James Vann Comer shared the history of Cameron’s downtown historical district on Sept. 20 and said the lack of maintenance disheartened him but was excited about the preservation of the railroad depot.
The town board is calling for the creation of a historic commission to aid in restoration and preservation. Interested persons may call 910-245-3212 or email the town clerk at [email protected].
Sylvia McPherson Moses Caddell is a lifetime Cameron resident who said she wants to be on the historic commission.
“I’ve never lived more than two miles from where I live now, and I think people should love their town. We need to get people activated and help our town,” Caddell said.
The town was considered the antique capital of the state with over 300 antique dealers until the pandemic’s restrictions forced business closures. In June, the town was left with only four permanent antique dealers.
Cameron’s annual Antique Street Fair is Oct. 1-2, rain or shine. As of Monday, Sept. 27, Town Hall had 38 antique dealers, 68 item vendors and eight food vendors registered, and the list is growing.
Comer is a genealogical specialist and authority of local history who authored several books including, “When Things Were Simple in the Town of Cameron.” He will be across the street from the Old Greenwood Inn to share history and offer his books for sale during the fair.
The most significant piece of history in Cameron, according to Comer, is the railroad depot “because you can’t tell the story of Moore County without the depot.”
“The town can use corporate rules to maintain buildings,” Comer said.
Mayor Jim Leiby said there are nuisance ordinances, and “they’re awfully hard to enforce. Part of the problem is we can paint a place, send the owner a bill and—good luck collecting. We’ve got McKeithen’s (building) with no plumbing and no heat, and frankly, we don’t know what to do about it. It’s a difficult situation.”
“But the land use plan has restrictions, so only certain types of businesses can come in,” Cameron Commissioner Joey Frutchey said about keeping the historic district’s small-town charm.
Last October, Dollar General wanted to build within town limits. The town pushed back, and the chain store backed off.
According to Comer, the town’s structures and status as an antique shopping destination have declined as elders have died.
“I’d love to see the community revitalized and have young people involved,” Frutchey said.
“Young people see this place [Old Greenwood Inn], and think it would make a great winery,” Comer said about the once-popular destination.
A leading elder and historical advocate was Isabel Wescott McKeithen Thomas, who died in 2014. She inspired others to maintain historical structures and preserved her families’ properties,’ the Old Greenwood Inn, McKeithen’s Store, Ferguson House and Miss Belle’s Tea Room, according to Comer.
McKeithen’s Store currently has bare wood siding in need of paint and is vacant.
McKeithen’s Store in Cameron’s Historic District needs exterior paint September 27, 2021.
Miss Belle’s Tea Room has visible termite damage on support beams from the front porch to the side rooms built off the main house and needs eaves repaired. Miss Belle’s Tea Room was purchased from Thomas’ heirs by James and Beverly Prince of Sanford, and the property joins their church, Walk by Faith Ministries at 232 Carter Street in Cameron.
The Old Greenwood Inn needs exterior paint and foundation repairs. The Ferguson House is in good condition.
The Ferguson House in Cameron’s Historic District is in good condition September 20, 2021.
Downtown Cameron was registered with North Carolina’s Department of Cultural Resources in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
The historical district runs along Carthage Street from the railroad to U.S. Hwy.1 and includes 16 structures of architectural significance. Successful settlers built 20 structures from 1875 to 1925 contributing to the historical sense of place in downtown Cameron with these Victorian and bungalow structures.
Interested in being a vendor at Cameron Antique Street Fair? Call (910) 245-3212 or (910) 245-7001.
Interested in Town of Cameron business? Their next regular board meeting is Tuesday, Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall at 247 Carter Street.
Feature photo: McPherson’s Store in Cameron’s Historic District gets a new front porch by Carpentry 101 from Carthage (304-481-9054) on September 27, 2021, to preserve the historic structure.
~Article, photos, and videos by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].