Celebrating Four Years of the Main Street Rocky Mount Blog – 2015 – 2019 with D.J. Rose

I want to celebrate this anniversary by honoring D.J. Rose once again because I never write about Main Street and the surrounding areas, the commercial and residential architecture of Rocky Mount, that I don’t think of him. His legacy can be found in the Ricks Hotel, the original Masonic Temple on Main Street, the May and Gorham building, Rocky Mount Municipal building on Main Street. the Peoples Bank building, the First Methodist and First Presbyterian Churches, Planters Cotton Seed Oil factory, Rocky Mount’s Railroad Passenger Station including the addition of the second and third floors, Rocky Mount’s first electric power plant and water plant, as well as portions of the building you know today as The Power Plant, the Sunset Avenue Water Plant and significant portions of Rocky Mount Mills buildings. Some of the schools he built are Abraham Lincoln, R. M. Wilson School, and Edgemont. The firm he founded, D. J. Rose and Son Inc., is the oldest continuously operating general contracting firm in North Carolina and to this day maintains the North Carolina General Contractors License number 27. The future that is being reimagined today is partially built upon the architectural assets Mr. Rose and his company contributed to Rocky Mount. We owe him our gratitude for his work and legacy.

Staircase in the D.J. Rose home on Sunset Ave

I’ve written more about our local politics this year than any of the first three years combined. The blog has always been about anything but that. I suppose I’ve been preaching to my own choir (constituency) that largely agree with me, rather than reach the people I would hope to change. I keep thinking maybe someone on the far side of the moon from where I stand will hear me. So I keep trying!

Affordable and workforce housing made available in our existing neighborhoods is the top of my list these days along with rescuing a negative connotation of the word gentrification. According to Wikipedia,  Gentrification is “a complex process involving physical improvement of the housing stock, housing tenure change from renting to owning, price rises and the displacement or replacement of the working-class population by the new middle class.”

D.J. Rose home on Tarboro St.


To my way of thinking, playing the gentrification card is an excuse. The party line is if we fix roofs and put a new porch on – -why rents will go up and people will have to move, so the answer is to do nothing. Yet I am certain that if we ask the average ‘Joe’ in our at-risk areas, which they would prefer, an 18-million dollar garage and a hotel or money invested in fixing properties, making them safe, and decent to live in, saving our neighborhoods, would win.



I wish I could persuade the ‘at risk’ neighborhoods to look honestly at their councilman who discourage reinvestment in their Ward’s housing/neighborhoods because that will ultimately change their councilman’s constituency and that means votes. If our housing statistics are suppressed, it helps when applying for grant money. In the end, only the voters in each Ward can decide if after many years if anything has improved?  We have a full slate of candidates, and an opportunity to select the ones that can put self-interest aside. People ask me, how can I help?  How about a campaign donation?  “White money” is being disparaged as a tool to discredit an opposing candidate, but never mind about that. Everyone gains with new leadership that believes  A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats.

Stepheny saying, “Thank you for joining me on Main Street.”


Thank you for reading and following Main Street. I hope you will continue to do so. The writing brings me joy and keeps my head in gear. I can’t imagine my life now without the many bright, and interesting people I meet. I’m grateful to wonderful friends who have taken me in and shared Rocky Mount as it once was and is becoming. I continue to believe and clap my hands. I hope you will too.

Stepheny Attends a Free Choral Concert -Saturday AM – May 11th – Edgemont Historic District

800 Tarboro Street
Built by D.J. Rose

Preservation Rocky Mount had a walking tour this morning in the Edgemont Historic District and I had a fantasy come true. I stayed behind in a comfortable wicker chair on the front porch of the D.J. Rose house belonging to Jean Bailey at 800 Tarboro St. I’ve written about this special home several times. It was all mine for an hour!

Wrap around sound: a chorus of vocal birds sang with abandonment. Several solo parts were cooed by morning doves. There was a problem without a conductor to keep time and cue the various parts when it was their turn. You know how an orchestra sounds when warming up before a performance; all the instruments playing their own notes? The bird concert went mad with sound but without sheet music. Still, it was glorious. I even managed to fall asleep missing some of the performance. I must speak to someone next time to prevent the whoosh of tires on pavement that dashed across the Tarboro Street stage.

