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


Another Star in Rocky Mount’s Architectural Crown – Paying Tribute to Architect George Matsumoto – A West Haven Gem

If you have been following my Main Street posts, you know that I have recently been pushing for an updated, honest architectural inventory. Here is one of Rocky Mount’s treasures that is a Mid-Century modern home built originally for Thomas and Marian Hicks at 718 Evergreen Road, Rocky Mount NC. I’ve done some research for us. This architecture is closely associated with the period from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, With a few pieces of information, we will better appreciate this home designed by George Matsumoto.  (Modernism, as a global movement, spanned five decades–from the 1930s to the 1970s.)

Key Elements in these designs • Flat planes. The geometric lines of the house are regular and rigorous. Flat roofs are common, though modern ranch-style houses had gable roofs. • Large windows. Sliding-glass doors and other expansive panes of glass allow light to enter rooms from multiple angles. • Changes in elevation. Small steps going up and down between rooms creates split-level spaces. A midcentury modern might have partial walls, or cabinets of varying heights to create different depths in the space. • Integration with nature. Rooms have multiple outdoor views, or multiple access points, encouraging an appreciation of healthy living.

We are honoring George Matsumoto (July 16, 1922 – June 28, 2016) a Japanese-American architect and educator who is known for his Modernist designs. Matsumoto houses share common characteristics, including; a flat roof, an unobstructed internal view from one end of the house to the other, terrazzo floors, natural woods for walls and ceilings, mahogany cabinetry, large windows in the rear, and small but functional kitchens. We will skip his considerable education but mention his North Carolina years.

In 1948, Henry Kamphoefner, then head of Oklahoma’s architecture program, was appointed the first dean of the School of Design at North Carolina State University. Matsumoto, along with several other faculty and students, left Oklahoma with Kamphoefner to start what became an epicenter for Modernist architecture education in the US. During Matsumoto’s tenure at the NCSU School of Design between 1948 and 1961, Matsumoto won more than thirty awards for residential work. He designed a Modernist addition to the school.  (Picture on the left) In 1961 he returned with wife Kimi and their children to California to teach at Berkeley until 1967 and then went into private practice. Raleigh, NC has many mid-century modern homes as a result of the NCSU School of Design.

We are fortunate to have these photographs when the Evergreen Road home was being built.                   The original configuration of the rear facing the Tar River.

The original configuration of the front, with the garage, served to make the rest of the residence private.  The features such as press-to-open teak cabinets, black countertops, and pass-throughs from the open-style kitchen to the outside were all revolutionary at the time.

Our architecture is one of the greatest assets Rocky Mount has. We must recognize it and protect it.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House In Historic West Haven – Part 2


The war was still reverberating in 1946 when the former editor of Fortune magazine, Eric Hodgins, wrote the novel Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. There was a national housing shortage. The American dream of the returning G.I.’s included home ownership. The film correctly read the mood of those who wanted to move on to pursue the American dream. (See Part 1 for further information on the genesis of the Dream Houses.)

In 1988 Marianne Stanley Farris & David Farris bought Mr. Blandings Dream Home from Sam Arrington’s estate to become the second owners. Their daughter, Kate, was 8 years old at that time. (Above, The Dream House photograph as it appeared in 1988.) The Farris’ began to modernize the house while keeping in mind its architectural integrity. It took six months to redo the interior, lay a brick path to the front door, add a porch roof over the front door. (SEE PHOTOGRAPHS OF TODAY’S HOUSE IN PART ONE)  The photograph to the right is of young Kate, with her parents. She could not have imagined that one day her own darling daughters,  Mari Robin and Frances, would be playing in the back garden in their own playhouse.   

