Who Lived at 202 Villa in the Villa Place Historic District? Getting Ready for the Villa Place Walking Tour Oct 21, 2017

You will find this recently renovated one-story brick veneer Minimal Traditional dwelling, with a pedimented stoop and paired classical posts, in Villa Place Historic District.  The house, now ready to ‘flip’  is feeling good about itself, like a lady showing off a brand new hat.  The preservation of this home is a gift to the neighborhood and to our Rocky Mount community because each time a renovation takes place that preserves the architectural integrity of a house, yet brings it new life, everyone wins.

 The house once belonged to Lonnie Embro Bass (1894-1976) and his wife Mamie Goodwin. (1905-1986.) Their daughter, Emma Lynn Wheeler grew up in this home. Lonnie was a World War I veteran, a  farmer, and opened Bass Brothers General Hardware at 130 Howard Street with his brother, Ollie Bass. After 30 years, the business closed in 1958. When one of the partners died at the Rocky Mount Shoe & Clothing, Lonnie bought into the business as a silent partner and was an owner until he died. (The business was next to Mebane Shoes.)  Mamie was a registered nurse before becoming a stay at home mom.  When we think of clothes drying in the sun, we feel nostalgic for simpler times,  but I feel quite sure Mamie’s generation of housewives would love to have had my washer and dryer. Since learning something of Mamie’s life I am remembering her while putting clothes in the dryer! Emma Lynn says of her mother, “When the doors at First Baptist Church were open, she was there!”  The Bass family lived in the house from 1939-1948 when it was sold. An obscure tidbit: the family rode out Hurricane Hazel in the basement of their Villa Street home.

During Preservation Rocky Mount’s Villa Place Walking Tour on October 21st. 1-4:00, you will pass by this unassuming residence. It won’t be featured in the Walking Tour Booklet as an outstanding example of one of the architecture styles found in Villa Place, but its value is priceless. Ask the little girl who lives on in Emma Lynn. While growing up, she can tell you about the people who surrounded her family home.  Neighbors like Mayor E.F. Duke and Police Chief J.I. Nichols on Howell Street.  J.K. Murrill who ran the cleaners on Western. Miss Mary Dodge or Tom Jenkins, whose Dad was a fireman; they both lived on Villa Street. Harvey & Jane Coley lived across from Emma Lynn and became like a second mother to her. Sam Parham also grew up on Villa Street. You begin to get it, right? A unique neighborhood with amazing people, a wonderful story to tell, a treasure trove of architecture. We will be tipping our hat when passing Miss Fannie Gorham’s home, CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT MISS FANNIE, so be sure to do the same for Lonnie & Mamie Bass.








2 thoughts on “Who Lived at 202 Villa in the Villa Place Historic District? Getting Ready for the Villa Place Walking Tour Oct 21, 2017

  1. My mother outlived my daddy and she lived in the house until she died in 1986 at the age of eighty years of age. My daddy and my Uncle Ollie bought the house from a gentleman who went broke during the Depression and my daddy bought my uncle’s interest when he got married in 1939.

    It was remodeled in 1948 when I was four years old and we lived in the basement during the renovation. Turner Coley, who grew up across the street on Western Avenue, remembers my daddy digging the basement with a mule and a shovel. To be sure it wasn’t an ordinary shovel and we did stay in the basement in 1954 when Hazel came through. Mother’s original porcelain sink is still in the basement.

    Daddy and my Uncle owned Bass Brothers General Mdse. at 130 Howard Street until 1958. Oh the memories I have of going with my daddy at night to the store for him to work on the books I presume.
    After Bass Bros. closed my daddy bought a silent interest in Rocky Mount Shoe and Clothing. He loved to sit in the shoe department and visit with friends since he had also retired from farming.

    When the Vateris came to RM, they bought the building and restored it and opened the Bel Air Art Center. When my daddy build the store the wood came from the farm. The original elevator ( that’s a loose term) was left when the Vateries restored thbuilding. My daddy lived upstairs above the store until he got married.

    Thanks for the memories!


  2. While I certainly appreciate your interest in my neighborhood, you may not be aware of issues concerning 202 Villa. The renovation was conducted without a Certificate of Appropriateness from the City Historic Commission. Painting a Brick structure in a historic district, and particularly painting one in non-period colors, defeats the historic significance, and detracts from the neighborhood rather than enhances.
    Many structures here cannot be economically restored due to those restrictions. You will notice most homes have been clad with vinyl siding, these are grandfathered in. However any structure that is renovated after historic designation must be returned to original wood siding. The expense of that is why several homes remain with faded aluminum siding, or abandoned clapboard houses. As an example, the 1100 sq ft Mill Houses are estimated to cost $90k ea to renovate, many houses on the 200 and 300 block of Villa are 2800 to 4000 sq ft., Current values have been between $8k and $110k….and no amount of improvement will lift those values to rationalize the expense.


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