Barbara Wishy

“I moved to Oakwood in 1974 and I have lived at 515 North Bloodworth Street ever since. Oakwood was very blighted at the time, but I didn’t see any of that. I just saw the fabulous architecture and was taken with that. It was only after I had closed on the house and was on the front lawn the next morning that I said, ‘Barbara, what have you done?’ I thought it would take a few years for people to realize how beautiful this area was and renovate it. Others said, it will take five years. Well, it took much longer than that. I had never renovated a house before… As I was able to acquire those houses from slum landlords—usually it was one a year—I renovated 12—I simply tried to improve my own block, and thereby my neighborhood.”

“It was Betsy Buford who called me and asked me whether I would be interested in helping set up a revolving fund, whereby the Society for the Preservation of Historic Oakwood would be able to buy houses and then sell them to people who would be obligated to restore them. We restored 12 houses with the revolving fund. There was a young man in Raleigh who was working on that for the state of North Carolina and that was Myrick Howard. So we went to him and he explained to us how to do it.”

Barbara Wishy continues to live at 515 North Bloodworth with her partner Peter Rumsey. Barbara and Peter have been partners for almost a quarter of a century and look forward to another quarter century together. Barbara has helped restore, through her own efforts as well as through the Oakwood Revolving Fund, many houses in Oakwood, and went on to work with Myrick Howard for Preservation North Carolina, where she helped restore many more across the state. Proceeds from the Oakwood Candlelight Tour, which first began in 1972 as a way to bring people from around the city into downtown Raleigh and organize against the plan to destroy it with a highway, continues to be used to purchase houses at risk of demolition by neglect in order to sell them to people interested in restoring them.

To hear her interview, press “play” below.

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Tuesday, December 6th, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized

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