I have spent some quiet time since the City Council meeting this past Monday wrestling with how to hold the eternal varieties of the discussion over Unity Cemetery. These adjective words describe the situation that night.
without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing perpetual; ceaseless; endless: eternal quarreling; eternal chatter.
Photographer William Manley and others have provided powerful images of the Unity Cemetery restoration; a holy place where members of the community of saints rest. The response, the selflessness, the hearts that took this burial site from talking to action is the greatest example of preservation and restoration. Preserving the history and the story that each headstone represents is like an architectural dig: carefully peeling back the layers of leaves, brush, and fallen limbs that have blanketed the cemetery for a long time. I do not speak for this group of volunteers, but I know they will not be deterred by the perpetual, ceaseless, and endless rhetoric on display Monday night.
The deep and serious tone of concern in the voices of both Councilmen is predictable now that this carefully organized effort and large response have happened. Mr. Blackwell went so far as to infer that someone might deliberately destroy the black history at Unity. Never mind the years that have only become urgent now. Mr. Knight began with records of the Council in 2007 that are meant to prove their interference now. It was said, “We need to hire someone to do this right.” “Someone might get hurt.” It’s the City’s responsibility to see after this for the community.” I hope you remember the word, ‘blarney.’ I would like to add, ‘such blarney.’
These volunteers on Saturday are a dream come true. Volunteers that have come together IN UNITY are now a big problem! The reason is that these two Councilmen won’t allow anything to happen that isn’t under their control. This position is perpetual; ceaseless and endless. The fall election could free the community from one vote that has assumed the right to a lifetime position. There is no hope for me who continues to get mad and stomp around. The UNITY CEMETERY advocates know better. They have already risen above this eternal chatter. We cheer them on, which is ‘meet and right so to do.’
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” –Warren G. Bennis
When you read about the new agenda and the upgraded version of PRM, I hope you will pay a single membership of $20.00 and add your voice to the year’s agenda, announced this evening by the new president. The presence of PRM in the community, their leadership, and commitment to the Preservation of Rocky Mount’s story and architectural assets is essential. With renewed energy and purpose, it is the time to get involved with a significant piece of the revitalization of Rocky Mount. Below you will find the new talented board members and the five returning members. Main Street is delighted to highlight these creative, knowledgeable, professional, people with their hearts for Preservation.
Block One: Adrienne Copland, Whit Barnes, Lea Henry
Block Two: Tessa Wood-Woolard, John Jesso, Tierra Norwood
Block Three: Sarah Tripolli Johnson
Block Four: Jean Bailey, Whitney Shearin, Stepheny Houghtlin
Join PRMs January 2021 Business Meeting with the ZOOM Link Below
PRM Business Meeting
Date: Monday, January 25, 2021 from 6:00-6:30PM
Location: Virtual Meeting via ZOOM
Thank you for registering for Preservation Rocky Mount’s annual business meeting, where we will elect our incoming Officers and Board Members. And, thank you for supporting PRM by being a member. With your support we retain the architectural heritage, neighborhood character, and historic landscapes of the Rocky Mount, North Carolina area through collaboration, education, advocacy, and restoration.
Click the link below to participate in the business meeting. The meeting agenda is as follows:
Welcome and 2020 Reflections by 2020 President of PRM, Alicyn Wiedrich
Incoming Officer and Board Elections by 2020 Vice President of PRM, Jean Bailey
Debut of short documentary about City Lake by local high school students
Short film about restoration of Stonewall Manor made possible by PRM
The meeting will begin promptly at 6:00PM. Admins will start letting people in to join the meeting no later than 5:55PM. If you do not have a camera or audio on your phone, you may also call in to the meeting:
Meeting ID: 985 8309 2647
One tap mobile
+1-929-205-6099,,98583092647#,,,,*545400# US (New York)
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Our mailing address is:
301 S Church Street
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
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.