This Old Home

Did you know that Rocky Mount has seven recognized historic districts? Can you name all seven? I didn’t and I couldn’t until I attended a recent meeting of Preservation Rocky Mount.

(Click  http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2019/03/31/Historic-Preservation-Meeting-Provides-Positive-Experience.html if you missed my column in the Telegram.)

historic sign

Preservation Rocky Mount is a group of people interested in just what the name of their organization says, promoting historic preservation in the Rocky Mount area. Anyone can join, and I may do just that one day when I have time.

Oh, here’s the list, in alphabetical order, of Rocky Mount’s seven historic districts:

Central City, Edgemont, Falls Road, Lincoln Park, Rocky Mount Mills Village, Villa Place, and West Haven. Inspired by the meeting I attended, I’ve decided to visit all seven districts.

Today, I’ll highlight the first two I randomly picked: Edgemont and West Haven.

Well, maybe my selection wasn’t so random. The Edgemont neighborhood always brings back fond memories of spending the night with my town cousins in their house on Sycamore Street (below) before they left Rocky Mount for Texas in 1966. Funny how the house seemed bigger to me then.

the cousins house

My cousins lived in the modest section (I now realize) of this street that stretches for several blocks from Fairview Road to East Raleigh Road. Below is an imposing bungalow several blocks away on the corner of Sycamore and East Raleigh.

big house on sycamore.JPG

The Rocky Mount City website (Google Rocky Mount Historic Districts) cites Tarboro Street as being the “principal avenue” of Edgemont, so I drove down this long street a couple of times. I could see past the disrepair of many of the homes to imagine what was once a “stylish suburb” platted in 1914.

Edgemont fixer upper

With boarded windows and an overgrown yard (among, no doubt, many other problems inside), this fine old Tudor (above) has seen better days. With a big dose of urban renewal, the house, as well as others in Edgemont, could again be a showplace.

I left Edgemont, crossed the railroad tracks in downtown Rocky Mount, and headed to another historic neighborhood, West Haven. When I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, West Haven was home to many of Rocky Mount’s wealthiest citizens. It still is.

Barker big house

I love the different architectural styles in West Haven. Nothing cookie cutter about this historic subdivision. According to the Rocky Mount City website, there’s an assortment of Colonial Revival, Spanish Colonial, Dutch Colonial, Tudor Revival, minimal traditional, and ranch houses. Check out the interesting lines of the house below.

West Haven modern.JPG

Despite the large lots and grand houses on many of the streets in West Haven, there are also some smaller homes in the area. Who wouldn’t love to retire in this cute yellow ranch? Or start a family?

West Haven small house

I’ll explore two more historic districts in my next post. Stay tuned.

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A Blueprint for Rocky Mount?

Recently my husband and I spent a weekend in Greenville, South Carolina. It was our anniversary, and we wanted to take an easy trip to somewhere we’d never been. Hearing that Greenville, SC, had a vibrant downtown scene–something that many of us would love to see more of in Rocky Mount–I suggested we go check it out.

Wow! These folks have got it going on. For starters, they’ve developed an area, named Falls Park on the Reedy, around the waterfalls that used to power their old textile mills (sound familiar?).

the falls at reedy

There are lots of trails to walk (note one to the left in the picture above) interspersed with gardens. An impressive pedestrian suspension bridge straddles the river.

Besides walking and taking in the beauty of the falls, visitors might encounter street artists such as this one I photographed sketching portraits near the park’s entrance on the Saturday I was there.

artist

Falls Park on the Reedy is smack-dab downtown Greenville, SC. My husband and I walked there from the Holiday Inn where we were staying. We strolled through block after block of upscale restaurants and shops. The streetscape was wide and inviting and full of people out on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

streetscape

We saw lots of statues, such as the one below, honoring Greenville’s historic Sterling High School, a prominent all-black educational institution in the days of segregation. (Unfortunately, the school burned to the ground in 1967). The school boasts a Who’s Who of former students, including Jesse Jackson, who was the star quarterback there as well as an honors student.

statues

Greenville has restored most of its downtown buildings. Here’s the Old Greenville County Courthouse, a beaux arts building that served the area from 1918 to 1950. Today it houses a bookstore and a candy shop on the ground floor.

old building

The sidewalks don’t roll up when the sun goes down, at least not on weekends.

at night

How did all this happen? Evidently there was once a Greenville citizen named Buck Mickel. A Google search reveals that he was a successful executive of a local construction company, and his “support, encouragement, and cash helped create today’s vital Main Street.” Pretty much what this Reedy Park memorial says.

buck mickel

Do we have a Buck Mickel (or several) in Rocky Mount? Ben Braddock comes to mind. The developer of Station Square in downtown Rocky Mount, he was recently named an N.C. Main Street Champion. The folks from Capitol Broadcasting are also heroes for developing the campus of the old Rocky Mount Mills.  It’s a beginning, but we need others with similar vision (and deep pockets).

