The Old Neighborhood – 700 Block Arlington Street

By now, the morning sun was just over the horizon and it came at me like a sidearm pitch between the houses of my old neighborhood. I shielded my eyes. This being early October, there were already piles of leaves pushed against the curb—more leaves than I remembered from my autumns here—and less open space in the sky. I think what you notice most when you haven’t been home in a while is how much the trees have grown around your memories.         – Mitch Albom

705 Arlington Street

A block of homes on Arlington Street in Ward #3 provides another look at the heart of Rocky Mount; its neighborhoods. Walking the block with my camera in hand, it was an ‘if only’ moment when I wished I had the money to invest in Rocky Mount’s neighborhoods. I treated myself to some leaf-kicking while sauntering along. I refrained, however, from picking up leaves here and there as I once did on the way to school.  

There is always a favorite find on a block where the trees have grown around it as if protecting a secret jewel only the neighborhood is privileged to see. I must say the house seems mysterious viewed through overgrown “stuff.” (731 Arlington Street will soon be featured on the Main Street Facebook page. Hope you’re following.)

It turned out to be another “Honey, what you doin'” moment. I made a new friend, Keith Graham, who lives and is restoring his home at 727 Arlington St. Mr. Graham is a tight bundle of strength; his energy makes him appear bouncing on his toes as he showed the work he has already accomplished. Lucky for Rocky Mount, he owns some other rental properties that he is working on with the same enthusiasm. Mr. Graham showed me the small tree he has planted in the front yard for a nephew who has died. I listened to several other family stories that I felt privileged to hear. Image what an example this would be if this one block of homes on Arlington Street, a major artery, was restored. The revitalization of neighborhoods for our housing needs is a necessity and the answer to many of our problems.   

Mr. Graham’s House 727 Arlington
711 Arlington Street
715 Arlington Street
719 Arlington Street
723 Arlington Street
727 Arlington Street -A Different View
735 Arlington Street

One of the payoffs of revitalization in Rocky Mount is people being able to say, I am living as a person who is Somewhere and not just Anywhere. I encourage you to drive through downtown and through the Wards, to reconnect with  Somewhere!  I often say, “Wow, look at that…or with dismay, “Oh, my goodness, how can this be?”  Neighborhood after neighborhood, there are homes like these on Arlington Street. With a plan, ingenuity, investment, neighbors helping neighbors to even rehang a shutter, things can change for the better. Community Buy-In is my newest bumper sticker. You have to Believe!   

Reaching September On Main Street

One of my favorite renditions is Willie Nelson singing September Song – – Oh, it’s a long long while from May to December but the days grow short when you reach September….I’m sure you can’t believe, nor can I, that June, July, and August are behind us. A summer not without blessings, but over-all, a horrendous time.

At the beginning of most summers, I make a mental list of what I want to do again as in my childhood summers. To walk barefoot in the dew-wet grass, eat homemade peach ice-cream, lug books home from the library, run under the sprinkler, catch fireflies in a Mason jar, swing on the porch, have a picnic, see the fireworks at Northwestern’s Dyke Stadium, and ride my bike. The list goes on. I did eat watermelon, walked barefoot in the grass, and read books to my heart’s content. The rest of my list didn’t materialize. I traded it all away with the time spent watching the horror of mobs running loose, looting and burning, our historical monuments being pulled to the ground, jumping up and down over the Rocky Mount shenanigans of old. A terrible trade-off!

I’m not naive enough to think that because we have crossed the threshold of September that our troubles are over. Particularly, as we battle down the field to the elections. It isn’t a bad idea to pick one of your sacred places, like the beach, or a hidden spot in the garden, perhaps your favorite chair, and shelter there, if only in your imagination to put yourself right again when the world’s woes are over-bearing.

This brick wall is going to be my sheltering place, which I only discovered when a friend invited me over specifically to place my hand on her back garden wall. This wall is made of Silus Lucas brick. (Below). Mr. Lucas had a major brickyard here and sold brick in other states from the Civil War era to the early 1900s. This wall was laid around 1955 when the homes on Marvelle Avenue were being built in the West Haven area.

