You already know that Howard Street is always on my radar screen. It suits my imagination to a tee because of its location, tucked away like your grandmother’s antique ring in a satin ring box. In the light it sparkles and greatly admired. Troy White is the wind under the sails of the two buildings being restored and repurposed; the rendering of the outcome in the lead photo. The alley-like passageway down Howard Street still lacks a continuity. Continuing the methaphor, as you walk the block, it is like costume jewelry thrown in a box, a little of this and that. When these two buildings are complete, the energy and inspiration they will reflect, becomes a template for success. Move to Howard Street, create a business, shine up what you have. As a Howard Street cheerleader, I say, give me a P, give me a R, give me a I, give me a D, give me a E. Thanks!
I hope by now you agree that preservation is art. I’m grateful when it presents itself. Here, the sun shines through the upper framing. I believe this light will remain within this building as a new life emerges for both buildings. I still haven’t met Troy White but when I do, I will hug him for all of us for this investment on Howard Street and his heart that believes in preservation, restoration and repurposing. I am thankful he is doing these things here.
PS: Two large containers filled with seasonal flowers at each end of the street, would be a nice invitation to stroll, perhaps meet a few of the lucky neighbors that live along this special street. I also think box containers filled with herbs placed here and there would contribute to this neighborhood’s charm. Flowers, outdoor seating where neighbors could enjoy being outside. Possibilities, that’s what this street is full of.
Street Art is about freedom, creativity, and a way to ask and raise questions, to protest and beautify. It steps beyond convention. You don’t need to be a ‘legitimate’ artist with name recognition, or a large social media presence. People accept the creative and talented people involved in street art as artists. The photograph below are of the nicest young people creating street art in front of the Event Center. They are friendly, and willing to explain the process. Knee pads a must.
“In the last couple of years I have come to appreciate street art. I now go out of my way to see this art and take walking tours when offered. There are many reasons why people love street art and why it is becoming more popular. Street art is an important part of history and identity, and the ability to breathe life into communities.” -Janaline, World Journey Blog.
As a gardener, I agree that every garden should have a little whimsy in it. The revitalization of Rocky Mount would be bereft without art in many forms. Street art has whimsy, color and energy. I love that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. These young artists who are working on this project, spelling out – END RACISM, will leave a piece of themselves for the duration of this display. I hope they will come back in a few years and create something new that will continue to attract people downtown to see this changing art through the years. It was great fun to be with these young artists and absorb their enthusiasm and camaraderie.
We don’t all agree about when the accusation of racism is appropriate. When this name-calling is employed in City Council as a reaction to criticism, it is recognized for that. We all agree that in and of itself, ending racism is a must. I’m grateful that Rocky Mount’s new instillation is not angry or cause for further division. Let’s celebrate these artists and the positive effect it will have on bringing people downtown. If you want to see wonderful photos of this same work, check out – William Manley – photographer. He does this street art justice.
Originally, tossing a coin in the fountain was supposed to ensure good health. The meaning evolved. People believed that the dwellers of a well would grant them their wish if they threw a lucky coin to pay a price. The tradition of dropping pennies in ponds and fountains stems from this. While growing up, most of us put coins in a piggy bank, either breaking it open or pulling a plastic plug in it’s belly to remove the coins when needed. I have a grown-up piggy bank; a red tin English phone box that came with candy inside.
“What’s this about Stepheny?”
“Whitaker’s NC Preservation group had a spaghetti fund raiser this past fall on a Sat. It cost $7.00. I have a soft spot in my heart for this group. They asked me to come and speak when they were getting started. You couldn’t help but love them with their dreams, hopes, and plans to save their ‘Main Street.’ I decided I would save quarters from the day I read about the event until the day I got in my car to drive to Whitakers. I had $20.00 to take with me.”
