A New Look For Main Street

This Main Street Rocky Mount blog continues to evolve and enlarge its point of view. (As the garden grows, so does the gardener.) I continue to learn from all of you and the special people who have taken me under their wing, the cheerleaders in my life.  I’m grateful!  With the publication of today’s blog,  I hope you find Main Streets’ new look a further promise of advocacy for preserving, restoring, and repurposing our significant commercial and residential architecture.  

A Bungalow To Love on Sunset

When I write the phrase, Saving Main Street, I think of it as a metaphor for our historic downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. We have been learning the language of Main Street and celebrating the emerging downtown scene where restoration is in progress. We now know that the word ‘incubator’  is where entrepreneurs gather in a shared space, dream their dreams and run new businesses. The word ‘anchor project’  refers to key projects at the edges of the revitalization areas like our restored train & bus station, Imperial Center, Douglas Block, and The Mill.  People want ‘Walkable neighborhoods,’ where they can go out the door and walk to work, to eat, and find entertainment. ‘The third Place’ refers to destinations where you don’t need to know anyone, but are welcomed, feel safe, and have the TV series, Cheers, kind of experience. These are pieces of the revitalization puzzle that are happening on Main Street. 

Main Street Rocky Mount

I write in the spirit of the Peter Varney years of leadership in Rocky Mount. Peter showed a will and passion on many fronts for the preservation of  historical architecture.  We have Peter to thank for the round knobs along the fence next to the tracks at the train station that were commissioned to the exact specifications of the original knobs. Seemingly a small detail, but the heart of preservation.

Let us be thankful for Main Street and those involved in its revitalization. 

Main Street – Marked With An X And A Bottle Of Rum

Some places speak distinctly. Certain dank gardens cry aloud for a murder; certain old houses demand to be haunted; certain coasts are set apart for shipwrecks.               ~Robert Louis Stevenson

I’m sure you remember Treasure Island, an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson.  The book influenced our perceptions of pirates, including treasure maps marked with an “X,” and one-legged seamen with a parrot on their shoulder. It was first published on 14 November 1883 by Cassell & Co.  A lovely read audio link to Chapter One. will make your heart smile.

Jim Hawkins is a young boy who lives at his parents’ Inn, Admiral Benbow, near Bristol, England, in the eighteenth century. An old sea captain named Billy Bones dies in the inn after being presented with a black spot, an official pirate verdict of guilt or judgment. When Jim and his mother unlock Billy’s sea chest, they find a logbook and a map for a treasure that the infamous pirate Captain Flint has buried on a distant island. 

When I came across the Stevenson quote above, “Some places speak distinctly…” I thought of Rocky Mount’s treasure map which has drawn upon it, Main Street and beyond. It has a distinct sense of place and story that is being preserved. The following Stevenson quote identifies those who are preserving, restoring, and repurposing significant commercial and residential architecture. It refers to the business people downtown who are apart of the new emerging scene and to the investors who have come aboard to help save our treasures.  

“We got together in a few days a company of the toughest old salts imaginable–not pretty to look at, but fellows, by their faces, of the most indomitable spirit.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

In 2020, we are contending with our own plundering pirates.  Stevenson writes in Treasure Island about the ‘pirates who sail on laden with crimes and riches.’ Those who continue to plunder the taxpayers shall have the black spot, their own verdict of guilt and judgment, turned back upon them. The decisions that continue to be made by people who pay no price for being wrong, must stop so we can get on with all the exciting possibilities drawn on our map. Seats on the City Council, city management, have their own map. It is the MY WILL BE DONE agenda that continues to steer us into turbulent seas.   For all the tough old salts uncovering our buried treasure,

“We must go on because we can’t turn back.”  Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

We Have To sing together, Ho, Ho, Ho and a bottle of rum.

Goldsboro – An Accredited Main Street Program – I Have Things To Show You

Sitting on the corner of Elm and LaSalle Streets in Chicago you will find The Church of the Ascension. It is an Anglo-Catholic Episcopal parish (high church) that is one of the threads in my life tapestry. It is candle-lit and filled with holy music. Facing LaSalle Street, mounted on the front of the church, is a bronze sculpture of Christ on the cross. Written below are the words, “Is It Nothing To You -All Who Pass By?” From the first moment, I saw this piece of art, its beauty, and starkness remains powerful and moving. Today, I am still captured by this image.  I mention this when starting to write about Goldsboro because I want the revitalization of Rocky Mount to mean something to you.   