A brick can be used to build a courthouse of reason, or it can be thrown through the window.  –   Gilles Deleuze

Going back for photographs, I found the owners had pulled away some of the ivy. This fall I will think of this brick wall and remember how strong it is, how it has endured all manner of elements, its age has not mattered, it continues true to itself, a thing of beauty and stability. The same attributes I associate with America, the shining light on the hill that must prevail.

PS: The lovely home on Marvelle is for sale.

PPS: These are precious days I spend with you. SFH

Tell Me I’m Not Wrong About The ‘Band of Brothers’ on Main Street

I tend to romanticize things on Main Street…..I offer no apology. This tendency explains how I came to believe there is a Band of Brothers changing the scene in historic downtown. I love meeting and writing about individuals from various walks of life and backgrounds investing their time and resources. It is these people saving and repurposing Rocky Mount’s commercial architecture who provide a necessary economic driver.

When Troy White’s building came tumbling down in an 80 mile an hour wind, it felt like someone slapped me upside the head with some of the comments left on Concerned Citizens; a group of important voices who try to serve as watchmen on the tower. While reading, I thought, “Wait a minute, this isn’t right!” What happened to ’We few, we happy few, we band of brothers?’ -from a speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V.    

The King proclaims….But we in it shall be remember’d;

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother…

As fate would have it, Troy and the team arrived an hour before the storm hit. They were there to assess the next steps in bringing the building back to life. Engineers were involved with the necessary procedures to save the building. Then the wind took the structure into its own hands. Troy White, has already demonstrated how vested he is in the mission of saving downtown’s future. He could have used some support that at least said, “Your loss is our loss.” For the record, Mr. White paid for any and all clean up that was necessary. There are now design plans in the works for a new building, which will be sensitive to the continuity of the historic downtown setting. 

When we lost this building, I was certain of the downtown Band of Brothers. They would offer help. Maybe drop water bottles off because of the heat. They would bring encouragement with their ‘one for all’ attitude, perhaps bring a push broom or shovel? With little, if any, sign of these Brothers, coupled with the comments that followed, we are damn lucky Troy White didn’t give us the famous Duke basketball gesture when opponents foul out – – SEE YA 

This ‘all for one’ attitude is imperative. Everyone who is involved in creating the new emerging downtown scene deserves respect and shall have a turn leading the Main Street Parade. If you doubt the necessity of this investment money, think about the majority vote on the City Council who have served 20 years or more. Under their watch, statistics show a decline in homeownership, a loss of jobs, higher crime, and commercial and residential housing boarded up and deteriorating.  

The City Council Chambers

We need individuals who are vested in the historic collection of architecture on Main Street, and beyond. The real issue behind the smokescreen-cry of racism, is the “My Will Be Done” agenda. Anyone that does not support this agenda will have to endure intimidation, the threat of losing a job, actually losing that job, or threats concerning their businesses. People are hired and fired according to their willingness to serve this agenda. It is no longer a carefully held secret. The names of the usual suspects are spoken every day. Should you need further evidence of what this so-called leadership has accomplished, go, and look at the shameful decline in the neighborhoods. It is obvious that nothing comes from nothing. It is new investment that is saving Main Street.  

It may be a Chicago thing, but are you familiar with the expression, no tickey, no washey? There is an economic imperative at stake here. Vested individuals are essential. Those profiting from the “My Will” agenda have tried to sabotage the word investor. “These ‘carpetbaggers’ are taking away what belongs to us.” Don’t believe that for a moment. Instead, believe that all those vested in building a future for Rocky Mount deserve our thanks and prayers. 

The “My will Agenda” is the real issue. The plan we already have, bought and paid for, doesn’t support “The Agenda,” so we need a new one. The Main Street program is dismissed for the same reason. Think about The Carlton House that was sabotaged for the sake of a new hotel and parking garage. Does anyone doubt that the usual people will line their pockets with that deal?  The Band of Brothers faces this agenda every day. If these people would accept the notion that alone we can do so little, but together, accomplish so much. it is a reality that should be embraced. We need black and white-owned businesses scattered throughout the historic downtown. Together, the obstacles that the agenda mandates can be addressed.

