Charles B. Aycock's law office gets makeover downtown
By Ty Johnson
Published in News on October 12, 2011 1:46 PM
Charles B. Aycock's original law office is being restored by Richard and Linda Mechling. Once restored, the building will be a historic site. The building now rests on its original spot after being moved from Center Street.
Charles B. Aycock's original law office waits for continued renovation.
Assembling the life of a governor who passed away in 1912 is certainly the job of a biographer, but Richard and Linda Mechling are betting that the task of putting his home and law office back in order is a job for two individuals "addicted" to historic home restoration.
The Mechlings, who live in Wilmington, purchased Charles B. Aycock's downtown Goldsboro home in 2006 and have been working to restore the former governor's dwelling ever since.
The couple have restored homes in Atlanta, Wilmington and elsewhere, but have now set their sights on Aycock's home on the 400 block of William Street.
But an attention to historic detail and an old map have led the Mechlings to acquire one more structure to complete the Aycock experience: his law office.
The Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. determined a 15-by-20-foot structure located behind a house across the street from the Aycock house was once the Education Governor's office for practicing law in Goldsboro. After a move to Center Street where a Wachovia-Wells Fargo Foundation grant assisted DGDC in restoring the exterior of the building, the building will move once more.
According to information the Mechlings received from Judge Charlie Gaylor, the office was built about 1850 in the back yard of Allison Water on Pine Street before it was moved at the turn of the 20th century to the Aycock lot. In the 1940s, it moved across the street to the back yard of Carl Watson, where it stayed until DGDC moved it to Center Street for restoration.
Now the Mechlings are bringing it back to where, according to a 1924 insurance map, it stood in Aycock's back yard, but the couple isn't only aiming to position it in the same spot -- the Mechlings want to recreate Aycock's office on the inside too.
"We thought that it would be a good idea to put it back together with the house," Mechling said. "We've been collecting memorabilia, books on Gov. Aycock, magazine articles and looking for artifacts. We plan to share it with Preservation N.C. and put memorabilia in it as well as try to put in furniture of the era -- to make it look as it may have in the 1890s."
Restoring it to near-museum-exhibit authenticity is the plan.
"That is the reason we purchased it," he said. "Not as a storage shed."
Visits to the Aycock Birthplace in Fremont have sharpened the Mechlings' understanding of what the office once looked like, as there is a replica set up, featuring original furniture.
"We have seen they have a little rendering replication of what Dr. Aycock's office may have been like up in the Fremont center so we'll also be using them for some guidance as to what would be reasonable furniture," Mechling said.
That means the Mechlings will be visiting antique stores and auctions in search of furniture from the turn of the century, and visiting and revisiting Aycock's birthplace, where the manager of the historic site, Leigh Strickland, has vowed to help with the restorations as much as possible.
"We have been more than happy to help them out as best as we can," she said, although she pointed out the birthplace's focus is primarily on Aycock's childhood.
But just because the Mechlings have acquired a new project doesn't mean they are not hard at work on the Aycock home. Mechling said the house is still in the restoration phase, with much of the wood work still taking place.
"We will have all of the woodwork done in the next months, then we can tear down the remaining old plaster. Then the house will be gutted. At that point, we'll be able to do more boring things," he said, as it will be time to call in plumbers and electricians.
The project, however, is already giving back to the community, as the woodworking projects have all been taken to the Wayne Opportunity Center, where Stephanie Phipps, the refinishing instructor, and others have worked on the antique wood with care and excitement.
Mrs. Phipps, who has been working with wood for 25 years, said she had not seen the Aycock home the wood had come from, but that it seemed to be well-worth it from the looks of the projects brought in.
"It is interesting and it should be done right. If it's going to be restored, you need to do it right," she said.
She said the boards to the Aycock home are in surprisingly good shape compared to the other five homes she has seen wood from, but that when working with older wood, especially out of the historic homes around the city's center, there's no telling what can turn up.
"It's pretty interesting. Sometimes you're surprised what you'll find, you'll strip them and the bees come out. You'll see some different things and come across repairs you had never noticed," she said.
The restoration on the house and law office will begin in earnest soon, Mechling said, as the couple have finished up their most recent home restoration in Atlanta and will be focusing on their Goldsboro project.