In 2004, James & Kate Tharin were expecting their 1st child when they bought the Dream Home from Kate’s parents. I have written before that I believe we find the memories of the caretakers of a home floating forever in the dust motes seen in the sunlight through the windows. In Mr. Blandings Dream Home the Arrington family, Marianne & David, James & Kate, will always be found.  Mr. Blandings Dream House represents all of our dreams of living a life of peace and prosperity, of those we love, family, and friends around us, our children playing safe and free.

There is a PS: to this story. Kate Tharin, who grew up in this house tells us that the kitchen knives remain in the same drawer and that she and James have no plans in upcoming improvements to remove the radiator covers from the walls in spite of the fact that they are no longer in use. Best of all, the piano that sat in the living room of Kate’s childhood is coming back home and will be placed in the same corner. James Tharin and his family are living their particular dreams in a special house with a unique history. The 8-year-old girl grew up and cast her own spell on the interior design of her childhood home which deserves a magazine spread. James Tharin, handsome and good humored, is a fine stand-in for Cary Grant as Mr. Blanding. The Dream House is yet another reason to appreciate the West Haven Historic District in Rocky Mount, NC.





Villa Place Historic District – ‘The Ice King’ Cometh – Part 2

Machaven -Park Street Side View
Machaven -Park Street Side View

There must be a special place in hell for people who vandalize buildings. In taking photographs of Machaven, I wouldn’t dream of a photo that shows the front windows boarded up. Such an embarrassment for a historic place that has been holding court at 300 Grace Street these many years. Like a woman who knows her best side, the tilt of her chin just so, we will consider this princely place from a different angle to avoid further humiliation.

300 Grace St. -Machaven
300 Grace St. -Machaven               Park Street Side View

Introducing J.W. Hines (1858-1928): Hines made his fortune as the “ice king” of North Carolina, owning ice plants in railroad towns across the state from Rocky Mount to Salisbury. He became a developer and industrialist and is credited with his involvement in Rocky Mount’s early twentieth-century growth. Hines built tobacco warehouses, helped bring the Atlantic Coast Line repair shops and Emerson Shops to south Rocky Mount in 1892. In 1905  J.W. Hines purchased the 300 block of South Grace Street from R.L. Huffines and in 1907-1908 constructed the impressive Neoclassical Revival style brick mansion, known as Machaven, for his family. I hope you will take the time to read an earlier post about Machaven. Click Here

 Though Machaven is the principal landmark in the Villa Place Historic District, it is but one architectural gem in this depository worth a king’s ransom to architectural historians, preservationists, and to the city of Rocky Mount because of its close proximity to the revitalization of downtown where housing is needed for a growing workforce. If you read much of this blog, you know I am always excited and jumping up and down about something. Take my hand as we walk the neighborhood while I point out,  “Look at this one!” “And this one!” These Queen Anne, Foursquare, Craftsman, Colonial Revival style houses were built between 1900 and the 1940s by employees of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and other businesses in an emerging, successful railroad and tobacco town. You probably know someone who grew up right here on this corner!

If we threw a dart at a Rocky Mount map, no neighborhood is more worthy of a concerted effort to adopt and rally behind, than Villa Place. Our churches participate in community outreach in all kinds of faraway places like Minnesota and Mexico. Why not in our own backyard in a place that is significant to our future? Between now and when you read Villa Place – Part 3 –  I hope you will find time to get in your car with new eyes to see how fabulous this area is.  I invite you to FOLLOW Main Street so you don’t miss future posts.

419 Nash Street
419 Nash Street
222 Villa -For sale Boone Hill, Allen & Ricks 443 4148
222 Villa – For sale Boone Hill – Allen & Ricks  443 4148


336 Villa
336 Villa

The Home D.J. Rose Built For His Family – Sunset Ave


“Old houses are filled with memories, with the faded echoes of voices. Drops of tears,      the ring of laughter, the edge of tempers that over the years have seeped into the walls. These houses carry in their wood and stone, their brick and mortar a kind of ego that is nearly human.”
A SFH edited quote by Nora Roberts, Key of Knowledge

I have our son-in-law, George Greer, Rector of St. Andrews, and daughter, Claire Greer, to thank for a great book I borrowed and now have no intention of giving back. Don’t tell them. If you don’t own a copy of The History and Architecture of Nash County NC by Richard L. Mattson you should treat yourself. You can buy a copy at the Preservation Rocky Mount store. My copy is beginning to look like an Anglican Choir Boy with all the post-a-notes sticking up like ruffles. Some of the notes mark information on D.J. Rose.


