Rocky Mount, North Carolina

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Rocky Mount
Rocky Mount
Rocky Mount
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Country United States
State North Carolina
Counties Nash, Edgecombe
Founded Circa March 22, 1816
Incorporated February 28, 1907
 • Mayor David W. Combs
 • City 44.11 sq mi (114.2 km2)
 • Land 43.44 sq mi (112.5 km2)
 • Water 0.67 sq mi (1.7 km2)
 • Metro 219.03 sq mi (567.3 km2)
Elevation 100 ft (31 m)
Population (2014 United States Census)
 • City 58,968
 • Density 1,297.28/sq mi (500.88/km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Zip Code 27801-04
Area code(s) 252
FIPS code 37-57500
GNIS feature ID 1022368[1]

Rocky Mount is a city in Edgecombe and Nash Counties in the coastal plain of the state of North Carolina. Although it was not formally incorporated until February 28, 1907, the North Carolina community that became the city of Rocky Mount dates from the beginning of the 19th century. The first post office in the area opened in 1816. The city's population is currently at 57,477.

Rocky Mount is the principal city of the Rocky Mount, North Carolina, area, which encompasses all of both Edgecombe and Nash Counties. Rocky Mount is also a part of a Combined Statistical Area which encompasses both Rocky Mount and Wilson metropolitan areas. The Rocky Mount–Wilson CSA population is currently over 200,000 residents. Rocky Mount is about 57 miles (92 km) away from the state capital, Raleigh. It is also a part of the Raleigh-Durham-Cary CSA with a total population of 2,132,523.

Rocky Mount has a growing arts community. The city operates the Maria V. Howard Arts Center, a Children's Museum and Science Center, and a community theater at the Imperial Center for Arts and Sciences.[3]

Recently, the city also renovated the Douglas Block, located in downtown Rocky Mount. Six historically significant buildings, all of which comprised the African American business district of the downtown area in the early to mid-1900s, was a part of this renovation. The Douglas Block also includes Thelonious Monk Plaza, named after Rocky Mount native and jazz musician Thelonious Monk.


Rocky Mount municipal building, located in downtown Rocky Mount

Rocky Mount had its beginning in the early part of the 19th century around the first post office which was established at the Falls of the Tar River on March 22, 1816. At that point, the name Rocky Mount appeared in documented history. The name undoubtedly derived from the rocky mound at the falls of the Tar River, which was also the site of one of the first cotton mills in North Carolina: Rocky Mount Mills was established in 1818. The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad was built about two miles east of the mill in 1845 and became the main connection for Rocky Mount to the outside world.

An important change the railroad brought was the establishment of Rocky Mount as a point of departure for travelers from the north and south. The Raleigh-Tarboro stage route (roughly where I-95 and U.S. 64 run today) passed just below Rocky Mount which became the logical debarking point for railroad travelers wishing to proceed east or west.

The Civil War and Reconstruction Era brought hard times to Rocky Mount. On February 19, 1867, Rocky Mount was incorporated as a town.

The establishment of the Rocky Mount tobacco market in the late 1800s is one of the town's most noteworthy developments. The demand for bright leaf tobacco rose rapidly as the tobacco industry took shape, and the growth of the tobacco market led to the establishment of the town's first bank in 1889.

Also during this period, the railroad exerted a powerful influence on the town. The tracks first reached Rocky Mount on Christmas Eve in 1839. In 1840, a train of cars en route to Wilmington stopped in Rocky Mount to import some "Old Nash" for special toasts at opening festivities. The fame of Nash County apple brandy had spread fast. As Rocky Mount encouraged the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to locate shops and yard facilities in the town, an influx of railroad employees into Rocky Mount occurred. In 1871, the county line moved from the Tar River to its present location in the center of the tracks.

By the turn of the 20th century, Rocky Mount's population was around 3,000. A main railroad line, a well established cotton mill, and productive farmland were major contributors to the area's growth and prosperity. To encourage and promote further growth and development, the Chamber of Commerce was established in 1904.

