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!   

When The Stars Align – Whit and Robert Barnes Appear – Sons of Rocky Mount

It suits my romantic inclinations to write this Sorsby’s Tale after spending time with Whit Barnes. This tale is my favorite kind of Main Street news.I love generational novels that cover family history. In this case we have the family that founded Bullocks Furniture in 1901 unto the 5th generation that rests in a tall, dark, handsome fellow…. that would be Whit…. the nicest of young man that will one day appear on the genealogy pages of this grand family.

Whit graduated from Rocky Mount Sr. High where his mother Martha Kincheloe Barnes and father, Russ Barnes, met and started dating after graduation. Whit went on to  Wake Forest and graduated in  2013 in Business Management. His grandfather, Bill Kincheloe, who lived on Wildwood in West Haven, started making lamps in the warehouse behind his grandfathers retail furniture store, Bulluck Furniture Company in downtown Rocky Mount, the year 1969. Whit is now the Sales Manager for Wildwood. The company used to be called Wildwood Lamps and Accents, but now the name is  “Wildwood” because they make all types of home decor such as furniture, mirrors, lighting, decorative accessories, and artwork.

Whit has come home though he still has his New York apartment. He tells me he knows of at least 25-30 others moving back to Rocky Mount. This return is HOPE personified. These sons and daughters of Rocky Mount will join those already here; the future leadership providing a moral compass, and integrity we badly need. If any of them are like Whit, who is a bright, enthusiastic, and a energized, young gentleman, then hurry and get here.

Robert and Whit Barnes have bought the fabulous building on Sunset – Sorsby’s Place. The entire building may be leased or the two floors leased separately. The second floor has its own entrance. You may remember the building when it was Rocky Mount Chamber Paint, (1910.) Or, Barnes Tin Shop (no relative), or Carols Dress Shop. The restoration of this building is another preservationist dream and much more. When I visited with Whit, the joy on his face is evident over owning Sorsby Place with his brother, Robert. This joy includes home and family, taking part in the revitalization of Main Street, and putting a stake in the ground for past and future generations of their family.

I think of these young men standing quietly outside their building making room for their memories growing up here; the voices that have gone before them that they now honor. It is spectacular when one reaches the September of their life as I have, to stand beside a young man who wants to make a difference. It is my prayer that ‘all will be well, all manner of things will be well,’ when I am gone because of people like Whit and Robert. They are putting their life experience, their education, creativity, and love of place and family towards a future for themselves and others. Thankfully, they are joined by young people who are doing the same thing along Main Street and beyond. The leasing of this building will become an economic driver in the Rocky Mount Downtown Historic District.

**Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc is a small business with 20 to 49 employees. Categorized under importers & exporters, Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc has an annual revenue of $10 to 50 million. Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc is a public business located in Rocky Mount, NC.

Architectural Plans for Sorsby Place

Beautiful brick walls on two sides each floor

2nd floor, beautiful floors. Window at far end faces Sunset and across to Howard St.

View of Howard Street out the second story window

The restored beams on both floors

 

CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEW OCCUPANTS THAT WILL ADD TO THE SORSBY’S TALE FOR MORE PHOTOGRAPHS VISIT THE FACEBOOK PAGE OF MAIN STREET

Exciting News: Twenty Two Lofts on Main Street – Buildings Saved By Troy Davis

Two doors down from Davis furniture on Main Street we have this!

The first time I explored the alley behind Davis Furniture Company I was intrigued and excited to see some renovation had already taken place. It was quite a shock, however, to see the back of two buildings two doors down from the Davis business. Here is the picture I took that day that I have published several times on this blog in outrage that the owner of the building was not held accountable through the enforcement of ordinances or being sued by the owners of the adjacent buildings.

The Downtown Merchant Association is full of great news. One announcement is that the Davis Property Group is developing 22 lofts with roof top amenities in the 100 block of SE Main St.where these collapsed  building has gone unattended. My anxiety over loosing the facade, or the interior being struck by lightening causing a fire, and safety issues have come to an end. Here are new photographs showing the incredible damage cleared away. What a feat.

