H.G. Jones: Records center serves purpose

January 11, 2014 

Regarding Rob Christensen’s Dec. 29 column “McCrory rips capital eyesores”: He and Gov. Pat McCrory ought to be ashamed of themselves for attacking a signature work (State Records Center) of a 90-year-old former director of the State Department of Archives and History.

That “big white blank wall” across Blount Street from the Governor’s Mansion – which these unlikely architectural critics describe as “Stalinesque,” like a “Normandy bunker and “ugly as the dickens” – serves the exact purpose intended by its architect Carter Williams, Gov. Bob Scott and me: To shout to North Carolinians, “Here, away from harmful daylight, are preserved your state’s public records that protect your rights, privileges and duties as a citizen of a democratic society.”

We plunked it down directly between the Governor’s Mansion and the Legislative Building to symbolize and emphasize the centrality and sanctity of public records. Scott returned from a National Governor’s Conference to persuade the General Assembly of 1971 to fund this, the only new state building to be approved that session.

Then, when my former student, Jim Holshouser, became governor, some of the new lieutenants raised a question about our locating the building on such a prominent site. Grace Rohrer, the secretary of the Department of Cultural Resources, engaged Bob Williams, director of the Florida Department of Archives and History, who studied the issue and convinced state officials of the rationality of keeping the state’s public records prominently in sight of both the legislative and the executive branches.

Our purpose has been vindicated. Future governors, by looking west from their bedroom, and legislators, by looking east, can be assured that our state’s documentary heritage is safe within those “big white blank walls.”

H.G. Jones

State archivist, 1956-68; Director, Archives and History, 1968-74

Raleigh

The length limit was waived for a fuller response.

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