Cameron’s Historic Preservation Ordinance is born

The Town of Cameron passed a Historic Preservation Ordinance at 6:43 p.m. at its regular meeting Sept. 27.

Work toward the preservation began 39 years ago, in 1983, with the inventory of the historical properties, which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Since the national register listing, the Town has lost four properties to lack of care and gained more properties of historical interest.

The Historical Preservation Committee will create an updated inventory by visiting the properties to document architectural evidence. The committee will issue citations for at-risk properties.

The Pines Preservation Guild held a workshop and opened its doors to the Town of Cameron and helped with the ordinance’s verbiage.

Cameron’s Historic Preservation is born

Miss Belle’s Tea Room in downtown Cameron shines in the morning sun in September of 2021.

Miss Belle’s was built in 1892, and the Victorian-era house is listed in the National Historical Register as the Murdock McKeithen house. It was the home of Murdock and his wife Isabelle McKeithen, Cameron’s founders.

According to the Moore County Register of Deeds, book 4525, pages 146 to 148, the property was sold July 29, 2015 to Walk by Faith Christian Center, Inc, Apostle James Prince and Beverly Prince.

The Princes have taken steps toward the demolition of the property.

“We prefer not to do an interview,” Apostle James Prince wrote in a text to Sandhills Sentinel. “As we are not at a point of having firm plans for replacing the house with anything at this point. The land will be kept up and clear for the foreseeable future. This is a church property and usage will be determined in conjunction with ministry direction.”

The tax listing for the Prince’s property, formerly Miss Belle’s, indicates the property is used by the church.

Neighboring residents said they have not seen any activity on the property, other than moving out items and installing a security fence with a chained gate.

“[Miss Belle’s was] located on Carthage Street on Lots 140 and 159 in the Town of Cameron, N.C. built by Duncan Buie in 1892, originally painted by W.M. Kivett, the expert painter throwing Lem Perry’s watermelon patch in the shade will soon be destroyed due to asbestos, termite and mold damage,” local historian James Vann Comer wrote in Facebook’s “Sweet Carthage Memories” on Sept. 5, 2022.

Sometime between September 2021 and the installation of the chained security fence, Miss Belle’s original picket fence surrounding the property vanished.

The Historical Preservation Ordinance has goals to maintain historical properties and their features, such as original picket fences. The ordinance guides the committee to identify historical features, needed maintenance, such as regular termite prevention, and opportunities for support, such as investors willing to purchase property to preserve its historical value.

Cameron’s Historic Preservation Ordinance is born 2

Miss Belle’s Tea Room with newly constructed fence in April.

Miss Belle’s Tea Room was a main attraction to downtown Cameron, and Isabelle Thomas’ bubbling personality kept customers returning for tea and memories.

“She was Cameron’s cheerleader,” Comer said about Isabelle Thomas during a historical tour and interview in September of 2021.

“That house and its outbuildings are the last example of a living farm in Cameron. They had their horse, cow, chickens, and tractors there,” Ken Fairbanks said.

Ken and his wife, Jane Fairbanks, bought a downtown Cameron Victorian-era home and restored it and purchased The Old Hardware Store, which sells antiques. The store’s basement restaurant, The Dewberry Deli, closed over the winter of 2022.

“Truly, why we are here is Miss Belle’s. It was 1985. We were so caught up in the charm and Isabelle,” Jane Fairbanks said.

Isabelle Thomas, and her husband, Toopie Thomas, helped recruit hundreds of antique dealers into the town’s antique buildings along the main street. Until the pandemic, Cameron was North Carolina’s Antique Capital.

“Miss Belle’s was a connection to the business. Her father [Isabelle’s father] was McKeithan’s store, and he set up the dewberry business,” Ken Fairbanks said.

James Vann Comer shares the history of destruction of Cameron at the old Railroad Depot in September 2021.

The Fairbanks said they fear the demolition of the Old Greenwood Inn may be next.

However, a longtime Cameron stakeholder who did not want to be identified, said the Old Greenwood Inn and McKeithen buildings were not coming down. This was after an architectural inspection completed during the second week of September.

The renovated Railroad House Depot was purchased by Bob Chamberlain who has used it as a wedding venue.

Cameron’s old pharmacy was purchased by Austin Maack of Cary. One section is rented by Junk-N-Java, an antique dealer who gives away coffee and is open once a month. Plans for the other sections are indefinite.

James Vann Comer shares Cameron Town History in front of the Old Greenwood Inn in September of 2021.

Feature photo: Cameron’s Historic Preservation Committee members are sworn in Sept. 27, 2022, at the Town’s regular meeting. From left to right, are Gary Oldham, Chair Kane Parsons, Sandy Lieby, Carol Oakley, Sylvia Caddell, and Kay Kelly. Not pictured is Kim Cooke.

~Article, photos, and videos by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Contact her at [email protected].

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