There

Alimentaire Wholesome Breads
Coming to 132 SW Main Street

 

There are already people living downtown, but remarkable energy and planning by investors, architects, and contractors are creating new living spaces in the midst of an emerging street scene around them. It’s early days, but the amenities that are needed to complete Main Street and surrounds are in progress. Here is the sign for a new French bakery that is being worked on. One more piece of the puzzle about to be put in place.

Thanks to people, both black and white, who are planting their flags throughout the Main Street areas, new stories are being created. Private investment, energy, dreams, expertise and vision are not only  economic drivers for Rocky Mount but are saving our commercial architecture; our signature, our story, our future.

 

 

 

Positive Change In City Leadership Will Guarantee Main Street’s Successful Outcome – ‘Urban Infill’ For Instance

There are subtle design details that have a powerful ability to make a building look or feel “right” in a certain area. Context tells us whether a design fits in and guides our decisions. We want a city’s buildings to share some regional characteristics that make a place a place. -Joe Bucher, AIA

Urban infill is city planning lingo for development in areas that are already built up. These projects have fewer costs attached to them because of existing infrastructure and are already serviced by transit, shops, and food.

When it comes to a downtown like ours and older neighborhoods, preservation today is engaged in questions of how to respect the past while fostering development to fill in the gaps. Urban ‘infill’ is a topic we need to be smart about if we are to preserve the continuity of our Main Street buildings that are significant when telling Rocky Mount’s story; when offering people a place to live that has a sense of place. Preserving this continuity is key to this kind of development.

Again, we will turn to New Orlean’s for infill Preservation inspiration. Deftly tucked into a narrow former parking lot on a densely occupied business district street, the new Cambria Hotel represents a successful approach to urban infill in a historic district. The project transformed an empty space into a handsome and vibrant hotel building. Thoughtful design and careful planning took care to recognize the scale and context of the surrounding neighborhood, utilizing a simple palette of materials commonly found in the district that is respectful of the mix of historic buildings and converted warehouses around it. (Please reread these highlighted sentences just short of memorization.)

Infill can be added to an existing structure, become a new layer over the old,  placed on an irregular shaped site, or it can fill an abandoned lot. This infill will include mixed-use and multi-functional purpose to a site or building, promoting different uses at different times.

Compatibility of this infill with the overall design strategy should always be a strong goal focused on integration with the surrounding area. Infill should not overpower nearby buildings. Successful infill projects are those that go unnoticed; apparent only upon examination.  These simple, but vital requirements for any planned infill in the downtown historic district of Rocky Mount must include sensitive and respectful attention to the surrounding architecture.

I hope you agree. Leave your thoughts below.

 

 

 

Saying NO to Tarboro Street Housing For At Least 3 Reasons

#I – THE WRONG ANSWER FOR MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING:

Affordable housing in historic districts and Wards should be looked at as a sustainable method of housing development. Buildings are durable commodities that can be used for decades. The addition of historic districts, which Rocky Mount has seven, into the housing equation is a win-win for the community. We already have in place guidelines that require close attention to the built environment as a whole, which helps to protect people’s investment in our housing assets. Rather than building affordable housing over on Tarboro St., plopped down in a transient setting, we want singles, renters, 1st-time homeowner, retired folks living in neighborhoods. There is affordable housing of different sizes that may not be at its best but is savable, and once restored, house by house you have a neighborhood feeling good about itself again. You have diversity, woven into the fabric of neighborhoods that have been home to our Rocky Mount story and are home again to our next chapter.

#2 – BAIT AND SWITCH WITH OUR PARKING PLAN

The PARKING that will be needed for a flourishing and successful Event Center, and a revitalized downtown, cannot be highjacked. Definitely not for the wrong answers to affordable housing. Evidently, there are members on the City Council and their insiders who no longer care about the needed parking, as if the success of the Event Center and Main Street no longer matter to them. This suggests to me that they have moved on to the next idea of taking what they can and leave the taxpayers with the bill. I suspect that this information meeting is a rouse to cover what they believe is a predetermined outcome. A large attendance saying no is necessary for these reasons and yours. Make the best case you can.

