The Bungalows of Rocky Mount – Part Two – Dedicated To Your Memories

Elizabeth Anderson Ellison left this comment on ‘Way Back When’ in response to Part One on the Bungalows of Rocky Mount.

My grandmama lived in one (a bungalow) on Sunset and I just thought it was the best…the doorknobs were beautiful! I swore they were made of crystals! ❤️❤️ My grandparents were Willard Lee Parrish and Ruth Hocutt Parrish. I do not know the address, unfortunately. All I really remember was the front porch and those crystal doorknobs!

Amy Hughes wrote about The Beauty of glass Door Knobs in the magazine, This Old House. “Glass doorknobs date back to 1826 when the process for pressing molten glass into molds was invented, but they didn’t become ubiquitous until after the United States entered World War I, in 1917. Cast brass, bronze, and iron doorknobs, which had dominated the hardware market since the beginning of the Victorian era in 1860, were in short supply because metals were needed for airplanes and ammunition. By 1920, the largest hardware makers, including Yale & Towne Manufacturing Co. of Connecticut and Barrows Lock Co. of Illinois, were mass-producing doorknobs of molded and machine-cut glass, and cut crystal to suit various house styles, wallet sizes, and tastes.

During that era, most glass knobs were clear and featured six, eight, or 12 facets. Their faces were flat so you could peer inside to see a star, bullet, and pin-prick designs molded into their bases. Less common were colored-glass knobs in robin’s egg and cobalt blues, emerald, amber, violet, white milk, and Vaseline glass (which got its yellow-green color from adding trace amounts of uranium to the mold.) Shapes also varied, from ovals with incised star patterns to crystal globes with tiny bubbles inside — a popular 1920s Art Deco style that works well with modern interiors today.”

 Aren’t you happy to learn about something as lovely as glass doorknobs?! Add this to your happy place called Main Street. Get your thoughts together before we get together to plan A ROCKY MOUNT BUNGALOW ASSOCIATION. Everywhere you drive throughout our neighborhoods you will see the bungalow in various states of being. This effort to put the bungalow back on your radar screen is in remembrance of people like Elizabeth Ellison and those of you who left comments about the bungalows you grew up in. I want you to write about those houses and your people and let’s put together a memoir that speaks to the America we grew up in, love and cherish. Let’s not forget those days on the porch right here in Rocky Mount that must go on and on. Let’s save them, fix them, enjoy them, marvel over them and find our hearts singing to advocate for our bungalows.

Recognizing the various kinds of bungalows will awaken your ability to drive the streets calling out to yourself…there’s one! Have fun. I’ll see you along the way.

Posted in Bungalows of Rocky Mount | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

The Bungalows Of Rocky Mount – Another Architectural Asset That Needs Protection – Part One

 “The house gulped in a big breath of fresh air, like some frantic drowning thing breaking the water’s surface and gasping for life. It had sat unopened for so long, suffocating in the silence, it’s memories blanketed by a thick layer of dust.”
― Rachel Autumn Deering, Husk


Chicago is known the world over for its architecture. The soaring skyscrapers of downtown, the luxurious palaces of meat-packing barons, and the gracious Prairie-style homes of the elite and 80,000 Bungalows throughout the residential areas of the city. I was born in Chicago and raised from the age of 5 in Evanston, IL. where my parents remained until I was married. Part of who I am involved sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car looking out the windows at the ‘city of neighborhoods’ and the architecture along the outer drive leading to Michigan Avenue and beyond. It was not until I began to write Main Street that the experience of those countless images informed how I see and champion Main Street Rocky Mount: the abundance of beautiful commercial and residential architecture that abides here.

 THE BUNGALOW: You may be fortunate to live in one of the Foursquare homes scattered throughout Rocky Mount. Foursquare bungalows are but one example of the most popular styles of houses in America. Despite their basic, simple cube design, they offer a large variety of appearances, and their form can be seen from coast to coast, from plain to fancy. It has been said that they are the quintessential home of the period. They are a squat, solid, rectangular, one-and-a-half story homes built between 1910 and 1940.  The bungalow was the darling of the American Arts and Crafts movement, which emphasized skilled craftsmanship and a connection with nature.  “The whole idea behind the bungalow implies an informal setting, as compared to the Victorian mansion,” says historian Dominic Pacyga.

In 2000, Chicago launched The Historic Bungalow Initiative to preserve and adapt these cornerstones of residential Chicago. The Initiative is unique in America recognizing the homes as stylistically important, but also provides incentives for improvement and modernization. The Initiative is a comprehensive marketing, education and financing program launched to celebrate the architectural and historical importance and ensure the viability of the Chicago bungalow’s contribution to families, neighborhoods and the nation’s architecture. The initiative is a joint endeavor of the City of Chicago, the Chicago Architecture Foundation and the Historic Chicago Bungalow Association.


