Preservation – Rocky Mount’s Historic Downtown Part 2 – People’s Bank

mainst40s-1Saturday: The rain slashes the windows, all color drained from the day. Hurricane Matthew has mustered enough strength to hurl a downpour upon us. In writing about People’s Bank, part of the Preservation Rocky Mount tour last Sunday, a black and white photograph seems appropriate to begin with. I invite you to sit with this photo and indulge in some remembering and dreaming. I can imagine myself on the backseat of this car, listening to my parents sing along with Sinatra on the radio, (Click Here) Sunny Side of the Street...grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep, life is oh so sweet, on the sunny side of the street. Life was vibrant and bustling in the days this photo was taken; a downtown filled with commerce, and prosperity.

The People’s Bank Building remains an architectural gem and figures prominently in the revitalization of the area. Perhaps I should abandon my idea of trying to talk John Brooks and his son, Charles Phillip Brooks into turning the Masonic Building into a boutique hotel that includes an artist in residence exhibiting his work. The Bank Building, an architectural delight would be a beautiful hotel too. It is complete with its own ghost sign I might add. (Click Here ) Remember the posts on ghost signs?


The Peoples Bank building was built by D. J. Rose and designed by Milburn & Heister in 1918. Renovated in 2006, it is first-class commercial office space. Five stories tall, it includes a mezzanine overlooking the dramatic two-story lobby. Located in Rocky Mount’s historic central business district, the building is located within walking distance of restaurants, stores, services, and government buildings, those in place, and those that are coming. After standing in the lobby of this gorgeous space, I now know that the D.J. Rose ‘Society’  must include not only the residential properties, but the commercial buildings as well. I know you agree, with only these few unprofessional photographs to go by, that this is a special asset in Rocky Mount. Next time you drive by, click you heels and salute. (Well, you know what I mean.)

Join me next time for Preservation Part 3 – The Post Office

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Elizabeth Scott Photo
Elizabeth Scott Photo

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D.J. Rose – Leading Character in the Rocky Mount Story With An Invitation – Part 3

Scan 1Another spring unfolds, days warm, flowering trees unfurl and catch us by surprise when glimpsed through the garden. Something happens to us this time of year; a longing for things past. We close our eyes and remember moments we would like to experience again. Perhaps sitting beside one of our parents listening to them read aloud, or a time when we were teenagers waiting for our first kiss. Whatever this nostalgic time-traveling is about, it  has to do with younger days, when we played with the neighborhood kids, caught fireflies in a jar, spent the night with a grandmother who baked the best chocolate cake in the Mill Village. We would like to walk along the Main Street of our youth, filled with cars, people shopping, meeting and greeting one another. We would like to stop and wave at the train as it goes by. We wish family and friends were still alive to answer the questions we now have for them. If only we could spend time with D.J. Rose, the leading character in the story I’ve been telling you. Think of what we would learn from this young man, who over time made a lasting contribution to Rocky Mount. The future that is being reimagined today is partially built upon the architectural assets he and his company contributed to this sense of place.

I believe Fennel Hudson, A Meaningful Life, is right when he wrote: “Old buildings whisper to us in the creaking of floorboards and rattling of windowpanes.” Listen for Mr. Rose’s whisper when you think of the Ricks Hotel, the original Masonic Temple on Main Street, the May and Gorham building, Rocky Mount Municipal building on Main Street. the Peoples Bank building, the First Methodist and First Presbyterian Churches, Planters Cotton Seed Oil factory, Rocky Mount’s Railroad Passenger Station including the addition of the second and third floors, Rocky Mount’s first electric power plant and water plant, as well as portions of the building you know today as The Power Plant, the Sunset Avenue Water Plant and significant portions of Rocky Mount Mills buildings. Some of the schools he built are Abraham Lincoln, R. M. Wilson School and Edgemont. The firm he founded, D. J. Rose and Son Inc., is the oldest continuously operating general contracting firm in North Carolina and to this day maintains the North Carolina General Contractors License number 27.



The contracting firm D. J. Rose and Son Inc., based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, has donated a major collection of historic architectural drawings and other documents to the North Carolina State University Libraries, which forms the basis for the presentation on the 29th. Here is an opportunity to keep company with D.J. Rose once again in the whispering of these drawings. Use your imagination…slip into a seat beside him for a lovely evening honoring his work. th


See you there, I’ll save you a seat!


Who was D. J. Rose? The Setting of His Story – Part 1


David Jeptha Rose 1861-1940

In writing about David Jeptha Rose, the protagonist in today’s story, it is my pleasure to honor him. I hope to renew your interest and give reason anew to care about him. We must have a setting that gives us a sense of the world he inhabited. Let’s step back in time by exiting through the back of the preverbal Narnia wardrobe. When we emerge from the fur coats and step out, we find ourselves in Rocky Mount, NC. It is 1890 and David Rose, at twenty-nine years of age has relocated from rural Johnston County, NC., and from the farm where he was born.  Our hero in this story, in his late teens and early twenties, developed a talent for carpentry and building.  He arrives In Rocky Mount with a population of 650 and establishes the D.J.Rose and Company.

What has brought David to Rocky Mount?  I’d like to believe he recognized that the arrival of the Rocky Mount Tobacco Market that began in the 1880’s, at the turn of the century, was already bringing new people and vitality to town. Perhaps he anticipates that a thriving regional center is emerging because of jobs the railroad, textile, fertilizer and tobacco provide.

The setting for David Roses’ story will include the first bank that appears in 1889, the direct result of large sums of money transacted at market time. A burst of expansion creates a sizeable business district built from the 1890s into the 1920s. The early tobacco factories and warehouses are clustered around the railroad tracks at the northern end of downtown on Goldleaf, MacDonald, and Pearl Streets and Falls Road. Fenner’s Warehouse and J.O.W. Gravely’s Warehouse both stand in the 200 block of Falls Road, south of the Falls Road Historic District. Now that you are reminded of the setting for our story about D. J. Rose, we will continue about the man himself  in Part 2.

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