I hope you read the last blog post about the updated version of PRM. If not, please do. I invite you to start throwing coins in a Preservation Rocky Mount mason jar. I only saved $20.00 in my tin bank by the day of the Whitakers preservation fundraiser. Not much, but we all know every little bit helps. I don’t know the exact fundraising project that we will need your mason jar for, I only know it will be welcomed at the right time. I know the project will be worthwhile and you will want to help. The new board will be voted upon on January 25 at a 6:00 Zoom member’s meeting. I’ll be providing a link for the 1/2 hour meeting when it becomes available. In the mean time, if you hear someone humming in your ear, Three Coins in a Fountain, that will be me.
“To retain the architectural heritage, neighborhood character, and historic landscapes of the Rocky Mount, North Carolina area through collaboration, education, advocacy, and restoration.” — Preservation Rocky Mount Mission
I am standing at your door like the long ago encyclopedia salesman. I want to sell you the upgraded version of the organization – Preservation Rocky Mount. Even if you have no idea what PRM is about, invite me in. I hope to interest you in joining PRM with new leadership, and talented new board members who join the five returning members. The result of the suspension of meetings this past year is this: There will be a new agenda of accomplishments that are tangible, with a meaningful impact on the historic sites/structures in Rocky Mount.
Preservation is a big deal. The language that is used in my reading is repeated here to say that preservation includes the strengthening of local economics, the stabilization of property values, the fostering of civic beauty and community pride, and the appreciation of local and national history. Historic preservation safeguards a community’s heritage, making it available to future generations for civic enjoyment and educational activities. Historic preservation improves business opportunities. It has both public and private benefits.
The new leadership and board bring experience, their reputations, and career goals, their hands on preservation efforts, to the aspects of preservation listed above. Those of you from real estate, business, and financial sectors, small business, new businesses, please join and add your voice and expertise necessary to rebuild PRM into a organization known for its successful preservation efforts. Everyone who reads this blog post, please share; This can be your part to sing in the chorus.
Many of you were born and raised here and you remember the bustling downtown, riding your bikes everywhere, playing in the neighborhood, helping neighbors. You knew the names of the people living in most of the homes. Preserving these stories, saving the significant architectural inventory of residential and commercial buildings are key to the revitalization of Rocky Mount. If you doubt me, drive to Goldsboro or New Bern, or Elizabeth City to see the results of preservation, restoration and repurposing.
Rocky Mount has a great story, a sense of place that must be protected. We need all of you to join PRM to lend your experience, brains, voice, passion, and the special interests you bring to this endeavor. You know the saying, many hands make light work, well, in this case, many hands bring financial support through memberships and towards fundraising for projects that will be undertaken. The greatest currency is your name on the membership list signifying a presence in the new preservation efforts.
PRM has a new face, agenda, and focus on moving ahead. Past members will be invigorated with these new officers and board, who will meet for the first time by zoom in February. They are ready to reconnect with members of the past and welcome all new preservationists to this non-profit organization. A further explanation of the new direction will follow that meeting.
I will provide the link, when available, for you to join a 1/2 hr ZOOM membership meeting, January 25 at 6:00PM. At that time the officers and board will be voted on. Further details will be included with the zoom link.
Membership in Preservation Rocky Mount is open to anyone interested in preservation of the community’s historic resources. We have a number of membership levels. Mailing Address: 301 South Church St., Suite 126 Rocky Mount, NC 27804 When joining, include your name, mailing address, phone and most important, your e-mail addressto save money on stamps. Feel free to add a contribution with your dues if your discretionary fund allows. Thank You!
Student $10.00 Single $20.00 Couple $30.00 Corporate $50.00 Sustaining $100.00 Benefactor $500.00 and up
I found a quote of Alfred Lord Tennyson that I used on the Main Street Facebook page,
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier.”
The word threshold holds a deeper meaning after I began to read the books of Esther de Waal. She wrote a small treasure called, To Pause at the Threshold – Reflections on Living on the Border. She writes about a traditional saying of ancient wisdom, ‘A threshold is a sacred thing,’ of the importance of honoring thresholds from that perspective.