“You can ignore a piece of sculpture or a painting hung on the walls of the Art Institute, but architecture is the inescapable art.”                                                                                 

Blair Kamain, Why Architecture Matters, Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Blair Kamin is the architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, a post he has held since 1992. I’m expecting a used ‘like new’ copy of his book from Amazon any day. I’m hoping to find a new teacher/friend while reading this book. I’ll let you know. 

Welcome to Goldsboro: Note the widened sidewalks, the street lighting, the green space and trees, the pattern brick sidewalks, awnings, the beautiful restoration of each facade. Historically correct upper windows, a unified streetscape.

How this corner building once looked and then…below… the restoration…my photo a few days ago

Once Upon a Time and Today

Don’t miss the sidewalk brick pattern throughout the historic area…everywhere!

Our Main Street Streetscape is beautifully designed as well. Benches, the medium planted with trees all nestled in now. It was a great decision to start implementing our street design. We lag far behind with our commercial buildings, their restoration, and repurposing. When you visit Elizabeth City, Tarboro, New Burn, Goldsboro, all accredited with the NC Main Street Program, you will see that we have paid dearly for having our Main Street affiliation sabotaged. It calls for accountability, record keeping, and citizen participation. The “My Way” agenda is not interested in any of that. Drive over to Goldsboro and see for yourself how economic development within the context of Historic Preservation looks. Wouldn’t you like to see our Historic Downtown back on track with the Main Street Program?

The photos other than mine were featured in a great article. Here is the link.

The Old Neighborhood – 700 Block Arlington Street

By now, the morning sun was just over the horizon and it came at me like a sidearm pitch between the houses of my old neighborhood. I shielded my eyes. This being early October, there were already piles of leaves pushed against the curb—more leaves than I remembered from my autumns here—and less open space in the sky. I think what you notice most when you haven’t been home in a while is how much the trees have grown around your memories.         – Mitch Albom

705 Arlington Street

A block of homes on Arlington Street in Ward #3 provides another look at the heart of Rocky Mount; its neighborhoods. Walking the block with my camera in hand, it was an ‘if only’ moment when I wished I had the money to invest in Rocky Mount’s neighborhoods. I treated myself to some leaf-kicking while sauntering along. I refrained, however, from picking up leaves here and there as I once did on the way to school.  

There is always a favorite find on a block where the trees have grown around it as if protecting a secret jewel only the neighborhood is privileged to see. I must say the house seems mysterious viewed through overgrown “stuff.” (731 Arlington Street will soon be featured on the Main Street Facebook page. Hope you’re following.)

It turned out to be another “Honey, what you doin'” moment. I made a new friend, Keith Graham, who lives and is restoring his home at 727 Arlington St. Mr. Graham is a tight bundle of strength; his energy makes him appear bouncing on his toes as he showed the work he has already accomplished. Lucky for Rocky Mount, he owns some other rental properties that he is working on with the same enthusiasm. Mr. Graham showed me the small tree he has planted in the front yard for a nephew who has died. I listened to several other family stories that I felt privileged to hear. Image what an example this would be if this one block of homes on Arlington Street, a major artery, was restored. The revitalization of neighborhoods for our housing needs is a necessity and the answer to many of our problems.   

Mr. Graham’s House 727 Arlington
711 Arlington Street
715 Arlington Street
719 Arlington Street
723 Arlington Street
727 Arlington Street -A Different View
735 Arlington Street

One of the payoffs of revitalization in Rocky Mount is people being able to say, I am living as a person who is Somewhere and not just Anywhere. I encourage you to drive through downtown and through the Wards, to reconnect with  Somewhere!  I often say, “Wow, look at that…or with dismay, “Oh, my goodness, how can this be?”  Neighborhood after neighborhood, there are homes like these on Arlington Street. With a plan, ingenuity, investment, neighbors helping neighbors to even rehang a shutter, things can change for the better. Community Buy-In is my newest bumper sticker. You have to Believe!   

Monday: A Perfect Few Hours At The Mill

“Oh, to be home again! Under the apple-boughs, down by the mill!”                                  James Thomas Fields

Sitting outside at the Mill today was DE-vine. The sky was Carolina blue and the temperature heavenly. I love Books and Beans, a beautiful restoration of the old Canteen. With a dear friend, an egg and cheese sandwich on GF toast, and sweet tea, you feel that you could live forever. I would like this October weather to last until Spring, wouldn’t you? The once upon a time story of the Mill lingers in the air, the buildings that were on life support now hail and hearty once again. The energy and new purposes of the Mill seem to radiate from the brick, the windows gleaming with sunlight, and renewed energy that looks out upon a preservationist’s delight. Here is a premier example of revitalization that has brought revenue, people, more private investment to Rocky Mount. The immeasurable contribution of how to do things right is a lesson in a win-win attitude, where everyone benefits. Thankful for a few hours at the Mill on a beautiful day spent admiring the scene. Thank you for providing this sense of place that is vital to Rocky Mount’s story; instrumental to creating its future.         