Matt Quarrels and Dean Fisher are the proud owners of the home that D.J. Rose built on Sunset for his family; perfect caretakers with their deep love of architecture, preservation, gardening and the history of this particular house.  My ‘borrowed’ book tells me that the house was built about 1912. It is a two story, hip-roofed design that was popular in Rocky Mount in that era. I have tried to capture some of the exterior details in the photograph included here. The house is an outstanding example of the meticulous work found on both the exterior and interiors of a D.J. Rose home. I will let the photos speak for themselves, with this additional thought….We need to locate as many of the Rose homes as possible. Please help by using your contacts and historical acumen to find them. D.J. Rose and these beautiful architectural structures are stars in the Rocky Mount crown. We must not loose sight of them! Scroll down to the bottom of this post to leave any information you can add to the search. Thanks!




Happy Hill – What is A Shotgun House? – Part 2

“A place without meaning is no place to be.”
Wayne Gerald Trotman

The Happy Hill Neighborhood has broken ground on a new project, Beal Street Square, a cause for celebration. I want to remind you about the architecture you find in Happy Hill, and throughout the south, so when you see the design for Beal Street Square, you will appreciate it all the more.

HOUSE_IN_THE_FIFTH_WARD_OF_HOUSTON,_TEXAS._THIS_IS_ONE_OF_A_SERIES_OF_21_BLACK_AND_WHITE_PHOTOGRAPHS._THEY_DOCUMENT..._-_NARA_-_557633The “shotgun house,” a domestic residence, is a Black cultural architectural form that originated in the American South and was used extensively throughout the region. Shotgun houses are typically 12 feet wide with a gable-ended entrance, and are two or three rooms deep. They are one story high with few windows, if any, on the sides There are doors at each end of the house, which allows better airflow. The narrow frontage increased the number of houses that could be planned along a street.

“Shotgun” & “double shotgun” are two common dwellings types in Happy Hill. “Double” shotgun houses consist of two houses sharing a central wall. There are “Camelback” shotgun houses that include a second floor at the rear of the house. In Happy Hill, perhaps all, were built by Thomas Watson, a wealthy Rocky Mount businessman and area farmer who invested in rental  property. Over the years variations of shotgun houses have been updated to the needs of later generations of owners. The simple design of shotgun type houses wound up giving us the southern porch, a gathering place for the tight knit neighborhoods that evolved.


shotgun-house-photoThis photo on the right is an example of how the houses have been embellished with ornate fixtures. Brackets that hold the roof aloft are usually carved after the Victorian or Greek Revival fashions. Vent covers are intricately designed and the front windows and doors are adorned with shutters. Today you can find these little houses restored to a level of splendor that did not exist when they were first built.

Join me for Part 3

    Visiting with Aunties Mary & Viola – The Roses of Beal Street

A Rocky Mount Neighborhood – Happy Hill – Part 1


Pecan Trees Saved at the Neighbors Request

“The pale stars were sliding into their places. The whispering of the leaves was almost hushed. All about them it was still and shadowy and sweet. It was that wonderful moment … a moment when anything can happen, anything be believed in.”
― Olivia Howard Dunbar

