This Old House: Final Installment

Five historic districts visited with two to go, Villa Place and Lincoln Park. I was already familiar with Villa Place, but I had to use MapQuest to locate Lincoln Park.

Villa Place was featured on a walking tour I took a while back, so I knew right where to find this lovely historic neighborhood tucked away near villa place historic signdowntown Rocky Mount. Developed from about 1900 to 1949, many Villa Place homes are on the well-known streets of Pearl, Nash, and Grace.

Probably the most impressive and recognizable home in Villa Place is Machaven, a National Registry Property built in 1907-1908 in the 300 block of South Grace Street.

I remember my young nephew falling in the goldfish pond on the front lawn of this house at a wedding reception years ago. The house has been idle for some years now but is currently being renovated and supposedly will be open to the public again for various functions. I certainly hope so. I’ve missed Machaven.


Another landmark in Villa Place is the James Craig Braswell School. According to the Rocky Mount Historic District website, the 1940 two-story brick structure was designed by Rocky Mount architect Harry J. Hades and built by contractor D.J. Rose. Do you know anyone who attended or taught at Braswell School? I do.

braswell school Just look at these colorful homes in Villa Place. I almost feel like I’m on Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina. I love, love, love the gingerbread trim on the porches of these Victorian-style houses.

rainbow road

Here’s another street view a couple of blocks away. The colors are more subdued on these large bungalows. There’s something for everyone in Villa Place!

villa place street

I gushed over this house at 304 Pearl Street in a column I wrote for the Rocky Mount Telegram a few years ago. I now know it’s called the Mary Thomas Bullock House and is considered to be a wonderful example of early twentieth century Queen Anne style. In another life, I can picture myself sitting on that wraparound porch with a glass of lemonade, chatting with neighbors walking by on the sidewalk.

304 pearl

Of all the historic districts I visited, Lincoln Park was the only one I was totally unfamiliar with. Why did I not know the story of this area?

Located off Leggett Road near two public parks, Stith-Talbert and Martin Luther King Jr, the historic-designated part of Lincoln Park consists of homes mostly on the Ellison Drive loop.

The historic marker tells how the neighborhood came to be developed.

lincoln park sign

Yes, to quote the sign, “The neighborhood was the first housing district designed in Rocky Mount to cater towards middle class African-Americans seeking opportunities to become homeowners.”

The houses are mostly modest affairs, built between 1948 and 1953 during the post World War II boom years. The Rocky Mount Historic Districts website describes the style as Minimal Traditional.

800 ellison drive

Fancy awnings make the home pictured below stand out. And what an inviting front stoop. It’s also interesting that this front stoop doesn’t face the street; rather, those ornate awnings do.

fancy awnings

This home uses partial brick for siding. With the Tar River behind it, the house sits on a slight incline. I imagine the backyard slopes down to the river.

brick house with siding

As with almost all the historic neighborhoods I visited, Lincoln Park had a few abandoned houses. Is that a central chimney I see in this house? Wouldn’t it make a cute home for a young couple or a retiree?

better days

Speaking of abandoned, the Lincoln Park Motel and Restaurant are but faded reminders of former glory. Built in 1953 during the days of segregation, this landmark motel and restaurant did a booming business in their heyday catering to traveling African Americans.

The restaurant was known far and wide for its barbecue and also featured professional entertainers such as Mahalia Jackson and B.B. King. Wow.

800 carver place

I’ve had a great time exploring the seven historic neighborhoods of Rocky Mount: Edgemont, West Haven, Falls Road, the Mill Village, Central City, Villa Place, and finally, Lincoln Park.

If you live in the area, I hope I’ve inspired you to get in your car and drive around Rocky Mount. Find a historic district, park, and get out. Walk up and down the sidewalks. Get a feel for the history of Rocky Mount.

My blogs have been photo heavy and detail short, so if you’re wanting more specific information, google Rocky Mount Historic Districts. Also check out postings on Stepheny Houghtlin’s blog, Main Street Rocky Mount.


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This Old House/ This Old Town: Part 3

My third visit to Rocky Mount’s historic districts took me downtown or uptown, whichever term you use. The Historic District crowd calls it Central City.

Main Street is a main attraction here, or was in its heyday, but there’s a lot more to Central City, so much that I’m not doubling up neighborhoods today, but giving downtown/uptown its own entry. Also, most of what caught my eye wasn’t residential, hence the slash in the blog title to include “This Old Town.”

I began my tour at the north end of this district, where I took a picture of the historic Church of the Good Shepherd. This beautiful Episcopal church dates from 1877. Simple and classic, as many old Episcopal churches are.

church of good shepherd

From there, I drove south following Main Street to the Helen P. Gay Historic Train Station. When I traveled by rail the other year from Charlotte to Rocky Mount, this circa 1930 renovated railroad depot was one of the most impressive on the route.

train station

Not too far from the train station is historic Fire Station No. 2, built on Church Street by D.J. Rose in 1924. I’ve read the style is Mediterranean Revival. What an elegant public building.

fire station 2

Located beside the fire station at 416 South Church Street is the circa 1895 Summerlin House. According to the Rocky Mount Historic Districts website, this “two-story Queen Anne-style house is the only surviving dwelling constructed during Rocky Mount’s 1890s boom period on Church Street….” As you can see from the boarded-up windows, it needs a loving owner to restore its former glory.

summerlin house

Speaking of renovation, I’d love for the old Masonic Temple, circa 1927, to be turned into a boutique hotel or specialty shops. I’ve always been fascinated by this building, partly because the Masons themselves seem so mysterious to me. The Egyptian Revival architecture of the building also adds to its allure.

masonic temple

The old Central City post office is another imposing structure. Located across the street from the downtown campus of Edgecombe Community College, this beautiful limestone structure no longer deals in mail. Instead, there’s a sign in front that sounds like an invitation to developers.

post office


sign at post office

No trip to Central City would be complete without mentioning the railroad track that acts as the dividing line between Nash and Edgecombe counties. Coming back from the Edgecombe side, I got caught by a passing train, as has happened to me many times over the years.

Oh well, sometimes it’s good to sit still on a Saturday afternoon and watch box cars slowly passing by.

train track

I’ve heard people say they don’t feel safe in downtown Rocky Mount. I parked my car in several locations, got out, and walked around to take the pictures above. I never felt any sense of danger. Just a feeling of being one of the few people hanging out in an area that I’d love to see as alive as it once was.

Coming soon: the final installment to This Old House, the historic neighborhoods of Villa Place and Lincoln Park.









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This Old House: Part 2

I had the best time this week on my self-guided, picture-taking tour of the Falls Road Historic District and the Rocky Mount Mills Village. Although the two are located next to each other, each is given separate historic district recognition. (Scroll down to see last week’s blog on the first two of Rocky Mount’s seven historic districts I visited.)

I began with the Falls Road Historic District. According to an excellent website (,    this area boasts a range of architectural styles such as Queen Anne, Colonial, Georgian, and Craftsman.

I’m no architecture expert, but I can attest to the fact that there are some grand old homes along Falls Road. Here’s one on the corner of Falls Road and Braswell Street, currently owned by Rocky Mount Councilman Andre Knight. The plaque on the brick wall announces its name, Melrose Manor.

andres house

Avent Street, which runs parallel to Falls Road and is included in the historic district, has some distinctive homes as well. I love the blue exterior, brick chimney, and screened porch of this house.

avent street house

Here’s one for sale on Avent Street. If this house were in one of the downtown neighborhoods in Charlotte, it would go for half a million dollars in a matter of days. Location, location, location, right?

avent street for sale

When I think of historic Rocky Mount, the area around Rocky Mount Mills comes to mind. After all, the name of the town came from the rocky terrain at the falls of the Tar River, the site of the second cotton mill in the state.

There’s plenty of interesting history about Rocky Mount Mills. It began operation in 1818, was the target of Union attack in the Civil War, and was rebuilt in 1870. A village was established in the surrounding area as mill owners built company-owned houses for employees. When Rocky Mount Mills closed in 1996, it was the oldest operating mill in the South.

Nowhere in Rocky Mount has revitalization been more successful than in the area designated the Rocky Mount Mills Village Historic District. Thanks to Capitol Broadcasting Company for its investment in Rocky Mount.

RM Mills sign

Here’s what many of the mill houses looked like before restoration.

mill house in disrepair

Here’s what almost all look like now. I love the red porch swing and rockers on this house.

cute mill village house

Some of the rehabilitated mill homes are duplexes. Check out the two front doors with matching wreaths on this cheerful yellow house. A central chimney and a white picket fence make this a storybook home. (Do I sound like a real estate ad?)

cute duplex

The front porches of these renovated mill homes hearken back to a day before television and air conditioning when folks sat outside after supper, no doubt greeting neighbors walking down the sidewalks.


Today, historic houses on the site of the old Rocky Mount Mills campus are enjoying new life as pubs and restaurants. The popular Koi Pond Brewing Company is located in what was once the mill superintendent’s home.

koi pondThis large bungalow, the sole example of Craftsman style at the Mills, was used as a community house. Today it’s home to a restaurant, Tap @1918. I recently had a lovely dinner on that porch about where the employee is standing in the picture.

large bungalowThe grandest house on the campus of Rocky Mount Mills was built in 1835 for mill owner Benjamin D. Battle. Benjamin was the son of Joel Battle, founder of Rocky Mount Mills.

battle house

Before I go, three funny stories about my two tours of four historic districts. Yes, I feel a little weird parking on random streets, getting out of my car, and snapping photos of other people’s property.

When I was in Edgemont, a woman came out of the house across from the one I was photographing and asked if she could help me. I replied, “No, I’m just taking a picture of the house where my cousins used to live.”

“Okay,” she said. “I thought I heard a car horn.”  Hmm…right.

When I was in West Haven, I glimpsed a walker half a block away. Suddenly she seemed to speed up. She wants to find out what I’m doing, I thought. I didn’t have time to talk as I was already late for lunch, so I hurriedly snapped one more photo, jumped in my car, and sped away. I wonder if she got my license plate number.

And to the motorist on Falls Road who gave me a wolf whistle. “Seriously, Dude, I’m a 65-year-old grandma….But thanks.”

Next week, This Old House, Part 3

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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 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.


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.


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.


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:


*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:



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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.


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 (

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.





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