Our View: Preserving history, promoting business

Dec. 23, 2012 @ 01:10 AM

A few weeks ago when we first heard news that the Kilby Hotel had been condemned, we shuddered. ... Oh, this is terrible; this historic structure just can’t fall victim to a wrecking crew, we thought.
Fortunately, it wasn’t too much later when we learned that despite City Hall action to condemn the structure, that designation didn’t mean the building, built in the early 1900s, was coming down. The fourth- and fifth-generation owners, Burtie McElrath and her daughter Myra Williams, have big plans for the historic hotel.
Located on the corner of E. Washington and Hobson Streets, the hotel was during its heyday a popular nightclub/entertainment establishment for the High Point area’s black community. During the days of racial segregation in the early and middle part of the 20th century, the Washington Street area was the heart of the city’s black business community, and the Kilby was among the most prominent businesses there. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1980s.
The hotel, and the ground-floor shops that operated in the structure, closed a number of years ago and the building has fallen into disrepair. But High Point’s Core City Project has for the past few years focused attention on the Washington Street area and the Kilby Hotel, in particular. And now, renovation and rebirth are planned for the structure.
Myra Williams told the Enterprise last week that she and her mother had been for some time preparing plans for renovating the property for business and residential use. Williams said plans are to begin the construction project next month. Williams said the aim of the renovation project is help low-income families and new, small businesses.
The concept of helping families and nurturing new businesses is sound. Then add preservation of a historic structure in an area of the city needing another catalyst such as this for redevelopment, and we can see only positive things beginning to happen on Washington Street.