The walking tour returned, full of a new appreciation for this special location, and with knowledge about roof lines and architectural styles. Lovely people with an appreciation for the story of the neighborhood, its people, it’s future. I didn’t say anything about the free choral concert they missed or reveling on the beautiful front porch with a short nap. Instead, I gathered the experience to take with me to revisit in my mind when needed. There is a matching wicker chair and if you promise not to talk, I’ll invite you to join me should there be another occasion.

These Gorgeous Photographs by Carl Lewis

The Magnificent Piece of Property and Home in the Edgemont Historic District is a Source of Pride for a Reemerging Neighborhood – 800 Tarboro Street

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

There has never been any doubt in my mind that this quotation written by du Maurier is true. I continue to dream about the house I grew up in. I know that some part my parents and their only child, Stepheny, remain in the dust motes that are captured in the sunlight on the staircase.

One of the great homes in Rocky Mount, built by DJ Rose, sits on the corner of 800 Tarboro St. Many of you have been guests in this home of Jean Bailey. Perhaps you attended one of the outside Courtyard Parties or the wedding reception of Jean’s daughter that must have been magical. This past weekend, friends helped with an estate sale at the house. During my shift, I did my best to hide the emotional roller coaster I was riding knowing that the chapters Jean and her family have added to the story of this home, are winding down. I can tell the house is reluctant to have Jean finally close the door behind her, as are her neighbors, but it’s time now; this magnificent home and garden have a life to be getting on with.

You know how fairy tales start…once upon a time…the iconic Edgemont neighborhood had two-parent families, fathers walking to work, washing cars in the driveway on Saturday, ballgames on the radio, children safely riding bikes all over the neighborhood. Moms took their aprons off and had dinner on the table at the same time every day. Each newly built home was a marvel. I will admit to you that some of the neighborhood is in various states of disrepair, but I guarantee you that the residents want the same things we all want: Safe neighborhoods, good neighbors, reasonable taxes, decent education, adequate healthcare. Investors recognize the beauty of the architecture, the proximity to downtown, and best of all, they bring no baggage to the dreams of a happily-ever-after restoration of this neighborhood.

I want your word that you will think nothing but positive thoughts about the future of Edgemont, which must include an up to date inventory of properties along with accountability from the City Government that should be enforcing the rules on the books that effect neglected properties. You may not be able to buy this beautiful DJ Rose home on Tarboro, but you could start insisting that preserving our neighborhoods is more important than some parade that costs us $60,000-$80,000 and more important than hiring more city employees that we don’t need. If we have that kind of money to do these kinds of things, let’s put those dollars towards stabilizing the facades along Main Street and saving the homes in our neighborhoods.


CLICK HERE for an earlier post featuring interiors of  Jean Bailey’s home.

CLICK HERE for an earlier post on Edgemont -A Jewel in Rocky Mount’s Crown #1`

Preservation – Rocky Mount’s Historic Downtown Part 2 – People’s Bank

mainst40s-1Saturday: The rain slashes the windows, all color drained from the day. Hurricane Matthew has mustered enough strength to hurl a downpour upon us. In writing about People’s Bank, part of the Preservation Rocky Mount tour last Sunday, a black and white photograph seems appropriate to begin with. I invite you to sit with this photo and indulge in some remembering and dreaming. I can imagine myself on the backseat of this car, listening to my parents sing along with Sinatra on the radio, (Click Here) Sunny Side of the Street...grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep, life is oh so sweet, on the sunny side of the street. Life was vibrant and bustling in the days this photo was taken; a downtown filled with commerce, and prosperity.

The People’s Bank Building remains an architectural gem and figures prominently in the revitalization of the area. Perhaps I should abandon my idea of trying to talk John Brooks and his son, Charles Phillip Brooks into turning the Masonic Building into a boutique hotel that includes an artist in residence exhibiting his work. The Bank Building, an architectural delight would be a beautiful hotel too. It is complete with its own ghost sign I might add. (Click Here ) Remember the posts on ghost signs?


