Panel pushes historic house

Published 1:55 am Friday, May 20, 2011

PLYMOUTH — There was a reason a young girl called the meeting of the Plymouth Main Street Committee to order earlier this week.
Selena Braye is the youngest grandchild in the Braye family, which owns the Armistead House in Plymouth. And that house and its future were on the committee’s agenda, as was Community Cleanup Day.
During the meeting, Willie Drye and Bob Murphy discussed further exploration of using the house as a museum. Drye, a committee representative and writer for National Geographic’s online division, has been researching the Armistead House. He asked the current owners to attend the meeting, at which details about converting the house into an Underground Railroad museum were discussed.
“There was a contractor at the Armistead House last week to look at it and get a rough estimate,” Drye said. “We have a volunteer to do an asbestos inspection at no cost, which is a great contribution there.”
Drye’s motion to establish the Community Cleanup Day for the Armistead House was approved. The cleanup event is set for June 16.
“We will also do a fundraiser as soon as we get our 501(c)3 application in the works,” he said.
The committee is seeking nonprofit status. Drye noted that acquiring nonprofit status is important to the effort to turn the house into a museum.
“That will allow us (Plymouth) to hopefully get tax-free donations,” he said. “Because we also want to protect and maintain the residential areas adjacent to downtown.”
One anonymous donor at the meeting offered a $50 check to get the ball rolling for the betterment of the community, as well as to help get the Armistead House established as a museum.
Braye family members, who traveled from Alabama for the meeting, said they were thankful for what the committee and Drye have done in regard to researching the Armistead House and working to convert it into a museum.
Reed Thomas, a preservation specialist with the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, was not present at the meeting. Drye spoke about Thomas’ interest in the house.
“He’s visited the Armistead House in the past few weeks and is very interested in the project to turn it into a museum,” Drye said.
Murphy said the effort to restore the Armistead House is be a boon to the town and local economy.
Drye said the committee will work with local property owners to develop quality upper-floor residential units in downtown buildings.
Murphy said development of the museum and upper-floor housing units downtown will support each other and other adjacent development projects.
“If one fails, another will as well, like a domino effect,” Murphy said. “It’s a benefit to everyone to keep every town in the east in good financial-economic standing and not just focus on one, but all.”
The meeting was held at the Washington County Cultural Arts Building on West Water Street.