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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