Gone, but not forgotten: Do you remember the Fletcher Apartments?

Published 10:55 am Friday, May 19, 2023

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As I sit down and take task to hand to draft some sentimental thoughts of a time and place long ago, I must interpose two statements.
First and foremost, I want to introduce myself to my fellow Washingtonians and neighbors. I am Ken Dunlap, being born in Lil’ Washington at the old Tayloe hospital and I graduated from WHS, class of ’63.

Secondly, this article isn’t about the epithet found on gravestones in cemeteries. I have seen these words chiseled in perpetuity as a testament to a life lived, but sadly erased due only to time relentlessly matching on. As one who has researched my ancestors it gives me pause to read those words and to know it’s well-meaning, but Dad Time takes care of its own.

I suppose there will be many who never have heard of Washington Collegiate Institute that was initiated in Washington Park in October 1913. WCI was established by the Board of Education of the Methodist Episcopal Church prior to World War I. Due to WCI’s strong emphasis on religion it led many to become ministers; as well as providing an excellent education to students who didn’t have the resources regionally. It has been said WCI was highly favored as a private institution in North Carolina due to its well- balanced curriculum.

In 1914 Dr. Maynard O. Fletcher hailed from Tennessee to guide the newly formed institute until it closed in 1931. Dr. Fletcher served the community for many years. He also retired as administrator of the Tayloe hospital after 18 years of service. I knew him as proprietor of the Fletcher Apartments in the early fifties.

With the advent of the depression in the thirties the financial failure of our nation compelled WCI to fold it’s shutters. It had provided students a quality education and had a significant influence in the history of Washington. This grand, three-storied brick structure with its stately white columns greeting you upon entering the building made a lasting impression on this barefooted kid.

If I may, I would now like to elaborate briefly on “gravestones and epithets” and the purpose of my writing. Are you still with me?
My family moved into the “Pamliconian Apartments'” in 1948, living in #9, third floor. To me and others the Pamliconian was more colloquially known as the Fletcher Apartments. Dr. M.O. Fletcher served as manager and to this youngster he was the most distinguished looking man of that time.

The Fletcher was comprised of maybe a dozen families, with many kids to make mischief and where I was taught discipline early on! I remember the Rowlettes, Bowers, Smileys, Pierces, Ms. Nana Shaw, Fletchers and the custodian Jim Anderson and family. Miss Estelle was the sweetest person you’d ever know! You learned to ride bikes, roller skate, climb the tallest pine, dig underground caves and horsing around. It was a magical time, those halcyon days of our youth.

Moving forward I have reached Hoi Toid and want to ask readers this question. For anyone who lived through this time and place decades ago, could you come forward those who lived at 420 College Avenue and reach me so that we can share stories, old photos, and anything else that comes across your brow?

Ken Dunlap, a resident of Arizona, grew up in Washington in the 1950s. He can be reached at mtkdunlap@hotmail.com.