On February 28, 1907, with a population around 7,500, Rocky Mount was incorporated as a city. The 20th century brought a number of "firsts" to Rocky Mount - the first public school; one of the most modern hotels in the state, the Ricks Hotel; the first library; the establishment of the first daily newspaper, the Rocky Mount Evening Telegram; the first hospitals with services available to the public; and the YMCA.[4]

City Lake drew city-wide attention in the late 1930s as a project of the Works Project Administration, and the project provided much-needed employment to the area during the Great Depression.

In view of the community's educational facilities, the 1950s and '60s brought rapid growth. A new high school opened in 1953. North Carolina Wesleyan College opened in 1960. In 1968, Nash Community College and Edgecombe Community College opened in the twin counties to meet the needs of citizens in technical, vocational, and general education programs.

In 1970, Rocky Mount received an All-America City Award. The little town built upon a rock had become the progressive city on the Great Falls of the Tar. The '70s also brought a new post office building, completion of Nash General Hospital, a new campus for Nash Community College, recreational use of the reservoir on the Tar River, a new water plant, the Rocky Mount-Wilson Regional Airport, and new highways.

The '80s brought in a new regional shopping mall, Golden East Crossing, located on Wesleyan Boulevard, and in 2006, a 143-acre sports complex was added, equipped with six youth baseball fields, four interchangeable baseball/softball fields, one championship baseball field, eight soccer/football fields, a professional disc golf course, two outdoor basketball courts, a walking trail, sand volleyball courts, a fishing pier, and a horseshoe pit.[4]

In addition to Rocky Mount Mills, the Bellamy-Philips House, Bellemonte, Benvenue, Falls Road Historic District, Machaven, The Meadows, Rocky Mount Central City Historic District, Rocky Mount Electric Power Plant, Rocky Mount Mills Village Historic District, Stonewall, Villa Place Historic District, and West Haven Historic District are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[5]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 44.11 square miles (114.2 km2), of which, 43.44 square miles (112.5 km2) of it is land and 0.67 square miles (1.7 km2) of it is covered by water.

Rocky Mount is situated uniquely, in that the city straddles the county line, with part of it in Nash County and part of it in Edgecombe County. CSX Transportation tracks also separate the city at the county line.[citation needed]

Historic Rocky Mount Mills Village

Situated near Rocky Mount's Tar River, the Rocky Mount Mills Historic Mill Village grew in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a small community of tenants working for the mill. Changes in industrialization eventually forced the closing of the mill, and this way of life came to an end. However, when the mill closed, the property remained intact.

Though the property has been a rental for its entire existence, covenants are now being placed on the property to assure home ownership and owner occupancy. The covenants are also designed to protect the historical integrity of the existing structures in the village and to control the new infill residential construction.

Built between 1885 and 1940, each home is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.[6] The houses stand in generally good condition. A typical house can be described as a one-story building of gabled, saddlebag frame construction with weatherboard siding, complete with a gabled one-story ell and a hip-roofed porch. The two-story buildings are single-pile frame construction with weatherboard siding, rear one-story addition, and hip-roofed porch. Once accommodating 145 homes, the village now contains 62 remaining residences. The layout of lots has approximated the original design for the village where the lots are deep and originally accommodated large vegetable gardens in the rear. In many cases, the original windows, doors, and hardware are intact.

Nash General Hospital

UNC-Nash General Hospital

Nash General Hospital, opened in 1971, was the first all-private-room hospital in North Carolina.[7] It is home to a women's center, a cardiovascular services department, and a critical care unit. A subunit of the hospital, known as Nash Day Hospital, opened in 1984 as a free-standing outpatient surgery center.[8] The hospital also operates the Bryant T. Aldridge Rehabilitation Center in honor of Kinston native Bryant T. Aldridge, the first manager of Nash General, which opened in 1999,[9] and the Coastal Plain Hospital, a mental health facility.[10]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 357
1880 552 54.6%
1890 816 47.8%
1900 2,937 259.9%
1910 8,051 174.1%
1920 12,742 58.3%
1930 21,412 68.0%
1940 25,568 19.4%
1950 27,697 8.3%
1960 32,147 16.1%
1970 34,284 6.6%
1980 41,283 20.4%
1990 48,997 18.7%
2000 55,893 14.1%
2010 57,477 2.8%
Est. 2014 56,325 [11] −2.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]
2011 estimate[13]

