I Brought Something Back From My Trip For You – (Main Street Readers)

You’ll do whatever it takes to get to a granddaughter’s wedding even if it is in Milwaukee in January. My fur coat that hangs out in the back of my closet was delighted to be needed again as in days of regular outings in winter weather on the North Shore just beyond Chicago. It was only after a safe trip from Raleigh to Atlanta and on to Milwaukee that a storm began making big news with a predicted snow fall  of 10.” or more. Our flight was cancelled before the festivities had hardly begun. The only answer, a flight on Monday that went from Milwaukee to Fort Lauderdale with a change over to Raleigh. (Figure that out!) Someone else would have brought you delicious Wisconsin cheese or a bag of oranges from FL.  I brought something better.

I brought a few photographs of a repurposed home/restaurant for inspiration. Our own Tap 1918 at the Mill is a perfect example of preservation at work, the beautiful saving of the house, the repurposing, and you have a restaurant that is part of a success story and source of pride at  The Rocky Mount Mill.

North of Milwaukee, we had lunch at a place called “The Cheel.” or in English, “The Eagle.” A rare 1890’s Victorian home, once a dilapidated yet charming building, a couple with entrepreneurial spirits got interested. The building’s central location and deep history invigorated their creativity and drive. Their goal was to revive this once esteemed local landmark, and celebrate with the community their unique dining traditions. The food was excellent, which is a must for success. I loved seeing the Wisconsin folks gathered at the tables with their beers, some wearing knitted stocking hats along with boots made for snow, not looks. It felt like I had stepped back into a black and white photo that could only have been taken in Wisconsin.

The Cheel is located at 105 S. Main Street in downtown Thiensville. Lovingly restored and re-imagined, the eclectic décor includes an original art deco bar, high tops and banquets, and a covered 4-season outdoor patio. Here is another example of a Main Street endeavor that makes me believe that anything they can do, we can do better.

PS: It was a beautiful wedding weekend with lots of love all around. Thankfully, the snow fall did not live up to expectations, that fact too late to save our flight. After a few special days, I am home again, home again, jiggly-jig, a bit tired around the edges, but happy for granddaughter, Sally, and her wonderful young husband, Trevor. I hope you like what I’ve brought you – inspiration to save and repurpose a dilapidated yet charming old something!




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You Can Come Home Again – Erwin Wilde Did – Home To Machaven


Erwin Wilde came home to Machaven last night. A house built in 1907-1908 for her grandmother, and James Hines, her grandfather, a leading businessman, civic leader. H.P.S. Keller was the architect for the 2 1/2-story, Classical Revival style brick dwelling with a slate-covered hipped roof. With five interior chimneys, a pedimented portico with Doric columns, and a full-width one-story porch, Machaven stands on a half-acre plot surrounded by a 1930’s Flemish-bond wall. Machaven is to be found at 306 S. Grace Street in the Villa Place Historic District.

You’re familiar with a sleeping pet who suddenly raises his or her head because they hear something, know something. Machaven was sitting quietly last night in the twilight expecting members and the board of Preservation Rocky Mount. In through the door, came a familiar voice, a known footstep. It was a little girl, who claims to be 83 years old who stood smiling. The house was instantly happy. This happiness went beyond its on-going restoration, lights and workman bringing a new purpose to Machaven. This happiness was the recognition of Erwin Wilde, who’s mother had been left the house when Mr. Hines died, who then raised her young children in the house before it became the City Club and important add-ons took place like an elevator.

Erwin is a living testament to what I know is true: age is only a number, an attitude, and can be a cause for celebration. Bright and funny, Erwin shared stories that endeared her to everyone, long time friend or new. She spoke of the 33 step staircase and the wallpaper in the dining room, though painted over, whose roses continue to bloom. They are slightly visible in a certain light, but plain to see in Erwin where ever she is.

I have a big imagination, but it was a privilege to hear about the conversations that took place around the dining room table, the room where we were gathered. Machaven is woven through the story of so many. Weddings, receptions, parties, white table cloth dining, being shooed off the wall by the maids in the house, or trick or treating at Halloween, the magnificent home that remembers it all. Being in Erwin’s company last night, to see her smile and laugh, old friends gathered around her, made me cry, of course. CLICK HERE: Erwin is one of the ‘prisms of light’ I wrote about to begin 2019. I can’t think of a better way to begin 2020!  Scroll down to read comments.

Happy New Year To All


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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.

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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.

