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

Main Street Lego Architecture – Way Cool!

At some point, while growing up, I wanted to be an architect. Faced with the fact that I’m terrible at math, it wasn’t a realistic dream. Writing was a better fit. Today there are career paths I think of as my unlived lives. With a Historic Preservation Degree, the lead character in my new novel could be me.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I started seeing the work of young people and adults alike having fun with Lego Architecture, which “celebrates the past, present, and future of architecture through the Lego Brick.” The brand includes a series of Lego sets designed by ‘Architectural Artist’ Adam Reed Tucker, and each contains the pieces and instructions to build a model of a famous architectural building in micro-scale.

Chicago architect, Adam Reed Tucker earned a degree in architecture at Kansas State University in 1996. While there, he sought a method to join his two passions of art and architecture and hit upon the idea of using Lego bricks. From this, he founded Brickstructures, Inc., and began to design and build models of famous landmarks. His work was noticed by the Lego Group, and together they formed a partnership in 2008 to release some of his models as commercially available Lego sets under the Lego Architecture brand. Today his idea has captured the imagination of Lego architects who have taken his idea and run with it. Ingenious architects of all ages are having fun designing and building their own creations while learning to appreciate the value of architecture. My favorites resemble the commercial buildings on Main Street USA.

These are PINTEREST Images: See More

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River and Twine – Tiny Home Hotel in Rocky Mount, NC

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Stepheny, who had a playhouse filled with children who came to play. They had so much fun together, and they all lived happily ever after. The end.”  This was my dream as a little girl…to have a playhouse.

Dreams are coming true in Rocky Mount. And so are Tiny Homes! When I think of the Rocky Mount Mills team, I picture them sitting together dreaming. What is possible?  How can we preserve the story yet move into the future? Can we add to a positive experience of the Mills and Rocky Mount by offering new tiny house accommodations?

River & Twine will feature 20 unique, brand new tiny homes adjacent to all of Rocky Mount Mills’ amenities, that include breweries, restaurants, and music. To develop this riverfront destination, Rocky Mount Mills contracted with two builders: Modern Tiny Living and Free Spirit Tiny Homes, nationally renowned for their work on small living spaces. Each home ranges in size from 188 to 244 sq ft, different in style, private, while being part of a cohesive family-friendly environment.

Each tiny home will feature modern amenities including full-size glass door showers, microwaves, fridges and coffee makers in all homes. Complimentary high-speed internet and smart TVs. Heating and air conditioning. The tiny home hotel community will share amenities by pod groupings of five homes, which will include fire pits, grilling stations, outdoor games and children’s play areas.

“River & Twine will offer a one-of-a-kind experience for all visitors to Rocky Mount,” says Tim Rogers, Rocky Mount Mills/Capitol Broadcasting Company. “Whether you’re here for work, sports, recreation or simply to chill, River & Twine will be your go-to spot for a unique get away.” As a little girl who always wanted a playhouse, the Tiny Home movement making its debut in Rocky Mount has my architectural heart fluttering.  If you read in the paper that a little girl was found sleeping in baby bears bed after trying out the chairs and eating the porridge,  you’ll know what it’s about…..Stepheny was playing in the Tiny Homes while the three bears were out having a beer and eating at one of the Mill Restaurants. And you know what, on this trajectory, we’re all living in a place happily ever after.

On Pinterest: Random Tiny Homes – Rocky Mount will soon have their own version THANKS to Rocky Mount Mills

 

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Rocky Mount Has A Unique Signature

Rocky Mount needs to clone an accomplished person like Amy Facca who is a historic preservation planner, architectural historian, and grant writer with a strong interested in cultural economic development. She holds a Master’s degree in Architectural History and Historic Preservation from the University of Virginia. I discovered Amy while researching how we can undertake an inventory of our architectural assets.   Preservation Rocky Mount and the Historic Preservation Commission NEED an Amy Facca to help us with our efforts to protect our unique story. Are you the Amy Facca we need?


Main Street Downtown-Station Square

Facca writes that  communities have unique “signatures” or “signature elements.” We know our signatures include: The Railroad, Tobacco, Textiles and now Micro Beer. A community’s signature is rooted in its unique history, people, arts, architecture, heritage, natural resources, culture, commerce, agriculture, industry, and institutions. Signature elements can be a continuous source of pride, inspiration, and creativity that can serve as building blocks which communities can use to tell their stories, stimulate revitalization and growth and promote themselves to potential residents, visitors, and investors.


Rocky Mount Mills Village – Textiles

All of this is important because community planners and economic development professionals are increasingly identifying communities’ signature elements, as key elements of what has become known as the creative economy. To tap into this segment of the economy, communities are turning increasingly to cultural economic development, which includes, among other things, historic preservation, main street revitalization, and heritage tourism. These efforts need an up to date, honest inventory, an analysis of existing conditions and the identification of opportunities and threats relating to the creative/cultural economy.

Preservation has evolved far beyond its early focus on the restoration of historic properties of famous Americans. Preservation today is engaged in questions of how to keep our downtowns and older neighborhoods vibrant by respecting the past while fostering development to fill in the gaps. We want to be sure that developers and local officials recognize the enormous economic benefits that strong local historic preservation programs yield. It’s a fascinating time in the life of Rocky Mount, a time not without its controversy, but there is a need for enthusiastic, creative thinking. Please think about joining Preservation Rocky Mount to help build our future while honoring our past. I thank Amy Fach for her valuable contribution to my education and her contribution to preservation with these ideas for Rocky Mount, NC.

 

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