As of the census of 2010, 57,477 people, 23,097 households, and 14,639 families resided in the city. The population density was 1,312.6 inhabitants per square mile (606.7/km²). The city had 26,953 housing units. The racial makeup of the city was 32.4% White, 61.3% African American, 0.6% Native American, 1.0% Asian, and 1.6% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 3.7% of the population.

Of the 23,097 households, 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.7% were married couples living together, 22.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.6% were not families. About 31.4% of all households were made up of individuals living alone, and 26.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city, the population was distributed as 27.5% between the ages of 1 and 19, 6.4% from 20 to 24, 24% from 25 to 44, 27.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age is 38.7 years. 45.8% of the population are males compared to 54.2% for females.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,059, and for a family was $39,929. The per capita income for the city was $21,779. About 19.0% of the population is below the poverty line.

Government and infrastructure

The North Carolina Department of Corrections previously operated the Fountain Correctional Center for Women in an unincorporated area in Edgecombe County, near Rocky Mount.[14] It closed in December 2014.[15]


Major highways


The Rocky Mount–Wilson Regional Airport (RWI) serves the general aviation needs of Nash, Wilson, and Edgecombe Counties. It is on NC 97, 6.5 miles (10.5 km) from downtown Rocky Mount. The closest airport with scheduled commercial service is Pitt-Greenville Airport (PGV). Cargo and charter flights in the area also use the Kinston Regional Jetport (ISO).


Rocky Mount is served by Amtrak. The train station is centrally located on Main Street in downtown Rocky Mount.[16]


The City of Rocky Mount is served by the Nash-Rocky Mount Public School System, along with a number of private and charter schools in the area.

North Carolina Wesleyan College is the only four-year institution of higher education in Rocky Mount. Montreat College School of Professional and Adult Studies has established convenient location in Rocky Mount. The two community colleges serving Rocky Mount are Nash Community College and Edgecombe Community College.

Nash-Rocky Mount Elementary Schools include: Bailey Elementary, Benvenue Elementary, Braswell Elementary, Cedar Grove Elementary, Coopers School, D.S.Johnson Elementary, Englewood Elementary School, O.R. Pope Elementary School, Susie C. Baskerville Elementary School, M.B. Hubbard Elementary School, Middlesex Elementary, Nashville Elementary, Winstead Avenue Elementary School, Red Oak Elementary, Spring Hope Elementary, Swiftcreek Elementary, and Williford Elementary.

Middle schools include: JFW Parker Middle School, Edwards Middle School, Southern Nash Middle School, Red Oak Middle School, and Nash Central Middle School.

Public high schools include: Nash Central High School, Northern Nash High School, Rocky Mount High School, and Southern Nash High School. The two nontraditional public schools are Tar River Academy and NRMPS Early College High School. One North Carolina charter school located in Rocky Mount is Rocky Mount Preparatory School.

The private Christian schools located in Rocky Mount are Cornerstone Christian Academy, Crown of Victory Christian School, Faith Christian School, Falls Road Baptist School, Grace Christian School, Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH), and Showers of Blessing Christian Academy. The only secular private school in Rocky Mount is Rocky Mount Academy (a pre-kindergarten to 12th grade college preparatory school).[17]

Notable people


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  3. Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences
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  14. "Fountain Correctional Center for Women." North Carolina Department of Public Safety. December 20, 2014. Retrieved on December 18, 2015. "Street Address 300 Fountain School Road Rocky Mount, N.C. 27804"
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  16. Rocky Mount Station
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  20. "Leonard Buck | Baseball Hall of fame". Hall of Famers. National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 17 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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  22. "Mary Elizabeth Winstead - Maxim". Maxim. Retrieved 10 September 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links