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. 












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



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.

Main Street Exhibit – Remembrance of Things Past

       “Look at the places where no one looks, so you can see the things no one sees!”

Mehmet Murat ildan

Those who follow Main Street know the words to its theme song about preservation, restoration, and repurposing the commercial buildings in historic downtown. One of the verses is about finding a heartbeat and pulse in each building and then setting about to save its life. In the world of preservation, there is great beauty in simple things of the past. I think of the stories behind all the doors we have passed through in our lives and hope there will always be someone to preserve the places where those stories took place.


FYI: Every house has doors, and every door has hardware that enables the user to open or secure it. The device seen on most new houses is the doorknob, but in old houses that date back to the 18th century, latches or lever hardware were more common. Understanding about types of hardware and where they come from historically can help explain what you might expect to find or use in a pre-1940s house in our historic districts.

(Images from my Pinterest boards on architecture)


Stepheny Sings A Joe Cocker Song to Troy White – A New Face on Howard Street

I often sing a few lines from a Joe Cocker song when I think of those I am grateful for, love, and admire.  I haven’t met Mr. White, so it is unusual to connect a song with a stranger. There are exceptions. Mr. White is another ‘angel unaware’ that has come to Main Street. You will understand when you see the evidence provided below that what we have hoped for and needed, Mr. White is providing.  Listen to these lyrics: You are so beautiful to me…….

Looking at the saved facade on Howard Street

Two buildings on Howard Street needed Mr. White. He is exactly what we hoped for. Troy White is from Durham but is moving to Rocky Mount. He has eyes to see and bought two neglected and deteriorating buildings that were being ignored locally. He has saved the historic facades and is repurposing these buildings in this wonderful location.

When history is written about this chapter of the revitalization of Rocky Mount it will have a list of the ‘Repairers of the Breach’ who believed in the future of Rocky Mount. The list will have Troy White’s name as part of those ‘angels unaware’ that showed up and preserved, restored and repurposed Main Street. They join those born and raised here that have stepped to the sunny side of the street and will no longer be run off regardless of obstacles. Main Street, in the throes of revitalization, has a cast of characters who will be remembered for saving downtown. It is the larger story that takes us beyond those who contributed to the deterioration of our beautiful commercial architecture through a lack of leadership, by neglect, lack of enforcing the ordinance, and codes. For Mr. White and the growing list of new entrepreneurs, new businesses, and those who have been pioneers downtown: You Are So Beautiful to Me! You are everything I hoped for, and you’re everything Rocky Mount needs. You Are So Beautiful To Me.

Approved brick for rebuilding the back of the buildings. I put my hand on it…wonderful!
The restoration of a Howard Street building


Look closely at the treatment of brick between the two buildings
The removal of the interior fallen to the ground
An Amazing Sight
These great guys are a hoot. When I asked to photograph them they said, “Okay guys, look busy!”

142 Howard St Facade Rendering


170/174 Howard is the grey bldg
Once was home to Kellibrew photography
164/168 is the red brick

Checking On Main Street – It’s a New Dawn, It’s a New Day, A New Life For Us

“A city is not an accident but the result of coherent visions and aims.”
Leon Krier, The Architecture of Community

Like you, I have been at home practicing patience. I haven’t checked on things downtown for awhile. Since a grocery run was in order, while I was out, I drove downtown around 4:30. There was no traffic, which meant I could jump out of my car and leave it running to take photographs of the projects I’d come to see. Maybe it is the strange state of suspension I find myself in, but I was susceptible to the shadows, and the beauty in the architectural details I’d never seen before. Even the railroad tracks that carry a portion of Rocky Mount’s story were magnified in orderliness and significance.


The streetscape has given the old commercial buildings that line both sides of the tracks a setting, a grounding if you like, which was evident in the late afternoon light. Each facade along the street is unique. The architect, the builders, and crews didn’t throw up any old building but left a legacy of craftsmanship and style we are building a future upon. It will forever be on the heads of those who have been involved with the disgrace of neglect and shenanigans surrounding Main Street. But, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day it’s a new life for us.

