The average citizen might not notice it in everyday travels around town, but Mount Airy boasts a number of homes, churches, businesses, schools and other structures that are noteworthy because of longevity, architecture or unique character.
That was evident Thursday at Reeves Community Center when architectural historian Dan Pezzoni presented a slide show that lumped together such sites and took about 25 audience members on a visual tour through the city without leaving the meeting room.
It was the result of a recent architectural survey to identify historic properties in Mount Airy by Pezzoni, who is associated with Landmark Preservation Associates in Lexington, Virginia.
No such survey had been conducted since 1985, and since then more structures have achieved a special status that only age can bring.
Properties that are 50 years or older can be considered for the National Register of Historic Places, defined as those worthy of preservation.
“This is sort of a trial run for a presentation I’ll make in October,” Pezzoni said regarding an upcoming session with the National Register Advisory Committee in Raleigh. That will involve its review of local properties which are recommended to be considered for a study list that could lead to the national designation.
Owners of places that are added to the register become eligible for rehabilitation tax credits targeting historic or architecturally significant buildings.
When outlining his preliminary recommendations for the state study list Thursday, Pezzoni explained that his survey encompassed the entire city including areas annexed in recent years which are of a rural nature in some cases.
During the process, several possible new historic districts were identified, including:
• The proposed Country Club Hill Historic District, which includes the Country Club Road area in the northern part of town. It boasts examples of the Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival architectural styles. One eye-catching image in Pezzoni’s slide show highlighted a home built by Dr. Renzo Sutter on Country Club Road, which dates to the late 1940s and is of the Moderne style that also is referred to as Art Deco.
• The proposed Gasoline Town Historic District located near the intersection of Rockford Street and U.S. 52 where a number of fuel-distribution businesses once thrived, such as Harrell Oil.
• The proposed Lebanon Hill Historic District, including places in the vicinity of West Lebanon, Taylor, Orchard and Poplar streets. One image Pezzoni’s presentation highlighted in it was The Dairy Center restaurant on West Lebanon which was constructed in the late 1940s.
• A proposed Northern Boundary increase of an existing district to also cover such areas as Maple and Elm streets.
• A proposed Southern Boundary expansion to take in Church, Spring and other streets in an area Pezzoni described as a working-class neighborhood — “still with some fantastic architecture.” Included are the Baptist and Methodist churches on Rockford Street near the city fire station, which presently misses the 50-year cut line due to being built in 1969 but will qualify in 2019.
• The proposed Taylor Park Historic District, which includes such areas as Grace, Howard and Marion streets and Crescent Drive.
During his general presentation, Pezzoni focused on unique sites around town which are notable, including the former all-black J.J. Jones High School building, The Derby Restaurant built in 1947 and Central United Methodist Church (1965).
The well-known “Big Man” figure at the intersection of Starlite Road and U.S. 52 also was cited Thursday, with Pezzoni remarking that Mount Airy contains fine examples of traditional as well as modern architecture.
He told the audience at one point that he had visited this city once before, prior to being commissioned for the recent survey, and was “blown away by the quality of the architecture” and variety of styles on display here.
The National Register of Historic Places imposes no obligations or restrictions on the owners of designated locations in using private resources to maintain or alter their properties, officials have said.
Restrictions are imposed only if a property owner uses state or federal funding to make changes, rather than his or her own funds.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.