People call me Machaven, but I think of myself as a Hines. It seems like yesterday (1907-1908) that I was built for James Hines, a leading businessman, civic leader, and his wife. Of course, I credit the architect, H.P.S. Keller, for the handsome fellow that I am….a 2 1/2-story, Classical Revival style brick dwelling with a slate-covered hipped roof. I have five interior chimneys, a pedimented portico with Doric columns, and a full-width one-story porch. I stand on a half-acre plot surrounded by a 1930’s Flemish-bond wall and take up the 300 block of South Grace Street. A highlight in my long life came in 1980 when I was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I am proud of my 306 S. Grace Street address in the Villa Place Historic District and of starting my life with the outstanding Hines family.
The older I become, however, the more fearful I am that my glorious past is slipping to the edge of Rocky Mount’s consciousness. People tip-toe around me now. I think they are embarrassed because they promised to make me useful again, but I have been left on my own. I have come to understand what old people mean when they say, “I’ve been placed on the back burner.”
Stepheny has come to commiserate with me. She enjoys hearing stories about people like James Hines and she has a deep interest in historic preservation, an appreciation for the vast, beautiful inventory of architecture here in our community. I didn’t try to hide my disappointments from her. She listened and finally stamped her foot. “Well damn, this is a shame that needs to be fixed.” She did her best to make me feel optimistic about my future.
“Machaven,” she said, “Let me go and find Mr. Robbie Davis, who is in charge now. I’m sure he has your best interests in mind and I’ll do my best to sweet talk him into making you relevant again.”
I replied, “Tell him I loved my time when people thought of me as The City Club.”
“I will indeed, but what we need here is a plan for you, Machaven, and there are outstanding people like Mr. Hines in his era, that are working hard to revitalize the downtown core. We need to get you back on the Rocky Mount radar screen and help Mr. Davis do some creative thinking.”
Before we said goodbye she told me, “Keep the faith! You are a vital historic piece of the puzzle in the revitalization of Rocky Mount. Hold that thought.” She turned to leave and said, “I’ll be back.”