Celebrating the Beginning of the 5th Year on Main Street Rocky Mount

I’m touching a brick wall to honor the workman, the results of their labors, and the enduring quality of what still stands.  To my way of thinking, touching an old brick wall honors the past while believing in the future that is being created in Rocky Mount.

July 27, 2015 – It began like this –

“In launcing this new blog, I hope to make an enthusiastic contribution to the new chapters that are being written about this place we call home.  The theme of this site is Honoring the Past, Building a Future. I will be writing about places and people, past and present, places like The Rocky Mount Mills and the Historic Districts that are pearls of great price in our midst.  I invite you to come and stand with me on Carr Street and listen once again to the echo of children’s laughter, and to the sound of the katydids in the trees.

A doctor will tell you they don’t know why attitude is important in getting well, they only know that it is.  A positive attitude is paramount in the day to day efforts of building the future here in Rocky Mount, NC.  The on going creative process takes time and patience while keeping our eye on the prize.”

Evan Chavez – Rocky Mount Mills – The poster child for the preservation, restoration and repurposing of this historic place that has given a new definition to what it means to be successful.

I celebrated two of the anniversaries writing about Evan Chavez.

“The first post I wrote for Main Street Rocky Mount, July 27, 2015,  featured Evan Covington Chavez. I said then and I say now, that this bright and capable woman is the poster child for this blog because she holds in her hands a two-sided coin. One side represents the past, and the other, the future. She is Capitol Broadcasting Company’s Development Manager for the Rocky Mount Mills. I think of Evan stepping onto a bridge that is under construction, and when the bridge is complete, she will have helped span the gap between once upon a time and what will be. Her dedication and hard work guarantee that her name will be remembered when the future story of the Rocky Mount Mills is told.”

The City Council Chambers

Though I am a political junkie, it was not my attention to write about politics on the blog. The day came, against the advise of others, when I acknowledged that the path to the future kept landing me on the rocks of City Government.

Post 9-25-19

“The Siren call lures nearby sailors to crash upon the rocks of the islands of dangerous creatures. It is their enchanting music and singing that calls them. I am lured by the story of Main Street and the significance of commercial and residential architecture. The corollary danger for me started with my research and learning. The more people that took me under their wing to talk, the more I grew to love the possibilities, yet ended up crashing on the rocks of City Government. I found that possibilities are mismanaged, certain members of the City Council rig the system, talented and good people leave or are pushed out, and we have an investigation into maleficence and the skullduggery of leadership that casts a wide net of consequences.

Crashing on these rocks, my writing on the Main Street blog shifted to finding answers that explain the state of things downtown and in the surrounding areas of neglect. I hate having to grapple with the possibility that we will never have real prosperity; the prosperity of spirit in people’s lives in Rocky Mount because certain members of the City Council game the system for their own benefit.”

Lunch at Barley and Burger – A Place to Celebrate the blog’s anniversary.

 

With this anniversary, I return to the image of Peter Pan coming to the front of the stage. Because Tinker Bell’s light is fading, Peter says to the audiance, “Clap if you believe.” The clapping revives Tinker’s light and she lives on. As we begin another year together, I ask again, “Clap If You Believe!”

 

 

Posted in The Launch of Main Street - Rocky Mount | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Terrick Pitman and Jesse Gerstl – Speak Out – About A PLAN For Historic Downtown Rocky Mount

Terrick Pittman Remains An Advocate For Ward 1 and the Historic Downtown of Rocky Mount

FYI: Posting Mr. Pitman’s Post From Social Media

I’m glad members of the CCRP are deciding to speak out instead of taking the blame. If you take a look at the Ratio plan, which as a member of the CCRP I participated in. You will see on the front page that it was a joint effort between the City Council and the CCRP. In August of 2016 the City Council approved the request of the City Manager at the time to hire Ratio to create a Downtown plan. In November of 2017 the Council makes a motion to adopt the plan. In February of 2018 it was set for a vote that never happened due to concerns of gentrification. We touched on gentrification while crafting the plan. The Council participated heavily. Once we added changes to the plan, it then went to the Council to look over and approve those changes. We added neighborhoods they were concerned about. We expanded areas to combat gentrification they were concerned about. We held community meetings to gather input. In the end the final draft was set. Since the plan was not approved, we lost our Main Street Accreditation. Simple. We won accreditation initially because they could see we had a plan in place. To say Accreditation and Affiliation is the same thing is just plain ignorant. We wore that accreditation like a badge of honor based on the hard work we all put in. Since the plan was never approved by the Council. This has lead to the creation of a small group of individuals, friends of the Council, who have set out as rogue agents to create their own plan. The CCRP has been powerless and kept out of the loop because of a lack of meetings due to the COVID19 pandemic. They pounced on this opportunity. So to blame the CCRP for the lack of an overall plan for downtown amounts to a LIE so certain individuals on the Council can advance their own personal agendas, which includes lining their pockets, without input from the CCRP. It’s all about the money baby!#LetsGrowTogether