#3 – UNTIL THE INVESTIGATION INTO GRAFT, CORRUPTION AND MISMANAGEMENT IS CONCLUDED, THERE IS A NO CONFIDENCE VOTE FOR ACTION

Taxpayers have no reason to believe the city forces will change their trend line in this latest proposal;  lining someone’s pockets, letting the taxpayers subsidize this housing.  In summary: We have a vote of no confidence in leadership, we must safeguard our parking, and pursue the right solution for affordable housing by investing in what we already have, which will restore our existing Ward neighborhoods and historic districts.

PLEASE NOTE: The location of a Tuesday information session on a planned multi-family workforce housing development on Tarboro Street has been changed.
The public meeting will now be held in McBryde Auditorium on the Rocky Mount campus of Edgecombe Community College. The time of the meeting hasn’t changed and is still set for 5 to 7 p.m.
The Development Finance Initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Government will facilitate the session with an hourlong open house followed by a presentation and question-and-answer segment. The City Council has committed to conveying property between 218-242 Tarboro Street via sale or lease to a development partner.

SCROLL DOWN FOR SOME GREAT COMMENTS

Hold Up A Minute -This Downtown Housing Plan on Tarborro St. Is Not a ‘Zion’ Slam Dunk – Part 1

It’s been a great weekend for shotgun houses after publishing on Saturday morning my belief that they are a preferable alternative to government-owned housing. Social Media got busy commenting on what I’d written and added additional ideas and wonderful support for the need to save and preserve this vernacular architecture. There were many ‘shares’ spreading the word that Rocky Mount city officials are inviting the community to a public information session on the planned downtown multi-family workforce housing development on Tarboro Street. The session is set for 5 to 7 p.m. April 2 in the Biotech Auditorium at Edgecombe Community College. I’m thrilled that people were involved all weekend adding substance to the discussion.

Between now and April 2,  we’ve got to think about some serious issues. We’re going to base this collaboration on a premise I believe in. Alone, we can do so little, but together, we can do so much!  I have spent many fascinating hours talking with people who have taken me under their wing, informed my thinking, added to my learning curve. I’ve researched and read a lot. The comments on social media prove my point. Together, we’ve got A LOT of expertise to get this housing thing right. My goal in these next few days is to write every day from my downtown bench the things that must be weighed and considered before this housing project can possibly be considered.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED – FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION  

“There is today an almost universal agreement that the Urban Renewal demolition of large tracts of downtowns was misguided, self-defeating, and ultimately a failure as a revitalization strategy. The sustained success stories in downtown revitalization today are found in those cities that maintained and reinvested in their historic buildings and recognized their character, quality, and ultimate durability.

But today the same approach of wholesale destruction is being taken in neighborhoods in far too many American cities. And almost verbatim the same arguments are being made: “Those structures are about to fall down anyway.” “Those old buildings don’t meet the needs of today’s market.” “Once you fix them up you still have nothing but old buildings.” “They are an eyesore and we have to get rid of them.” “As soon as we tear those buildings down and have a clean site the developers will be lining up for a chance to redevelop the property.”

The most charitable description of those arguments from the Urban Renewal days is that they were well-intended but patently wrong. When George Santayana wrote that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that the past would be forgotten so quickly. It is hard to conceive that cities are using what is a demonstrated failure in Urban Renewal as the strategy of choice in neighborhood renewal. It is not that no building should ever be torn down, rather that demolition should be the last resort, not the first option.” – Donovan D. Rypkema for the National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Beal Street Neighborhood With Shotgun Homes

 

 

 

 

See You  Tomorrow On The Road to the Final Four Part 2

 

 

Rocky Mount – “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” – Any More

Bob Houghtlin, my late husband, spent all but a few years of his working career at the same company – Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago, IL. He wore a suit and tie every day. Usually, he rode the Northwestern Train into Chicago from Winnetka, IL. and walked across the Loop to the same building. I’m proud to say that he became one of the five Media Director-Vice Presidents in the company and was responsible for Leo Burnett’s largest client: Phillip Morris. Here is one variation of a working career you recognize from way back when.

