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Talk of Our Towns 

Morganton Restores a Piece of History

Thanks to former and current City employees and a few local businesses, a piece of Morganton’s history has been restored. That piece of history is known as the "Police Box".

The Police Box sat on the Historic Courthouse Square about 80 years ago. Originally, it was a cab off an old steam train engine, but the City repurposed it to serve as a satellite office for Morganton policemen and put it on the square sometime in the 1930s. The Police Box sat on S. Sterling Street and stayed in that spot for 10 to 12 years. Then, sometime in the 1940s or later, the Police Box disappeared.

Well, it didn’t vanish per se, it just disappeared from the Historic Courthouse Square, and most everyone forgot about it until a few years ago. That’s when Larry Whisnant, former City Councilman and Public Safety Major, became interested in finding out what happened to the Police Box.

"I found some old pictures and read an article about it in the paper, and I started wondering, ‘What happened to that building?’" Whisnant said. "To me it was, and is, an important piece of history for law enforcement and downtown Morganton."

To help in the search, Whisnant recruited Claude Huffman, a former City fire captain. The two talked about the Police Box often, and they would ask friends about it. They’d talk to local business owners, anyone who may know about the box but no one had any idea where it had ended up. Then one day, their luck changed.

Whisnant and Huffman were relaxing at Huffman’s camper at the Daniel Boone Campground on NC 181 and were talking about the old Police Box, when Pee-wee, one of the campground workers, overheard the conversation.

"Pee-wee heard us talking about it and looked at a picture we had, and he said, ‘I think there’s a building back in the woods that looks like this, next to the river,’" Whisnant said. They trekked back in the woods, and there it was, sitting across the river at the north end of the campground, 11 miles from the Historic Courthouse Square in downtown Morganton. It looked a lot different than it did in the 1930s. It was dirty and rusty and the windows had been covered. The door was gone, and a lot of the interior wood was rotted and although it was damaged, Whisnant and Huffman knew they had found the Police Box.

Since then, they have been working to restore the building. City employees at the garage helped with a lot of the metal work, and several local businesses helped with painting and woodwork. They finished the restoration in July, and moved the Police Box to the History Museum Annex in November.

"Without the City employees, we couldn’t have gotten this done," Whisnant said. "And I want to thank [City Manager] Sally Sandy for supporting the project and supporting us."

Longtime Newton council member awarded Order of the Long Leaf Pine

Newton City Council member and former mayor Tom Rowe was recently awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, one of North Carolina’s highest civilian honors.

State Rep. Mitchell Setzer presented the award to Rowe during the Newton City Council meeting on Dec. 6.

"Oftentimes we don’t take time to thank the people who have served the community, and they may think that their actions go unnoticed," Setzer said. "Today is not going to be one of those days. Today, I have the honor of recognizing a member of the council who has served this city well. In my entire lifetime, he has always been someone who put the city first."

Rowe has served continuously on Newton City Council since 1983. He was elected mayor of Newton in 1993 and served one term before returning to his seat as a council member, a position he holds to this day.

"Representing the people of Newton for so many years has been a great honor, and it is an honor for me to be awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine," Rowe said. "I am very surprised and thankful."

A retired land surveyor and volunteer firefighter, Rowe is a graduate of Newton-Conover High School and a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves. He is active with the Newton Kiwanis Club and Newton Depot Authority. He lives in Newton with his wife, Jane, and is a member of Grace Reformed United Church of Christ.

Rowe said some of the most memorable accomplishments during his time as a council member and mayor include the annexation of the Startown community into the city of Newton and the construction of the current Newton Fire Department Headquarters. He said he is proud to have been able to support Newton’s recreation programs and economic development initiatives over the years.

"Serving a community as an elected official for more than 30 years is a rare accomplishment; serving a community with the integrity and effectiveness of Tom Rowe is almost unheard of," Newton Mayor Anne P. Stedman said. "Tom is always ready to assist our residents and businesses. He puts in the time needed to understand the complex challenges we face, and he works every day to make Newton a better place. I can’t think of a more worthy recipient of the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, and I congratulate him on the award and his many years of dedicated service."

Bike Racks Installed at Train Station in Kannapolis

The City of Kannapolis and the North Carolina Rail Division have teamed up to place secured bike racks at the train station in Downtown Kannapolis. The public is welcome to use the racks to store their bicycles while they are traveling on the Amtrak train. The project is not only practical but artistic as the bike racks were designed to look like the North Carolinian train which stops at the Kannapolis station.

"We love how the bike racks turned out. Hilbish Ford helped us paint them professionally so they are eye catching and a beautiful addition to the Amtrak station and our downtown," said Irene Sacks, Director of Economic and Community Development.

The racks are conveniently located in the parking lot of the train station. Users simply lift the lid, roll the bicycle into the unit, and lock the cover with your own U-lock or padlock. Each BikeLid unit holds up to two full-size bicycles. For added security, bikes can also be locked to BikeLid’s interior steel frame, using a U or cable lock.