I am including a few examples of Bungalow Architecture I have snatched from here and there, (articles, Pinterest) to remind you of your drive-by experience – – seeing them everywhere you go in Rocky Mount. FOLLOW Main Street so you don’t miss Part 2.






We’ll Build a Bungalow For Two

Posted in Bungalows of Rocky Mount | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Public Hearings on Battle Park: Hoping For A Different Outcome?

W.C. Fields (1880-1946) American comedian and actor says it best.  “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no use being a damn fool about it.” 

If you have children you’ve experienced this maneuver. Ask Mom, and if she says no, ask Dad, maybe he’ll say yes. The outcome was perfectly clear when we discussed the monument at Battle Park at three previous hearings at the Booker T. Theater. “Leave it alone!” That wasn’t the desired answer so let’s see how it goes this time.

TODAY: Come give your input on the Battle Park Master Plan from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Imperial Centre for the Arts and Sciences.

This removal of monument-business was underway, but it wasn’t until General Robert E. Lee’s statue in Richmond, VA. came under attack that I awakened. This event changed my reading life. I was incensed, knowing that editing our history for better or worse was another assault to fundamentally change America. The truth of the matter was, I knew very little about Lee. I had a once over lightly acquaintance that included names of leaders and battles during the Civil War. Being honest with myself, I knew little about the men and women whose leadership and direction formed the world I grew up in. Who were these people that formed the backdrop of my life?  Almost overnight, I had to know. I started with Charles Braclean Rood’s Lee: The Last Years, to Michael Korda’s, Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E.Lee, and Mark Perry’s Grant and Twain: The Story of Friends. On to a dozen books on F.D.Roosevelt, and a dozen Churchhill books, many of our Presidents. (I would love to talk to you about President Garfield.) These books and many more have enriched my life. Had I missed them, how poor I would be.  One thing became apparent: The lives of each of these men are intertwined forever. Their friendships, their conflicts with one another, admired or suspect, they became what was needed in their day and time, and together they are who we have become. For better or worse, in sickness and in health.

It isn’t just the monument, but all the lives that are intertwined, each significant. Today we have a different understanding of our history. Confederate monuments honor all those who gave their lives and now declare the progress that has taken place. This is something to celebrate that does not require removal.  Through my Norman Rockwell glasses, I see the parade assembled the day the monument was dedicated. We’ve all been to parades. Decorating bikes, music, the young scouts who were hauled out of bed early to be sure they had a bath and hair slicked down in time to march that day. Each with a story.  In spite of this ‘master plan’meeting, I guarantee you, in the light of all we have on our plate to be getting on with in Rocky Mount, Battle Park is not nor should it be, a priority. You can forget using the park plan as a foil to get to the monument again. “Leave it alone!”

Posted in Battle Park & the Monument | 8 Comments

Reporting On The Battle Park Public Input Meeting – 2/27/20

(Stepheny in an excited voice quoting Julian of Norwich)                                                             “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

I came home from the Public Input Meeting where those in attendance selected the activities that they would like to have available at Battle Park. We looked at a series of wonderful photographs where each of us placed 8 blue dots on the things we would like to have included in the new plan and one yellow dot for our #1 choice. My yellow dot was placed on the photo of accessible walking. But my blue dots included things I know my grandchildren would love. A treehouse, playing in the stream…..It was a simple exercise, one that will be repeated Monday, March 2 at 10:00 AM at the Imperial Center. It doesn’t take long to make your selections.

This Public Input is part of the grant process that includes different steps that must be completed when applying for the multiple grants that are available.  One of the stewards of this Master Plan update is the landscape architect firm, CLH Designs. They have a fine presentation to bring home and read on your own. I can tell you that looking at the possibilities are exciting. Upon completion, we will have a significant and valuable piece to add to the Rocky Mount  Revitalization puzzle that is being worked on. It will offer the community in a reimagined way an experience immersed in nature only a short car ride from home.

I am reassured that this is not a foil to take another crack at removing the monument. Judging by the response to yesterday’s blog post, there is no doubt that the monument is to be left alone! One on one, I expressed the concern that we have gone through these public meetings before with the ‘input’ from the public left in a drawer, never to be seen again. Fool me once, but not twice. You know I am the eternal optimist so I  believe that the reimagined Battle Park will be one of the favorite destinations that everyone will enjoy. I’m glad I went and encourage you to do the same. I might add that I am relieved to find professional people in charge of a worthy project.

PS: My friend, Debbie Zavidil and I stood contemplating the zip line choice. She was ready to try it. I told her I would stay on the ground and cheer her on. I may change my mind if it is included in the new plan based on the premise, if not now, when? (The days grow short when you reach September.)