The Peoples Bank building was built by D. J. Rose and designed by Milburn & Heister in 1918. Renovated in 2006, it is first-class commercial office space. Five stories tall, it includes a mezzanine overlooking the dramatic two-story lobby. Located in Rocky Mount’s historic central business district, the building is located within walking distance of restaurants, stores, services, and government buildings, those in place, and those that are coming. After standing in the lobby of this gorgeous space, I now know that the D.J. Rose ‘Society’  must include not only the residential properties, but the commercial buildings as well. I know you agree, with only these few unprofessional photographs to go by, that this is a special asset in Rocky Mount. Next time you drive by, click you heels and salute. (Well, you know what I mean.)

Join me next time for Preservation Part 3 – The Post Office

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Elizabeth Scott Photo
Elizabeth Scott Photo

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Mr. Charles Grimes at Home in a D.J. Rose house


“No friendship is an accident. ”  O. Henry, Heart of the West

Driving slowly down the 1200 block of Sunset Avenue, I spotted a couple standing on their front porch. Hopefully they could help me. Though they knew nothing about D.J. Rose, they assured me that Mr. Grimes, living next door, was the one to ask.  Now I have a new friend. We’ve even had a date at the Prime Smokehouse where he had never been. (He loved it.)


In 2002, Mr. Charles Grimes bought what is called the Rosenbloom-Feurst House that D.J. Rose built in 1922 for Jacob Rosenbloom, the man who established the large department store on Main Street, Rosenbloom-Levy Company.  Mr. Grimes says he is 88 years old, but he neither looks nor acts it. Other than rehabbing a broken hip that has taken the zip out of his step, he remains interested in a mired of things, his books, an extensive collection of National Geographic magazine, collages he makes from a stamp collection and clay African masks that he creates and sells. He spent 65 years as a professional performing actor, writer , director, and his passion, building sets. He is taking care of this wonderful home as best he can, but needs help now to do so, which weighs on his mind. I would love to get Mr. Grimes some help so this Rose home can live on.

It is an “if only” situation for me because I know nothing about finding money for historic preservation, or fixing the roof, but I’m willing to learn. Someone will need to hold the ladder! There must be folks who wouldn’t charge to put shutters back on aren’t there? If there isn’t an organization called Helping Seniors, a branch of Habitat, there should be. I’d start one, but I would need one more day in the week. Besides, Mr. Grimes needs some help with his D.J. Rose home sooner rather than later. Here is a prime example of why a D.J. Rose ‘society’ could help with the preservation of these homes. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to leave information about other Rose homes OR if you can suggest some help for Mr. Grimes. Thank you!IMG_4107IMG_4116IMG_4106


So far, no one has sent me any good news about a Rose house. I have two more on my radar, already taken some exterior photos, but need to knock on the doors before I can write more. If you love architecture, as I do, I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts on D.J. Rose. There is a wonderful PS: to this story about Mr.Grimes. After we took a trip to Nash Arts, look what has happened.

 FYI: The Nash County Arts Council is seeking African American women to audition for our February production of Ramona King’s “Steal Away,” directed by Charles Grimes. Auditions have not yet been scheduled and, by Mr. Grimes’ request, interested parties should call Shelly Gray (Nash Arts Director) at 252-459-4734.  I’ll keep you posted so you can attend one of the performances.


Down the Road A Piece – Another D.J. Rose Residence


In Kentucky there is a saying I learned while at University. The last line written in some directions to a party said, “Turn right. The house is down the road a piece.” It was one of many new colloquialisms a girl from Evanston, IL. would learn after arriving in Lexington. One of my favorites came when a young man asked, “Can I carry you downtown?” PS: While at UK I learned to read a racing form and it seemed there was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans every Sunday for four years and, of course, Adolf Rupp basketball!