The population of Greenville, SC, is roughly 68,000. The population of Rocky Mount, NC, isn’t too far behind at about 54,500. Greenville, SC was once known as the textile capital of the world. Rocky Mount, NC, home of one of the first cotton mills in the state, has an extensive textile history. Greenville has the Reedy River; Rocky Mount has the Tar River. Both have beautiful waterfalls.

It’s a tale of two cities. One has capitalized on a river, its waterfalls, an old downtown once dominated by mills. The other has taken the first steps. It could be wonderful, Rocky Mount. Go to Greenville, South Carolina, to see for yourselves, or at least check out the city’s website detailing how the development happened: https://www.greenvillesc.gov/424/Explore-Downtown

 

*To read more about what I saw in Greenville, SC, and my thoughts about similar development in Rocky Mount, click here for last Sunday’s column (March 17, 2019) in the Rocky Mount Telegram: http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2019/03/17/If-Not-Gentrification-What-Is-the-Vision.html

 

 

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It’s about time

Next Wednesday, March 20, marks the official First Day of Spring. Of course, I don’t need a calendar to tell me that late winter is yielding to what I consider the loveliest season of all. I can simply look outside where the daffodils in my yard are lifting their delicate faces to the sun.

daffodilsI’d have tulips, too, if squirrels hadn’t eradicated my bulbs. Last year, after my carefully planted tulip bulbs didn’t show any signs of sprouting, I discovered they’d been munched on by these nasty little tree rodents. To console myself, I bought a pot of already blooming tulips to replace the missing bulbs beside the steps of my front porch.

A day later, I found these beautiful tulips beheaded. I blamed that form of sabotage on  rabbits I’d seen in my yard. I guess even if squirrels don’t destroy tulip bulbs, rabbits will snip off the flowers. Sigh.

For some reason, daffodils aren’t on either the squirrel or rabbit buffet, so I’ve decided to concentrate on cultivating beds of those around my house. It’s easier than fighting rabbits and squirrels with homemade repellents that don’t seem to work or awful- smelling chemicals.

Springtime outside means springtime inside. I’ve put up the last vestiges of my winter decorations, “icy” Christmas trees I’d used for a centerpiece and a red berry garland I had draped over the top of the piano.

xmas decorations Since Sunday will be St. Patrick’s Day, I gave the dining room chandelier a little luck of the Irish. We’ll have a family dinner around this table either Sunday or Monday to celebrate my youngest daughter’s birthday, March 18.

shamrocks

Along with the calendar changing from winter to spring, the time has also changed. Yep, like most of America, we’re now into Daylight Savings Time (DST). Last weekend, we had to “spring” forward an hour, giving us an extra sixty minutes of daylight at the end of the workday. Of course, the downside is that it’s really dark now at six in the morning.

When my girls were young, I used to say that the beginning of DST was the end of the serious school year. That extra hour of daylight combined with warmer weather made it harder for me to persuade everyone in the house to do homework, eat dinner, and settle down for the night. Getting up in the dark each morning to go to school was no picnic either.

These girls are grown and gone now, but DST still gives me problems. I had a really difficult time going to sleep this past Sunday night, the first day of DST. (Of course, that extra-long Sunday nap probably didn’t help either.)

Another aggravation is changing all those clocks that don’t automatically reset. Like this one in my kitchen.

microwave clock

The clocks in my car are still on the old time. I’ll probably mentally add an hour for at least a couple of months until I finally take a few minutes to dig out my owner’s manual and read up on how to reset the time. (Need I say electronics are not my thing.)

car clock

New time? Old time? Doesn’t really matter what the clock says.

It’s about time for winter to be over; it’s almost springtime.

 

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Trash County?

Trash County? I know: I bristled a little too when I heard my home county of Nash referred to by this name. But then I started paying more attention to the roadsides, not only in Nash County but within the city limits of Rocky Mount as well.

I saw a lot of cans, bottles, paper, and household items, in other words, a lot of trash. I wrote about the litter problem in my last column for the Rocky Mount Telegram (http://www.rockymounttelegram.com/Patsy-Pridgen/2019/03/03/Litterbugs-Are-Trashing-the-Area.html).

In my column, I specifically mentioned a white plastic basket and somebody’s old door, both lying for days and days by the side of Hunter Hill Road, within the Rocky Mount city limits.

white basket                                                             door litter

Guess what? This morning as I drove down Hunter Hill Road on my way to Planet Fitness, both items were gone. The trash around them still remained, but the door and the laundry basket had disappeared.