https://www.rockymounttelegram.com/…/article_92cc5a28-203f-…

A real estate investor told the Telegram he believes the issue regarding the revitalization of the heart of the city is not whether Rocky Mount’s Main Street program is accredited but rather the absence of a plan.

“And there has been a lack of a plan and a lack of a vision for downtown Rocky Mount for the two years that I’ve been an investor and been spending time in Rocky Mount,” Jesse Gerstl said on Friday. “I encourage the city to pass any vision or plan and set out a road map for how we can achieve that plan so that we can all work toward that goal.”

Specifically, Gerstl said he believes the lack of a definitive vision and plan, and codes and guidelines to support that vision and plan, is a hindrance to developers to know what they should be working toward.

Gerstl was commenting in the context of the state Commerce Department on July 2 saying 48 municipalities in North Carolina for 2020 have accredited Main Street programs — that is, those in the highest tier.

Rocky Mount’s Main Street program lost accreditation status after 2017 and remains an affiliate. What has been preventing Rocky Mount’s Main Street program from regaining accreditation has been the lack of a work plan, which provides details for a Main Street program’s activities.

Main Street programs seek to help transform older and historic commercial districts into vibrant areas with thriving economies.

During the City Council’s July 13 work session, City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said she believes there is no fundamental proof of there being a difference between an accredited Main Street revitalization program and an affiliate.

However, Small-Toney said she favored restarting the process of a preparing a master plan for revitalizing downtown Rocky Mount.

There is an extensive draft document, completed in 2017 and known locally as the Ratio plan, which provides a long list of recommendations and ways to improve Rocky Mount’s once-proud central business district. The Ratio plan apparently never was approved by the municipal government.

Gerstl told the Telegram on Friday that regardless of whether people liked or disliked the Ratio plan, the draft document at least set out the pathway toward a vision “and something we could work toward.”

Gerstl said he believes having an accredited Main Street program would be great.

“But if the city doesn’t feel that that’s important, that’s fine,” Gerstl said. “But a plan is important.”

During the July 13 council work session, Councilman Andre Knight asked City Business Development Manager Kevin Harris who determines the work plan for Rocky Mount’s Main Street program.

Harris said the Central City Revitalization Panel.

The CCRP administers a program utilizing financial incentives to encourage improvements and preservation within the central city part of Rocky Mount.

Gertsl, who is a member of the CCRP, told the Telegram the CCRP is a volunteer citizen group that needs to be guided and managed by municipal staff.

Gerstl also said the municipality has a community and business development department whose job includes working with and getting input from the CCRP to help develop a master plan or any plan for the continued growth of downtown Rocky Mount.

Gerstl also pointed out the CCRP has not met in months. Small-Toney, in March amid the spread of the coronavirus, announced the postponement of the meetings of boards and commissions.

Gerstl, prior to the effect of COVID-19, advocated having teleconferencing so CCRP members could participate remotely in meetings and ensure there were enough members to be able to vote on items of business.

Gerstl told the Telegram on Friday that “everyone everywhere is having meetings virtually.”

Gerstl said, “I truly don’t understand why we continue to just choose not to do our work.”

In the meantime, Gerstl and his team of partners are continuing to seek a purchaser for the former Carleton House, which is in the 200 block of North Church Street and once was a motor lodge and restaurant.

The Telegram on Sept. 29 reported Gerstl and his team planned to renovate the site before deciding not to proceed with the project because he and his team have many other projects going on downtown.

Gerstl for that story also said that the former Carleton House was quite a large project and added that he believed the timing was not right.

Gerstl told the Telegram on Friday, “We’ve had a little bit of interest, but nothing concrete yet. We’re hoping to sell it as soon as possible.

“Obviously it’s not the greatest time to be selling a hotel due to the coronavirus and the current economic situation, but we’re hopeful that it will sell soon,” Gerstl said.

The list sale price for the property is $1.55 million. The property is listed online with the Mumford Co., which specializes in advising hotels, and with the Chambliss & Rabil real estate company.