If only my photos did these storefronts justice because each one is a little jewel box. You see the address of 114 on the lavender building. The details on these facades are worth a trip downtown to see. If you’re following Main Street on Facebook you have seen the drawings on the various types of window/entries in order to recognize and identify what our Main Street facades have. We are fortunate to have this incredible architectural inventory and the emerging new Main Street symphony of pounding hammers, the crash of deterioration coming down, the chatter of men putting in new windows: I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Don’t you either. SFH



I have many favorite buildings along Main, but this one is ‘way special.’

Rendering of Restored Facade 

Coming Soon: I left out one building in this original post that belongs in this series. Here is the commercial building as it appears today (on the right) and a rendering of how it is going to look  (on the left). Cause for celebration with another Main Street architectural commercial building being saved.



The Emerging Scene On Main Street -Dedicated to David Joyner – A Speaker at the Main Street Conference

Living Room

“Architecture is the thoughtful making of space.”
― Louis Khan

At the Main Street Conference in New Bern, I signed up for one of the tours in order to see 3 properties, one in it’s gutted stage, and two ‘living above the store’ homes. Bill Hand wrote an article a while back about New Bern called Downtown Renaissance Took Years, Hard Work. It gives us a quick perspective applicable to Rocky Mount’s revitalization. I’ll let the comparisons speak for themselves.

Once upon a time, New Bern was a sleepy, dying river town whose waterfront was more eyesore than scenic. In 1979 Swiss Bear Downtown Development Corporation came into being and its years-long renaissance program turned the town into the tourism center it is today. A badly-run government, nepotism and a declining job market left “hundreds of people… leaving to find jobs in other places.” The city’s historic homes were also in decline with most deteriorated and some turned into apartments or low-income housing. Many of the city’s most beautiful homes were demolished. Meanwhile, the tax base continued to erode.

Open Kitchen Plan
Another View of Open Kitchen Area

By the 1960s New Bern was in an absolute crisis state and the waterfront ceased to exist. Moffat-Thomas, a mover in New Bern’s turn around said, “When I moved here people told me it was so bad that people were afraid to come downtown. The area had been abandoned and a lot of vermin were there. It was a sad place.”

One of the bedrooms
The Master Bath

Then, in the 70s, “a group of focused, bright professional people took the reins in their hands. They understood that they needed to unite and develop a plan and a consensus for moving the city forward. A 1977 central business district revitalization plan called for that development, and also called for the city to turn toward tourism and attracting retirees to the area, whose disposable income would be key to the economy. “Everybody got excited. Everybody was working hard,”

View out the MBR of the historic Episcopal Church
A wall large enough for this beautiful cabinet and glass collection

Rocky Mount has a new story to tell that is larger than the years of neglect and shenanigans we can’t deny have taken place. The emerging Main Street scene has a group of focused, bright people that have taken the reins into their hands as well. There are a lot of people excited and hard at work. The photographs I took in this second story building are to show you that living above the store isn’t about what I call “tried to and couldn’t.” Granted this home belongs in a magazine because of it’s beautiful furnishings and art but the design of the space came first.  On Main Street, there has been a lot of time and talent beneath the wings of the projects taking place that include living above the store.

Open Dining Room Space split with Living Room
Another view of the Living Room


Ceiling Fan on screened porch leading to deck
Outside Deck

This post is dedicated to  David Joyner, a Rocky Mount treasure, whose session I attended at the conference  Telling the Main Street Story. For me, he was the highlight of the two days with his presentation, good humor, vast knowledge, and experience. I hope he recognizes a thing or two I learned from him in this post. Thank You! Thank You!

Window on the back staircase leading down and out
Final View in leaving this beautiful space

Do You SEE What I See? – For Sale – The Gas Station On The Corner of Thomas and Franklin Streets

Every time I pass by, I slow down and look at a corner Shell gas station that is for sale on Thomas and Franklin streets.  My imagination takes over and a successful restaurant materializes. The reuse of old stations started to grow in 2002, when Congress authorized the EPA to use its brownfield funding for cleanup of properties with low risk underground storage tanks (for fuel).

“Gas stations are almost always on corner sites, they have good visibility and  accessibility, so they make great locations for restaurants,” said Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor of architecture and urban design at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of “Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs.”

Dunham-Jones, who studies adaptive reuse of many types of buildings, said gas stations repurposed into eateries tend to be near residential neighborhoods. I stood on the paved surface where there is room for plenty of parking, the busy traffic passing by. I wanted to call out, “Do you see what I see?”

