My Rocky Mount Life: Part Ten

I’ve been out and about the last couple of weeks celebrating the Fourth of July in particular and summer in general, but I’m back, as promised, with the final installment of reasons why I enjoy my Rocky Mount life. Here are the final five.

#1. A Bit of Country

Rocky Mount is anything but a concrete jungle. Within the city limits, it’s easy to find fields and woods. I pass by this pastoral scene every time I travel my section of Halifax Road. An old country girl like me enjoys seeing a dusty dirt path circling a peanut field. And nothing says Eastern North Carolina like a handmade sign hawking pecans for sale.

Country scenes within the city are a place to rest my eyes.

#2. Wesleyan College

Speaking of pastoral settings, there’s not a prettier campus than the one at Rocky Mount’s Wesleyan College. Founded in 1956, the school is Methodist-affiliated and allows Rocky Mount to be called a college town.

According to the website, in 2015, North Carolina Wesleyan was recognized as the fastest growing private college in North Carolina by NC Independent Colleges & Universities. Pretty impressive.

One of my favorite parts of campus is the Bellemonte House. This lovely plantation home, dating to 1817, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house used to be visible from Highway 301 but in 2016 was moved to its present location on the back side of campus.

The Bellemonte House operates as a bed and breakfast and is open for special functions. I once went to a lovely Christmas tea party there.

#3. Machaven

While I’m on the topic of historic homes, let me sing praises for Machaven. Located on Grace Street in the Villa Place neighborhood, Machaven was built in 1907-1908. Years ago, it was restored and served as a venue for dining and special events. I remember attending parties there in the 1990’s. One, a Junior Guild fundraiser, was held in the winter, with huge enclosed, heated tents set up on the grounds. My youngest sister hosted her wedding reception at Machaven in 1991. A favorite family anecdote involves my nephew, then a toddler, falling in a koi pond on the front lawn.

MacHaven was dormant for several years, but–good news–is again open for business. The house and grounds look grand. Who wouldn’t want a 2021 wedding reception here?

#4. Battle Park

I’ve mentioned Battle Park before when I talked about Rocky Mount’s superb walking trail. But I’ve been encouraged by a couple of you readers, and rightly so, to say more about the park.

Battle Park constitutes the hub of the Tar River Trail. I’m a walker, so I appreciate the shaded paths and the views of the river. During COVID, a stroll in Battle Park became my alternate Sunday morning church service.

But Battle Park is more than just a walker’s venue. I’ve seen cyclists in Battle Park and families with picnics. There’s a boat landing, and my husband has many childhood memories of fishing for shad at night in the Tar River at Battle Park. If you walk far enough into the park, you’ll encounter a wooden suspension bridge, one of the largest in America.

I love the history of Battle Park, too. Rocky Mount’s first post office was located here, and the story goes that Rocky Mount got its name from the “rocky mounds” that populate the park. And of course, the historic Rocky Mount Mills is located adjacent to the park, just on the other side of the Tar River.

Battle Park is a beautiful oasis off the busy Falls Road leading to and from downtown Rocky Mount.

#5. Almand’s Drug Store

With a Walgreens or CVS on many a street corner, I appreciate anybody who still has a family-owned drug store. Almand’s, with one location at Westridge Shopping Center and one on Tarboro Street, has been around for many, many years. I remember going to the old downtown Almand’s as a child when drug stores used to serve lunch. My mother would order hot dogs for our tribe (there were six of us!).

Today, I visit Almand’s Drug at Westridge. Husband and wife Richard and Anjum Kos bought the business a few years ago and are continuing the drug store’s tradition of personal service for Rocky Mount residents. Their personal service for me extended to their graciously agreeing to stock my novel Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, giving locals a chance to buy the book without using Amazon!

Some, but not all, good things must come to an end. Although this is my last installment of the series highlighting why I enjoy my Rocky Mount life, I’m sure there are more examples of what’s good about my, and possibly your, hometown. Thanks for joining me in my celebration.

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