Belle Banks oral history interview, 2002 January 25
In this interview, librarian and historic preservationist Margaret "Belle" Banks describes her early life in Pennsylvania and Delaware, her move to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1944, and her role in restoring Cedar Grove and the Hugh Torrance House and Store in Huntersville, North Carolina. Mrs. Banks discusses finding work in Delaware during World War II coordinating the construction of naval ships, then meeting her husband, Dick Banks, while working as a waitress. She recalls their move to his hometown, Charlotte, after marriage and talks about some of the cultural differences she encountered between Northerners and Southerners. Mrs. Banks speaks at length about restoring Mr. Banks's family properties, which were built by Hugh Torrance beginning in 1831. They began restoring Cedar Grove one room at a time in 1944, and moved there in 1948 with their young daughter once water and electricity were connected. Mrs. Banks describes how she and Mr. Banks invested much of their income in the restoration of the house, and how she saved the family money by buying secondhand goods and by sewing much of their clothing and home furnishings. She also discusses some ghost stories and legends surrounding Cedar Grove. Mrs. Banks recalls that work began on the restoration of the Hugh Torrance House and Store around the 1970s after the Mecklenburg Historical Association showed interest in the project, and that local architect Jack Boyd helped to get the North Carolina state legislature involved. In conclusion, Mrs. Banks suggests that her husband's motivation for undertaking the restorations may reflect a Southern cultural emphasis on preserving family traditions.