Ben Braddock at Station Square- A Main Street Campion

Our Future With The Main Street Program Is In The Hands Of The ‘My Will Be Done’ Councilmen

When I read the erroneous remarks from the City Council meeting that keep declaring there is no difference between Main Street Accreditation and Affiliate, I repeat, there is a difference, dagnabbit!  An Affiliate status has resources that help new communities get started with this successful program, BUT, Accreditation comes along later when you submit the yearly paperwork proving that you are following and achieving the Programs guidelines. If that is accomplished and you are given accreditation status, you become eligible for grants that affiliation cannot participate in.  No accreditation, no money. If you missed my recent blog about this subject, CLICK HERE

In March I attended the NC Main Street Program in New Bern, NC. Kevin Harris was the only one from our City Government. I met the whole planning and development staff of other counties.  City Managers attended.  CLICK HERE for the post I wrote -We’re On The Road to New Bern.

This isn’t the TV show, Kids Say The Darndest Things. It is the reality show on City Council where those who are committed to the MY WILL BE DONE agenda make no room for this valuable and proven program to assist cities in reinvigorating historic downtown. To insist that there is no difference between an affiliate designation and an accredited status hopes you aren’t that interested in the first place or likely to give much thought to what losing our accreditation may have cost us. It isn’t that the MY WILL BE DONE agenda doesn’t know better, they don’t want you to know better. Here is what you hear.

“But it seems to me there’s really not a big difference between being accredited and affiliate”, Knight said. “And plus all the work that we are currently doing downtown and what we are proposing to do downtown, I think would be more than an A-plus once these projects come into fruition.” The City Manager said, “I agree with you., the paper seemed to have been hung up on accreditation versus affiliation when, in fact, there’s really no difference at all.”  This is wrong.

Here is the point of accreditation and what it means to have lost ours.

“Accredited communities are eligible for occasional funding opportunities through the National Main Street Center, that are only available to accredited communities, such as the National Park Service Main Street Façade Improvement Grant program that Lenoir, Elkin, and Elizabeth City received – $46,000 each for façade improvements in downtown; the Grills Fund for COVID recovery initiatives, that New Bern received; and from time to time, other opportunities that may arise. Accredited communities are eligible for awards, like the Great American Main Street award. Goldsboro was a runner up for this award a few years ago and it is a national recognition. Goldsboro received another grant for around $35,000. Again – only accredited communities are eligible.”                                                                       —Elizabeth (Liz) H. Parham, Director, NC Main Street

To think that the City of Rocky Mount continues to be in the hands of but a few. What a power trip it must be to know that MY WILL BE DONE continues without a judgment day, allowing the MY WILL agenda to continue on. For this, we are facing immeasurable damage to our reputation, credit ratings; bullying, and deflection go on. If only our lost accreditation were a single problem before us. Alas, there is much more.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking The Arm of a Gentleman on Main Street

I want to tell you one of my many Main Street experiences. It happened this past Spring with a trip downtown to photograph some commercial buildings that Mr. Knight owns. (There is one in particular that I love and keep my eye on.) I first took these photos on  July 17, 2018. Today, July 11, 2020, the building looks the same only ‘worser.’

I got out of my car that day in a state of mourning over the further deterioration of this structure.  I took new photographs to prove that if Mr. Knight truly meant the things he waxes poetic about, he would have set an example, and at least stabilized this building to save it. He would act as a responsible property owner who cares about the historical significance of our facades that make a continuous blend of excellent commercial architecture.

I’ll get no satisfaction in this matter until more of the community gets proactive and sees Main Street for what it is: a valuable asset to be protected, an economic driver, a place people believe in, our investing in, and are the wind under the sails of the revitalization that is going on. It makes no sense to me that once segregated in the Douglas Block area, there is now this call for a black business area that segregates blacks all over again. If the point to this is to segregate white people, it is a miscalculation to think I, for one, would stop getting out of my car and talking to black people on the corner or in the middle of the street. Most whites are color blind as our most blacks. It’s only those who refuse to live their lives as free men and women and realize that today it is one’s heart that defines a person, not the color of their skin.

