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

Howard Street – A Street to Build a Dream On

“The current passion for reuse might be explained by sustainability or fashion but, most importantly, it affords a sense of history and texture, taking advantage of buildings already embedded in cities. They are buildings with atmosphere, history, and stories inscribed in their fabric. And sometimes sustainability isn’t just about the energy and materials saved but about the stories, craft and intelligence embodied in its walls.”                                        -Paul Miles – The Financial Times

You know me well enough by now to recognize how this quotation is the crux of how I think about saving Main Street; a metaphor I use to include the larger area of the residential and commercial property that is part of Rocky Mount’s signature. The song from My Fair Lady came to mind as I walked Howard Street (again) and took photographs of the buildings – I have often walked on this street before but the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before but here am I – – seeing the dream Howard street could be. It is essential to the reimagining of Main Street that people not only work but live downtown. I count imagination as a gift and I hope you have been given your fair share. At first, all you will see is buildings without purpose, but with imagination, ah, welcome to the dream of Howard Street.


Try to think of these upper floors as apartments, lofts, filled with ‘living above the shop’ residents who become a neighborhood: a cafe, an antique dealer, artists and writers, singles, older couples who are tired of owning a big house and want to be downtown to walk to a restaurant and shops and nightlife.  Picture this wonderful space where people live and work, are definitely willing to feed your cat while you are away and are now looking out for one another. Where there is music drifting from a window, people meeting in the street, where there is love again, purpose and creativity, the honoring of the past by saving this architecture and the stories embedded in the walls. (More about the Howard Street Dream soon.)