Lunchtime in Mebane, May 16, 2016

For years, I have been predicting that Mebane would become the next Carrboro, the next Saxapahaw, the next former mill town to where creative types priced out of Chapel Hill can relocate.

I rode out to Mebane to eat lunch, then ride back, a little over twenty miles each way from my home in Chapel Hill NC.   The bicycle route to Mebane takes you from the La La Land that is Chapel Hill/Carrboro as it slowly becomes the Real North Carolina.

Chapel Hill is in Orange County.   Because of county legislation passed decades ago, outside of town the Orange County Rural Buffer mandates something like one house for every five acres.    Most of the rest of rural North Carolina does not look quite so pristine.  One downside to the Rural Buffer is that it is slowly being filled up with five acre estates.  There are always going to be contentious political issues about land use.  There is not that much large scale farming going on out here and much of the land may not be great farmland anyway,  However having the Rural Buffer creates attractive rural landscapes and it is something we should be very proud of.






Lots of people still live out here.  Most of the interesting residences are hidden in the woods where you cannot see them from the highway, with a few exceptions.  David Summer told me a long time ago that Ippy and Neal’s house was his favorite in the whole Chapel Hill area.  Ippy is an artist, and some of her drawings are currently on display in the lobby of the Greenbridge condo building where I live.


While almost all this ride was in Orange County you sense a cultural shift the further you get from Chapel Hill.   I draw the cultural line when houses start having boxes for the Burlington NC newspaper.


I saw homemade modernism, plus other stuff.









Cruising into Mebane, you see several brick factory buildings.  The most prominent is for the White Furniture Company, in business from 1881 to 1993.   I remember when it closed, the press was that Americans were no longer willing to spring for a fine piece of furniture, produced by skilled craftspeople.    They just wanted Ikea.   More recently the former factory is being converted to apartments.   Five years ago I would not have believed that people would live in a condo in Mebane;  now I think the plan might succeed.




Those living in these new condos can walk to town.      Martinho’s Bakery and Deli has been there a long time, but most other bars and coffee houses have opened in just the past two years.    Some might even make it.







These guys seem to be selling little of everything.


Martinho’s was busy on this Monday.  While the steak and cheese sub (that day’s special) was really not that good, I have had other things there that are fine.   You do not see this kind of place much in North Carolina, with pictures on the wall of owners and of their native country Portugal.





I got on the bicycle and rode home.

Like I said, much of the upper end housing in the Rural Buffer of Orange County is hidden in the woods.   There are a few tract developments, however.   This gated community has been there a long time, with a FrankLloydWrightesque sign at the gate.    You cannot see any of the houses from the road.


More recently, grandiose Pennsylvania developers Toll Brothers built this section of about twenty minimansions on a former cow pasture, maybe five miles from downtown Chapel Hill.





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