 

Do you remember the line from this Leo Burnett ad, “This Is Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile?” I’ve spent time with an amazing young man that John Jesso courted and enticed to Rocky Mount. His name is Jesse Gerstl.  He is a managing partner at LarGerKo. This successful man was wearing a tee shirt, pegged blue jeans and a pair of tennis shoes. His office is where ever he happens to be and he usually has a phone in his hand. He and others like him are investing millions of dollars in Rocky Mount, NC. Jesse is the new “Oldsmobile.” As I followed him in and out of commercial buildings on Washington Street, up flights of stairs, through the Carlton House that is being brought back to life in an exciting way, I wish you had been with me. The new entrepreneur may not be wearing a coat and tie, but I definitely caught sight of a  Superman’s cloak as Jesse shared his Rocky Mount projects.

 

Come and sit with me on a bench downtown, and we can discuss the far-reaching implications of the verse – Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. We need these hosts of angels like Jesse Gersti who are preservation-minded, are bringing a new vision, a new economic reality. This is the new version of that old Oldsmobile. The community is thankful for the Jesse Gersti-like investors that have embraced our amazing commercial architecture and are helping to save the buildings. Properties such as the Carleton House where new memories will be made in the reimagined, restored and preserved space thanks to Jesse and his investment group,

BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN TO READ COMMENTS LEFT BELOW

 

 

 

“Historic and Worth the Trouble” – Tap @ 1918 – A Preservation Success Story

What is deemed historic, and worth saving, often depends on whose eyes you are looking through. I like the definition “old and worth the trouble,” when applied to structures that are under consideration: should they be preserved or torn down? With each individual decision, we need to ask ourselves what part the structure has played in Rocky Mount’s story. Those buildings with a tangible past, that are preserved and restored, create opportunities for the future.

Tap @ 1918 is a fine example of the intrinsic value that old buildings have in maintaining Rocky Mount’s heritage while building a future. Originally the house, now a new restaurant,  was used as a community center for Mill residents. The house became a residence for Mr. Frye, one of the Mill managers. Later the house was used as the Personnel and Purchasing offices. In the 1940’s a health clinic was added. Now the story of this Millhouse continues on.

Built 100 years ago, owners, Lou Reda and Justin Gaines, have named their new restaurant, Tap @ 1918.  There is something reassuring about old buildings that hold our memories while meeting the needs of today’s community. Old buildings with materials like brick (ahh!) and heart pine, speak to tourists and longtime residents alike. Successful community revivals attract people because of their preservation efforts. The entire Mill project embraces historic preservation and has acted accordingly.

I am grateful to Lou Reda who took time from a busy day to show my friend, Polly Warner, and myself the fabulous restoration for the restaurant. My photographs don’t do the interiors justice, but the results are fabulous. There are beautiful old floors, original windows, interesting lighting, lovely paint choices and the porches are spectacular. I have yet to have a meal but am in awe of how this project turned out.

 

In my imagination, they are all there….the mill workers of the past, and their families, and the executives who looked out for everyone and everything. They are now joined by Capital Broadcasting and a staff of talented, creative people who will be remembered for their part in the reimagining of Rocky Mount Mills. The Mill project has fostered further investment in the community, is providing jobs and at the other Mill venues, safe and welcoming places to gather.  The restored Mill Village houses offer needed up to code housing. The residents are returning to a village-way of life that foster close neighborhoods with people looking out for one another. We owe Capital Broadcasting our ‘forever-gratitude’ for believing in Rocky Mount’s revitalization efforts; I call it taking a chance on love!  Congratulations to Tap @ 1918 and Rocky Mount Mills for this fantastic repurposing of an old building with a great future.