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Caring About Old Buildings on Main Street: Mission Impossible – Or Is It?- Part 3

The mission was always found in a phone booth, a vending machine, a parked car or other mundane locations. The tape recording that detailed “your mission, should you choose to accept it,” ended with the chilling warning that in the event of capture, all knowledge would be disavowed. With a puff of smoke, the tape self-destructed in 5 seconds. I, as your ‘Secretary’ on Main Street, however, will never disavow you under any circumstances should you choose to care about a bunch of old buildings.

(After I  visited Virginia’s Dress Shop to buy some beautiful things on SALE!- You really need to go visit Ginny), I took photos from the car and then walked the block to check some addresses. A fantastic thing happened. I met Rocky Mount native,  Zack Poll with three of his Rocky Mount friends, who were all delightful. They were standing in front of Zack’s South Main building that is under-going renovation. Such fun! When it is all said and done, Zack will live on the second floor above a large space that will serve as community space for theater, music, other needs. Zack is EXACTLY what I’m talking about. EXACTLY!

This pleasant, energetic, ‘love him right away-guy,’ has a dream, that actually keeps him awake rather than counting sheep, counting possibilities on Main Street. Young, energetic, working on saving, preserving and repurposing a building himself, he believes!  Add Zack to our list of angels unaware; part of the new reality on Main Street. In making a new friend, I laughed out loud as I drove away….I have often walked on this street before, but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before. There weren’t a cast of thousands on the street, but those that were there greeted me with Happy New Year. A mother and daughter powering walking, several trains to wave at. I care about a bunch of old buildings. This mission is possible. Care about a bunch of old buildings too. Block by block.

Let’s start with the mustard building on the corner of the 200 south Main. Brides have pictures taken in front of the curved arches. The exterior of the building must be saved. Lordy, Lordy, when you pull the metal shuttered fronts back to look inside. The roof is laying on the floor.

206 South Main

220 S.Main

224 S. Main
Jewel Box Entrance Tile
For Sale: Chamblis & Rabil

232 S. Main

234 S. Mail
Owner: Zack Poll
Under Restoration

Viverette Furniture
For Sale


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What Do Black Architects Have To Do With Old Buildings on Main Street? – Part 2

There is part of the Rocky Mount black/white story that I don’t understand because of how and where I was raised. It is hard for me to believe that people in 2019 could have the attitude, “Why should I care about old buildings on Main Street that a bunch of white people owned while black people stayed over in the Douglas Block area?” But that, of course, was how it was. I search for ways to write about these old buildings so they become valuable to everyone. I grew up listening to Paul Harvey and his radio program, The Rest of the Story. It taught me early on that offered a way to view things differently, we can change our viewpoint.

You’ve heard, maybe even said, “Anybody But Duke.” Julian Abele, black architect, played a significant role in the architecture of Duke’s campus, which you will enjoy knowing about regardless of your loyalties. Here is a short video, about Julian Abele.

Julian Abele (1881–1950)

Julian Abele was one of America’s most important architects. As the first black graduate of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1902, Abele spent his entire career at the Philadelphia firm of the Gilded Age architect Horace Trumbauer. Abele was working for Trumbauer when they received a commission to expand the campus of Duke University, a whites-only university in Durham, North Carolina. Although Abele’s original architectural drawings for Duke University have been described as works of art, it wasn’t until the 1980s that Abele’s efforts at Duke were celebrated, the North Quad named for him.

J. Max Bond, Jr. (1935–2009)

J. Max Bond, Jr. was born in 1935 in Louisville, Kentucky and educated at Harvard, with a bachelor’s degree in 1955 and a master’s degree in 1958. When Bond was a student at Harvard, racists burned a cross outside his dormitory. Concerned, a white professor at the university advised Bond to abandon his dream of becoming an architect. Years later, in an interview for the Washington Post, Bond recalled his professor saying “There have never been any famous, prominent black architects…You’d be wise to choose another profession.” Fortunately, Bond had spent a summer in Los Angeles working for black architect Paul Williams and he knew that he could overcome racial stereotypes.

In 1958, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study in Paris and went on to live in Ghana for four years. Newly independent from Britain, the African nation was welcoming to young, black talent—more so than the American architectural firms in the early 1960s.

Bond was responsible for the museum component at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at the World Trade Center site at the time of his death. Bond remains an inspiration to generations of minority architects.

I write about these two men in particular as examples of those who stepped beyond the constraints of their time and place. The confines of the Douglas Block once exsisted, but like Abele and Bond, along Main Street and beyond, black men and women are no longer limited to that Douglas Block world. They are working to create new businesses, involved with saving Main Street and surrounds, running for office. Leading!  A new generation of young people have planted their flag on Main Street and are making good things happen. This is an important reason to care about a bunch of old buildings for their sake, their young families, their dreams. Mr. Abele and Mr. Bond represent ‘the rest of the story.’ We have lived to the other side of what once was. The future Abele and Bond paved is today’s reality. Those who insist black people are still standing on the curb on Thomas Street dishonor people like Abele and Bond, who accomplished so much, not only for themselves, but for those who have followed.