It was my first time in the neighborhood when I joined neighbors and community leaders for the gIMG_3897round breaking of Beal Street Square. It was plain to see that everyone in attendance shared a history and a dream that was coming to fruition; the largest affordable housing project to date. People who championed the neighborhood and those providing untiring leadership came together in partnership – a key ingredient that Vann Joines, Principal of JOIN Development, and Richard Angino, President of Third Wave Housing, have put together. These two men are the wind beneath the wings of Beal Street Square. Those of you who regularly read Main Street Rocky Mount will not be surprised that while part of me was listening and marveling at what was going on, I was experiencing that wonderful moment when anything can happen, and I could hear the voices of children playing and parents at night fall calling them home. I could “see” neighbors sitting on their front steps, a close knit community, watching out for one another, irregardless of the constant movement in the early days of people of primarily young and seasonally employed factor workers. I’ll be writing further about the Beal Street Square project and neighbors like Gloria Lancaster Austin, but first, this as an opportunity to step back and appreciate anew this Rocky Mount neighborhood called Happy Hill, a place believed in.

Katherine Mansfield talks about how hard it is to escape from places. “However carefully one goes they hold you — you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences — like rags and shreds of your very life.” I’m certain that what I heard at the ground breaking for Beal Street Square was the fluttering of the lives of Happy Hill people. Throughout this series, I want you to love and embrace this story because it is yet another chapter in a place called home. Happy Hill is a large intact black district. By 1920 the neighborhood was densely populated along Beal, Tillery, and Thomas streets. By 1930 the 20-30 block area northwest of Main street was filled with houses, churches and small businesses for blacks. Investors built rows of shotgun, saddlebag, and hip-roofed houses next to the tobacco processing plants and warehouses. If you are taking for granted the architecture in Rocky Mount, you are missing one of the greatest assets we have. It isn’t just about the grand homes throughout the community, but it is also the amazing pockets, like Happy Hill, that provide a sense of place and have a history to be honored.

Join me for Part Two: Shotgun Architecture



Edgemont – A Jewel In Rocky Mount’s Crown – Part 1


I wonder if you have eyes to see? Let me show you something that lay beneath an overlay of time. In some cases, that time has dimmed the color and vivaciousness of what once was, but don’t be put off by that. I want you to look at the historic district of Edgemont, a subdivision three blocks east of Main Street in Rocky Mount. The principal avenue is Tarboro Street, flanked by Sycamore and Hill Streets, that compose the core of the area. There are also four crossing streets and service alleys through the centers of the blocks.

The first time I drove through Edgemont it was as if I had discovered a table laid before me set with beautiful crystal, china, and sterling silver. I know you’ll think this too flowery, but Edgemont deserves hyperbole! What we are looking at is a significant area in the community’s development that is one of the major subdivisions of the city’s pre-World War II boom. The area warrants our attention and newfound appreciation. In the world of real estate, Edgemont has one of the most intact collections of historical residential designs in Rocky Mount. These houses and garages of matching architectural design have strong architectural significance.

Please share this post with any realtors you know because this is a call to them and everyone who appreciates architecture and our history;  go and reacquaint yourselves with the area. Imagine how these homes came to be.  Think of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, which had its repair shops in Rocky Mount, and the town’s tobacco market booming in the early twentieth century. Edgemont developed as one of the most stylish of the town’s neighborhoods. For the next twenty-five years doctors, lawyers, tobacconists, salesmen, clerks, and employees of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad built Bungalows, Foursquare’s, Colonial and Tudor Revival style houses on the spacious, flat lots. The preservation of this exceptional neighborhood is in keeping with a sense of place that is available to those who are drawn here. Edgemont is exactly what they want in their lives, but if realtors don’t bring them into the area, how will it be found? What could be better than owning a home that honors the past, while going forth from your front door into the future?

We will continue with more about Edgemont tomorrow. I want to leave you with a Harry Potter line from the Goblet of Fire. Harry walks into what looks to be a small ordinary tent from the outside. When he steps inside he finds a large and beautifully decorated palace-looking space. Amazed, he slowly grins. Harry says, “I love magic.”

Edgemont is a magic kind of place.