Poof! I wonder if someone from the City of Rocky Mount read my column and ordered the trash guys to collect them. Or if someone read my column and decided she or he needed a white laundry basket and/or an old door.

Or maybe the person or persons who dumped them in the first place went back for them out of guilt or fear of being named. Or maybe somebody who doesn’t read the paper just finally, randomly picked up these big items, leaving, as I said, the rest of the trash around them. What do you think happened?

Also gone was the portable anti-litter sign I mentioned in my column. When I checked today, it was no longer near  the intersection of the Thomas Betts Road and Highway 48. Perhaps it travels around, kinda like the Elf on the Shelf. Anyone seen it somewhere else?

litter sign

I’ve learned a couple of litter-related items from column feedback. My friend Sarah Williams told me that the North Carolina Department of Transportation has a phone number to report littering through its Swat-a-Litterbug Program: 877-368-4968.

You can opt to fill out an online form (just google Swat-a-Litterbug) instead of calling. In either method of reporting, you’ll need the offender’s license plate number and where the infraction occurred.

I also got an email from Stephanie Collins, who is the new Keep America Beautiful Coordinator for Nash and Edgecombe Counties. (I didn’t know such a person existed!) She invited me to attend the next Community Anti-Litter Coalition meeting. (I didn’t know such a committee existed!)

The meeting will begin at 8:30 on a Thursday morning. Wow, that’s early. But I guess an early morning meeting about litter is the price I’ll pay for complaining in my column about trashy roadsides.

And if what this group is doing can help combat somebody leaving a dirty diaper beside Jeffreys Road at the Cobb Corners stoplight–well, I want to hear about it.

diaper

 

 

 

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Moonshine Part of the Plot

I’m having so much fun revising the first draft of Life and Death in Narrow Creek, the second in my series of Ms. Dee Ann cozy mysteries.

(Side note: I’m hoping to have the first book, Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, in print before the end of this year. It’s currently being edited–yet again.)

Back to book two. Life and Death in Narrow Creek begins with the unexpected death of Dee Ann’s landlord, Floyd Powell. To help Miss Josie–her friend and Floyd’s widow–amateur sleuth Dee Ann Bulluck decides to investigate the untimely passing of poor Floyd.

She discovers her landlord has a rather checkered past. Among his many questionable activities: he’s been a bootlegger.

Here’s a snippet of a scene as Dee Ann and Miss Josie discover Floyd’s still in the woods.

“Have you ever seen such a contraption in your life?” Miss Josie said, examining a brick fire pit with a copper barrel protruding from the top. Some sort of metal pipe extended from the lid of the barrel into another nearby barrel. She leaned over to examine the coals in the fire pit.

“Dead but they look fresh,” she said. I wondered how Miss Josie could determine whether coals were the result of a recent fire or one six months ago, but she seemed pretty sure of herself.

“This is what is called the thump keg,” she continued, “pointing to the open second barrel into which the pipe led. “Solid bits of mash thump around in it.”

“How in the world do you know that?” I asked, giving Miss Josie a sharp look.

“Believe it or not, I found a book in the library this morning on moonshine. I started boning up while I waited for you to get home from school. Did you know moonshine is also called white lightning and mountain dew? I don’t think I can ever drink another Mountain Dew soda now without thinking about moonshine.”

 

Sub StillCirca Mid-20th Century Still; Photo Credit: Earl Palmer, Virginia Tech Library

Like Miss Josie, I had to bone up on moonshine myself. I bought the book North Carolina Moonshine: An Illicit History by Frank Stephenson Jr. and Barbara Nichols Mulder. It was a fascinating read, especially the section about bootlegging in the coastal plains.

According to the authors, the Great Dismal Swamp, known for its hostile environment, was the ideal setting for bootleggers.

Related imagePhoto Credit: ourstate.com

Although the authors declare moonshine’s heyday was from the 1930s to the 1970s, there was (and probably still is) activity after that. The book is full of stories of stills in quite a few counties in the eastern part of the state: Gates, Hertford, Bertie, Dare, Pasquotank, Halifax, and Edgecombe, to name some but not all.

One chapter of the book deals extensively with a major moonshine bust in Merry Hill in Bertie County in May 1972. A moonshine factory was set up at a large mobile home disguised as a residence complete with playground equipment and a dog. Almost 500 gallons of moonshine were being produced each day, making it one of the largest stills ever found in North Carolina. Wow.

Floyd’s moonshine activity is only part of the plot of Life and Death in Narrow Creek. One day I hope to have this book in print, along with Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, so you can read the rest of the story.