After a dreadful year of consequences, the reasons too long to repeat, we need to pause before we step across the threshold into the New Year. It is our life’s work to learn how to hold the losses and changes that occur in our lives, integrating all that has happened into who we become. The year 2020 will be like Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter’s world, the one who shall not be named.
We have been living with the uncertainties of life in the larger world. If that isn’t enough, at home we have a litany of names we speak every day, while standing on one foot and then the other, waiting for those who are working the system for personal gain to reap the consequences of their actions. I always think of Kermit the frog who says, “It isn’t easy being green.”
Despite constant prayer throughout 2020, we have known anger, frustration, sadness, and great loss. All things far more significant than gazing at Rocky Mount’s skullduggery captured in a snow globe that is always snowing about something. Small in scope perhaps, but huge in Rocky Mount’s world. Because of what we have been through, this threshold we are about to cross seems a big step.
Like the traditional monastic practice, we need to pay attention to this threshold moment. When the monk or nun enters the church for the daily offices, they make time to stand, to wait, creating a stillness that permits each one to let go of all the previous hurried moments of duty or obligation. We want to cross this threshold ready to find it happier. We want to focus on all the good and positive things happening in the revitalization of Rocky Mount. We cheer on The Repairers of the Breach that are hard at work preserving, restoring, and repurposing the commercial architecture while building a future. We’ve got to get intentional about saving the shotgun and bungalows houses that are boarded up.
Take my hand, let’s be still together, and then cross this important threshold with the Main Street Band all in place, small flags in everyone’s hand along the curbside, determined that nothing could keep a wonderful community like Rocky Mount from becoming a prism of light in Eastern North Carolina. Let’s claim all the ‘good stuff,’ and refuse to get bogged down by all the ‘bad stuff.’ 2021 is filled with possibilities. We seize them for our own lives, and those we love, for our neighbors, and for this good place we call home.
Like beads on a rosary, I pause on each bead to add a name connected to the preservation, restoration, and repurposing of Main Street. I name the place holders like Virginia’s and The Bicycle Shop, that welcome new business, and the entertainment sector: restaurants, coffee shops, and bars. Part of this litany of names includes, Ed Riley, at The Smokehouse, the folks at Blanches Bistro, and at Trax Coffee. Javelin Guildford at the Secret Garden ll. Yalem Kiros at Nabs, a beautiful spirit in this new scene on Main Street. (She is pictured above.) Moe Deloach’s bead on the rosary is one of the large ones, not only for his restaurant, grill/bar but because he is a prism of light in Rocky Mount. (Click Here to explain what a prism of light is about)
Larema Coffe House has become a friend to everyone that passes through the door. Larema posted a wonderful tribute to Troy Davis on their Facebook page. “Our featured community partner of color this week is Troy Davis, Owner of The Davis Property Group! Local entrepreneur and Rocky Mount native, Troy is a visionary leader who is taking charge in the effort to breathe new life and beauty into many historic commercial properties and houses across our city. While many people talk about building a better community, Troy is literally doing it! A Larema friend and supporter since before our opening, we share Troy’s vision for a renewed vibrancy in historic downtown Rocky Mount – and believe in the many benefits this can have for the whole community. Of his many projects, Troy is particularly excited to soon open the Davis Lofts just around the corner from Larema on Main Street, a historic building preservation and renovation project which will bring more than 20 gorgeous new apartments and a restaurant downtown for all to enjoy. Also, Troy purchased the Carleton House last week, with plans to bring accommodations, a restaurant, conference spaces and a pool to the former 1960s-era motor lodge also located downtown. Troy, thank you for all you do to make Rocky Mount an even better place to live, work and play!”
