By Catharin Shepard • Staff writer • A uniquely constructed tobacco barn, an old grist mill, a 19th-century house with original building materials – those are just a few of the types of historically notable buildings in Hoke County that an ongoing survey is seeking to preserve.
The North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office is sponsoring a two-year project, launched in 2021, to document historic places in Hoke County. Project representatives have already driven many miles down Hoke’s rural roads, met with property owners, taken photographs of buildings and recorded oral histories about some of the county’s unique places. This fall, they plan to repeat the process in the Raeford city limits.
Brittany Hyder of New South Associates Inc. is performing fieldwork and research as part of the survey. Along with Beth King of the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office and others, the researcher has gotten to know parts of Hoke County through the stories its buildings – and their owners – can tell.
“Phase one, we call that the scoping phase. We initially drove all public roads in the county and identified historic resources starting in the 1800s to the 1970s, to see what would be a good resource,” Hyder said.
Hoke County was chosen for the project because the county received funding in response to Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence, including emergency historical supplemental funds through the United States National Park Service. The county suffered what was declared major disasters under the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The money available through the fund was eligible to help pay for the planning process to document how much damage took place from the storms.
The office chose to allocate the funding to surveying historical resources, both to determine the degree of damage and to collect data.
Hoke County has shown to have a good representation of historic building types and agricultural resources in particular, Hyder said.
“We’re always looking out for unique practices, how people build tobacco barns and that kind of thing,” she said.
Asked about any particularly interesting properties in Hoke, Hyder pointed to a classical architectural style.
“There are some very interesting classical revival houses in the southern part of the county, one is associated with the McPhaul family,” she said, noting a house on North Old Wire Road. “That is just a very impressive classical revival house. It has a lot of material integrity, it’s a great example of its type.”
Another historic property, McNeill’s grist mill, is “a very cool building” built in the 1870s that at one point also had a cotton gin, the researcher said.
Hyder’s office has also worked with the Raeford-Hoke Museum on collecting information about the county.
The result of all the legwork and research will be a report that outlines the methodology used for the survey, provides a historical and architectural roadmap of Hoke’s historical resources – and updated, detailed survey forms on file about those resources.
“The ultimate goal is to present a comprehensive document that displays the county’s history and architectural traditions,” Hyder said.
Right now the team is working on closing out phase two of the project, she said.
“We are revisiting those resources identified in phase one and doing as much documentation as possible,” Hyder said. That includes taking note of things like what the house looks like and what materials were used to build it, along with any information the property owners are able to provide.
The project has photographed more than 100 buildings in rural Hoke County, and researchers expect to document about 120 more during phase three when they move into the Raeford city limits.
So, Raeford residents with historic properties can expect to see the team out and about this fall, and potentially knocking on doors to ask questions about those properties. Anyone who wants to share such information is welcome to do so.
“The biggest hurdle is finding people to talk to who want to share a little bit about the history or knows about their historic property,” Hyder said.
Besides serving as a record of history, the project has other potential benefits.
Being added to the study list for the state office is the first step to getting a location on the National Register of Historic Places. It will allow the state preservation office have a better idea of the historic sites in Hoke County, so the office can better allocate funding for future projects. And, any sites placed on the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for a tax credit.