West Mount, NC is down the road apiece from Rocky Mount. There you will find another home built by contractors Rose and Batchelor in 1926. The bungalow style has a gable roof with a large shed dormer and there is a porte-cochere. It is referred to as the Frank W. Langley House, who was a local merchant. There is a wonderful black and white photo of the home on page 221 in The History and Architecture of Nash County North Carolina, the book I want you to buy for yourself. Today, Ruff Creech, splendid organist at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, is taking care of the house. A man with a vast knowledge of architecture, antiques, preservation and local stories. He indulges me with his friendship and generosity to TALK. This house has the Rose Crown moldings, my favorite…another breakfast room, and generous sized public rooms. Please help find any other home that D.J. Rose built. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to leave information. I invite you to FOLLOW the blog so you won’t miss future subjects.



Looking for D.J. Rose Homes – A Gem on Tarborro Street


“I could go to a dozen houses, scrape away the dirt, and find his footprints…”
Brenda Sutton Rose (no relation)

We’ve all admired residential architecture while driving slowly down a tree lined street. We may remember who once lived in the beautiful homes along the way. Perhaps we think, what might life be like if I walked through one of these front doors and called it  home! Rocky Mount’s historic districts are filled with an amazing inventory of architecture. I have written earlier on this blog about the Edgemont District; a neighborhood adjacent to the downtown historic core area. There is a D.J. Rose home on Tarboro Street that is another fabulous example of his workmanship. In the National Register of Historic Places the house is referred to as the Bullock-Lea House, a large, elegant period reproduction of early Colonial architecture. It was built between 1925-1930. The two-story brick house sits in the middle of two lots and is surrounded by a low brick wall. Many of you have spent enjoyable hours with Jean Bailey and her family in this special home. The house is for sale and awaits the next caretaker to love and honor its history. Five bedrooms and spacious downstairs public rooms make it perfect for a Bread & Breakfast if someone has owning and running a B&B on their Bucket List.

Here are a few interior photographs of the house that only hint at what this well designed and welcoming home reveals. In forming a D.J. Rose ‘society’ (with a better name) we must find the missing houses in addition to this distinctive Tarboro Street home.

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 The Crown Molding in a Rose Home is spectacular




Read Previous Posts: Edgemont-A Jewel in Rocky Mount’s Crown Part I

Please Scroll Down to Bottom of This Post                                                                                   Leave Information about any Rose Home You Know About                                            Thanks!

The Home D.J. Rose Built For His Family – Sunset Ave


“Old houses are filled with memories, with the faded echoes of voices. Drops of tears,      the ring of laughter, the edge of tempers that over the years have seeped into the walls. These houses carry in their wood and stone, their brick and mortar a kind of ego that is nearly human.”
A SFH edited quote by Nora Roberts, Key of Knowledge

I have our son-in-law, George Greer, Rector of St. Andrews, and daughter, Claire Greer, to thank for a great book I borrowed and now have no intention of giving back. Don’t tell them. If you don’t own a copy of The History and Architecture of Nash County NC by Richard L. Mattson you should treat yourself. You can buy a copy at the Preservation Rocky Mount store. My copy is beginning to look like an Anglican Choir Boy with all the post-a-notes sticking up like ruffles. Some of the notes mark information on D.J. Rose.


Matt Quarrels and Dean Fisher are the proud owners of the home that D.J. Rose built on Sunset for his family; perfect caretakers with their deep love of architecture, preservation, gardening and the history of this particular house.  My ‘borrowed’ book tells me that the house was built about 1912. It is a two story, hip-roofed design that was popular in Rocky Mount in that era. I have tried to capture some of the exterior details in the photograph included here. The house is an outstanding example of the meticulous work found on both the exterior and interiors of a D.J. Rose home. I will let the photos speak for themselves, with this additional thought….We need to locate as many of the Rose homes as possible. Please help by using your contacts and historical acumen to find them. D.J. Rose and these beautiful architectural structures are stars in the Rocky Mount crown. We must not loose sight of them! Scroll down to the bottom of this post to leave any information you can add to the search. Thanks!




Mission Impossible: Good morning, Rocky Mount – Your mission should you choose to accept it, involves finding D.J. Rose Residential Homes


Perhaps you are a familiar with the Mission Impossible TV Series and Movies.                    Just for fun, here is a sound clip to click on. In a moment I will disclose your mission, please accept.    I promise not to disavow you!