Tonight, New Year’s Eve, black and white, will be gathering at the Mill. That’s the new reality. The same men and women who regularly speechify at the City Council meetings, pontificate about the dark shadow among us and preach racism, have exceeded their expiration date. More and more they are ignored by those who reject the old rhetoric for the new language of possibilities. The new reality is that young black and white are building a future together on Main Street. These young people won’t be captured by the litany of old injustices, they’re too busy trying to make a positive difference, create something that benefits the community, make a meaning life for themselves and those they love.  Go downtown, you’ll see.

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Caring About Old Buildings on Main Street – Part 1

After playing with Tinker Toys and Lincoln Logs, I decided to become an architect. That is until my sophomore year in high school when I had to go to summer school to pass Geometry. They gave me a C to put me out of my misery; my long struggle with math was at an end.  It was also the end of thinking I could become an architect. Now I write about architecture on Main Street and in my rear view mirror I see the Chicago Skyline. How lucky I was to be exposed to the extraordinary world of Chicago architecture while growing up.

We don’t know much about the architects of our commercial buildings downtown, but our buildings follow  the evolution of commercial architecture. I write about saving our commercial and residential architecture, the sense of place they mirror, about the Rocky Mount story that is a key element in the revitalization of the community. I have encountered a problem, however. I thought it was self-evident how important the preservation, restoration and repurposing of Main Street is. I thought everyone would raise a voice to make this a priority, but instead  ‘projects’ like a hotel and a parking garage and cluster low income housing deviate from the plan, bought and paid for, that focuses attention on Main Street. Our neighborhoods continue to get short shrift. Turns out there are people who ask, “Why should I care about these old buildings?” “What is in this for me?”

Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The mission of an architect is to help people understand how to make life more beautiful, the world a better one for living in, and to give reason, rhyme, and meaning to life.”  The quote is why I will write further about architects because our old buildings downtown, restored and repurposed can make life more beautiful in Rocky Mount.  I recommend a book called The Architects by Joseph J. Thorndike, Jr. featuring a chapter  each on 15 of America’s famous architects. You won’t be disappointed. It’s not a big read but enough information on these architects to enjoy. In Part 2, I will write about two black architects. Perhaps they  started building with Lincoln Logs.  Hit the FOLLOW button to keep me company on Main Street Rocky Mount. Check out the new Facebook page by the same name.

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The Blog Main Street Is On Hold Over The Holidays: Follow the New Facebook Page for Main Street That Will Be Posting In December – Here is an Example of What You’ll Find

Merry Christmas Main Street Readers

      Merry Merry, Everyone. Hugs All Around and Thanks for Meeting Me on Main Street This Year

Since Main Street readers are all busy celebrating Advent and preparing for Christmas, there will be little time for reading blogs. Main Street will return in January 2020. However, the new Facebook Page with the same name will continue to post short pieces. Here is a sample of what the Facebook page is about. Please like and follow. I think you will enjoy learning the language of Main Street.

  Main Street Rocky Mount Facebook Page 12/5/19

Learning the language of Main Street – Historic Storefront Types. A walk down Main Street will bring to life these sketches you will find below.  FYI: the ground level of many historic commercial buildings features a storefront area. In most cases, the storefront is an important defining feature in most historic commercial districts. Preserving significant historic storefronts and restoring altered or missing storefront features are important to preservation goals. These sketches assist with the interpretation of design guidelines for historic commercial buildings.    

Early 19th Century Storefronts: These storefronts are constructed with heavy timber and have divided display windows and simple detailing.

Mid and Late 19th century Storefronts: These storefronts include an elaborately detailed cornice, cast-iron columns, and undivided display windows.

SFH: I love learning things like this, I hope you do too. I guarantee it will make your appreciation for Main Street Rocky Mount soar. We can have the most beautiful Main Street and surrounds in North Carolina. We have so many commercial buildings with their great facades. With all the great things going on, Saving Main Street can still be a top priority. Fall in love again with the architecture of this place, both commercial and residential. Becoming aware of the architectural elements of these buildings will reawaken your appreciation for what we’ve got. Remember the line from the song??? We must make sure we don’t tear down paradise and put up a parking lot.

Late 19th Century Storefronts: These storefronts include simple detailing, transom windows, and a recessed entrance.

Early 20th Century Storefronts: These storefronts include metal framed display windows, a glass grid above the display windows and a recessed entrance

Posted in A Facebook Page for Main Street Rocky Mount | Tagged | 2 Comments