’m jittery about is….. will you see what I see in visiting Villa Place? Addicted to architecture as I have become over the years, I’ve come to believe that over time, the people who have occupied a home remain in the dust motts that are caught in the light from the sun-drenched window. Maybe Daphne du Maurier, an author I love, started me down this path of believing that if we use our imagination we will encounter the lives and stories that remain.

“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

I’m trying to resist the notion that I must take each of you by the hand and steer you past the few properties that should come down while extolling the virtues of the homes that are waiting for a believer who will buy, restore, and bring new life and joy to Villa Place. I will resist sounding like the gardener who tells you when you visit, “You should have seen the garden yesterday.” I mustn’t make an excuse as the mother does when she tells you the reason her child is cranky is because they’re over-tired. I want everyone who takes the time on Saturday to tour the four interiors, one garden, and two walk-bys, plus any driving you do, to get excited as I am about the possibilities where wonderful homes have already been restored, a neighborhood and story to honor, an area to be proud of.

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Villa Place Tales – The Kids that Grew Up in Villa Place

She sat on the porch and watched the moon rise. Soon its amber fluid drenched the earth and quenched the thirst of the day.
Zora Neale Hurston (edited SFH)

Throughout the South you find front porches tucked beneath deep overhangs. These open-air rooms continue to beckon family and friends where they gather to enjoy a cool breeze and some peace and quiet after a long day.  You will discover porches throughout the historic Villa Place neighborhood. Preservation Rocky Mount and the City of Rocky Mount invite you to a two-day event to celebrate the history, architecture, and the wonderful people who live in Villa Place and preserve beautiful structures. You will find the Villa Place neighborhood is an investment opportunity and a place to call home. 

Join the “kids” that grew up in Villa Place on Friday – Oct. 20th  (7:00 -8:30)…at Braswell School for a free event. Rocking together on the ‘front porch,’ the following folks will be telling tales of Villa Place. There will be time to add a few of your stories as well.

Polly Reynolds Warner, Emma Lynn Bass Wheeler, Sarah Johnson Tripoili and her Mom, Pat Strange, Fred Tulloss and Johnny Brown will be remembering parents, neighbors, friends, the games they played, and more… plus their thoughts about Villa Place today.

Hopefully, the two-day event will help the community reconnect with our historic districts, beginning with Villa Place. PRM encourages the preservation, rehabilitation, or restoration of historic properties that are important to the revitalization of the area. Show your support for this interesting neighborhood by attending Villa Place Tales on Friday, Oct. 20th and the Home and Walking Tour on Oct. 21st. A community that takes pride in its history and an interest in the preservation of its architectural assets, not only reaps economic benefits but improves life for all its residents.

The Home & Walking Tour Begins at 320 S. Pearl St. on Saturday, Oct. 21st 1-4:00. Pick up your tour booklet and make a much appreciated $5.00 donation to help defray costs. I look forward to seeing you!  Hey, bring some friends with you.

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YOU ARE INVITED TO A FREE EVENT: Save the Date – Friday, October 20th – 7:00-8:30 PM – Braswell School

“We owe it to each other to tell stories.” – Neil Gaiman

It’s easy to imagine….Parents on the front porch, children playing under the street lights, the heat of the day lifting, cicadas chirping in the trees. Look, there is Polly Reynolds over on South Howell, and Nancy Reynolds living behind the Tulloss brothers, Robert Watson on Western Avenue and Fred Fuller that moved into the Watson house on the corner of Nash and Howell. Billy Easton, Pat Longwell and Jackie Brantley playing on Tillary. What was it like to grow up in Villa Place? A group of ‘kids’ are getting together to talk about who they played with, who their neighbors were, to remember places like the Stankus Soda Shop.  On Friday evening, October 20th at 7:00PM, please join us at Braswell School for TALES OF VILLA PLACE. There you will find rockers on a front porch where Polly Reynolds Warner, Emma Lynn Bass Wheeler, Sarah Johnson Tripoli and her Mom Pat, and others, will be telling stories of growing up in Villa Place. There will be time for the audience to add a tale.

This is going to be a special time for neighbors, friends, realtors, investors looking at a great location a few blocks walk from downtown, for everyone, to enjoy this special two-day event. This is a gathering to celebrate the architectural and historic roots of Villa Place while celebrating the 150th anniversary of the City of Rocky Mount. There will be folks to introduce and thank, but the night is about story-telling. If you prefer, on Friday evening, you can make your $5.00 donation, which will help defray costs, and pick up your lovely colored tour booklet featuring six homes and additional information. OR at the starting place for the house and walking tour on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 1-4. The tour begins at 320 S. Pearl St.

Please share this invitation on your social media 

Help Preservation Rocky Mount spread the word.

