Albemarle Council approves program to install historic signs in city

To celebrate Albemarle’s history, the city’s planning staff is working to create historic markers that would highlight notable locations throughout the city, including Starnes Jewelers, the Albemarle Hotel and the Alameda Theater.

Since the city would not be eligible for North Carolina’s Historical Marker Program, which includes only subjects of statewide, as opposed to local or regional, significance, Albemarle’s planning staff had to get creative. Planning specialist Brittani McClendon presented before council a plan, which it approved, to hang $50 street markers onto existing light poles (near each location) around the city, starting with the downtown area.

Aside from being fairly cheap, the signs “are easily customizable, they’re reflective and can pretty much house any information that we want,” McClendon said.

The signs would be 12-by-12-inches, thereby differentiating from the traditional 12-by-18-inch standard traffic signs.

The Planning and Development Department is looking to collaborate on the new program with Albemarle Downtown Development Corporation, Stanly County History Center, Historic Resource Commission and Stanly County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Wanting to implement the new signs to correspond with the launch of the city’s new social district, planning staff has identified 10 locations as part of its first phase, including historical properties that are no longer around.

These locations include:

  • Starnes Jewelers, now known as Starnes Bramlett Jewelers, on West Main Street which has been a fixture in the community since 1898. The building also housed the old Opera House;
  • The old Albemarle Hotel on North Second Street which is being renovated and will soon be turned into an upscale apartment complex;
  • The former Alameda Theater on North Second Street across from City Hall;
  • The Isaiah and Ellen Snuggs House, which has been around for almost 170 years, and the Freeman-Marks House, the oldest public building still standing in Albemarle, on North Third Street;
  • The former Maralise Hotel, which was on West Main Street. According to The 1891 Inn, which has a room named after the hotel, President Theodore Roosevelt and actor Jimmy Stewart were famous guests of the hotel, which was built in 1910;
  • Courthouse Park at the corner of Main and Second streets, which was the site of the first jail and second courthouse;
  • Stanly County Public Library on East Main Street, which was the site of two former jails;
  • Stanly County Courthouse on South Second Street, which was the former site of Freeman Hotel, Stagecoach Stop, Central Hotel and Bivens Cabinet Shop;
  • Center Theater on West Main Street; and
  • The former Ogden and Elizabeth King House on South Second Street.

The markers will provide a short history of each location along with a QR code which will help the city track engagement, McClendon said. Planning staff has discussed ways to promote the markers on social media along with looking into working with partners to create a scavenger hunt to help promote the locations.

McClendon told Council the planning department wants to expand the markers to include more locations throughout the city as part of phase 2, but would not go into any details. The planning department would cover the cost of the markers.

The goal is to begin installing the markers in late summer or early fall.

Following the presentation and a few comments from council, Benton Dry made the motion to approve the new program, which was unanimously passed.

In other news, the council:

  • Approved a new public information request policy.
  • Denied a request to rezone six parcels, totaling about four acres located off U.S. Highway 52 North and Johnson Street, from General Highway Business District and R-10 to Heavy Industrial District, that would have cleared the way for the creation a temporary automobile junkyard.