The Bellemonte House, constructed between 1817 and 1825, may not be on your radar screen, but it soon will be. It was moved last year to a beautiful wooded lot on Bishop Road on the back side of Wesleyan College. I became aware of the house recently on a tour of Rocky Mount that John Jesso conducted for the Rocky Mount Blackbirds – class of ’62. Wonderful people! (I was delighted when invited to join them for a few hours.) Intrigued, I went back for photographs to share with you. The restoration is nearly complete by the looks of the outside. There are no signs of a semi-formal garden with period fencing that is planned, but as a gardener, I await this addition with anticipation.
The Bellemonte house sat in the front of the Wesleyan College for 28 years until Oldham House Moving of Ramseur and Oldham House Movers of Seagrove came together and relocated the structure a quarter of a mile away. Bishop Beat, a N.C. Wesleyan College Newsletter, wrote that the move would make room for the constructed of a new building at the college’s main entrance “to accommodate much-needed classrooms and office space.”
Here’s a little history….Bellemonte was originally the home of Dr. John R. Bellamy (1794-1846), a physician who owned a large tract of land north of Rocky Mount. He began construction on Bellemonte, a Federal architectural style home in 1817. There is a two-tier portico with balustrades that are a Chippendale- inspired pattern The house was developed in stages over several years and follows the I-house form.
In 1918, Bellemonte was acquired by Mack C. Braswell of Battleboro, a landowner, and merchant. In 1956, the Braswell heirs donated 200 acres of farmland adjacent to the Bellemonte House to become the site of N.C. Wesleyan College. In 1988, the Pearsall family donated the Bellemonte House to the college and it was moved 400 yards south to the front of the college. In 1989, the house was restored and listed as one of 28 Nash County sites on the National Register of Historic Places. The beautiful restoration of this historic home is something to celebrate along with so many things that are happening on Main Street Rocky Mount and the surrounding area. It is all endlessly fascinating and important in the drama of building a future while honoring the past.
This is how it is being done, folks. Close your eyes, think of downtown Rocky Mount and one of our many historic architectural buildings. When you open your eyes, read this announcement from the East Durham Pie Company
Signing a lease is a big commitment, as this will be our new home for years to come, so it was really important to make sure it would be a space that would suit our needs now and as we grow. The location has room for both indoor and outdoor seating and for an open kitchen that will allow everyone who walks through the doors to see what we’re working on. It has big windows that let in plenty of light, and even in its current state, it’s easy to see how it will be a warm and cozy place.
So the big reveal… East Durham Pie Co. will soon be located at 406 South Driver Street, in a lovely turn of the century building in Old East Durham.
The building is already under construction and moving along quickly at that! There’s a lot that still needs to go into it, but we hope that with hard work and some luck we’ll be able to open our doors this summer.
I couldn’t resist sharing this with all of you on Main Street. We have businesses downtown that started just like this; with a dream and a belief in the future of Rocky Mount. Here is a glimpse of a small business at the beginning of their dream. When I saw the photograph of this wonderful turn of the century building that has been waiting to be useful again, I could see the May Gorham building in our downtown with its doors open for pie and coffee, or maybe a great milkshake at the counter; who knows what else someone will dream up for this space. The word preservation is music to our ears, right? I lift my glass of sweet tea to the future of the East Durham Pie Company in their new restored building. Hope we get as lucky as Durham, NC and can meet one day in a place like this for a great piece of pie.
“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
I wish I’d written the following description of the post office, but like Harry Potter, I withdrew the information (memory) from a pensive.
The early 20th century, Neoclassical, Rocky Mount Post Office enjoys a prime location in revitalizing downtown Rocky Mount. This 18,500-SF building has 1.5 floors above grade, and one floor below grade. Its handsome limestone exterior harkens to times past, and its cast-in-place concrete frame gives it excellent structural stability. Windows and roof are secured; interior is ready for renovation. The historic Douglas Block buildings including the Booker T Theater, is a block away; Edgecombe Community College is across the street, and let us not forget the outstanding Prime Smokehouse Restaurant in the same area;all pieces in the revitalization puzzle already in place. Those members and interest folks that attended the Preservation Rocky Mount tour were delighted itincluded the Post Office. It was a wonderful opportunity you would have enjoyed. I know you are interested in the preservation of our assets, retaining our stories, and creating a future that holds these things in a creative and reimagined way. Join Preservation Rocky Mount and help rethink it’s role in todays revitalization work. Be sure to visit the PRM Home Page with information you will need. While you are at it, visit and ‘Like’ the PRM Facebook page .
I stepped aside for a reflective moment and took this photograph through these spacious windows. It felt like a timeless, quiet Sunday afternoon that I looked upon. It allowed me a moment to look back. Who knows how many people glanced through these windows at the same trees. I tried to image a future for this beautiful architectural building. Jennifer Sisal with Ratio Architects, Inc is involved in this reimagining. I will write more about this process in another post. We know that Historic preservation encourages cities to build on the assets they have. The old Post Office,The People’s Bank, and the May & Gorham building, matter to us. They reflect our stories and help retain our identity. They create opportunities for growth, and are part of the future’s firm foundation we build upon.
I hope reading this blog has encouraged your interest in the great architectural inventory of Rocky Mount and area. This invitation is an opportunity to visit the May & Gorham Building, Post Office and People’s Bank with Preservation Rocky Mount on October 2 at 2:oo. As for me, I can hardly wait. You will have a great time with a bunch of nice folks. My plan is to act as the ‘preservation whisperer’ wafting through the crowd cozying up behind you to urge you to join the organization. Be a part of what comes next for PRM’s. The tour of the buildings STARTS at the May & Gorham Building. We will return there for refreshments. I look forward to seeing you on October 2.
“It has been said that, at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” William Murtagh
Don’t get left behind when it comes to what’s happening in Rocky Mount. There are any number of organizations you might consider if you are wondering how to get involved and make a contribution. Let me suggest that you start by joining Preservation Rocky Mount. The groupmeets several times a year with its eye on fostering an appreciation for the preservation of the historical and architectural heritage of the City of Rocky Mount, Nash & Edgecombe Counties. We are living in a community that offers a rich sense of place to those who are moving to Rocky Mount, exactly what people want today when choosing where to live. Our significant inventory of architecture, our historic downtown core and other historic districts, all need the community to care about the on-going preservation of these assets to insure the future that is being built upon them.
We are all busy, and good intentions abound. I know you think, I keep meaning to join something. PRM is a group of engaged, knowledgable people that hold their meetings at locations of historical significance in the community, open to the public. There are several categories of membership, two of them: a single is $20.00 and for a couple $30.00. It is your heart and enthusiasm for the preservation of our history that is needed.
I attended the PRM annual meeting on Sunday held at Koi Pond in their newly renovated site at Rocky Mount Mills. Have you been yet? WOW! Preservation of a historic structure, given a new life, people, some with children and dogs on leashes, gathered in a safe and friendly environment. The first micro brewery in a perfect location. Click HERE to read an earlier post about The Pond.Preservation Rocky Mount is a great way to join a large ‘band of brothers’ who are building a future in Rocky Mount on the firm foundations of the past.
Call 252-407-7566 for further membership information
“If we do not honor our past, we lose our future. If we destroy our roots, we cannot grow.” Friedensreich Hundertwasser