Three civil engineers with cutting edge specialties have opened offices in a historic house in the heart of Fuquay-Varina.
Donald L. Curry, Jr., president of The Curry Engineering Group, PLLC, Stacey A. Smith, president of Smith-Gardner and Joan A. Smyth, senior hydrogeologist with Smith-Gardner, are settling into the old Dr. J. R. Edwards home the two companies have purchased and renovated.
It’s not the first time Smith and Curry have sought out an old house in which to locate their modern engineering services. They have other offices in the Boylan Heights area in Raleigh where they restored a spacious old home dating to 1910.
No one knows exactly when the house in Fuquay-Varina was constructed, but a deed recorded in February of 1918 shows that Dr. Edwards, one of the town’s first dentists, purchased two lots on which the house was to stand from J. Beale Johnson and wife, Mame, for $3,750.
The house itself, originally a clapboard structure, was built just off Main Street near the site of today’s Ann’s Diamond Center, originally the first Bank of Fuquay (now Fidelity Bank) building.
None of the good doctor’s descendants knows just how the move from Main Street a block back to Fuquay Avenue was accomplished, but they do know Edwards had a basement dug and a layer of brick laid over the clapboard exterior. He also had a garage built, a small house for the groundskeeper and gardener and a stone fireplace for outdoor cookouts.
All three of the engineers with offices in the Edwards house live in, or near, Fuquay-Varina. They opened offices here in a leased building on Spring Avenue in 2010. Soon thereafter they noticed that the Edwards house appeared to be vacant; however, it had no “for sale” sign out front. They sought out the owners, heirs of the late Waverly Akins, who bought the building to house his law offices.
In an interview last week, Curry said he and his colleagues like old houses, the high ceilings, hardwood floors, the old fixtures and fancy floor tiles they sometimes find in bathrooms and kitchens. They told the Akins family of their interests, and a sale agreement was reached.
The engineers then plunged into renovations, removing false ceilings to reveal the original 10-foot high ceilings, putting insulation in walls and ceilings where none had been before, removing a mammoth furnace from the basement by taking it out in pieces, painting the rooms throughout and designing a new look with multiple columns for the front.
Curry said last week it has been exciting for those doing the renovating to see local people excited about what’s taking place. Among those most interested are grandchildren of Dr. and Mrs. Edwards, including Becky Medlin and Charlotte Mangum. Both remember playing there, especially in the attic, described by Becky as like something from a storybook. She remembers musical instruments, trunks and other stowed goods that fascinated children.
Another memory Ms. Medlin shares is of sitting on the front porch on Sunday evenings with her grandparents listening to the then-youthful evangelist Oral Roberts holding forth at the Full Gospel Tabernacle several blocks away.
The engineers plan to hold an open house sometime soon to show the community what they have done.
As for the “new” services the engineers have brought to town: Stacey Smith works primarily with the solid waste industry. His company, Smith-Gardner, has clients in states up and down the eastern seaboard. He can point to one local client. At the Holly Springs landfill, he is involved in a process for extracting gas from the landfill and using it to run large generators that produce electricity for sale to Progress Energy (now Duke Energy).
The Smith-Gardner company is described on its web page as an “industry-leading solid waste consulting engineering firm committed to delivering sound, innovative solid waste solutions.”
Ms Smyth, who has an office in the Edwards house here, is a senior hydrogeologist with Smith-Gardner. Originally from a small town on Long Island, she attended Northern Arizonia University. A work opportunity brought her to North Carolina in 1992. Her work, too, is mostly with the solid waste industry.
She says the first time she visited Fuquay-Varina, she knew she wanted to live here. Now she does. And since she moved, she has found an old friend from high school days living here too. The two women have reconnected and are enjoying the friendship again.
Curry works more with commercial and residential projects and sometimes airports doing site design. One of his current local clients is the company building a nursing home just off the newest leg of the Judd Parkway beltline around town. He and his wife, Fuquay-Varina native Julie Betts Curry, live between Cary and Fuquay-Varina.
Smith first came to know Fuquay-Varina while working for S.T. Wooten, the company hired by the NC Department of Transportation to widen Highway 401, the project that involved building the new railroad bridge at Five Points. He liked the town.
Now he and his family live in Miller’s Creek.
While Smith and Curry are both N.C. State graduates, they didn’t get to know each other until both had been in the work world for several years. By that time Curry was making plans to start his own business; Smith was president of Smith-Gardner, a group that had been started by NC State professor, G. N. Richardson, who had since retired.
The two have maintained their own businesses but have shared a building providing office space, first in Raleigh and now in Fuquay-Varina.
As for other interests they have in common: “We both like old houses,” says Smith.