Scott and MaryBeth Carpenter of Raleigh have developed a new interest since buying and falling in love with a distinctive part of Zebulon’s history over the past year.
“She always wanted to find a Queen Anne Victorian house to restore,” Scott Carpenter said of his wife.
The couple found one East Horton Street near downtown Zebulon – the John D. Finch House that dates to about 1911.
The house has its original roof, staircase, hardwood floors and upper porch bannister, among other things, still intact.
As they began working on the old home, the Carpenters realized it was just one of many historic treasures still standing in the town.
That led them to reach out to other owners of historic buildings and homes in the area, and to the formation of an interest group that wants to preserve such structures and identify possible historic districts in town to be considered for the National Register of Historic Places.
“As we learned the history of Zebulon, which is fantastic history, we said this is something we don’t want to see deteriorate and disappear,” Scott Carpenter said. “It’s an important part of North Carolina history. Once you establish something like this and preserve it in perpetuity, then when you’re looking back you don’t have to say it’s too late because entire neighborhoods have been torn down. Zebulon is on that cusp. Zebulon needs to decide what it wants to be.”
The Carpenters sought advice from the Little River Historical Society and learned a great deal from the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office that they wanted to share with others who are restoring, or are interested in restoring, their historic structures.
They pushed for a meeting that drew a group of 16 local residents and two contractors to the “Guest House” on East Sycamore Street, owned by Dwain Driver and Marvin Howell, on June 16.
Those attending unanimously decided to work under the title of Preservation Zebulon as advocates for the formation of a nationally-recognized historic district. It is not yet a nonprofit, but may eventually pursue that status.
Preservation Zebulon members then held an informational meeting Aug. 18 at the Wake County Eastern Regional Center, with N.C. State Historic Preservation Office representatives present, and was able to reach a few more people.
Preservation consultants helped the group identify owners of structures of prospective historic status.
“That helped us gauge the temperature for support for a preservation district in Zebulon,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter explained a pre-study for the National Register was conducted in the area more than 20 years ago, which essentially identified locations in town that would be likely candidates for historic status in the future.
Potential districts named in the pre-study were the areas around Sycamore and Horton streets, the Zebulon central business district and along Gannon Avenue.
“Of course, since then, many other homes could have aged old enough for consideration, or other homes could have been destroyed,” Carpenter said. “We would work with the people who are interested and the consultant and prepare a nomination for the National Register.”
Aiming to please
Carpenter said Preservation Zebulon wants to align itself with the town of Zebulon and its plans for revitalizing downtown, and to earn the town’s support. He said the group may engage in other activities – like street beautification and some form of a historic landmark tour – that support the goals of the town and its civic organizations.
Preservation Zebulon is using mostly email and Facebook to promote its cause.
A flier it is distributing attempts to ease the concerns of people who may have worries about someone telling them what they can and cannot do with their properties, assuring that Preservation Zebulon can’t interfere with a homeowner’s property rights.
It also spells out several benefits of preservation, including the protection of buildings and history, tax credits, district stability increased property values over time, and community pride.
To learn more
To find out if your property would qualify for historic designation or to learn more about Preservation Zebulon, you can subscribe to an email listserve by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Type “subscribe” in the subject field.