As we continued our drive along toward Roanoke and staying off the Interstate Highway System, we managed to find a few locations that were listed on the National Register of Historic Places…
We were passing through Rocky Mount Virginia and I had a couple of addresses of local federally designated historic places so we put them in our ‘not always the most accurate’ GPS system and began our search.
This house is old…you can tell that by architecture and the dual center chimneys. However, Laurie insisted that this wasn’t the house we were looking for and of course, she was right!
Here was the home we were looking for...right next door. It was sitting way back on an expansive 1 acre lot and I just didn’t see it at first. This is the Dr. Thomas Bailey Greer House. It’s located at 214 East Court Street in Rocky Mount. This 2-story, three bay, frame dwelling is in the Greek Revival style. The full width, 1-story porch topped by a balustrade provides plenty of curb appeal. Construction on this home started in 1861.
Dr. Thomas Bailey Greer (1826 - 1891), was a member of one of the most prominent families in Franklin County. He was the third generation of Greer’s to live in the county. Like his father, Thomas Bailey Greer, and grandfather, Moses Greer, Dr. Greer was active in county affairs. He was also a prominent physician and a member of the first Medical Examining Board of Virginia.
This imposing and massive structure is the Franklin County Courthouse located in Rocky Mount Virginia. It was built in 1909 and it’s part of the Rocky Mount Historic District. This expansive historic district encompasses 211 contributing buildings a park and a cemetery.
This Beaux-arts Roman Revival Courthouse dominates "Uptown" Rocky Mount facing the southern end of Main Street. The current courthouse replaced the previous 1786 log structure and the 1831 brick courthouses.
Note: Famous former residents of Rocky Mount and Franklin County include Booker T. Washington, Adam Clayton Powell Sr. and Confederate General Jubal A. Early.
The handsome Trinity Episcopal Church is another building included in Rocky Mount’s National Historic District. This is the earliest church still standing in Rocky Mount. It was built in 1874. The structure’s appearance has changed greatly. Originally it was built with weatherboard siding but in 1906, the building was moved and extended in the rear, then encased in a layer of quarried stone. Slate shingles were then installed over the gable roof.
Note: In the 20th century during Prohibition, Franklin County was called the "Moonshine Capital of the World", as moonshine production and bootlegging drove the economy. Historians estimate that in the 1920s, 99 of every 100 Franklin County residents were in some way involved in the illegal liquor trade.
The bootleggers became involved with gangsters from Chicago and other major cities, and some local law enforcement officials were part of the criminal activities which included killing competitors. A lengthy federal investigation resulted in indictments and trials for 34 suspects in 1935 for what was called the "Great Moonshine Conspiracy”.
This is apparently the current rectory for the Episcopal Church. I’m not sure if this is the original or not but according to the listing for Rocky Mount’s Historic District, the original rectory (home) still exists but from the description, it sounds like it isn’t adjacent to the church. In any case, the church and its attached buildings flow nicely together…
FYI…Although we didn’t have time to visit it, the Booker T. Washington National Monument is located near Rocky Mount. He was an American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States. Between 1890 and 1915, Washington was the dominant leader in the African-American community. He came from the last generation of black American leaders born into slavery and he became the leading voice of the former slaves and their descendants on into the twentieth century.
In October 1901 President Theodore Roosevelt invited Washington to dine with him and his family at the White House. He was the first African American to be invited there by a president. Upon learning of this event, the governor of Mississippi, James K. Vardaman wrote the following:
· "so saturated with the odor of the nigger that the rats have taken refuge in the stable", and he declared "I am just as much opposed to Booker T. Washington as a voter as I am to the cocoanut-headed, chocolate-colored typical little coon who blacks my shoes every morning. Neither is fit to perform the supreme function of citizenship."
A United States Senator from South Carolina, Benjamin Tillman, proclaimed:
· “The action of President Roosevelt in entertaining that nigger will necessitate our killing a thousand niggers in the South before they will learn their place again."
Amazing! To have been a prominent leader in the black community back in those days took both intelligence and a lot of courage! To learn more about Booker T. Washington and the National Monument created in his honor, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booker_T._Washington and https://www.nps.gov/bowa/index.htm.
We also located the former Norfolk and Western Freight Station, now known as the Rocky Mount Train Depot. It has historical significance for its role in the development of Rocky Mount as an agricultural and manufacturing center. Built in 1907 by Norfolk and Western, this elongated one-story rectangular wood frame building, (a typical example of standard-issue corporate design), served as part of the railroads Winston-Salem District as a combination station handling both freight shipments and passenger service.
The Depot has been refurbished and is now being used as the Community and Visitor’s Center. The interior features display cases showcasing tools and related antiques, the original rollover scales used to weigh cargo, original safe that held passenger tickets, original exposed wood trusses, plank flooring stretching the entire length of the building, and sliding freight doors.
Of course there is a caboose on display as well… It’s a restored 41'9" long, Class C31P, 1970 Norfolk and Western Cupola or "standard"caboose.
As luck would have it, there was a train just down the track that appeared to be waiting to switch or for another train to pass by.
Norfolk and Western is now called Norfolk Southern Railroad. The headquarters for this railroad company is in Norfolk, Virginia. Norfolk Southern operates over 22,000 route miles in 22 eastern states plus the District of Columbia.
Our last stop was at Boones Mill Virginia. We were looking for this old depot…which wasn’t in very good shape when this photo was taken. I found this depot at www.depotmaps.com, which is a dynamic map of known existing railroad depots across the USA. In the majority of instances, photos are shown by the listings…
Another site, http://www.rrshs.org/Struct.index/strucindex.htm included a note from 2014 regarding the depot stating that it was slated to be moved. Then I found a Boones Mill Facebook site that was all about moving and restoring the depot. Check it out at https://www.facebook.com/Restoring-the-Boones-Mill-NW-Railroad-Station-585187311533454/.
The good news for us was that we came across this beautiful old home in Boone’s Mill Virginia while looking unsuccessfully for the old railway depot. As it turns out, this is the Boon-Angell-Ferguson House, a part of the Boons Mill National Historic District.
This home at 300 Easy Street dates back to 1782! (This was confirmed by the owner who we talked to when we stopped to take a picture) The earliest parts of the house consist of logs covered with board and batten and weatherboard siding. The house is attributed to Jacob Boon who founded the town and who built a couple of gristmills that were the foundation for the settlement.
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a short drive through a bit of Virginia history.
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave