ROANOKE RAPIDS, N.C. — When the textile mills left Roanoke Rapids, the old housing remained. Now, the town's mayor is leading a restoration effort to create new affordable housing.
It is not exactly what most of think of about retirement, but for Roanoke Rapids Mayor D.N. Beale, it is his retirement dream. When he is not at City Hall, he trades his gavel for a hammer and saw and makes old mill village houses livable again.
Beale was born and raised in a mill house, just like a lot of people in what used to be textile towns. Back then, mills built houses for employees, so they could walk to their jobs.
"The mill company would come by and take care of all your house needs. I can remember as a young boy they would come by and set up the paint box in the street and they would paint your house," Beale said.
The mayor has a vision of restoring some of the mill houses and offers them as affordable housing. They would be complete with all the modern conveniences, but not at today's new home prices.
"The type of family that I will be looking for this house is one that cannot afford this type of house. This is not going to be a $100,000 home," Beale said.
Beale, who buys and sells the houses himself, has finished 27 houses so far. He said each one is a return down memory lane.
"No one in this town would ever picture the day they would wake up and the looms wouldn't running or the smoke wouldn't be coming out of the chimney, but that day is here," he said.
The last textile mill in Roanoke Rapids closed its doors last year.