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

They Call Me Machaven – Speaking Out About Old Age and Remaining Useful

6054696250_8ae0b26100_zPeople call me Machaven, but I think of myself as a Hines. It seems like yesterday (1907-1908)  that I was built for James Hines, a leading businessman, civic leader, and his wife. Of course, I credit the architect, H.P.S. Keller, for the handsome fellow that I am….a 2 1/2-story, Classical Revival style brick dwelling with a slate-covered hipped roof. I have five interior chimneys, a pedimented portico with Doric columns, and a full-width one-story porch. I stand on a half-acre plot surrounded by a 1930’s Flemish-bond wall and take up the 300 block of South Grace Street. A highlight in my long life came in 1980 when I was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I am proud of my 306 S. Grace Street address in the Villa Place Historic District and of starting my life with the outstanding Hines family.

The older I become, however, the more fearful I am that my glorious past is slipping to the edge of Rocky Mount’s consciousness. People tip-toe around me now. I think they are embarrassed because they promised to make me useful again, but I have been left on my own. I have come to understand what old people mean when they say, “I’ve been placed on the back burner.”

Stepheny has come to commiserate with me. She enjoys hearing stories about people like James Hines and she has a deep interest in historic preservation, an appreciation for the vast, beautiful inventory of architecture here in our community. I didn’t try to hide my disappointments from her. She listened and finally stamped her foot. “Well damn, this is a shame that needs to be fixed.” She did her best to make me feel optimistic about my future.

“Machaven,” she said, “Let me go and find Mr. Robbie Davis, who is in charge now. I’m sure he has your best interests in mind and I’ll do my best to sweet talk him into making you relevant again.”

I replied, “Tell him I loved my time when people thought of me as  The City Club.”

“I will indeed, but what we need here is a plan for you, Machaven, and there are outstanding people like Mr. Hines in his era, that are working hard to revitalize the downtown core. We need to get you back on the Rocky Mount radar screen and help Mr. Davis do some creative thinking.”

Before we said goodbye she told me, “Keep the faith! You are a vital historic piece of the puzzle in the revitalization of Rocky Mount. Hold that thought.” She turned to leave and said, “I’ll be back.”