Here are photographs of this cool little building. Though the interior is untouched, as seen through the windows with my hands pressed against the glass, the exterior has been gentrified (don’t get me started) with a nice fresh tasteful paint job.

In addition, I’ve added some photos of repurposed gas stations in the world beyond Rocky Mount. Do you recognize what stations they once were? I bet you never thought when you awakened this morning that old gas stations would suddenly become of interest, but how can you resist? Go look at this fun building and dream a little dream with me.

Olio, St. Louis, MO
In 1937, this art deco Standard Oil Station was owned by a man named Mr. Kinworthy. Today, original subway tiles and salvaged brick serve as reminders of the restaurant’s former function.


I have used this photograph before but isn’t it perfect for my dream gas station interior?

You are invited to FOLLOW this blog, Main Street… Here I write about the emerging downtown scene and surroundings where revitalization is happening. You don’t want to miss thinking about things like old gas stations, for heaven’s sake.   SFH

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Exciting News: Twenty Two Lofts on Main Street – Buildings Saved By Troy Davis

Two doors down from Davis furniture on Main Street we have this!

The first time I explored the alley behind Davis Furniture Company I was intrigued and excited to see some renovation had already taken place. It was quite a shock, however, to see the back of two buildings two doors down from the Davis business. Here is the picture I took that day that I have published several times on this blog in outrage that the owner of the building was not held accountable through the enforcement of ordinances or being sued by the owners of the adjacent buildings.

The Downtown Merchant Association is full of great news. One announcement is that the Davis Property Group is developing 22 lofts with roof top amenities in the 100 block of SE Main St.where these collapsed  building has gone unattended. My anxiety over loosing the facade, or the interior being struck by lightening causing a fire, and safety issues have come to an end. Here are new photographs showing the incredible damage cleared away. What a feat.


Alimentaire Wholesome Breads
Coming to 132 SW Main Street


There are already people living downtown, but remarkable energy and planning by investors, architects, and contractors are creating new living spaces in the midst of an emerging street scene around them. It’s early days, but the amenities that are needed to complete Main Street and surrounds are in progress. Here is the sign for a new French bakery that is being worked on. One more piece of the puzzle about to be put in place.

Thanks to people, both black and white, who are planting their flags throughout the Main Street areas, new stories are being created. Private investment, energy, dreams, expertise and vision are not only  economic drivers for Rocky Mount but are saving our commercial architecture; our signature, our story, our future.




The Artist’s Eye Upon The Emerging Main Street Scene

Carrboro, N.C.

I’m always interested in watercolor sketches of architecture. I want you to see these prints of several familiar North Carolina cities that are available on Etsy. Soon enough Rocky Mount will warrant a poster. This is a call to our local artists to envision a future exhibit featuring our architecture. We could link the exhibit with a Main Street celebration of the Arts. I’m thinking a ticketed opening night fund raiser to pay for a wall mural or ?? and then we could have a ticketed lecture on the exhibit/preservation angle, and, and, and…..The exhibit itself would be free and available to the public, perhaps hung in several places. We have a robust and under appreciated art community that deserves to be recognized and have an opportunity to show off.

I have already written that Rocky Mount and entrepreneurs go together like Pooh Bear and honey. Here is a business we can appreciate: Papermill Creative is a Triangle NC-based creative startup owned by Lori (Durhamite) and Ashley (Carrboro-ite). “We’re two librarians who love the places we live in, and create art and gifts that celebrate the architecture and culture of North Carolina towns and beyond. Our watercolor designs are full of details, inviting the viewer in to explore the places we’re inspired by.”

In reading Main Street you know that I write about preserving, restoring and repurposing our architectural inventory. I’m interested in honoring the past while stressing the integral part our architecture plays in building a future. Wouldn’t you agree that our tendency is to stop ‘seeing’ or valuing the things we pass by everyday like a commercial building or an old house? These watercolor posters remind us of the beauty, history and uniqueness that each city needs to preserve, restore and save. I hope this art work will prompt you to think about the wonderful possibilities of a Rocky Mount Poster and a future exhibit.

Check the Etsy site to purchase these prints. Link is above in the article

Durham, N.C. marrying traditional brick warehouses with stylish art deco buildings.
Downtown Durham, NC


Downtown Raleigh, NC
Old West Durham


Chapel Hill, NC
Saxapahaw, NC


Hillsbourgh, N.C.