An Invitation for Dinner on November 8th With 12 Interesting Guests

Did you ever play the game ‘dinner party’ where you named your guest list from famous people? I always thought it revealed interesting things about my friends as they named their list. I dare say you will know more about me if I tell you I would invite – Coach K, Roger Federer, Amos Townes the author of A Gentleman in Moscow, Newt Gingrich,  English gardener and writer, Beverley Nichols, singer Michael Boule, and Senator, Susan Collins, who recently gave an historic speech on the floor of the Senate.

You are invited and have a wonderful opportunity to have dinner with the class of 2018 inductees for the Twin County Hall of Fame. This year’s class includes an author and painter, an educator, the ‘King of ‘Barbecue, two groundbreaking female business owners, two married couples of medical doctors, a veterinarian, a 30-year Little League Coach, and a military and public safety officer. The inductees come from both Edgecombe and Nash Counties.  Six are living and six will be inducted posthumously.

Dr. Robert Barbe and Rev. Carolyn Barbe
Dr. Newsom Pittman Battle and Dr. Margaret White Battle
James Erastus Batts
Dr. Charles Marshall Coats
Janice Beavon Gravely
Janice Bryant Howroyd
Lt. Col. James Mercer, US Army (Ret.)
Robert “Bob” Melton
Betsy B. Strandberg
Samuel A. Toler


The event is being held at the new Rocky Mount Event Center, which is an amazing venue for a wonderful occasion like this. We are among the first guests and I guarantee you will be wowed by this new public building. Come and honor those who lived their lives making a difference in the community and thank those who are still with us for their leadership today. Your ticket not only helps pay for your dinner but acts as a fundraiser, a much-appreciated contribution towards the framed portraits that are given to the inductees and a fund that one day will help purchase a permanent space for the Twin County Hall of Fame. Your support for this annual event is appreciated! Looking forward to seeing you there.

5:30 p.m. Registration and Social, 6:15 p.m. Dinner, 7:00 p.m. Program



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Open House at the Event Center Today at 4:00 – It’s Fantastic!

I took myself to the Event Center yesterday and oh, my, it is really something. It is an amazing venue for sports events and future Rocky Mount activities. I can’t name my favorite part, but in the beginning, it was the sports area for sure. But then I thought the meeting spaces were wonderful and I can’t wait to have a hot dog in the snack area.

You will be pleased. In spite of the disagreements, the concerns, the bah humbug, things believed wrong, what has been created is a first-class public building. I will let the photographs I took wet your appetite for more.

Twin County Hall of Fame Recipients

A meaningful thing happened as I was leaving the center when I stopped to talk with a young black man. I asked him if he was working on the project and he said, “Yes, Ma’am, but inside.”  “I bet it makes you proud to have been a part of this project.” His face lite up and he repeated, “Yes, Ma’am.” That was the moment the Event Center opened for me.

Mark my words, just like the controversial ballpark that got built in downtown Greenville, SC, this Event Center is a winner and a destination. You know what my admonition to everyone is – –                     CLAP YOUR HANDS AND BELIEVE!

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Twin County Hall of Fame Portraits Newly Exhibited in the Rocky Mount Event Center


Everyone is nervous. As I visited the newly hung portraits of The Twin County Hall of Fame recipients, many asked if their hair still looked okay, were their ties straight, did their clothes look too out of date? You can’t blame them, really. They know they are now gathered in the new Rocky Mount Event Center where hundreds of people at a time will be looking at them and reading about their contributions that won them their special place. It is one thing to be seen in a small area of the train station and another to be exhibited in a thoughtful and tasteful way on the walls of a fabulous new public building. I dare say they all have thought to themselves, this is the kind of thing that happens to other people, those more worthy than I that I have read about and admired.

Yet, here they all are. It will bring a tear to your eye as you pass through the receiving line greeting the recipients one at a time. The same people who tried to live their lives by making a difference and those still with us carrying on in that same tradition. It is ‘meet and right’ as we Episcopalians pray, to honor them in this new setting where they find themselves. They must secretly be proud because it is a first-rate, impressive presentation.

We click our heels and salute them once again.