“The sound of water escaping from mill dams, etc., willows, old rotten planks, slimy posts, and brickwork, I love such things.” – John Constable

Reaching September On Main Street

One of my favorite renditions is Willie Nelson singing September Song – – Oh, it’s a long long while from May to December but the days grow short when you reach September….I’m sure you can’t believe, nor can I, that June, July, and August are behind us. A summer not without blessings, but over-all, a horrendous time.

At the beginning of most summers, I make a mental list of what I want to do again as in my childhood summers. To walk barefoot in the dew-wet grass, eat homemade peach ice-cream, lug books home from the library, run under the sprinkler, catch fireflies in a Mason jar, swing on the porch, have a picnic, see the fireworks at Northwestern’s Dyke Stadium, and ride my bike. The list goes on. I did eat watermelon, walked barefoot in the grass, and read books to my heart’s content. The rest of my list didn’t materialize. I traded it all away with the time spent watching the horror of mobs running loose, looting and burning, our historical monuments being pulled to the ground, jumping up and down over the Rocky Mount shenanigans of old. A terrible trade-off!

I’m not naive enough to think that because we have crossed the threshold of September that our troubles are over. Particularly, as we battle down the field to the elections. It isn’t a bad idea to pick one of your sacred places, like the beach, or a hidden spot in the garden, perhaps your favorite chair, and shelter there, if only in your imagination to put yourself right again when the world’s woes are over-bearing.

This brick wall is going to be my sheltering place, which I only discovered when a friend invited me over specifically to place my hand on her back garden wall. This wall is made of Silus Lucas brick. (Below). Mr. Lucas had a major brickyard here and sold brick in other states from the Civil War era to the early 1900s. This wall was laid around 1955 when the homes on Marvelle Avenue were being built in the West Haven area.

A brick can be used to build a courthouse of reason, or it can be thrown through the window.  –   Gilles Deleuze

Going back for photographs, I found the owners had pulled away some of the ivy. This fall I will think of this brick wall and remember how strong it is, how it has endured all manner of elements, its age has not mattered, it continues true to itself, a thing of beauty and stability. The same attributes I associate with America, the shining light on the hill that must prevail.

PS: The lovely home on Marvelle is for sale.

PPS: These are precious days I spend with you. SFH

Another Reimagining Of The Railroad Shed

I can’t imagine my life without reading, nor can I imagine life without the music that follows us through the years. To this day a song can take us back to the high school dances when we first danced cheek to cheek. Ella Fitzgerald remains one of my favorites. A song of hers came to mind when I started to write this post. The song is called Imagination…..Imagination is funny, it makes a cloudy day sunny. This is the kind of relationship I have with Main Street. I go around willy-nilly seeing pieces of the revitalization puzzle fall into place. Last time I mentioned the Railroad shed, I filled it with fresh flowers to buy. This new idea is ‘more better.’

Never a realist but a Pollyanna at your service, I offer this vision, but someone else will have to figure out the important stuff: how are you going to get water and electricity to this shed that sits along the railroad tracks? My answer, “Please, would you figure that part out for me?”

This is a cropped New York Magazine cover that is a perfect visual for reimagining the Railroad Shed. The roof can be painted like this red and white striped awning. Beneath are tables and chairs where Spring through Fall weekends young and older can come free of charge. From time to time, there could be a service charge to listen to the Tar River Orchestra Jazz, or a comedy act, gospel singing, a storyteller festival, local singers. Let your imagination go and you will get the idea.

The landscaping can look like the above to create the feeling of enclosure. I love the trees and the hedging/rails that remind you of a Paris cafe. Fairy lights would twinkle on at dusk. The shed becomes a gathering spot of energy, not boisterous-loud, but fun. People living above the stores along Main Street will bring their drink of choice, maybe buy from a food truck and join friends. Parents and teenagers can enjoy an evening out together. I can picture one nice soul going a bit early to stake out a table. They will throw a table cloth down and light a candle as if picnicking or tailgating. When we finally get the Culinary School behind The Prime Smokehouse, perhaps they’ll train a group to offer a tasting or, or, or. Reasonably priced, there could be a corporate outing, a private gathering during the week. Smack-dab in the middle of historic downtown, this rusty shed becomes a charming, repurposed, area for the entire community to enjoy. May I even suggest that the Mission trips from the churches stay home next summer and converge on an organized effort waiting for them to make a difference at home. Making memories…let’s make some under the Railroad Shed.