Interestingly, the Ratio plan called for the former Carleton House site, once redeveloped, to be part of what would have been an event and entertainment district downtown.

Posted in City Government, Economic Development in Rocky Mount NC | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

How Long Is Long Enough? Andre Knight – Ward 1 (2003-2020 and Counting) – Some Ward Photographs

518 Pennsylvania – Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1

These photographs are but a sample of the state of things under this long term Councilman. Don’t you think Mr. Knight’s expiration date is past due? Here is a  treasure of historic housing with no champion to help with things like applications for incentive money that from time to time is available from the city. This is not to say that there are not bright spots in Ward 1 like the Holly Street Neighborhood Revitalization.

There are newer housing developments that have nice homes. If the residents of Ward 1 continue to elect Mr. Knight and expect a different outcome, you will continue to get what you already have. Resident Ella Clark says it better than I can. These fabulous historic buildings throughout the Ward do not make money for Mr. Knight. They need  money and  leadership to restore their significant value to the community who once loved these homes well. Nothing will change until the people of Ward 1 say, “enough is enough.”

Ella Clark Letter: I hear every day Black Lives Matter. Yes, they do.

At the present time, our Black historic buildings are being neglected. Lincoln Park Restaurant & Motel located off Leggett Road in northeast Rocky Mount is a prime example. The condition of this building is deplorable. Lincoln Park Restaurant in its prime catered to the Black middle class. The majority of the Black artists of that time were booked at this site. Lincoln Park Restaurant was also famous for its pit barbecue.

Annie W. Holland School located on Luper Street in the Little Raleigh Community was named after Annie Wealthy Holland. Annie W. Holland in 1928 was in the North Carolina Congress of Colored Parents and Teachers. It is so sad that the condition of this school has fallen into such bad repair. What happened to our dignity and self-respect? Black neighborhoods are devastated to this day.

The city will give us a ticket for not cutting our grass but they won’t even sweep the street, especially in the Black neighborhoods. Some of the dog parks are maintained better than care for some neighborhoods. The city has no concerns about the condition our neighborhood is in evidently.

It is amazing how the city has allowed Black neighborhoods to deteriorate. Are you checking to see who owns the rundown property?

We take pride in being a homeowner and keep our property up but are surrounded by the rundown property, which lowers the value of our property. Moving a statue that cannot talk or walk or see and has been in place for many years while spending money that could be used to restore running down Historic sites. Money spent, but yet where do you put the statue?

This will not solve the problem that is here in this city. From east to west, north to south, this city looks down again all the Black communities. “Black Communities Matter.” There is no honor amongst thieves. We have been robbed by our leadership and told enough to keep us happy, but we are not happy. We are angry about the money that was spent moving a statue is not solving anything when we are living in slums.

City mayor, city manager, and City Council, what are you doing besides what you want and not for the people? It is not about the color of your skin, it is how things are done and how the black community has fallen down. Who is to blame? “Black Communities Matter.”

You’re covering up instead of fixing up. How long will cover up last? That’s a question that you as leaders should ask yourselves and respect one another.

Ella Clark

Rocky Mount

Photographs by SFH -July 24, 2020 – to illustrate Ms. Clark’s letter

These are savable houses that should take priority over the usual schemes that have nothing to do with the residents of #1 who deserve desent housing.

621 Carolina Ave Rocky Mount, NC – Ward 1

630 Carolina Ave Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1

413 Virginia Rovky Mount, NC – Ward 1

635 Pennsylvania Ave Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1

Street Scene – Pennsylvania Ave Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1

621 Pennsylvania -Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1

617 Pennsylvania – Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1 (Looks like work being done)

Holly St – Rocky Mount NC -Ward 1

2 houses on Holly Street – Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1

370 Holly Street – Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1

420 Goldleaf – Rocky Mount, NC – Ward 1

500 Carolina – Rocky Mount NC – Ward 1

308 Carolina – Rocky Mount, NC – Ward 1

336 Carolina – Rocky Mount, NC – Ward 1

Posted in City Government | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Let’s Ride Over To Tarboro And View How Commitment And Hard Work Wins Accreditation

Simmons Furniture Store, ca. 1910: Downtown Tarboro, N

“In those days in my small town, parents didn’t seem to worry so much about what their kids were doing as long as they made it home in time for dinner.”
― K. Martin Beckner, Chips of Red Pa

Forty years ago, Tarboro was one of the original five towns that became members of The Main Street Program.  This is not the first time their program has received accreditation status. They have lost it from time to time too.  Two and a half years ago they made a renewed commitment and reorganized to achieve the goal of the 4-point approach necessary for accreditation. Tarboro invested in a new Program Director, Tina Parker. One of the 4-points is engaging a critical volunteer base and her job includes growing these numbers. Important to Tarboro’s success is the Tarboro Development Corporation. This is a Public/Private endeavor. The TDC works alongside the Tarboro Main Street Program. Director, Tina Parker says, “Accreditation is an obtainable goal, with hard work, and a strategic plan that the Main Street Program worked with us on, we worked towards accreditation. It can be done. The rewards make it worthwhile.”