It must be true what they say, one who is abused can become an abuser. Those who were segregated, now want to be segregated again. A successful revitalization has no color attached to it but supports and encourages come one, come all, to honor the past, and help build a future. Mr. Knight, who owns buildings on Tarboro St. and Washington St. has my vote of no confidence because he protected his cronies, letting them ignore ordinances, and stood by while their buildings continue to rot and cave in.  Those who could’a/should’a make a difference, didn’t.

The reason I tell this story: There were three men standing in front of a nearby building that same day. One of them, by himself, has renovated and repurposed a great looking barbershop on the 2nd floor of a Main Street building. I walked over to join them and we talked. Nice people who then led me to see the bar on the corner and further.

When I got ready to leave, the older of the three men said he would walk me back to my car. I took his arm. Upon reflection, I realize I do this as a sign of my affection and acknowledgment that I am in the company of a gentleman. I am grateful to these three men who included me, were willing to tour a bit with me, and showed no sign that because I am white, it made a difference to them. They being black certainly made no difference to me. We need to get a grip, as the younger folks say, and welcome any and all who believe in Main Street where ever they find a building in the downtown area.  We better start looking through a better lens to size people up. I repeat, today it is people’s hearts, not the color of their skin that matters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Black Lives Matter’ Painted On The Old Railroad Loading Dock?

‘Shown here is the structure whose roof could be painted to read ‘Black Lives Matter.’
WILLIAM F. WEST/ROCKY MOUNT TELEGRAM

William West wrote, “The City of Rocky Mount appears to be interested in having the words “Black Lives Matter” painted on the roof of an old railroad track-side loading dock on the northeastern side of downtown.” This is a perfect example of what Benjamin Franklin meant when he said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

The existing Central City Revitalization Panel (CCRP) composed of City residents, leaders of community organizations, and members of the business community, served as a steering committee for the Ratio Plan. For that trouble, it remains in a drawer. Unless the Historic Preservation Committee and the Central Revitalization  Committee have lost their minds, I guarantee neither group has been consulted about this matter. They who are charged with protecting guidelines of the downtown historic district and the Central Revitalization Committee, who are in the trenches working for the downtown businesses…… must approve!

This is another mistake for which no one on the Council or City Management will pay for.   Yet again, an arbitrary idea to take advantage of the current political unrest in the country. Seize the day, and the monument to our history is gone. Seize the day, and paint Black Lives Matter on a historic structure. The basis – a mob of haters of the United States who have been encouraged and left free to loot and destroy.

This old railroad structure is not an inconvenient obstacle! This message, seen by people who pass through Rocky Mount on the train, who now are able to see the new emerging scene downtown, is short-sighted.  I thought ‘Come let us reason together’ was the mantra to achieve harmony and move forward together. The two groups cited above better get their heads in gear in order to use their influence to save us from ourselves. I leave you with an interview with Shelby Steele of  The Hoover Institute on the matter of Black Lives Matter. Though a Fox News interview might give you pause, think of the interview happening where ever you like. Just give his insights a go. Click on Link:

FYI: In 2016, the City of Rocky Mount moved forward with the preparation of a Downtown Plan spurred on by the anticipation of development following the announcement of the Rocky Mount Event Center (RMEC) and the area’s high development potential. As the effort began, the City realized that the most effective tool to guide and incentivize future development would be specific implementation strategies. The strategies contained in the Plan have a primary focus on the vicinity of the RMEC in the Northeast Quadrant.