Posted in Battle Park & the Monument | Tagged , | 3 Comments

The Enforcement of Ordinances – If Only A ‘Enforcer’ Code Ring From A Cracker Jack Box Would Do The Trick

You wouldn’t be keeping me company on Main Street if you weren’t interested, hopeful, and slightly addicted to architecture – commercial and residential. Above all else, you are a member of the cheerleading squad for the revitalization of Rocky Mount. Those of you who grew up here are the wind under the sails of people like myself who have joined you. Your memories, the stories you tell, the families that raised you, the streets you grew up on, have captured my imagination and heart. I will admit that my breath is taken away when someone says to me, ‘nothing will change.’  I have to pick myself up and start again.  Someone has written on Concerned Citizens that the downtown should be bulldozed flat. They aren’t reading this blog or they would know how vital the preservation of Main Street is to a sense of place that people are looking for when considering relocation.

We could talk late into the night about WHY ordinances have not been regularly enforced across the board, and who is responsible. For the sake of this discussion, let us say that the more we have come to recognize the value of preservation, restoration, and repurposing, we realized that the lack of enforcement has cost us dearly. I want you to think about what continues to be critical in saving the remaining commercial architecture in the historic downtown district. Please read through the two paragraphs below and get a feel for what is supposed to be protected and enforced. Anyone with walking around sense knows that the longer the neglect continues, the more costly and difficult saving the buildings becomes. Let’s see where this takes us with several more posts about this subject.

Demolition By Neglect:  Sec. 5-135. – Standards.

The exterior features of any building or structure located within the Central City Historic District shall be preserved by the owner and/or parties in interest against decay, deterioration and structural defects. The owner and/or parties in interest shall upon written request of the city repair such exterior features if they are found to be deteriorating, or if their condition is contributing to deterioration, including but not limited to, any of the following defects:

2nd Story Broken Glass Along Main Street

(1) Deterioration of exterior walls, foundations, flooring, carpet walls, roofs, beams, chimneys, and either horizontal or vertical load-bearing supports that cause leaning, sagging, splitting, listing or buckling; (2) Ineffective waterproofing of exterior walls, roofs, and foundations, including broken windows/doors, failed paint, leaking roofing, decayed brickwork or failed siding materials; (3) Rotting, holes and other forms of decay; (4) Damages caused by fire or other calamity; (5) Deterioration of exterior stairs, porches, handrails, window/door frames, cornices, entablatures, wall facings or other architectural details that cause delaminating, instability, loss of shape or crumbling; (6) Deterioration of fences, gates, garden walls or accessory structures; (7) Deterioration of any exterior feature that creates or permits a hazardous or unsafe condition to life, health or other property.
Boarded up windows and street barricades are allowed if they are painted a similar color to the remaining exterior facade.          (Ord. No. O-2009-126, § 1, 12-14-09)

PS: If you aren’t following the new Facebook page –Main Street Rocky Mount, I invite you to do so. Learning to speak Main Street is imperative. I love this new endeavor. I hope you will too.


Posted in Ordiances: Demolition by Neglect | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Blanche’s Bistro Unleashes A Hornets Nest – Bringing Controversy to the New Main Street Reality

The last time I looked there were 405 comments on Concerned Citizens about the opening of Blanche’s Bistro. On the right are a few lines from the announcement. This has unleashed a hornet’s nest.  After reading some of the comments this scheduled post may seem inconsequential compared to the scope of grievances surrounding this new business owned by A. Knight and R. Blackwell and anything they are involved in. Everybody seems to have a legitimate dog in this fight. I’ve decided to go ahead and publish my concerns because they are applicable to more than the Bistro.

***Say it isn’t so, Joe,” was my first thought when I read on Facebook the announcement of the opening of the Bistro because the wording left me uneasy.  Since the first of the year, I have written and have more to write about my good fortune in meeting outstanding young black and white men that are planting their flags together on Main Street. We have some great new investors, buildings are being sold and leased. I write about and believe in the emerging reality of Main Street.

Welcome to Larema

A Garden of Flowers and Gifts

In my ideal world, Cooper Blackwell is launching another opportunity for the entire community to have one more reason to return to The Five Points Area where Larema and Secret Garden hold forth, created by two fabulous people. It is great to have another destination in that area. The photos on the Bistro website are fantastic. Tasteful and what I call, ‘very grown-up.’ I love it. But, the hornets speak of the racial disharmony sown again and again by the owners. Something that can’t continue. Young Cooper Blackwell decreed that Five Points is an up and coming black business district. I’m all for ‘up and coming’ but it felt deliberate to exclude others who aren’t black that are working in the same vineyard.  The new reality on Main Street is that everyone is included.  What people want is a Third Place where they can come without necessarily knowing anyone, yet feel safe and welcomed.

