A small neighborhood project was a big reminder of how different Raleigh was in the 1950's. When Belvidere Park received grant money for a community improvement project, a time capsule with neighborhood history was not part of the plan. It was only after construction began on new entryway columns that the idea cropped up.
We realized, after tearing down the remains of the old columns, that it would've been fun if workers had left something behind for present-day residents. Who had built those columns? We knew they weren't original to the subdivision. Many older residents were no longer available to fill in the history - memories fade, people pass or move away. Since there was no formal neighborhood association, there were also no archives to reference.
With little to go on initially, a picture of the past began to develop - quite literally. A local business owner shared an aerial photo of the subdivision. It was taken by a customer and World War II vet who had flown over Belvidere Park in 1957.
The first thing you notice is how few cars there were in the driveways. There was a small business on the corner of Dennis and Myers, and Capital Boulevard was just a sleepy two lane road. But there were no columns yet on Dennis Avenue. They must have been built after 1957.
As work on the new stone columns progressed, residents stopped by to share their thoughts about the project. One neighbor filled in the details of how the original columns came to be. There had been a ladies garden club, and they had hired someone to build them. And yes, in true 1950's form, there was a kid's club called The Belvidees too. You could imagine them wearing Mouseketeer-like beanies, but so far no photos have emerged.
Jim Bailey, a longtime resident and founding member of The Belvidees, was kind enough to share his mother's memorabilia with us. His mother, Mrs. F.E. Bailey, had been the president of the Belvidere Park Garden Club. There was a Mad Men era photo of a Christmas party (above) and newspaper clippings of officer elections.
Interestingly, the news clippings were attached to City of Raleigh letterhead with personal notes from Tom Davis, Chief of Police, congratulating them on their work. The capital city may have been where Barney Fife moved for career advancement, but in the late 1950's, Raleigh was still small-town friendly.
More recently, the neighborhood gathered on a windy Saturday in November to install the landscaping plants. Close to ninety trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers were planted to accent the new stone columns. Having lots of eager volunteers allowed us to finish it in one busy day.
With the planting phase completed, we were ready to install the time capsule. Included in it were the old photos and clippings as well as newer photos and articles about the neighborhood. We hope that whoever discovers the time capsule will have as much fun with it as we had putting it together.
If you have memories or old photos to share, especially of those elusive Belvidees, we'd like to hear from you too. Let us know below.
An Update 4/6/12:
A big thank you goes out to Linda (Poole) Fitz-Simons who grew up in Belvidere Park and generously shared her charming childhood photos with us.
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