05/09/13 — Leaders uniting to save Aycock

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Leaders uniting to save Aycock

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 9, 2013 1:46 PM

Wayne County commissioners are asking that state budget cuts spare the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace State Historic Site even as they are sharpening their own budget ax.

Commissioners by a 7-0 vote Tuesday night approved a resolution petitioning the state to keep the site open because of its educational value and potential impact on economic development.

The Wayne County Board of Education earlier this week passed a resolution in support as well. The Fremont, Pikeville and Eureka town boards have done likewise.

The resolution was not on the board's agenda, but was added at the request of District 1 Commissioner Ray Mayo, in whose district the site is located.

It was first thought that Gov. Pat McCrory's budget proposal would shutter the site. However, Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz, who visited the site last month for a town hall style meeting, said the closure is temporary, until money can be found to reopen it.

While closed to the public, one staff member will remain on the job to keep the site operational. It will be reopened for special events such as the recent Farm Heritage Days and the Christmas programs.

Mayo said he and Commissioners Bill Pate and Wayne Aycock attended the meeting with Ms. Kluttz.

"The outpouring from the community and the comments were just overwhelming," Mayo said. "It was unbelievable the support from that end of the county because the Charles B. Aycock Birthplace is a valuable education tool to our schools. A lot of students travel up there."

It is very important to preserve that legacy so that children can understand how people lived in the 1800s, Mayo said.

Pate said that his wife, who is a retired educator, took her classes to the site every year.

Ms. Kluttz said keeping the site open will depend on commissioners and citizens letting legislators know how important it is, Mayo said.

Mayo said he had the resolutions from Fremont, Pikeville and Eureka and that he wanted to include one from commissioners to forward to legislators and McCrory.

The Aycock Birthplace opened as a historical site in 1959. It is the birthplace of North Carolina's 50th governor, Charles B. Aycock. Known as the "Education Governor," Aycock served from 1901 until 1905.

The site, two miles south of Fremont, features a mid-19th century farmstead with a house, kitchen and outbuildings, including a corn barn and stables, as well as the Oak Plains School, an 1893 one-room schoolhouse.

It also features a visitor center with exhibits on the governor and his early 20th century education reforms, as well as sheep, poultry, field crops and a garden.