The Main Street blog embraces everyone that is saving our commercial architecture, the opening of new businesses, those who are investing in Rocky Mount’s future and repurposing our architectural assets. I don’t care if these people are black, white, or poke a dot. What I do care about, however, is any deliberate agenda that continues to try and control the outcome of Main Street along racial lines. People are already living downtown, and more will join them. Part of the new reality of Main Street is people celebrating together the possibilities of life. Regardless of the color of their skin, the new reality is that people will be recognized, valued, and known by their love. As it should be.

Blanches Bistro
116 Tarboro St
Rocky Mount, NC

UPON REFECTION-I would like to add that the Bistro can entertain the clientele it wishes to serve, of course. But in the spirit of The Smokehouse, who welcomes one and all, has become a favorite spot that guarantees great food and atmosphere, it is a happy place. They have been a gift to downtown and set a high bar. That’s what I hope the Bistro intends to do too.

***FYI: Joseph Jefferson Jackson (16 July 1888 – 5 December 1951) was a left fielder in Major League Baseball who played for the Philadelphia Athletics, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago White Sox.  He was one of eight players banished for life from professional baseball for his alleged participation in the Black Sox scandal. The occasion that prompted fans to say, “Say it isn’t so, Joe.”


I invite you to like and follow the new Facebook page Main Street Rocky Mount and keep me company on this blog by hitting the follow button. SFH

Posted in Preservation of Historic Commercial Buildings | Tagged , , , | 25 Comments

306 Villa is on the Demolition List – If Lost – Can It Serve as Our Penn Station

306 Villa in the Villa Place Historic District

“We strain to listen to the ghosts and echoes of our inexpressibly wise past, and we have an obligation to maintain these places, to provide these sanctuaries, so that people may be in the presence of forces larger than those of the moment.”
 Ken Burns

Adrienne Copland is an active voice in the Rocky Mount preservation world and at the moment is an advocate for the house at 306 Villa.  Those of you who read the new Facebook page by the same name as this blog, may recognize this photograph I wrote about a few weeks back.

This house on the demolition list was built in 1917. James W. Blackwell, a machinist, is the earliest known occupant of this house in 1930. It is a frame two-story, foursquare with hipped roof features, a hipped dormer with shingle siding, two interior brick chimneys, and a one-story hipped wraparound porch with paired battered posts on brick bases and plain railing. Fenestration consists of a glazed and paneled door, an oval leaded glass window, a two-story bay window on the left side and one-over-one-sash windows. The entire back add-on can’t be saved. If we lose this house,  let it become a ‘Penn Station’ inspiration.

“The loss of Penn Station in New York sparked new vigor into the city’s emerging preservationist movement. When Grand Central Terminal was similarly put onto the chopping block in 1972, activists and city leaders rallied against the developers who wished to replace the landmark with yet another modern office block. The terminal received landmark status and is today a jewel in Midtown Manhattan’s crown. It cannot be said how many other pieces of New York’s architectural history could have met their end had the outrage at the destruction of old Penn not changed forever the way cities view their brick-and-mortar heritage. Penn Station remains one of the (if not the) most painful losses New York has suffered architecturally over the past century.  But its destruction paved the way for a revolutionary new approach to architectural preservation which might not have ever come to pass had Penn not fallen the way it did.” Click here to read more about Penn Station with fantastic black and white photos to support this well written piece. 

This Villa Street house is the result of a series of ‘if only.’ An owner who bought this house for retirement had things happen along the way and became unable to keep it up, even selling the house was thwarted because of deed complications. ‘If only’ ordinances long ago had been applied to protect this house. It occurs to me that 306 Villa and others like it need an ombudsman. We are not without resources like Preservation Rocky Mount, and the Historic Preservation Commission.  The city department of Development Services where Kelly Cook is charged with the administration of ordinances, when allowed to do their jobs, can help  investors and private citizens traverse the complexities of  buying, saving, and repurposing our architectural inventory. Ordinances need not become obstacles, or a form of control.  The top priority of those involved with ordinances and related matters should be, “We will work with you until we find a ‘yes answer’ for buying property. We will guide you through the complexities of grants and preservation guidelines.” What we hear is one nightmare story after another of investors who are discouraged by a system that deliberately seems to derail a successful purchase.  Everyone loses;  nothing is added to the tax base and the loss of private investment is unnecessary.

It may be too late, the house may be unredeemable. It isn’t too late to apply triage and prioritize an inventory of homes that need intervention.  The only consolation that could possibly help if this house is lost is to spark further determination and vigor in our preservation efforts. All hands on deck, of one accord, and to persevere.

An app on my phone covers the deterioration and lets you imagine how fabulous this house is if saved.


Posted in Villa Park Historic District | Tagged , | 6 Comments