Old Bute Chapter reflects on Henderson’s early years

Dec. 07, 2012 @ 09:26 PM


The Daughters of the American Revolution, Old Bute Chapter, were treated to a presentation on pattern changes in the residential, professional and commercial landscape of Henderson over the past century during the chapter’s November meeting at the home of Lynnel L. Flowe.

Flowe read a program originally presented by the late Josephine Langston to the chapter in 1991 in observance of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration.

The format of the report took the listeners on an imaginary stroll with friends through Henderson, circa 1920. Starting at the corner of William Street and Fairground Road (now Andrews Avenue), the group admired the Peace, Davis, and Cooper homes. Langston recalled a local legend claiming that a train once stopped in front of the house of Syndney Perry Cooper, the organizing regent of Old Bute, who became the Daughters of the American Revolution state regent, upon her return to Henderson from a trip.

Later on, the group witnessed farmers unloading wagons of grain at the flour mill near the fire tower on Garnett Street. Following the tracks southward, they came across the Riggan Theatre and Vance Hotel, built in 1911 for $40,000.

In the report, Langston wrote, “Sitting on the hotel porch rockers, visitors had an excellent view of the Seaboard Park across the street. There was a white picket fence, a stage where local and traveling musicians and performers gave concerts, and a beautiful fountain. This, plus Burwell Hall, was the cultural center of town.”

“We passed Central, the city’s first public school, the back doors of Sidney Stevenson’s Peerless and Chalmer Automobile Dealership, Barnes Funeral Home and Music Store, and the Coca-Cola Bottling Work where there’s an artesian well in the floor. Just one of many around town that feed Nutbush Creek, they say. Maybe that’s why the next intersection is Spring Street. We don’t go too close to the turntable because it’s very dangerous.” (The turntable was locked in 1936, after a 12-year-old boy was killed on it.)

The report continued: “The people of Warrenton didn’t want the Raleigh-Gaston Railroad coming through their town, frightening their horses and soiling their curtains. Lewis Reavis gave some of his pig pasture land for the railroad depot, and that’s how progress came to a village to be named Henderson.”

The downtown business district would soon be replaced by shopping centers, after the introduction of the automobile. Eventually, the beautiful homes near the railroad tracks would follow suit.

Langston’s report closed with the following: “It’s too bad, the price of progress is so high.”

Janice J. Satterwhite, vice-regent, chaired the meeting in the absence Sara Davis, regent. Suzanne D. Duncan assisted the chaplain, Virginia F. Grissom, in the opening ritual. Satterwhite will be delivering Christmas gifts gathered by chapter members to the Veterans Hospital in Durham.