Steve and Debbie Brown stood looking out over the Robertson Mill Pond for a few minutes. Steve was thinking about his younger years.
When he was a college kid more than 30 years ago, he loved to go hunting and fishing in that pond right outside of Wendell. But he didn’t think much about the aesthetics then, he said.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t have the appreciation I have today for the unique habitat that it provides,” said Brown, 66. “Now I’m less consumptive and more appreciative of a place like this.
“I wasn’t really observant of the unique birds out here. I’m really looking forward to getting out there on our canoe when it opens and learning about the different birds there are.”
With people like Brown and wife Debbie, 63, in mind, the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission designated the Robertson Mill Site & Dam a historic landmark in 2014. The commission plans to open the 84.6-acre site up for public use later this summer.
The dam, originally built in 1820, is intact.
“It was very similar,” Brown, 66, recalled. “It was a cyprus mill pond like it is now. I remember it being a little more open though.”
The county purchased the dam in 2014. Before the county bought it, it was privately owned by Ed Gerkhe, and was closed to the public for about 25 years.
Over time, the trees have grown more dense, the grass has grown a little thicker and a fence surrounds the preserve. But the dam has kept its identity.
The public will be able to go canoeing, kayaking, fishing and walk a small trail around the reserve, said Chris Snow, the Wake County director of Parks, Recreation and Open Space.
“A dock area will allow people to get on their boats,” Snow said.
That’s the kind of thing that Steve and Debbie Brown, both Wendell natives, say they are looking forward to.
“We enjoy canoeing and hiking, so the more they have in this area, the more we’ll like it,” Debbie Brown said.
On Sunday, Wake County leaders presented landmark plaques to the site, as well as the nearby Dr. Thomas H. Avera House. Two Fuquay residences also received plaques: The Jesse E. and Blacke C. Howard House, and the Wayland H. and Mamie Burt Stevens House.
The sites now comprise four of the 72 historic landmarks in Wake County. The historic commission exists to preserve Wake County districts and landmarks that embody important pieces of the county’s culture, history, architectural history or prehistory, and to promote the use and conservation of these districts and landmarks.
John Broadfoot, who lives in the Thomas H. Avera House with his wife and children, said he was excited about his home being considered a historic landmark. His mother raised him there after she renovated it.
The house was built in the 1870s and has stayed in the family.
The house retains many of the same artifacts it once had, including books once read by Avera, Broadfoot’s great-grandmother’s grandfather.
“I hope it sort of brings more attention to the cause of preserving homes and structures like this,” John Broadfoot said, expressing the wish, not just for Wake County, but for all of North Carolina.