The Village Historic District – The Mill Houses #2

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ONCE I WAS LOST BUT NOW AM FOUND

Looking at the photograph above I can hear you saying, “Stepheny, you’re excited about this?”  I absolutely am because I believe in the “blind, but now can see” phenomenon.  You have to go and see what is happening with the Mill Village and you too will be intrigued. People have, and are, moving into this historical area. They are buying into a lifestyle and becoming a part of a unique opportunity. I hope the residents take great pride in saving, loving, and restoring the past history their homes represent, bringing life back into the area that has a great future.

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In the 1910s kerosene lamps lit a majority of these houses, and open fireplaces provided heat. Families drew their water from wells or hydrants shared with neighbors, and almost all households had outdoor toilets rather than indoor plumbing. You can see how small the Village houses are, yet the average southern mill family of seven lived in a four-room cottage that offered little privacy. I wonder if the women could have possibly imagined the comforts available today in these houses. Women worked in the mill for ten or twelve hours and came home to cook on wood stoves and to wash clothes in large iron kettles over open fires.

I had the good luck to meet Rocky Mount native, John Brady, who is responsible for breathing life back into five of the mill houses. The beautiful craftsmanship at 12 Carr, a walk-in, ready to be loved home, is a great example of John’s work. He is helping to build a future for the Mill Village.

You can reach John at 252-904-8218 to learn more

As I write about the Mill Village, I think of Alan Gurganus, author, born in Rocky Mount. He wrote a stunning piece called Old Houses & Young Men in a book called, 36 Views of Hillsborough, where he makes his home. He writes…. the spirit residues of your home’s former citizens–they perfume you, tease you. They offer hints of presences both scarcely there and yet far more permanently present than either you or I.

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About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: Stephenyhoughtlin.com
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11 Responses to The Village Historic District – The Mill Houses #2

  1. David Lewis says:

    Your piece is an excellent characterization, Stepheny. Having grown up on Mill Street that ran down into the village itself, I had friends that lived on Elm Street and often visited. The beauty of a Mill house was not in there being anything fancy but in the functionality. A lot of hard working people raised many children there, grew fabulous gardens in that rich Tar River bottom land, produced a few characters, and had a clear sense of community. Our end of town was blue-collar, as was most of the town at the time, and as I look back now I retrieve a lot of joy as I recall the successes of those tree lined streets.

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    • David, you do realize you have the opening lines of a novel. “I grew up on Mill Street that ran down into the village itself.” If you are not writing, you should be. Why not write more and let me publish it on the Main Street blog as my guest. OR, tell me more so I can write additional posts myself, which in the intention. Interested in sharing more?

      Liked by 1 person

      • daystarmm2015 says:

        Thanks, Stepheny. I will be glad to share more with you. I actually have a couple of writing projects underway and a list of others to pursue. I’ll be in touch.

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  2. Dinah says:

    My grandparents lived at 33 river dr for 76 years I miss going there

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    • I appreciate you adding this mention of your grandparents. Would you consider speaking further with me about them and your memories of visiting them at the village? Please let me know if you have time.

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      • Judy Boswell Lee says:

        My grandparents lived at 10 River dr. My father was born there. Boswell is the name. My grandmother worked in the mill, walked to and from work everyday. I have such fond memories of that house and neighborhood. My mother and I recently visited that area and I was so sad to see my grandmothers home falling to pieces. It would be wonderful to see that neighborhood restored.

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      • Let’s hope that your grandmother’s home will be saved. I know the mill has hired a man who is working on them. I write about John Brady who is involved too. Hope you will tell me more of your story concerning the Mill Village. I’ll be in touch. Thank you for taking the time to add your comment.

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  3. douglaspirkey says:

    When we were kids, we’d ride our bikes from Fairview Road to the river to swim. There was a rope swing in one of the trees in the back yard of one of these houses, and we’d enjoy diving from it into the “Mighty Tar”. We were kindly permitted to be there.

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    • Thank you for adding this bit of remembrance to the post. Wonderful memories of a time when it was safe to bike everywhere or dive into a river; no one ever worried.Would like to talk to you further about your mill memories if you have time.

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  4. Stepheny, Thank you for such an outstanding read. And thank you for your continued focus on what makes Rocky Mount so great. I’m such a fan. Fondly, Hilarie

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    • The fact that you are enjoying Main Street RM pleases me no end…thank you for your kind words. I think of you as the ‘idea lady’ toiling in the trenches since you launched Bel Air Artisan Center. You and others like you who live and work downtown, I want Main Street to support others coming and doing the same thing.

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