PS: Treat yourself and listen to Ella sing, Imagination





Let’s Ride Over To Tarboro And View How Commitment And Hard Work Wins Accreditation

Simmons Furniture Store, ca. 1910: Downtown Tarboro, N

“In those days in my small town, parents didn’t seem to worry so much about what their kids were doing as long as they made it home in time for dinner.”
― K. Martin Beckner, Chips of Red Pa

Forty years ago, Tarboro was one of the original five towns that became members of The Main Street Program.  This is not the first time their program has received accreditation status. They have lost it from time to time too.  Two and a half years ago they made a renewed commitment and reorganized to achieve the goal of the 4-point approach necessary for accreditation. Tarboro invested in a new Program Director, Tina Parker. One of the 4-points is engaging a critical volunteer base and her job includes growing these numbers. Important to Tarboro’s success is the Tarboro Development Corporation. This is a Public/Private endeavor. The TDC works alongside the Tarboro Main Street Program. Director, Tina Parker says, “Accreditation is an obtainable goal, with hard work, and a strategic plan that the Main Street Program worked with us on, we worked towards accreditation. It can be done. The rewards make it worthwhile.”

Tarboro is one of the loveliest small towns in North Carolina. With vision, they embraced their wealth of architectural assets, both commercial and residential, to save the essence of their legacy, their story, thinking of their future. The following photographs exemplify the wisdom of their leadership to preserve, restore, and repurpose this beautiful community for one and all. Congratulations on the Main Street Accreditation. Regaining our accreditation helps not only Rocky Mount but the eastern region.

Downtown Tarboro NC

Tarboro Town Common, 1760:

Tarboro Town Common, 1760: Tarboro, NC

Tarboro Post Office

 

.On the Square Tarboro,

 

 

 

2235 Sherwood Ave, Tarboro, NC

111 W Church St, Tarboro, NC

 

 

 

1003 N Main St
Tarboro, NC 27886
5 beds 4 baths 4,786 sqft

c. 1879 Victorian: Eastlake in Tarboro, North Carolina …

1209 N Main St, Tarboro, NC

1400 N Main St, Tarboro, NC

c. 1901 Victorian in Tarboro, North Carolina

Robert Norfleet House, ca. 1850: Tarboro, NC

904 N Main St, Tarboro, NC

The Grove, ca. 1808: Tarboro, NC | Built by Gen. Thomas

Fountain Law Office, ca. 1895: Tarboro, NC
This is the only original, early Law Office remaining in Tarboro. It had to be moved many years ago to save it from demolition. Tarboro, N.C.

 

The look of a Tarboro Shotgun House when the potential and necessity of these little jewels is valued. Our inventory of shotgun houses must be saved to answer some of the community’s needs. We too can wear Joseph’s Coat of many colors. 

 

 

 

IF YOU ARE NOT FOLLOWING THIS MAIN STREET BLOG-PLEASE DO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Stars Align – Whit and Robert Barnes Appear – Sons of Rocky Mount

It suits my romantic inclinations to write this Sorsby’s Tale after spending time with Whit Barnes. This tale is my favorite kind of Main Street news.I love generational novels that cover family history. In this case we have the family that founded Bullocks Furniture in 1901 unto the 5th generation that rests in a tall, dark, handsome fellow…. that would be Whit…. the nicest of young man that will one day appear on the genealogy pages of this grand family.

Whit graduated from Rocky Mount Sr. High where his mother Martha Kincheloe Barnes and father, Russ Barnes, met and started dating after graduation. Whit went on to  Wake Forest and graduated in  2013 in Business Management. His grandfather, Bill Kincheloe, who lived on Wildwood in West Haven, started making lamps in the warehouse behind his grandfathers retail furniture store, Bulluck Furniture Company in downtown Rocky Mount, the year 1969. Whit is now the Sales Manager for Wildwood. The company used to be called Wildwood Lamps and Accents, but now the name is  “Wildwood” because they make all types of home decor such as furniture, mirrors, lighting, decorative accessories, and artwork.

Whit has come home though he still has his New York apartment. He tells me he knows of at least 25-30 others moving back to Rocky Mount. This return is HOPE personified. These sons and daughters of Rocky Mount will join those already here; the future leadership providing a moral compass, and integrity we badly need. If any of them are like Whit, who is a bright, enthusiastic, and a energized, young gentleman, then hurry and get here.

