The Alexander County Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) visited the City of Morganton on March 30 to tour historic preservation sites and learn best practices. Alexander County is now beginning its preservation program having been designated as a Certified Local Government in March 2022.
The visit was hosted by City of Morganton Main Street Director Abby Nelson, City of Morganton Development and Design staff Michael Berley and Wendy Smith, and Morganton Historic Preservation Commission member Joan Malloch.
The visit began with a presentation from Abby Nelson entitled “The Impact of 40 Years of Preservation in Morganton.” Historic Morganton was selected as a North Carolina Main Street community in 1982. “For the past 40 years, Morganton has worked to become the overnight success we are today,” said Nelson.
In the materials distributed, Barbara Norvell, the first president of the Historic Burke Foundation, said, “The Main Street program has been fabulously successful. One of the smartest moves our City fathers ever made was to apply for that designation.”
Michael Berley shared the history of Morganton City Hall and the Morganton Trading Company. The 1881 manufacturing company was expanded over time and several owners. Premier Hosiery Mills bought the facility, later filed for bankruptcy, and fell under the control of a federal bankruptcy court. The City of Morganton purchased the property in 1998 to relocate City Hall as the anchor tenant in the new mixed-use historic restoration project. Today, the property is the home of City Hall, eight private offices, one restaurant, and 43 condos.
The HPC and their hosts boarded a local trolley to visit 202 South Sterling Street, a recently completed adaptive reuse of a former automobile dealership that now houses Thornwell Books, VanNoppen Marketing, and several upper-floor apartments. The historic tax credit project has a rooftop patio that overlooks the Burke County Courthouse square with the newly constructed performance stage. The adaptive reuse project has received an NC Main Street Award as well as recognition with a Preservation NC Award.
The next stop was a luncheon at the Morganton Community House, located at 120 N. King Street. The Community House was organized in 1933 by the Morganton Women’s Club. The $1.5 million renovations to the building between 2014 and 2017 included the complete modernization of the kitchen area, a courtyard addition, and an elevator.
The trolley tour continued to 111 W. Union Street, where Bergelin Design has renovated the historic building for the offices of their design firm. Although the building renovations were not a tax credit project, the owner was sympathetic to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. The tour gave the group insight into what may be done to preserve a property without relying on incentives as motivation.
“The Alexander County Historic Preservation Committee appreciates the knowledge and preservation examples shared by the City of Morganton staff,” said Larry Yoder, Alexander County Commissioner and HPC Chairperson. “Learning from the preservation success stories in Morganton better equips the HPC to plan for Alexander County’s future.”