The Beauty of Brick In The Restoration of Rocky Mount – Main Street and Beyond

“Architecture has its own realm. It has a special physical relationship with life… 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

The beautifully restored building on Washington Street. This photo was taken when it was the Washington Street Grill

I think of the rustic charm of exposed brickwork in buildings as art. The colors and textures of exposed masonry add a unique character to any structure. If you have not had the pleasure of placing your hand on a brick wall, next time one calls to you, do it!  A quick story about touching: My youngest son by misdeed was asked to stay home from school a day. It was an opportunity to take him downtown to the Chicago Art Institute where the famous lion sculptures stand guard. He wanted to touch whatever he looked at. (He comes by that rightly, I’m a toucher.) More than once the museum guide in a gallery cleared his throat as a warning, don’t touch. What was to be a day of punishment was far better spent on Michigan Avenue in the midst of glorious architecture. All these years later, I touch brick walls, and that grown son has a son of his own who both touch my heart.

 I can never resist telling a story, but some information too. A brick is building material used to make walls, pavements, and other elements in masonry construction. Traditionally, the term brick referred to a unit composed of clay, but it is now used to denote rectangular units made of clay-bearing soil, sand, and lime, or concrete materials. Bricks can be joined together using mortar, adhesives, or by interlocking them. Bricks are produced in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region and time period, and are produced in bulk quantities. Two basic categories of bricks are fired and non-fired bricks.

 

A lovely brick arch left intact in an ‘above the store’ flat in New Bern.

Bricks were made by hand until about 1885. Once the Industrial Revolution broke out, the brickmaking machinery was introduced. Consequently, the number of clays that could be made into brick was greatly increased which influenced the production capacity. Handmade brick production ranged up to 36,000 bricks per week but by 1925 a brickmaking machine made 12,000 bricks a day

The beautiful brick walls in the restored train station in Rocky Mount

A great example of leaving exposed brick in a restoration. Imperial Center.

Amazing interior brick at the Imperial Center restoration.

The interior brick at the Imperial Center restoration. Looking beyond to more beautiful brick walls.

The Imperial Center Restoration

The exterior brick at the restored Rocky Mount Bus Stations

Going up now: Approved brick for rebuilding the back of two Howard Street buildings.

The restoration of a Howard Street building using beautiful brick.

 

Exposed brick is a piece of art to behold.

Exposed brick with a crack running through is like a self-portrait on any given day.

We use our hands for a loving touch, a moment of comfort, in prayer. Why not touch a brick wall in honor of the workman, the results, the enduring quality of what still stands. A silly thing I know, until you remember when someone has taken your hand in comfort or in love. Let us place our hands on this old brick in appreciation for its past and  new future.

The Telegram Public Forum Page – Headline – Location of Public Housing ILL Conceived

After I wrote the blog about PLAN B, letting Woda Cooper Companies repurpose one of our old buildings for low-income housing, I wrote a letter to the Telegram. They published it on Tuesday. Nobody told me that the paper has been on a diet. Something else we better talk about here on Main Street. It’s on the list, but we have other fish to fry now. Please leave a comment at the bottom of the blog if you like the idea of PLAN B as a viable alternative to Section 8 housing in the wrong place. This isn’t a very sexy post, sorry, but the proposal as it stands now has LONG TERM CONSEQUENCES that are costly. Add your voice and influence to stopping this costly mistake. Skip to paragraph 3 of the letter if you’ve read the blog.

The City Council has approved Woda Cooper Companies (WCC) as “development partners” for construction of “workforce housing” on Tarboro Street, across from Edgecombe Community College. WCC has experienced developers, general contractors, and property managers specializing in design, construction, and management. They have accomplished an impressive body of work. While their online presence leaves a highly favorable impression, it is the insistence on the location for this housing that is questionable, short-sighted and leaves us shaking our heads, again. Woda Cooper can accomplish Plan B for Rocky Mount, which is the right answer for this housing the Council has decided comes before other issues like infrastructure.

WCC repurposes old buildings for low-income housing. Visit their website to read about success stories in other cities. For example, in order to create affordable places to live in downtown Cleveland, Woda Cooper bought the Stuyvesant Motor Company Building at 1937 Prospect Avenue and built the Prospect Yard apartments. The building was built in 1917 and a stone in the brick at the top of the building still reads “Stuyvesant” after more than a century. The building has 42 apartments, with rent starting at $330 and topping out at $1,247 depending on how large the apartment is.

