Washington Street sings the Blues

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You ever heard the term “too little, too late?”

In this case it has no choice but to ring true. So true that we should all meet down at Jackie’s Place to hear some lady sing the blues.

She should sing to that fact that it just couldn’t come together. She should sing to the fact that no one cared long ago to take the steps required to keep the legacy going. She should sing in order to express the sorrow that was felt as we watched each historic brick being removed.

Oh Jackie would have a packed house if this lady sang to the “should’ve been’s”, “could’ve been’s” and the “if only’s” that have fallen off the lips of those who cared, didn’t care or just didn’t care enough to care.

Instead we’re stuck looking at a piece of legislation that has reared its head after we’ve lost three key features to High Point’s African-American History. The Kilby Hotel, First Baptist Church and the Odd Fellows Lodge buildings have all ended their reign of standing tall on a street where many traveled, bringing historic names to the area and offering a sense of good old pride from a race of people who fought tooth and nail to be able to say that they have their own.

North Carolina legislators recently approved a bill that would allow local governments to make grants or loans to help with the rehabilitation of historic structures. All three of the above were historic, even earning a spot on the National Historic Registry.

Senate Bill 472 was approved by an 87-18 House vote and will go into effect once signed by the Governor. It would allow the city and county to make grants or loans toward the rehabilitation of commercial and noncommercial historic structures. That bill would not be contingent on the building being publicly or privately owned but would really just depend on what projects are valued in the community. The bill would require projects be presented in a public hearing and adhere to the state Local Government Budget and Fiscal Control acts. Those grants and loans can’t exceed 0.5 percent of the annual property tax valuation for the city and county.

Which brings me to my next point – What projects do we and our elected officials really value?

We still have historic buildings on Washington Street that we should be taking care of and I don’t just mean the city. Are we going to take advantage of this opportunity to keep history alive? Yes the city has a plan but that same plan has been there for a while without much progress after its adoption in 2008.

It’s now 2015. Apparently the big push to add new sidewalks, repave streets, put in new sewer lines and lighting is one way to “revitalize and rehabilitate” the area. I simply think of them as bare necessities that a business/property owner that pays taxes should expect. Maybe that’s just me. Don’t get me started on the common sense used to place a playground less than 10 feet from an active railroad track in an effort to “beautify” the area.

Moving on…

We as a community should be screaming from the mountaintop about saving the history on this street. And when we get up there it’s the job of those who govern the city to actually listen.

Those in favor of the bill say that it’s important for the city to have “a stake in the project.”

What bigger stake is there than putting your money where your mouth is?

We now have another tool to save the remaining structures on the street including Hoover’s, The Ritz and many more. Who will look out for those buildings and speak up?

Or will we sit on our hands and watch a critical piece of High Point’s African-American history come crumbling down?

It would be like we took the buildings apart with our own hands because we didn’t use our voices and knowledge to help them remain standing.

If so we might as well put on our finest black, meet at Jackie’s Place and celebrate the memory of what Washington Street used to be while mourning the potential of what it could’ve been.

I’m just saying.

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2 thoughts on “Washington Street sings the Blues

  1. Phyllis

    Chanel I think you pretty much summed it up. No efforts will be made to save whats left. All we have now are stories and memories. So sad.

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