February 2020

Inspiration for newsletter feature articles often comes from the most unusual places. Stories I read in the newspaper or other print sources, as well as stories about North Carolina on UNC-TV, often spark my interest, curiosity, and imagination. A recent article in the News & Observer featured a detailed look at the preservation efforts of a father/daughter team in Greensboro. That story jump-started my memory of other preservations projects across the state, many of which have ties to North Carolina’s African-American history.
Perhaps the most intriguing project is the relocation of Preservation North Carolina offices. With the help of many individuals, businesses, and organizations, Preservation North Carolina rescues old homes, factory mills, schools, churches, and general stores across North Carolina, helping to preserve our state’s diverse heritage. Founded in 1939, Preservation North Carolina has saved more than 800 endangered historic properties.
Observing our capital city’s continuing growth, I’m amazed at the infill and new construction density. Oberlin Road is a route I often find myself traveling, and I’ve been especially curious about the relocation of two houses there to make room for multi-story apartments/condos near Cameron Village and NC State.

The Rev. Plummer T. Hall House and the Graves-Field House were built by former slaves. Facing the wrecking ball in 2016, these two important African-American landmarks were rescued through the combined efforts of Preservation North Carolina, the city of Raleigh, and a private developer. Two of Raleigh’s most important surviving African-American landmarks have been lovingly restored to become Preservation North Carolina’s new headquarters. The buildings are located in Oberlin Village – a Freedman’s community where formerly enslaved peoples settled, embracing the importance of hard work and education as the means to provide a better life for their families following the Civil War.

Preservation North Carolina saved these two structures and preserved the history and culture of the neighborhood by repurposing them for 21st-century use. To learn more about these Queen Ann structures and the story of the community that birthed them click here.
Back to the story of the father/daughter project in Greensboro. It’s a collaboration of love. The father, Sam Pass, grew up in Greensboro. When he saw the “For Sale” sign go up on the former Magnolia House Motel in 1996, he knew he had to have it. Over the next 20 years, his spare time was spent restoring the building. It still has a ways to go, but in 2018 Sam’s daughter, Natalie Pass Miller, returned home to help complete the restoration. Listed in the 1955 edition of “The Green Book,” The Magnolia’s guest list includes Ike & Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Lena Horne, Jackie Robinson, and Satchel Page. The house is available for booking as it continues to move toward the realization of a fully operational bed and breakfast. Built as a private residence in 1889, granite quarried in Mt. Airy can be seen from the low wall surrounding the property to the five chimneys silhouetted against a Carolina blue sky, complementing the Italianate-style house that resides amongst its Queen Anne-style neighbors.
North Carolina’s Rosenwald schools’ stories are another tribute to community collaboration and a shared passion for preservation. Of the 200 Rosenwald schools built in North Carolina, around 125 still exist today. Many of these have been, or are in the process of being, lovingly restored. To learn more about Julius Rosenwald, the son of an immigrant and President of Sears, Roebuck and Co., and his initiative to build schools for African-American children in the 1920s and 30s, click here to be linked to our newsletter archives.
Celebrating Black History Month, we don’t have to look far to learn more about today’s stories of the preservation of North Carolina’s African-American architectural and cultural legacy.
Next month we’ll continue our journey exploring North Carolina’s architectural heritage.
Travel adventures to Edenton, New Bern, Charlotte, the Crystal Coast, and Lake Mattamuskeet are on our 2020 horizon. Visit our website and stay tuned...

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An Out-of-this-World Update

In the July 2020 edition of this newsletter, you were introduced to Christina Koch, NASA astronaut and flight engineer. On December 28, 2019, the Jacksonville, North Carolina native and NC State University graduate set the record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman. Congratulations, Christina!

Did You Know?!
While taking photos of the Hall and Graves-Fields houses, I noticed a big pink dog sculpture in the rear of the property. That 12” tall pink dog, with its green polka-dots, is Preservation North Carolina’s mascot - George!

Created decades ago by retired plaster artist George T. Morris, this whimsical creature is a lasting tribute to Mr. Morris’s creativity and a bright vision for all who happen to catch a glimpse of this precious creature along busy Oberlin Road.
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