Tarboro is one of the loveliest small towns in North Carolina. With vision, they embraced their wealth of architectural assets, both commercial and residential, to save the essence of their legacy, their story, thinking of their future. The following photographs exemplify the wisdom of their leadership to preserve, restore, and repurpose this beautiful community for one and all. Congratulations on the Main Street Accreditation. Regaining our accreditation helps not only Rocky Mount but the eastern region.

Downtown Tarboro NC

Tarboro Town Common, 1760:

Tarboro Town Common, 1760: Tarboro, NC

Tarboro Post Office

 

.On the Square Tarboro,

 

 

 

2235 Sherwood Ave, Tarboro, NC

111 W Church St, Tarboro, NC

 

 

 

1003 N Main St
Tarboro, NC 27886
5 beds 4 baths 4,786 sqft

c. 1879 Victorian: Eastlake in Tarboro, North Carolina …

1209 N Main St, Tarboro, NC

1400 N Main St, Tarboro, NC

c. 1901 Victorian in Tarboro, North Carolina

Robert Norfleet House, ca. 1850: Tarboro, NC

904 N Main St, Tarboro, NC

The Grove, ca. 1808: Tarboro, NC | Built by Gen. Thomas

Fountain Law Office, ca. 1895: Tarboro, NC
This is the only original, early Law Office remaining in Tarboro. It had to be moved many years ago to save it from demolition. Tarboro, N.C.

 

The look of a Tarboro Shotgun House when the potential and necessity of these little jewels is valued. Our inventory of shotgun houses must be saved to answer some of the community’s needs. We too can wear Joseph’s Coat of many colors. 

 

 

 

IF YOU ARE NOT FOLLOWING THIS MAIN STREET BLOG-PLEASE DO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Main Street Conference -2020, Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings, Preservation Rocky Mount, The Main Street Program | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

The Gospel According To The Majority Vote On The Council – OUR WILL BE DONE!

The current song, ‘There Is No Difference’ that is playing on the City Council music station is a clap your hands – Texas two-step – around the facts of the matter. Accreditation is Main Street America’s top prize of recognition rewarded to a local Main Street program because it has shown a commitment to the revitalization of downtown. Historic preservation is central to the Main Street Program, whose purpose is to maintain historic and traditional commercial districts as authentic places. Historic preservation involves saving, rehabilitating, and finding new uses for existing buildings, as well as intensifying the uses of the existing buildings, through building improvement projects and policy and regulatory changes that make it easier to develop property within the commercial district. Becoming eligible for this accreditation involves paperwork to document continued growth within the community.

The MY WILL church agenda does not value this significant, successful program, which is why we have lost our accreditation following the departure of John Jesso’s who did value and understood the advantages of Rocky Mount getting on board. The MY WILL church does not believe that a Rising Tide Lifts All Boats. Only the boats in Edgecombe Co. You need to know that there is a difference between Accreditation and Affiliate status. To claim the two statuses’ are the same is mistaken. Losing our accreditation has cost us. Elizabeth (Liz) H. Parham, Director, NC Main Street wrote the following e-mail when I requested her help in this matter. I’ll provide some details of the affiliate member status that has benefits of membership. It is the  exact difference between the two statuses that is important. We are no longer eligible to qualify for this difference. (I have added Bold Face for emphasis.)

“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.” 

Drive down to New Bern or over to Elizabeth City and see for yourself the amazing preservation, restoration, and repurposing that can happen when the agenda of a few is no longer imposed on Main Street. Don’t believe the ‘no difference’ lyrics currently playing.

In a follow-up post I will provide a quick read spelling out both statuses.

If you are not Following Main Street, I invite you to do so. The follow button is on the sidebar.

