Preservation NC tour highlights historic Farmville


FARMVILLE — More than 200 people took to Main Street and historic downtown Farmville last week to join Preservation North Carolina to celebrate preservation efforts including the renovation of Turnage Department Store.

The nonprofit that supports safeguarding historic structures across the state hosted its Farmville Preservation Celebration on May 4 with a tour that began at the building that now houses the East Energy Renewables office and the Lady Turnage Lofts.

Built in 1900 by T.L. Turnage, who operated the store with his nephew W.J. and sons Carl and Otto, the store for more than a century was an engine that brought together the economy of farmers and commerce. The property was restored in 2019 by Uptown Properties.

Following a reception, participants made their way upstairs to the Lady Turnage Lofts. Residents of the lofts opened their homes so participants could view the architecture and layout along with the original elevator lift.

Loft owners Matt Daniel, Cate Farrell and Nate Nunamaker said the history of the building was an attraction for them.

“It’s got a lot of character to it and that’s one of the reasons I moved here,” said Daniel, a teacher at H.B. Sugg and Sam D. Bundy school, adding its location downtown and walking distance to restaurants and the grocery store also were a plus.

Paleteria Deya and An Autastic Dream, housed in the former Lady Turnage Opera House beside the department store building, also were open for the tour. The opera house was built by T.Y. Turnage in 1902.

It consists of two duplicate masonry facades, one unaltered and one significantly altered in 1968. Both originally had a corbelled brick cornice with corbelled stops and a trio of segmental jack-arched windows in arcaded bays. During renovations, Uptown Properties was able to repair the damaged facade and restore everything but the corbelled cornice.

Four homes that have stood the test of time also were open for touring.

The Parker-Harris House, built in 1915 and known by many as one of the “Twin Homes,” it is now owned by Gloria and Rakiem Walker. It was built by Joseph Warren Parker. The neoclassical revival residence features a Tuscan portico, gabled dormer with Palladian-influenced windows and porte-cochere on the east elevation.

Su Hodges of Farmville once lived in the Parker-Harris house. The tour gave her the chance to revisit her former home.

“It was wonderful. It was built for my great-grandmother by my grandfather. It feels wonderful. It’s had several changes of ownership and it’s great to see someone is living there and taking care of it.”

Hodges’ childhood friend Mary Allen Steinbauer of Farmville also was delighted to see the home after many years.

The A.C. Monk Jr. House was next on the list. Owned by Adele Goodine and Mark Richardson, the home is a Colonial Revival painted brick residence. It features a segmented pediment, quoins along the facade edges and pilasters flanking the entrance. The interior features crafted molding and woodwork.

It was built for Albert Coy Monk Jr. in 1939. Monk was a pillar in Farmville’s tobacco industry. The home is located in what is known as “The Monk’s Corner,” which consists of three homes.

The William Leslie Smith House is a local example of Spanish Mission-style architecture. Built in 1923, the home features a tile-hipped roof, a three-bay facade dominated by a three-stage corner tower, and an arcaded porch on the first story with a porte-cochere. The iron railing on the porch roof was utilized for lavish parties hosted by Smith, a prosperous farmer. His wife kept her ball gowns for these parties in the corner tower on the third floor.

The home is currently owned by Jason Harrell and Ryan Barlowe.

The tour concluded at the J.I. Morgan House, constructed for the founder of Farmville Oil and Fertilizer Company. It boasts Colonial Revival architecture with Dutch Colonial motifs and features a slate gambrel roof, a central pedimented portico and a porte-cochere on the west elevation. It features four fireplaces with carved mantels, original oak flooring and a servant staircase.

Chris and Linda Carol Burti purchased the home in 1980, becoming its second owners. They take great pride in the home’s unaltered and authentic elements as well as ownership of the architect’s original blueprints.

The Burti’s daughter Erika Burti Rust shared fond memories of growing up in the home, including mischievous use of the servant’s bell in the living.

“My parents have done really well in keeping it as original as possible,” Rust said. “It made it feel like we were in a modern home, but set back in history.”

Celebrating Farmville’s architectural and cultural significance was welcomed by many including, Barbara Sauls of Farmville. Sauls hosted the tour at the William Leslie Smith House.

For many Preservation North Carolina members, it was their first time visiting Farmville.

“I was surprised when we found out how close it is to Greenville. Farmville is beautiful. It’s rural but at the same time it’s an eclectic town,” said Jim Andrus of Wilmington.

Nicole Goolsby of Raleigh returned to Farmville after many years. She was impressed by its growth.

“Things have changed very quickly. I was impressed. Small towns are the salvation of the U.S. I really feel like small towns are going to keep us together,” Goolsby said.

Mary Rollins and son Chris Vinson of Raleigh returned to Farmville, and before the tour visited the gravesite of family members including Robert Rollins.

“It’s wonderful to see Farmville. It’s good to see it thriving and to see people want to preserve it and keep it alive is wonderful,” Rollins said.