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Spencer: Rowan’s Original Gateway

by | Dec 2, 2022 | Municipalities

On the main street of the town, right in the middle of Spencer, in the section fondly referred to by the residents of Spencer as the “town square”, sits the North Carolina Transportation Museum. This historic site immediately draws a person’s attention to its brick façade and the beautiful trains that come and go daily on the intricate railway system, which is partially visible from the street. The museum’s visible artistry honors not only the building’s history but also shows the significance of the steam locomotive to Spencer’s town history since the late 1880s.

Spencer Shops

Originally called the ‘Southern Railway,’ the Transportation Museum is a foundational cornerstone in the history of how the Town of Spencer began. After much research by the Southern Railway Company, it was determined that the location now known as Spencer was the most central location between its other facilities like Washington D.C., and Atlanta Georgia. In 1896, the Southern Railway Company broke ground in building the largest steam locomotive repair facility in the Southeast.  At the time that construction began, there were also other shops built in the same area called Spencer Shops. Those businesses would later become incorporated to become the Town of Spencer in 1905. As the locomotive industry changed over the years to depend more on the diesel engine, there was a direct impact on the Town of Spencer’s economic development. As a result, the Town’s administration and residents are now working together to create new, while maintaining their ‘hometown charm.’

Spencer Shoppes

Spencer Advances Forward

Directly across the street from the North Carolina Transportation Museum, is the newly built town hall/ police department. This centrally located space is in a refurbished building that had been sitting vacant for several years. In an interview with Spencer Town Manager Peter Franzese, Special Project Planner Joe Morris, and Lead For North Carolina Fellow Skye Allan, it was reported that the choice in location of the “new town hall/ police department was an investment in the community and lays the groundwork for private investment [in the future].” Furthermore, there is a plan to create a park in the space at the front of the Town hall that is currently a large parking lot. Town Manager, Franzese, reported that there are continued plans to grow Spencer both economically and through special projects such as the Trailhead at the Yadkin River.

Spencer Town Hall & Police Department

Trailhead at the Yadkin River

If you have read any of the Town’s newsletters either in print or on their website, you may have noticed a phrase such as ‘a model small town community.’ To support that goal, Spencer is developing more outside greenway spaces that connect the community as a whole and allow residents to explore the outdoors in a designated safe way. Currently, sitting at the north end of Spencer where Rowan County meets with neighboring Davidson County, a pedestrian-friendly bridge called the Wil-Cox Bridge takes you past the water towers that once announced the North Carolina Finishing Company. To continue this project, the Town has been awarded a contract with Hall Construction Company to build a landscaping plaza that will connect the Wil-Cox Bridge and Davidson County’s Yadkin River Park with about 1,100 feet of trail. The planned additions include parking which will allow residents to park and enjoy both sides of the trail. In addition to the Yadkin River project, the Town is also working on another greenway space that is also pedestrian friendly in the Stanback Forest. By the completion of this project, it is expected to double the size of the current acreage.

Wil-Cox Bridge

Water Towers

Restoration of Town’s Historical Building Facades

Driving through town, many of the buildings hold historical value and continue to tell the story of the economic changes that have occurred over the years. Over time, the signs have faded, but the building structures continue to stand strong. In August of this year, artists Earle Kluttz Thompson and Raines Kuppin began restoring the vintage signs with the help of Fellow Skye Allan who secured $20,000 in funding for this project from the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation and the Margaret C. Woodson Foundation. At this time, the Stanback Headache Powder sign has been restored. There are plans to complete at least three more vintage signs on the side of buildings with one of them being located at a local favorite eatery of Rodger’s Dogs.

How Residents Can Engage

The Town’s administration reported being very open to the involvement and support of Spencer residents and the citizens of Rowan County. To encourage this engagement, the Town of Spencer has updated its website at spencernc.gov to be more user-friendly. There is a new resident portal available that connects the user directly to the department they are requesting. Additionally, there are newsletters and updates posted that help the residents stay up to date with what is occurring in Spencer. For example, Spencer is hosting a Winterfest on December 2-3 and 9-10, 2022. During this event, the Town of Spencer will be transformed into a German Marketplace with family-friendly activities to participate in. For a full schedule of the Winterfest 2022 events and times, please visit spencerexperience.org.

If you are a resident and would like to attend a board meeting or participate on one of the appointed boards, you are welcome to join. There is currently a need for a person to join the planning board as an Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction member. This person needs to live outside the city limits but no more than one mile to act as a buffer & transition zone between outside uses of land and those found in zoning districts within the town’s municipal limits.

The board of Alderman meets on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 6:30 pm. The meetings are open for public comment. Those wanting to comment need to sign in at the beginning of the meeting. Also, the meetings are live-streamed via YouTube.

Winterfest, Spencer, NC. Photo Credits: Winterfest: A German Christmas Marketplace, Spencer, NC

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About The Author

Sherri Hill

I am a native of Rowan County, having lived here my entire life. I was educated and graduated from the North Rowan School System in 2003 and earned my Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with a minor in Psychology from Catawba College in 2007. My professional experience has encompassed the roles of being a therapist, clinical director, grant writer, clinical supervisor, and working in program development. Currently, I am a Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) Consultant for N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency as well as a family therapist. My professional accomplishments were highlighted in the 2019 edition of Focus magazine in Davidson County, when I was nominated as “A Women Who Inspires”. I am a member of Zeta Phi Beta, Inc. and also serve as the Board Chair of Communities in Schools of Davidson County/ Lexington City Schools. Additionally, I volunteer with Rowan Helping Ministries, and I am a member of Rowan County Young Professionals. When I am not volunteering, I love spending time outside in the sun playing with my two dogs.