From the brick-framed window in my kitchen, I am three stories above a vintage canvas of building and deconstruction, cracks and tears, all being wiped blank by an arsenal of bulldozers, excavators and tractor-trailers. The typical morning view from my perch is only interesting thanks to the persistence of some black-winged birds colonizing under the undulating metal rooftop of my adjacent fire escape. But the dismantling of several old structures at the intersection of Hillsborough and Morgan streetsthe former Fabius Briggs House, Bolton Electric and, most infamously, the Jackpothas recently offered a diorama of shifting scenery. The autumn air has provided a perfectly stringent backdrop.
The transformation began much like a pot of water on top of a lit stove slowly begins to roil and boil. Spray-painted street markings signaled the plans for battle. The pickup trucks were sent in to survey, to assess, to organize. Drones of heavy equipment soon filled the grounds surrounding my castle. And without warning, the thunderous booming of buildings hitting the ground and the click-clacks of powered movers and shakers replaced my alarm clock.
It is almost familiar now to brew the morning pot of joe while peering outside at a state of constant change. The presence of Mike Campbell, the superintendent of Clear Site Industrial, became inescapable; bouncing around the scene with a chipper aura, he always wore a smile beneath his hard hat crown. One day I decided to befriend him. At the hour the beloved Jackpot finally came down, Campbell gifted one of the last remaining heavy glass beer pitchers from the bar. I keep it now as a symbol of the seemingly countless nights of cold amber glory the place gave me and thousands of others.
The demolition is pretty much done; there’s just some brick-picking to be done among the piles of rubble, and the grounds need to be reshaped with gravel and ‘dozers. The new view is one of vast openness; suddenly the sights that were rooftops and boarded windows flow easily to busy streets of activity. Beginning next month, it will all once again shift into darkness as the stage of growth begins. New trucks and workers will add new shapes and more sounds. There will be more nightly routines of earplugs and roof-level assessments of the progress each morning. The graffiti-and-glass-littered grounds will have ceded to baby trees and sculpted bushes. New blacktop parking spaces will bake in this summer’s Southern sun.
Not long ago, I watched the gleeful expression of a real estate lord while the remaining walls of the Jackpot were brought mercifully to the ground. I hoped to the vacant skies that whatever replaces this little blip of Raleigh history somehow maintains its legacy. I like to think that Mike Campbell and I even made a tacit agreement that this corner will be forever changed by the influence of revitalization. For now, I’ll simply keep my post, surrounded in a scene of change.