03/11/08 — Aycock Birthplace reopens for tours after fire

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Aycock Birthplace reopens for tours after fire

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 11, 2008 1:52 PM

FREMONT -- The Charles B. Aycock Birthplace has reopened as clean-up continues after a January fire.

Yellow ribbon surrounds the partially burned house in which the state's education governor was born -- the result of a suspected arson earlier in the year.

But although that building will be closed for a while longer, site manager Leigh Strickland said the living history programs and tours are still going on at the prominent landmark.

A conservator comes often to the birthplace to do restoration work on the artifacts that were retrieved from the building. The state has insurance that will help pay for some of the restoration, but the historic site's advisory committee has formed a restoration and recovery fund to help toward the rest of the costs to purchase artifacts to replace those that could not be salvaged, such as an original table the Aycock family owned during the 1800s.

"And we lost a clock made in the 1860s," Ms. Strickland said. "There was much smoke and fire damage."

The advisory committee is also offering a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the fire.

The worst damage was on the back side of the house, and Ms. Strickland said fire officials believe the fire started on the back porch.

The birthplace reopened on Feb. 2, and the tours of the kitchen and the one-room school house resumed. Ms. Strickland also has pressed into service a videotape that had been made for those with physical disabilities to view the inside of the house where the governor was born.

"It really came in handy," she said.

Ms. Strickland doesn't know exactly when all of the restoration work will be finished, but she said the goal is to have the damaged part of the house reconstructed in time to be ready for visitors by Nov. 1, 2009, which will be the Aycock Birthplace's 150th anniversary. She said the plan is to have a rededication ceremony then.

"Next year will also be the 50th anniversary of the historical site, so next year will be a big year for us," she said.

Meanwhile, the hours at the birthplace are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Special events are already on tap, like a Daffodil Open House on March 14 and Living History Wednesdays every Wednesday in April except April 23. Farm Heritage Days will be April 21, 22 and 24 and 25.

School groups are coming, Ms. Strickland said, but the public is invited, too.