Robert and Whit Barnes have bought the fabulous building on Sunset – Sorsby’s Place. The entire building may be leased or the two floors leased separately. The second floor has its own entrance. You may remember the building when it was Rocky Mount Chamber Paint, (1910.) Or, Barnes Tin Shop (no relative), or Carols Dress Shop. The restoration of this building is another preservationist dream and much more. When I visited with Whit, the joy on his face is evident over owning Sorsby Place with his brother, Robert. This joy includes home and family, taking part in the revitalization of Main Street, and putting a stake in the ground for past and future generations of their family.

I think of these young men standing quietly outside their building making room for their memories growing up here; the voices that have gone before them that they now honor. It is spectacular when one reaches the September of their life as I have, to stand beside a young man who wants to make a difference. It is my prayer that ‘all will be well, all manner of things will be well,’ when I am gone because of people like Whit and Robert. They are putting their life experience, their education, creativity, and love of place and family towards a future for themselves and others. Thankfully, they are joined by young people who are doing the same thing along Main Street and beyond. The leasing of this building will become an economic driver in the Rocky Mount Downtown Historic District.

**Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc is a small business with 20 to 49 employees. Categorized under importers & exporters, Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc has an annual revenue of $10 to 50 million. Wildwood Lamps & Accents Inc is a public business located in Rocky Mount, NC.

Architectural Plans for Sorsby Place

Beautiful brick walls on two sides each floor

2nd floor, beautiful floors. Window at far end faces Sunset and across to Howard St.

View of Howard Street out the second story window

The restored beams on both floors

 

CAN’T WAIT FOR THE NEW OCCUPANTS THAT WILL ADD TO THE SORSBY’S TALE FOR MORE PHOTOGRAPHS VISIT THE FACEBOOK PAGE OF MAIN STREET

The Beauty of Brick In The Restoration of Rocky Mount – Main Street and Beyond

“Architecture has its own realm. It has a special physical relationship with life… a sensitive container for the rhythm of footsteps on the floor, for the concentration of work, for the silence of sleep.”
Peter Zumthor, Thinking Architecture

The beautifully restored building on Washington Street. This photo was taken when it was the Washington Street Grill

I think of the rustic charm of exposed brickwork in buildings as art. The colors and textures of exposed masonry add a unique character to any structure. If you have not had the pleasure of placing your hand on a brick wall, next time one calls to you, do it!  A quick story about touching: My youngest son by misdeed was asked to stay home from school a day. It was an opportunity to take him downtown to the Chicago Art Institute where the famous lion sculptures stand guard. He wanted to touch whatever he looked at. (He comes by that rightly, I’m a toucher.) More than once the museum guide in a gallery cleared his throat as a warning, don’t touch. What was to be a day of punishment was far better spent on Michigan Avenue in the midst of glorious architecture. All these years later, I touch brick walls, and that grown son has a son of his own who both touch my heart.

 I can never resist telling a story, but some information too. A brick is building material used to make walls, pavements, and other elements in masonry construction. Traditionally, the term brick referred to a unit composed of clay, but it is now used to denote rectangular units made of clay-bearing soil, sand, and lime, or concrete materials. Bricks can be joined together using mortar, adhesives, or by interlocking them. Bricks are produced in numerous classes, types, materials, and sizes which vary with region and time period, and are produced in bulk quantities. Two basic categories of bricks are fired and non-fired bricks.

 

A lovely brick arch left intact in an ‘above the store’ flat in New Bern.

Bricks were made by hand until about 1885. Once the Industrial Revolution broke out, the brickmaking machinery was introduced. Consequently, the number of clays that could be made into brick was greatly increased which influenced the production capacity. Handmade brick production ranged up to 36,000 bricks per week but by 1925 a brickmaking machine made 12,000 bricks a day

The beautiful brick walls in the restored train station in Rocky Mount

A great example of leaving exposed brick in a restoration. Imperial Center.

Amazing interior brick at the Imperial Center restoration.

The interior brick at the Imperial Center restoration. Looking beyond to more beautiful brick walls.

The Imperial Center Restoration

The exterior brick at the restored Rocky Mount Bus Stations

Going up now: Approved brick for rebuilding the back of two Howard Street buildings.

The restoration of a Howard Street building using beautiful brick.

 

Exposed brick is a piece of art to behold.

Exposed brick with a crack running through is like a self-portrait on any given day.

We use our hands for a loving touch, a moment of comfort, in prayer. Why not touch a brick wall in honor of the workman, the results, the enduring quality of what still stands. A silly thing I know, until you remember when someone has taken your hand in comfort or in love. Let us place our hands on this old brick in appreciation for its past and  new future.