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Man brings old building back to life

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Zack Poll, puts up a chain that will help lift the upstairs floor on May 15 on Main Street in downtown Rocky Mount.

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BY WILLIAM F. WEST
Staff Writer

Saturday, May 25, 2019

A former local resident is working to renovate a more than century-old two-story building in downtown Rocky Mount.

Zack Poll, 33, since 2013has  been engaged in his project, which is at 234 S.W. Main St.

Poll said his plan is for the bottom part of the structure to be open for commercial use and the upstairs part to be for residential use by him.

According to National Register of Historic Places records, the building can be traced back to 1910 and was constructed to house Dawson Drug Co.

Poll is upbeat about his project.

“For the amount of work I'm getting done here, I feel good about it,” said Poll, who has a daytime job. “It's going to be something that I want to have in my life for many years.”

The plaster is mostly gone from the walls on the first floor and he is mostly letting the bricks show.

"I left plaster in the areas that it was aesthetically appealing in my opinion," he said.

As for a target time for completion of his work, Poll said, "The downstairs commercial part of the property will be available for lease and a quick up-fit, without anything slowing them down, by 2020."

Poll said he could go ahead and put up a "for lease" sign now, but he said he is focusing on quality in preparing the downstairs and also wants to wait until an occupant can come in and go full speed ahead.

"I want to provide a space that is just ready to go, top notch," he said.

As for the future living area above, he said he is placing his priority on the commercial space.

He said after the upstairs is complete, "Will I always be here? Probably not, but it will be a residence of mine."

Poll is an inside electrician and a union man with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Poll said he is living in downtown Raleigh and working at a job site in Oxford.

Of the amount of time he puts in on the building in the heart of Rocky Mount, Poll said, "I come down an average of two to three times a week."

He is from the Deerfield Beach area in southern Florida. He and his family relocated to Nash County because his father, Charles Poll, transferred to work at what today is the Honeywell Aerospace plant off North Wesleyan Boulevard.

Zack Poll told of exploring the Rocky Mount area when he was growing up.

Although downtown was void of much commerce by this point due to the shift to outlying shopping centers, he was impressed by the beauty of many of the old brick structures along the railroad tracks.

"I would come down and watch the trains,” he said. “I would come down and explore the parks and explore Battle Park and the train trestle and watch them build the green way system over to the soccer fields."

He told of life being a struggle, however, after graduating from high school and ending up working in various jobs, mostly in construction or specialty retail. He told of having moved from place-to-place in North Carolina and having lived for a time in Michigan.

Still fascinated with the history of downtown Rocky Mount and attracted to older structures, Poll eventually became interested in 234 S.W. Main, at first to open his own storefront business and live upstairs.

And Poll pointed out having his own business there someday remains on the table.

He credits his mother, Marilyn Poll, in assisting him in acquiring the property. 

"It was in her name when we bought it — and then I bought it from her and the building is in my name now," he said.

He made clear he realized the amount of work that would be required at 234 S.W. Main and the amount of dedication that the work would take through the years.

"But it was that important to me," he said. "I also wanted to take something broken and fix it. And I wanted to take something damaged and rebuild it."

He is positive about downtown and supports efforts to revive the once-bustling central business district.

"There have been many opinions about the state of the area and its potential," he said. "And I'm sure that good things are going to be happening here in the future. I'm absolutely confident that the area is going to improve."

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