ROCKINGHAM — Edward Turberg was impressed and depressed by the state of some buildings since he worked on “The Architectural History of Richmond County” almost 13 years ago.
Turberg and his wife, Janet Seapker, presented a program, “Richmond County Revisited,” Monday night at a meeting of the Richmond County Historical Society at Rockingham City Hall.
They are architectural historians from Wilmington.
Turberg said he was “blown away” with the restoration of the Hamlet Depot since his last visit.
Using a PowerPoint slideshow, Turberg commented on the features of the historic depot and surrounding buildings. “What a treasure,” he said.
He was disappointed that some buildings mentioned in the “Architectural History” had since become vacant.
Turberg and Seapker recently revisited some of the sites in the county which they originally surveyed to take new pictures. He said they found people they met as hospitable as they were in the beginning.
He recalled on their original visit to the county at a two-story Italianate constructed house on U.S. 1 south of Rockingham where they discovered a 1954 black Cadillac limousine in the yard.
The story he was told was that when Jackie Gleason was traveling through the area on his way to Florida, the car broke down. Rather than bother to have it repaired, he abandoned it and took a train instead to Florida.
“When I saw it, the back seat had been covered in mink,” Turberg said, “But by then it was a mess.”
At many sites, he seemed to be as interested and impressed with the 19th century outbuildings, such as smokehouses and barns, as the farmhouse itself.
Dr. John Stevenson, historical society president and chairman of the committee that produced the book, said the work covered 1,682 properties in the county.
Turberg was encouraged that the Powellton House, 1850, was being restored. It is located on N.C. 73 in the Little’s Mill vicinity.
He said another “wonderful complex” today is the occupied Dumas-Matheson House, 1850, on Grassy Island Road, which is well-preserved with several outbuildings and a kitchen wing.
A home that caught his attention again on his return was a house built in the early 1800s with a wing added in the early 1900s.
An outstanding feature he emphasized was an early stone and mud chimney which is partially covered by a roof to preserve its structure.
Stevenson said the “Architectural History” book was a swell job done by a good volunteer team assisting the historians.
Even though more preservation could be done, he said no matter what the future brings, there will always be the record of such architecture in Richmond County — even if it may disappear.
Tom MacCallum is a member of the Richmond County Historical Society.