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Main Street Is In Need of a Jewish Grandmother

For years my daughter, Claire, and I have enjoyed a little in-house ‘Jewish Mother’ humor, a response when she tells me that she is headed off on an adventure lasting a few days, be it work or fun. I have been known to respond in my best ‘Jewish Mother’ voice…..”Go, I don’t want you should worry about me, here, all by myself.” When a conversation like this took place the other day, it got me thinking……

What Main Street Rocky Mount needs is a real Jewish Grandmother who can worry about six things at a time, and more than that, give us the benefit of her wisdom. If only grandmother, LaVerta, were still alive and available to us. I am coming to know this particular Jewish grandmother through the loving stories told by her grandson who is a dear friend of mine. I imagine her as a cross between Auntie Mame and a wisdom figure with ties to the Desert Fathers. LaVerta exposed her grandson to some of the finer things in life instilling in him an appreciation for couture clothes and a good martini and everything in-between. She encouraged this bright and articulate boy, who grew up with a passion for many things, to have the courage of his convictions.

Once she told her grandson when he was involved in a controversial political campaign, “Roddy sometimes you just have to put your stake in the ground.” Which brings me to the point of my musings today. I think we must embrace LaVerta’s admonition and be willing to put our stakes in the ground when it comes to saving Main Street.

It’s complicated when one is raised with southern sensibilities. The thought process goes like this – If I speak up, I could offend friends or business associates, all the interrelated connections like — my grandmother dated your grandfather back in college or our families who went to the beach together every summer; a myriad of concerns that give one pause before deciding whether to get involved or not. This is why I think Main Street needs a Jewish grandmother. Besides loving and worrying over us, she would admonish us to have the courage of our convictions; telling us, “Sometimes you just have to put your stake in the ground before it’s too late, and that time is now.”

Watercolor credits:

Picture #1 -Small Town Illinois by Timothy Arties, Picture #2 -Alex S. Kosich, Jr. AIA Architectural Renderings, Design Consultant,  Picture #3 Rosie Philips Fine Art

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‘Main Street’ Belongs to All of Us -Another Program Idea For The Restoration of Main Street’s Facades – Part 3

I have sought out Amy Facca again who is a historic preservation planner, architectural historian, and grant writer with a strong interest in economic development. In Oct. 2013 she wrote an informative piece about various emerging facade improvement programs that benefit communities. These are incentive programs created to encourage the restoration of the exterior appearance of buildings and storefronts. Improvements like masonry repairs & pointing; facade painting, repair, reconstruction or replacement of historic features; awnings, signage and exterior lighting, gutters, and downspouts; window & door repair or replacement.


Her photos in this article are of Hamilton NY facades before and after to illustrate what can be done.

This pair of commercial buildings were updated with a new color, including a new cornice, siding, windows, doors, awning and detailing.


Improvements in the building below included replacing unsightly signage, a new paint scheme highlighting the building’s historic character, a new cornice for the roof gable. The dark paint was used to make non-historic building elements (the garage door) less obvious.

The brick masonry facade of the Nicois-Beal building was cleaned. They painted the turret cornice to minimize attention drawn to the modern window elements in the storefront and upper floors and used a new awning to help conceal the modern, non-historic aluminum windows in the storefront.  We all know the saying,

“Where there is a will there is a way!”

 San Diego named their program “Focus on Downtown. They go on to state, “The program is designed to assist property and business owners in rehabilitating the commercial facades of their properties for the purpose of creating a positive visual impact, stimulating private investment, and complementing other community development efforts.”

We would look to federal and state grants for community and economic development, housing, and downtown revitalization; and municipal revenue. The key question is– Is this possible with our current leadership? These programs are usually developed and managed by the municipality’s planning, community development, economic development office, a Main Street organization, those interested in civic improvements. Obviously, this calls for coordination and cooperation.

Please leave your constructive comments below for saving Main Street. Let’s collaborate here on Mainstreetrockymount, and I’ll put together our suggestions along with a message to the City Council that in part says, “With your leadership, we want to save Main Street. Champion this endeavor or step aside and let those who will lead in this matter…lead!”

Here is our Main Street Rocky Mount – Use your imagination and apply the ‘before and after’ treatment to our wonderful commercial buildings,  one building at a time.

