03/31/11 — Chamber of Commerce building getting face-lift

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Chamber of Commerce building getting face-lift

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on March 31, 2011 1:46 PM

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Brian Howell sands the steps inside the historic Wayne County Chamber of Commerce building. The building is currently under renovation to improve its aesthetics.

The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce is undergoing renovations to its century-old home on North William Street.

The building, which was originally William Street School, was built in 1904 and is in desperate need of a face-lift, Chamber president Marian Mason

Mrs. Mason said the building's aesthetics were "tired" and didn't present the bright first impression required of a building that houses the county's Chamber, visitors center and travel and tourism division.

"With all of that combined in one building, you're going to be the first stop for visitors coming into the area," she said. "The first impression is the most lasting impression."

The old structure, which Mrs. Mason said was beautifully antique from the outside, is undergoing repairs to its flooring, as well as a complete overhaul of many of its amenities.

"The interior is as old as the outside," she said. "That's not good. It's a beautiful building that needs to be restored back to its former glory... and then some."

That "glory" is remembered well by many residents who still recall attending grade school in the building, and some are taking an active role in the structure's restoration.

Kurt Fischer, of Kurt Fischer Home Improvement, attended kindergarten at William Street School in the early 1970s and is providing the painting, dry wall and woodwork staining services in the renovations. Fischer said his connection to the building led him to want to help with the project.

"It's bringing back a lot of memories," he said, noting that his classroom was upstairs and that the cafeteria was in the back portion. "Everytime I come by here, I think about it."

Mrs. Mason said she is especially excited to renovate the conference room areas and hopes it will entice members to use the facilities, which, she said, belong to them.

"This is really their chamber. It's not ours; we just work here," she said. "This is our members' building so we want this to be up to par for them so that they feel comfortable using this building."

John Peacock, Chamber president from 1996 until 2003, said the Chamber of Commerce first performed slight renovations when it moved into the building in the 1980s. The building was last renovated in 1998 while he was president in an effort to utilize space more efficiently.

"But like any building used on a daily basis over the last 12 years or so, those renovations now need renovations," he said, adding he was pleased with the direction the Chamber's leadership was heading. "There are a lot of folks in Goldsboro who hold that space near and dear."

In the current renovations, which Mrs. Mason referred to as phase one of the renovation, the flooring has been replaced and the main conference room is being re-floored and painted. The addition of new furniture, including a custom-made conference table that can seat 35 in a variety of shapes, will also modernize the Chamber building. The kitchen is also being redone.

Mrs. Mason, who said she is dreaming big for the building although she is in just her second month as president of the Chamber, also hopes to do landscaping work around the building in the future. Included in those plans is a courtyard behind the structure, although Mrs. Mason said the Chamber will only proceed with those ideas when it is economically feasible.

Mrs. Mason is also in the early stages of getting the building onto a list for consideration as an historic landmark. She said structural renovations by the building's previous tenant are holding up the process, but that getting that status is in the long-term plans for the former schoolhouse.

"I've seen old buildings come back to life," she said of the plans for renovation, adding that, with tasteful restoration, the old building which houses the county's tourism department could become a tourist destination in and of itself.