Saving The Shotgun Houses of Rocky Mount – Part 1

We’ve lost our minds, you do know that, right? For instance, I feel strongly about the removal of monuments…. the editing of our history….but I’ve mostly banged my head on the floor like a child getting a lot of mileage from a temper tantrum.

I’m trying a new strategy when it comes to the preservation of The Shotgun Houses of Rocky Mount hoping to garner support and love for these structures.  I won’t ask you to carry a placard or throw your body across the threshold as I am considering.  Not unlike the monuments that mirror the complexities of our history, I hope to remind you that “The significance of the shotgun house rests not only on its unique architectural form but as an artifact of cultural memory.”  These Shotgun houses carry our stories. The nature and design of these homes helped strengthen the African-American community. Shotgun houses in close proximity and with porches helped build tight-knit neighborhoods. First erected in New Orleans, Shotgun houses have made a major contribution to the American architectural landscape.

Identifying a Traditional Shotgun house: long and narrow, one story high with rooms in a single row, with no windows on their sides. Rooms in shotgun houses are usually 14 square feet. A modified version of the shotgun house, the double shotgun, was later developed for larger families. These homes are the same style as the traditional shotgun house, except that the double shotgun is essentially two single shotgun homes fused together side by side. They share a single roof and doors that connect the adjoining parallel rooms. With a little basic information, we can now think about OUR very own inventory of Shotguns.

WATCH FOR  – PART  TWO                                                                                                                                      SAVING ROCKY MOUNT SHOTGUN HOUSES


WATERCOLOR ART BY JOHN BOLES

The Masonic Temple – Honoring A Rocky Mount Architectural Gem

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If you meet me on Main Street often, then you know I have picked out the Masonic Temple building on Church Street in Rocky Mount as the site of a Boutique Hotel. I see flags over the front door as if it were the Plaza in New York and when I found Mehmet Ildan’s quote, it suited my fantasies of the hotel to a tee. Alas, my idea may not be meant to be considering I have lost the name of the man who owns the building at least four times, (unlike me) and people who have contact information can’t find it when they go to give it to me. It is hard to overwhelm the owner with my great idea if I don’t have a chance to work my charms. If this is a sign, I’m not immune to them. So for now, hold the thought of some bright young woman or man at the registration desk saying, “Welcome to the Masonic Hotel.” Enjoy some information about our very own architectural delight that we can be proud of.

“An old small hotel is much more valuable than a seven-star hotel                                        because the former has a spirit and a literary posture!”

The Masonic Temple building is significant and is the only example we have of  The Egyptian Revival Period that flourished during the period 1820-1850. It made a comeback during the 1920s with the Art Deco style and the fascination with the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922. The Egyptian Revival was popular in American decorative arts throughout the nineteenth century, continuing into the 1920s. The major motifs of Egyptian art, such as obelisks, hieroglyphs, the sphinx, and pyramids, were used in various artistic media, including architecture, furniture, ceramics, silver and fashion. The style was used in public and educational buildings; churches; cemetery entrances, memorials; but in very few homes. th-2th
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Our building was erected in 1927 to replace the city’s Masonic Temple and Opera House. It was designed by architect H. Robert Diehl and built by  S.S. Toler and Son. The limestone veneer features lotus columns and a wing motif. Drive past with a new eye and show it off to your guests when they are in town. Show it all off! Start at the Bus Station, walk across the lovely hardscape to the Train Station. Take your family, drive around. It isn’t all pretty. There are buildings that are waiting for a new life, some discombobulated, for sure, but think preservation, find one and adopt it in your heart to wish good things for it as I do for the Masonic Building and beyond. Get in touch with me so I can write about your memories of these wonderful places. Let’s continue to honor the past while building a future. 6050730231_2d6db0122b_z 6051286346_3c23a4604b_z6051287432_211ccbee6f_z6050729703_dd03ee971b_z