 

 

 

                            

                                   

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Behind the Scenes: Historic Villa Place Walking Tour Events – Put These Dates on Your Calendar

The Historic Villa Place District is Getting Ready for Company  

Friday, Oct. 20 –  7-8:30 PM – Villa Tales -Growing Up in Villa Place                            

          @Braswell School – Corner Pearl & Nash Street  (Now the Tar River Academy)                                         

Saturday, October 21, 1-4 PM – Villa Place Walking Tour

The Villa Place Historic neighborhood located three blocks west of Main Street is the most intact early-twentieth-century residential area in the city of Rocky Mount. The densely developed neighborhood is filled with glorious architecture…Queen Anne, Foursquare, Craftsman, Bungalow, Colonial Revival and Neoclassical Revival style houses built between 1900 and the 1940s. I wish you could have been with me this summer preparing for the tour by meeting some of the ‘folks’ that keep the faith in this amazing area. I will admit that at times I have to put on my Pollyanna glasses when facing the disrepair and blight that some of the houses face, but we are not going to let these problems keep us from looking at the large picture; the glass filled with possibilities, assets, wonderful people and location, location, location.

For several hours one lovely Saturday afternoon, I sat for the first time with Shari & Jack Dunn, who own a Colonial Revival Style Cottage that will be featured on the Walking Tour. They have owned the house since 1991. They know many of their Villa Place neighbors and love the life they have created there. Sipping lemonade, it was amazing how peaceful and quiet Nash Street is – a slight breeze thrown in for good measure. Our voices could have been mistaken for any of those who over the years, have enjoyed this special space.

The Dunn’s home will be featured on the tour along with five others. Three of the home-owners will be inviting us inside to enjoy first floor rooms only. We will visit a private garden at one of the featured houses. There will be additional suggestions of what to see in a color printed Tour Brochure, which you will receive at the 1st house on S, Pearl Street.  A $5.00 Donation will help defray the costs of the Walking Tour and the Friday evening program, which is free. More details to follow.

Villa Place is filled with people that want what we all want. A safe place to live, fair taxes, decent health care, good schools. They look forward to showing you how important it is to preserve and restore these architectural treasures and what happens if you don’t. Villa Place is the perfect place for investment with its abundance of good people, architecture, and proximity to downtown Rocky Mount. It’s a place that has fascinating stories to tell.  Don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy the Historic District of Villa Place. Next time I will tell you about the event on Friday night. Follow Main Street Rocky Mount so you don’t miss anything. I look forward to seeing you Oct 20-21st.

 

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Douglas Block Stories: Honoring Earl Carnegie “Doc” Burnette (1907-1976)

 One of the important pieces of the puzzle from the ‘Revitalization Rocky Mount Puzzle Box’ is the historic Douglas Block named for Dr. Junious Douglas, an African-American pharmacist. The Douglas Block was home to shops, restaurants, entertainment centers, and medical services owned and operated by African-Americans. Today it is home to people who believe in the revitalization of the historic downtown district and are doing business where in spirit, the original black community will always be remembered

We have Di Riceratore to thank for research that helps us pay tribute to an important and distinguished family in the community. We honor Earl Carnegie “Doc” Burnette.  Come and stand with me on the sidewalk in front of The Prime Smokehouse, and look kiddie-corner across the street to the Burnette Building, part of the Douglas Block restoration. You have to let the scene come to you, the privilege of looking back at a time and place that is integral to the Rocky Mount story. With eyes to see, you are looking at the Burnette Drug Company established by Baker Burnette (1878-) who obtained a medical degree but worked as a pharmacist. His nephew, Earl Carnegie “Doc” Burnette, who we honor in this post, worked in the Burnette Drug store early in his life and later became the owner, and in the 1960s co-owned the business with Fred S. Biggs.

Earl Burnette was born and raised on the family farm near Hamilton and Oak City, in Martin County. Earl’s father sent him to live with an uncle in Rocky Mount to obtain the best available education. Earl was in the first graduating class at Booker T. Washington High School (established 1927.)Rocky Mount at that time was in a boom phase, driven by a profitable tobacco market and the Atlantic Coastline Railroad Emerson Shops.

Following in the footsteps of his two uncles, Earl attended college, earning a BA at Shaw University. Only 5’7″ and 168 pounds, nonetheless, he enjoyed a reputation as a powerful center on the football team. He then obtained a Masters degree from NYU. He pursued further education at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN. Though he apparently did not obtain a medical license, he acquired the nickname, “Doc.”

Mr. Burnette also pursued a teaching career. He was on the faculty at Patillo High School in Tarboro (1933-9), and in Rocky Mount at Parker Junior High and Booker T. Washington High School. He coached football at both Patillo and BTW, and won a championship while at Patillo.

Mr. Burnette married Juanita Exum (1920-2005.) also a teacher. Juanita met Earl when she began teaching at the former Lincoln Elementary School in Rocky Mount in the late 1940s In her later years, she taught at Baskerville Elementary in Rocky Mount. They had one child, Francine Elaine Burnett who continued the family tradition of education obtaining degrees from George Washington University (BA Speech-Language Pathology, 1979) and the University of North Carolina (MA, 1980.)

Earl Burnette died on March 15, 1976, after an illness. His service was at Metropolitan Baptist church, where he had been active in leadership roles for decades. Mr. Burnette is buried in Rocky Mount’s Northeastern Cemetery, next to his wife.

If you have further information about “Doc” Burnette, please add it in the comment section below for everyone’s enjoyment. Thank you.

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Posted in People Making A Difference in Rocky Mount | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments