It's the end of an era for a landmark at Ash and Jefferson streets as Sunrise Learning Center is being readied for demolition.

The popular day care option for many families has a rich history that dates back to the 1950s, and is part of a local family's heritage.

Sandra Mooring calls her mother, the late Ruth Gurley, a pioneer in opening the first licensed child care center in Wayne County in 1953.

"In the early '50s she visited her sister in Maryland," Mrs. Mooring said. "Her sister's child was enrolled and attending a 'nursery school' as they were called then.

"The concept of such a place for children's care had not been introduced in the Goldsboro and Wayne County area."

The visit prompted a dream of a similar offering here -- a safe, happy place for young children to play and learn while their parents were at work.

That turned into a reality in 1953, when Paradise Nursery was opened on George Street and later renamed Tiny Tot University, Mrs. Mooring said.

It developed a reputation as a quality place to bring children. And the price was right.

"The cost for a child to attend Paradise Nursery School those first years was $6," she said. "This covered five days a week, more than 40 hours per week in most cases."

From that spawned another location in a growing area of the city. Ruth and Leamon Gurley purchased a plot at the corner of Ash and Jefferson streets, which included a building with a large shaded yard.

They named it Sunrise Learning Center.

That was 1960.

For 50 years, numerous young children made wonderful friends and special memories while being socially and academically prepared for life and "big school," Mrs. Mooring said.

"Many children were in their care from toddlers to 12 years (after school)," she said.

The business stayed in the family, as Mrs. Gurley semi-retired and son, Felix Gurley, became director.

"In the beginning I wanted to be in public education, which I did for five years, and got my start and some experience there," Mrs. Mooring said. "I think mother would have liked for me to come to Sunrise but my husband and I kind of wanted to start our own legacy."

The Mooring's opened up their own version in 1968, Rhyme University, and then many years later, Mount Olive Kiddie College, which was a ministry as well, she says now.

"You've got the kids 10 hours a day, more than their parents," she said. "What you teach them during their formative years is going to make a difference in their lives."

Mrs. Mooring has since retired, but both of the businesses she launched continue under different ownership. Felix was director of Sunrise until it closed in 2010.

In the years since, it has been struck with several blows, including two vandalisms.

"Twice the building was broken into and greatly damaged by thieves who literally demolished most of the interior," Mrs. Mooring said. "They tore open ceilings, walls, broke sinks, heat and air systems, even commodes to gain copper for resale.

"This place where children once learned and played now looks as if a terrible storm (ravaged) it."

And that actually happened, too, when Hurricane Matthew felled a large tree that used to provide shade on the playground, leaving a gaping hole in the roof.

"Perhaps it was a confirmation it was now time for the buildings to come down," Mrs. Mooring said. "They are no longer safe or redeemable."

She and her brother still own the property, she said, and made the decision for safety and financial reasons to take it down.

Awaiting that, she admits this is a bittersweet time.

"I think I have to realize there's a season and I'm probably going to cry," she said, choking up at the realization. "There's a season for everything and the season for this is past.

"But I'm expecting another season, a good season. Whatever the new season is, that's wonderful. I'm ready for it."

Felix, who now lives in Princeton and runs an ATV repair business, Thrills on Wheels, admitted he also has mixed emotions.

"I think once it (Sunrise) starts coming down, I'll have some feelings because my children went there and my grandchildren," he said.

The one thing that will not be destroyed, though, is the memory of their parents' legacy, Mrs. Mooring said.

"It all started with a dream -- my mother had a dream and it turned into a reality. Look what happened since 1953," she said. "The only thing missing would be to continue the legacy and hear some of the stories from the children who went there.

"I would love to hear some of their stories."