 

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Lessons to be Learned from Nature

Often on Sunday as I’m getting ready for church, I watch the CBS Morning News hosted by Jane Pauley. After an hour and a half of stories and editorials, each show ends with beautiful, soothing shots of nature.

There’s no dialogue, no commentary during those couple of minutes while we viewers gaze at waterfalls or woods or mountains. Just the sights and sounds of nature….

For those of us who live in Rocky Mount, it has been the winter of our discontent. For weeks, our city has been a hotbed of citizen protest and discord concerning our city government. The city manager has come under fire for cronyism. Some of those she’s hired have been called incompetent. City council representatives and the mayor have been criticized as well.

The confrontation has been stark and bleak , much like the landscape of winter.

bare tree yard

Even in the midst of winter, though, the pansies bloom, reminding us that there are still bright spots in life.

pansies.jpg

And despite the cold days of late winter, brave daffodils emerge, ready to lift their faces to the sun.

daffodils.jpg

I may not have been clear, but I have a couple of themes here. One is that as the bleak days of winter give way to the bright days of spring, so will the city of Rocky Mount emerge from its current winter of despair to a spring of hope.

Like the pansies, there are bright spots even now if we look at what is good about our city. Like the daffodils, there is a flowering of renewal as citizens press for change to correct what is wrong.

Another theme is that sometimes as we fret over our daily problems–in our collective case, a city that’s lost its way–we are in danger of losing sight of all that is beautiful in our world.

Not to minimize the gravity of a city government off the rails, but when we take time to look at the big picture presented by Nature, when we notice the cycle of the seasons, then we realize the temporary nature of our current turmoil.

So, like the CBS Sunday Morning News, here’s my own calming, concluding nature shot of swans wintering in the countryside of Edgecombe County. The picture, taken from my car, doesn’t do this awesome sight justice.

The day of the photo, I rolled down my window and heard gentle quacking—swan songs that for a moment drowned out the discord surrounding our city government. swans 2

 

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Questions for Rocky Mount City Council

I’m trying really hard to keep on the sunny side of my Rocky Mount life (see my last entry). I’d intended to post cheerful book reviews today of what I’ve recently read.

But my thoughts about Where the Crawdads Sing and The Perfect Nanny will just have to wait. I feel compelled to talk about what’s going on with our city government–and what isn’t.

According to an article in Friday’s Rocky Mount Telegram (February 8, 2019), there’s trouble brewing about downtown sites for hotels. It seems Carlton House developers are waiting on a $55,000 grant to support renovations. In order for developers to receive the money, city officials have to complete paperwork.

Carlton House

The old Carlton House waits for grant money

When our controversial Community and Business Development Director Landis Faulcon was asked why Carlton House developers had not received the grant money, her response was, “I’m not in the loop.”

Dr. Faulcon.jpg

Dr. Landis Faulcon

Are you kidding me? This woman is being paid $120,000 a year. Of course, maybe it is hard to be in the loop when you live in Virginia Beach instead of the community where you are supposed to be in charge of COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.

Okay, to make me even crazier, the  Telegram reports that while there’s a delay in the development money for the Carlton House project, “city administrators have furiously been putting together a deal for a hotel at the Event Center. ”

Speculation is the hotel location will be the site of the St. John A.M.E. Zion Church, which sits right on the Event Center parking lot–believe me, I went down there and looked.

I took the picture below sitting in the parking lot of the Event Center.

AME and parking lot

St. John A.M.E. Zion

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind staying in a quaint hotel that was once a historic church. I mean, look at those stained glass windows. Of course, I have no idea whether the church will be renovated or torn down and a Holiday Inn built there.

The problem is the perception of favoritism. Why is the City holding up one developer and lobbying for another?

The most bizarre aspect of the Event Center to me is what I call Andre’s Church, situated smack-dab in the middle of the parking lot of the Event Center, as it has been since Day One. Owned by the family of Councilman Andre Knight, the official name of this structure is the Holy Hope Heritage Center.

AME with signs

Holy Hope Heritage Center

Would somebody from City Council please explain to me why this structure is sitting where parking spaces would logically be expected? And here are some other questions I have:

Who’s  conducting that independent study of our City Manager, Ms. Rochelle Small -Toney? When will those results be made public? If there was no lawsuit (according to the Mayor), then why was John Jesso paid $40,000? Why do City Council members not recuse themselves when votes are taken on issues that could be seen as a conflict of interest?

I could go on and on–why in the name of common sense was Rochelle Small-Toney hired in the first place?–but I feel myself slipping into despair.

It’s really hard to stay on the sunny side with so many questions and a city council that won’t come up with answers.

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