Meet the Preservation’Duchess’ on Howell Street, Rocky Mount, NC

Adrienne Copland is restoring the home at 201 S. Howell Street on the corner of Western and Howell. I first wrote about Howell Street on: Today I am adding information about this restoration and the explanation for Adrienne’s title, the duchess.

In 1939, this house was auctioned as part of the estate of Sadie Newby. The house was purchased for $4000 by Edwin Ferebee Duke (1899-1963). ‘Dick’ was elected a City Alderman (forerunner of City Council in 1943-49. In 1949 he was elected Mayor of Rocky Mount and re-elected to a second term. . At times, Mr. Duke called his wife, Miss Lucy Elizabeth Gerald (1904-95), ‘Duchess.’

I have written many times that I believe:

“It is a mistake to think of old houses, as being empty. They are filled with memories, with the faded echoes of voices. Drops of tears, drops of blood, the ring of laughter, the edge of tempers that over the years have seeped into the walls. These houses breath, they carry in their wood and stone, their brick and mortar a kind of ego that is nearly, human.”
An edited quote by Nora Roberts, Key of Knowledge


Preservation saves the stories that remain within our commercial and residential architecture. Two of Mayor Duke’s grandchildren joined Adrienne to see the work she is doing on the house. They shared memories of the few years they lived with their grandparents. Named for his grandfather, Edwin is the genealogist of the family, and provides context for the times and people living in Rocky Mount. I find that he adds Technicolor to the black and white film. Adrienne is now out looking for a round table like the one that once sat in the entrance hall. Granddaughter, Ann, talked about taking tea up the stairs to her grandmother. Looking up the staircase in the photo below, we know none of that, but the bits and pieces of our lives live on where we have lived.

The few photographs I took might make you wonder why Adrienne, and others like her, take on the work? She has bought two more properties in the same block. Looking at the work through the eyes of Mayor Duke’s grandchildren, their emotions written large on their faces and in their eyes, it reinforces how important preservation is. Adrienne is one of the Repairers of the Breach and has become an advocate for saving Rocky Mount’s pearls of great price, however small that may be.

In my imagination, I have climbed on the radiator cover to look out my bedroom’s large double hung window. The four seasons changing the view. Below, I photographed the view of a little boys window who is now a grandfather himself. These photos recognize the faded beauty that is being coaxed from the corners of each room.

We will continue our walk another day on the 200 block of S. Howell street to show you several other wonderful restorations already finished. This block is proof that the cliche is true, where there is a will, there is a way.

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