Members of the City Council and the City Manager decided that this housing must be located downtown, disregarding the current research that says the edges of a Main Street Downtown District need protection from exactly this kind of haphazard planning. This location is in direct conflict with the new emerging Main Street, ECC, and the economic drivers that support downtown businesses. Someone is looking to make money off this project but it will not be the businesses that are a priority in our safekeeping. Rather than plunk this housing cluster in the wrong location, let these ‘development partners’ help us find an appropriate commercial building and repurpose it for workforce housing. However, repurposing a building must keep the integrity of our historic facades intact, adding seamlessly to the historic downtown. This power struggle is not over the need for this housing or welcoming its residence into the life of the new scene downtown, but it is all about location, location, location. I alone, having a temper tantrum in the middle of Main Street, isn’t enough. We need your voice and sphere of influence behind Plan B.

Better Blends Juice and Smoothie Bar – I Can Tell Already It Will Be A Success

Years ago I sat under a white tent that covered the invited guests to a rehearsal dinner. Much  to the dismay of those of us who were older, the toasts by so called friends turned into a roast of the groom. “I remember the night you were drunk and  knocked on my door at 2:00 AM.” It went down hill from there. My reaction: how will this couple make it with friends like this, no talk of love, respect, or support? The marriage  didn’t make it.

A few days ago I wrote on the new Facebook page by the same name as this blog – Main Street Rocky Mount- about the renovated building located on Sorsby’s Place at 116/118 Sunset Avenue. 118 has been leased to Better Blends Juice and Smoothie Bar. James Silver & Kydeem Vaughan plan to be open early Spring. (Check out Better Blends FB page to learn more.) You are going to love the concept, the location, and Kydeem Vaughn, who is pictured on the FB page, along with James Silver, pictured here. They are the co-owners of this new business.

James Silver- co-owner

I went to the Goat Bottle Shoppe at the mill the other evening for a gathering that sipped delicious samples of what is on the horizon for everyone when the store opens. I know it is going to be a successful business. The reason I know this is because everyone who came to support James & Kydeem were lovely, enthusiastic, friendly and believe in James and Kydeem. The partners have a lot of love under their wings that will create a happy place for customers to enjoy. Kydeem and James are part of the new reality on Main Street. They have planted their flag along with a growing number of Repairers of the Breach. A designation I give to those who are investing, renovating, repurposing, preserving, saving Main Street and Surrounds. You too can be a Repairer by your attitude, positivity, supporting the new businesses that are opening, and enjoying the new Main Street scene. Follow this blog and the FB page to read about what’s happening.   

A Smoothie Tasting

A few of the supportive friends sampling

 

 

 

Preservation Rocky Mount Membership Gathers at Machaven Tonight – January 7th

I’m looking forward to this Members Only opportunity: People interested in the preservation of our architectural inventory will be gathering  in this special place that is alive and well again. Machaven: A crown jewell in the community. You may join on line or at the event tonight to attend. #20.00 per year.

Image may contain: text
Preservation Rocky Mount

Tonight is the first Members Only Preservation Rocky Mount Meeting of 2020. The meeting is from 6 PM-8 PM. The location is The Historic MacHaven House at 306 S.Grace St., Rocky Mount, NC.

We encourage all members to attend this meeting, as this one sets the tone for the new year! If you are not a member, please visit our website at https://www.preservationrockymount.org/become-a-member and join. Membership opportunities will also be available tonight at this event.

All memberships are annual and offer loads of benefits that last all year. Single annual memberships are a one time fee of $20, and couples are $30.

For more information about this meeting please visit our events page at https://www.facebook.com/events/625490661326610/.

Preservation Rocky Mount will be providing light refreshments.

Parking instructions are: On the Park Avenue side of the house you’ll see wrought iron gates leading to a driveway up to The Machaven. You can park there and it accommodates at least 10 cars. There is a grassy lot to the left of the wrought iron gates that can handle overflow as well as ample street parking.