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‘Main Street Belongs to All of Us – Saving Facades -Part 2

“This is the place of places and it is here.”
 Gertrude Stein

Once upon a time in Louisville, Ky. seven historic buildings referred to as the Whiskey Row Stabilization, located at 105-119 West Main Street were stabilized as part of a fascinating project. These buildings were built in the mid to late nineteenth century and are part of Louisville’s rich history in early bourbon and whiskey making. They were purchased by a local group of concerned citizens in order to preserve Louisville’s most important architectural heritage. The City of Louisville also played an important role to preserve these buildings thru funding and project facilitation.

After surveying the existing conditions, it was determined that 4 of the 7 building’s interiors had deteriorated and were in partial collapse. They would need to be selectively demolished. This occurred after the contractor saved historic building elements of the interior and preserved the Main Street façades. At buildings 105 and 107/109, the façade was saved after installing a 6 story steel bracing system, which was attached to the sub-basement level with augur cast piers.

The entire three buildings at 111, 113, and 115 East Main were able to be saved by rebuilding selective portions of the exterior, adding a new temporary roof, and installing temporary interior columns at key locations. Historic tin ceilings, heavy timber trim, and turn of the century molding have been saved to be incorporated in the new building use. These photos demonstrate how historic facades can be stabilized and saved, allowing construction with new purpose while maintaining the integrity of what, here in Rocky Mount, we call the downtown center core.


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‘Main Street’ Belongs to All of Us – Part 1

It has been said that Rocky Mount has the best collection of historically significant architecture in the entire state. We’ll take that compliment. We have beautiful examples of what successful preservation looks like thanks to Peter Varney whose watch included the Train & Bus Station, The Imperial Center, the Douglas Block, and StreetScape. You have to ask yourself how that momentum got sidelined and why? As in a relay race, Peter Varney handed the baton to the next runner, but it has been dropped along the way. We have to go back and pick up that baton and get back in the race Peter began. Rocky Mount deserves that! It is past time that all citizens rally around the heartbeat of the city.

Maybe you never go downtown but that doesn’t change the fact that Main Street is like our living room and deserves protection. What happened to our concerted effort to save our Main Street architecture and what we think of as our downtown city core? It seems no one is actually responsible for seeing that these efforts are ongoing?  I know we have codes that are not being enforced. I know we have buildings leaking into others and nothing is done. I know there are broken windows, boarded up facades, exterior proof of the deterioration that is on-going.

At this point, I no longer accept the premise that it’s the absentee landowners that have been holding us hostage. No, it is the lack of will to do something about that. I feel like everyone is saying, “This is not my job.” I am proud to sit on the board of Preservation Rocky Mount but since I’ve been involved we still haven’t found time to discuss what this organization might do to bring attention to the present preservation crisis of these buildings. I visit the Historic Preservation Commission who are responsible for maintaining our historic district guidelines, and as important and imperative as that is, their influence in this matter is vital too. The downtown neighborhood belongs to all of us!

I believe that Main Street Rocky Mount can be the most beautifully, restored and preserved, downtown in the State. If you, in any of your spheres of influence, can help in this matter, you’re badly needed whether you are a disgruntled citizen over the matter or a CEO that can exert economic pressure.   We must stop electing and hiring people who will not help save Main Street and surrounds. We need tangible proof that the Mayor, City Manager right on down the leadership roll can not only bring into existence our new Event Center, which was to help promote downtown but start immediately to tackle the problems on ‘Main Street.’

Because we have lost a great cheerleader for Main Street, John Jesso, we are now in further peril of losing our masterpieces. It was he who courted and inspired investment and development downtown. Why would the rug be pulled out from under the economic momentum of new investors buying our commercial buildings? John helped investors believe in the revitalization of our downtown city core. If the city won’t spearhead the preservation of our architecture, we only have these new investors to rely on.  Now the successful growing economic development downtown seems to have been derailed. WHY? Who is profiting from stifling growing success that can lift up our low-income population and change our economically depressed statistics?

These buildings can’t afford further neglect. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our leadership turned into heroes and took charge of saving Main Street?  There isn’t a chance of that as things stand. It is up to us to build a consensus that the taxpayers are not satisfied with the lack of leadership in this matter. It is our ‘Main Street’ and we want it back.

(We could have commercial buildings that look like this)


Join me for Part 2 with a fascinating look at saving facades

Leave a comment below on your thoughts about this. Thanks.

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