Oak Park, IL. may have Frank Lloyd Wright, but here in Rocky Mount, NC we have D. J. Rose. We need to create a D.J. Rose Society, but with a better name. This is not about planting roses, but about honoring the residential architecture that Mr. Rose has left us. I haven’t worked out the details of the ‘society, I just know that this legacy is worthy of our attention. For instance….. we could publish a brochure for self-guided tours that tell the D. J. Rose story, or have a ticketed event over several days at Christmas with seated tea in one of the homes or elsewhere. Profits from events could be given to an owner of a Rose home for a maintenance project. Current home owners would become charter members of this ‘society.’ along with D.J. Rose enthusiasts.  However, there is a problem.


The inventory of Rose homes is incomplete. YOUR mission  is to help me locate as many of the Rose homes as possible. Ask around, follow any lead, think of older family members who can help. In upcoming posts about several Rose homes, the photographs I have taken, unprofessional as they may be, will help you see why it is important that we find these homes and celebrate them. Frank Lloyd Wright lives on; we must make sure D. J. Rose does too. Please leave any information or ideas you have in the COMMENT section at the bottom of this post. Scroll Down….If you are not FOLLOWING this blog, why not start today so you don’t miss the upcoming D.J. Rose posts.

Once the best approach is settled upon to honor this legacy, we will have created something lasting in the community honoring the past while building a future that includes D.J. Rose, his work and architecture. FYI: The links below are previous posts I have written about D.J. Rose.

Earlier posts: Who was D.J. Rose?  –  D.J. Rose-Movie Star or Contractor?  –                        D. J. Rose-Leading Character in the Rocky Mount Story


D.J. Rose – Leading Character in the Rocky Mount Story With An Invitation – Part 3

Scan 1Another spring unfolds, days warm, flowering trees unfurl and catch us by surprise when glimpsed through the garden. Something happens to us this time of year; a longing for things past. We close our eyes and remember moments we would like to experience again. Perhaps sitting beside one of our parents listening to them read aloud, or a time when we were teenagers waiting for our first kiss. Whatever this nostalgic time-traveling is about, it  has to do with younger days, when we played with the neighborhood kids, caught fireflies in a jar, spent the night with a grandmother who baked the best chocolate cake in the Mill Village. We would like to walk along the Main Street of our youth, filled with cars, people shopping, meeting and greeting one another. We would like to stop and wave at the train as it goes by. We wish family and friends were still alive to answer the questions we now have for them. If only we could spend time with D.J. Rose, the leading character in the story I’ve been telling you. Think of what we would learn from this young man, who over time made a lasting contribution to Rocky Mount. The future that is being reimagined today is partially built upon the architectural assets he and his company contributed to this sense of place.

I believe Fennel Hudson, A Meaningful Life, is right when he wrote: “Old buildings whisper to us in the creaking of floorboards and rattling of windowpanes.” Listen for Mr. Rose’s whisper when you think of the Ricks Hotel, the original Masonic Temple on Main Street, the May and Gorham building, Rocky Mount Municipal building on Main Street. the Peoples Bank building, the First Methodist and First Presbyterian Churches, Planters Cotton Seed Oil factory, Rocky Mount’s Railroad Passenger Station including the addition of the second and third floors, Rocky Mount’s first electric power plant and water plant, as well as portions of the building you know today as The Power Plant, the Sunset Avenue Water Plant and significant portions of Rocky Mount Mills buildings. Some of the schools he built are Abraham Lincoln, R. M. Wilson School and Edgemont. The firm he founded, D. J. Rose and Son Inc., is the oldest continuously operating general contracting firm in North Carolina and to this day maintains the North Carolina General Contractors License number 27.



The contracting firm D. J. Rose and Son Inc., based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has donated a major collection of historic architectural drawings and other documents to the North Carolina State University Libraries, which forms the basis for the presentation on the 29th. Here is an opportunity to keep company with D.J. Rose once again in the whispering of these drawings. Use your imagination…slip into a seat beside him for a lovely evening honoring his work. th


See you there, I’ll save you a seat!