LAREMA: We’re open in Rocky Mount and Wilson! Weekend hours are as follows-RM: Friday and Saturday, 8am-4pm; Waffle Sunday 9am-4pm
Developer Troy Davis has been working to transform three side-by-side buildings in the 100 block of Southeast Main Street into the future Davis Lofts. When completed there will be 22 high-quality upstairs apartments, four ground-level storefronts for businesses, and a rooftop deck. City Council approved $300,000 in Housing Incentive Grant Program funds for his project. Davis’s overall purpose is to attract young professionals. People living downtown ‘above the store’ is a proven concept in the Main Street Programs that surround Rocky Mount: Elizabeth City, Goldsboro, New Bern, Tarboro. The addresses of the three buildings are, 143, 147 and 149 Southeast Main. Some are leased already. The ramifications of this project will far exceed the grant money involved. Davis said, “The reason I chose to redevelop locations downtown is that the heart of Rocky Mount has great architecture and I want to be part of that.” An article in the Telegram by Bill West said that City records say the private investment in the project totals at least $1.75 million. Those records state that a condition of the funding via the city calls for three of the 22 units to be set aside for affordable housing. A condition that illustrates a lack of understanding of the ‘Living Above The Store’ concept in downtown revitalizations. CLICK HERE: Further information about this project.
A project Ben Braddock is leading is the transformation of the former Music City & Lights — at 131 and 135 Southeast Main. Soon to be a combination of upstairs residential and ground-level commercial development. The former Music City & Lights location highlights the work of Andrew Clark and Nicole Kleinstreuer from the Raleigh-Durham area. Watch for Part 2 – Follow this Blog so you don’t miss it.
Jay at The Secret Garden creating beautiful floral arrangements and wreaths like this one. A Magical Place on Tarboro St.
One of the loveliest things about a friendship with Jane Gravely has been the gift of her mother. I took this sweet photograph of Janice Gravely at the 2019 Hall of Fame Banquet. She was 98 years old. We had a special few minutes alone, holding hands and quietly talking. To me, she was the essence of the verse in the Epistle to the Galatians. In her face, I always saw what we call the fruits of the spirit. “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” She confirmed what I believe, that nothing in our lives is wasted. It is all necessary to whom we become. This remembrance can not include the depth and breadth of her life, but it is offered up with love and admiration for a well-lived life.
The young girl in me, that read adventure stories, was drawn to her airplane story of heroism, bravery, and faith. It is a story of loss and over-coming. Of the ability to draw from an interior life when needed. September 1, 2019, Mary Speidel wrote:
“Janice Gravely sang this song – based on Psalm 17:8 – at the top of her voice inside the cockpit of a single-engine plane as her husband, Edmund, slumped unconscious in the pilot’s seat next to her. She’d flown as a passenger with Edmund, a former Navy aviator and flight instructor, plenty of times, but Janice had no training as a pilot. She suddenly finds herself behind the controls of her husband’s aircraft. “I had a choice,” recalls Janice of Rocky Mount, North Carolina. “I could either be afraid of what was going to happen to both of us, or I could trust God. It was a life or death matter; I trusted God.” Praying fervently, she broke out in song, remembering words to a song she’d learned only the day before. She especially leaned into the words, “Keep Your hand upon me lest I die.” Despite high winds, Janice managed to keep the plane airborne for the next two hours. Then just as the fuel ran out, she crash-landed the plane in a field near Henderson, North Carolina.
I have written about the Hall of Fame Portraits where in my imagination, when the lights dim, and everyone is gone, those who are gone, have fascinating conversations, there is music; a coming together of talent, leadership, wisdom, humor, patrioticm and faithful people who have been the wind under Rocky Mount’s wings. Janice is now part of these conversations. Here is the photo and write up in the Hall of Fame banquet program when she was inducted in the Class of 2017.
Navy veterans of World War II, Janice and her husband, Edmund, married in 1944, settled in Rocky Mount and raised four children. Janice made international news in 1982 landing an airplane after her pilot husband died in flight. The New York Times and the FAA attribute that feat to a miracle of God.She began writing and speaking to groups here and abroad. Her books include Won’t Somebody Help Me! and Ground Level Christianity.
A native of California, Janice graduated from UCLA with a degree in history and later attended UNC-Chapel Hill earning her teaching credentials. A prolific painter, she has painted almost all over the world, has had five solo art shows, and has been featured in the NC Museum of Art.