 

 

 

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Investor, Jesse Gerstl – I’ve Seen the Super Man Cape He Wears

May Gorham Building on the corner of Tarboro and Washington St. A Jesse Gerstl project

I often leave comments on the Concerned Citizens Facebook Page. Like all of us, the page has its good days and bad. Some comments have more clarity than others. I have no trouble making room for diverse opinions as long as they are well stated, no swearing or name-calling. I will admit that my reaction can vary if that line is crossed in this public forum. You could find me talking to myself, saying, “Give me a break!” or “What???” or in plain speak — “Man, you gotta get a life.”

I have an on-going struggle with what it means to be complicit. I’ll read something, weigh its merits, consider my past experience with the writer, and then decide if saying nothing makes me complicit in the matter.  Sometimes it is easy, Stepheny, let it go.  When I determine, this cannot stand, I write.

“What about the May Graham buildings or the Carlton House, or any other structures Jesse Gerstl and gang owns. It was great at first thinking he was going to fix something which turned into 2 years of the buildings getting “worser” as you call it. Jesse  Gerstl was allowed to buy many of these properties knowing he had no money or intention to fix any of it up. The only thing we got out of the hoarding of money in our downtown was a coffee house; had it not been for the owner of the coffee house we wouldn’t have that.”

In this instance, I know, admire and applaud, Jesse Gerstl.  This post is written in appreciation of him and is also my reply to the Concerned Citizen who was good enough to weigh in with the above comment. This blog post is neither written in anger nor denying others their opinions. I, however, have personal knowledge that Jesse wears a Superman’s cloak hidden under a tee shirt, part of his regular attire.

May Gorham Building is an up-coming        Jesse Gerstl project.

Larema Coffee Shop is located on the opposite corner in the Five Points area. A success story of what the revitalization of our historic downtown district will look like. A building Jesse bought and renovated with his heart for preservation and his ability to see things not as they are but could be. I can’t think of a greater place for the community to enjoy. A repurposed First National Bank Building that now welcomes everyone in a setting that only Main Street can provide. People love it, and why not with as fine a young man as you could hope for, Kevin McLaughlin presiding over his dream.

The entrance into the Larema world. Here we have an example of honoring the past while building a future.

This photograph is a magic moment of seeing the future through old windows.

This gathering came to listen to a Preservation Rocky Mount program. Peter Varney shared his knowledge of the Five Points Area.

MACHAVEN, restored, and saved. In acquiring this property, Jesse stopped everything to save this grand architectural gem. Click Here to read an earlier post that includes photographs.  The crown jewel, as they say, in the Villa Place Historic District, Machaven is surrounded by an outstanding inventory of residential homes, a walkable distance to downtown. This is a gift to the community that holds many memories of this historic home. I have lost count of how many shotguns and other small homes he has undertaken.

The rendering of the new interior courtyard.

Saved for last, The Carlton House. I have never heard Jesse moan or groan over the obstacles placed before him by our City Government as it pertains to the Carlton House or any project. That’s because he is a good man. I fail the test in this category. I am appalled at the loss of this opportunity and deliberate dragging of feet to thwart him in these efforts. “Oh, ghee that $14,000 grant money must have gotten lost on my desk.”   I am fortunate to have seen the plans for this significant asset while touring the property with Jesse.

What we have here is a haphazard, arbitrary, unprioritized approach to planning. The latest scheme rather than recognizing a pivotal piece in the Main Street puzzle. We now know why the Carleton House was sabotaged.  Presented as a  fait ac·com·pli., we have a single-source bid again as the results of a trip to Florida by the City Manager. The rationale, we’ve never had a hotel in Edgecombe County. Oh, and a zillion-dollar parking garage while we are at it. There are no substantial statistics to prove need, probable success, necessary occupancy to even hope to make a go of it.  And, of course, how are the usual suspects going to make any money out of The Carlton House.  You wonder how many investors have been run off because there is no attempt to work towards a win-win outcome for the city and the investor. Jesse and others like him, deserve our gratitude and support for the restoration and repurposing of Main Street. We have councilmen serving beyond their usefulness who have done little to protect Main Street except where it suits them and their cronies. It is shameful.

Posted in Economic Development in Rocky Mount NC, Machaven Historic Hom, Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings, Preservation Success | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Economic Development in Rocky Mount NC, Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings, Preservation Rocky Mount | Tagged | 8 Comments

‘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.

Posted in Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings, Preservation Rocky Mount | Tagged , | 2 Comments

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

Posted in People Making A Difference in Rocky Mount, Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings, Rocky Mount Building Preservation | Tagged , , | 6 Comments