Janice is a member of the Colonial Dames of the Seventeenth Century. As Girl Scout Troop Leader for eight years, she received a commendation from President Jimmy Carter for having the first Girl Scout troop to successfully complete the Boy Scout dead-reckoning trail at Valley Forge. As a member of the Rocky Mount Junior Guild for fifty years, she served as president and held other offices. She has served on the Rocky Mount School board, the Rocky Mount Christian Women’s Club, and the local PTA board.
She is a sustaining force for the National Day of Prayer activities for Rocky Mount augmenting those activities with the one day Public Bible Reading Aloud which has increased from ninety readers in 2013 locally to over one thousand readers locally, in other NC cities, other states and other nations. She was a Lay Speaker for the United Methodist Church, teaching Sunday School and singing in the choir. She was president of the United Methodist Women and served on the administrative board for the First United Methodist Church in Rocky Mount.
Janice has contributed to her country through her military service and to her state and community through civic and church organizations. She has shared her talents with writing and her paintings. She has lived a life of honor, integrity, and excellence and credits it to her active Christian life.
This post is written for fellow Hall of Fame Board Members, friends, Jane Gravely & Lanny Shuff, and for all those who celebrate the life of Janice Gravely. Photos: Stepheny and Jane, Peter Varney and Lanny Shuff
From the burial service in the Episcopal Prayer Book:
As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives and that at the last he will stand upon the earth. After my awaking, he will raise me up; and in my body I shall see God. I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him who is my friend and not a stranger.
I have taken photographs of this building on Main Street many times because it is one of my favorite. On life support, I’ve been sitting by the bedside, so to speak, keeping a close watch on the patient growing weaker. These are classic commercial facades, and when restored to health, will be two more stars in Main Street’s crown. Work has begun! Andre Knight, the physician on the case, has taken charge. It is an amen moment for Main Street. The restoration of the numerous buildings under Mr. Knights’s care is a heavy caseload, but I like him best in this role as the doctor saving lives. It’s important work, and done right, will leave a legacy among the other ‘repairers of the breach’ that will be remembered with thanksgiving.
“You can ignore a piece of sculpture or a painting hung on the walls of the Art Institute, but architecture is the inescapable art.”
Blair Kamain, architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune
In Ken Burns fashion, let’s zoom out before focusing in on Rocky Mount’s two new, beautifully executed, murals. While enjoying and celebrating these artistic additions to the Main Street area, a bit more information helps to expand our appreciation of these exciting additions. We have a new term to add to our Main Street vocabulary: Place-Making. We usually talk about a sense of place.
Murals are created in the city for the city. They are closely tied to the physical and social environment. The resurgance of Place-Making Murals in the revitilization of cities and towns have become significant in urban renewal, redevelopment and regeneration of city and town. Among other things, murals show support for the artistic community, social reintegration, and education. Rocky Mount’s two new murals, one finished, the other still in progress, will prove significant in Rocky Mount’s revitilazation. You must go and see for yourself how striking they are and the visual impact of Place-Making. When you see the Rocky Mount Murals further on, you will clap your hands with me and continue to say, I believe.
Let’s zoom out to Quebec City. Click a Prior Post on the Murals of Quebec “ln the last 15 years, a number of fresco paintings have popped up across Quebec City, becoming a real tourist attraction and a major component of the city’s urban heritage. The murals, which depict the history of the city and its inhabitants, were commissioned between 1999 and 2008 to celebrate 400 years of the city’s existence. Although the pieces are fairly recent, they have nonetheless become part of the city’s artistic and cultural heritage.”
Here is Morgan McArthur, (Milwaukee) standing in front of the mural, “Fabric of the community.” McArthur is a member of Baraboo Public Art and one of the organizers of Baraboo’s three large murals. KEN THOMAS, DAILY CITIZEN. An exciting idea for The Hall of Fame board. In place of these people would appear past Hall of Fame Inductees. There aren’t enough walls, but a single mural tells a proud story.