Treasured sign holder finds purpose at local business

Pictured celebrating the new sign holder at Noah’s Play and Train, are Dr. Jeff Todd, Mary Margaret Bulgin McDowell and Dawn Todd.

Written by Mary Margaret Bulgin McDowell

John Bulgin stands next to a sign advertising his wrought iron business.

When my father, John Bulgin, retired from Nantahala Power and Light Company, he had more time to work in his blacksmith shop. That shop had belonged to my grandfather, George Miller Bulgin, who at the age of 17, in the year of 1892, went to Chicago, Ill., to begin a five-year apprenticeship with a master blacksmith. There he learned the trade that he would follow the rest of his life and would earn him a reputation as a master craftsman. When he returned to Macon County, he and his brother, Randolph, operated a blacksmith shop at the corner of Harrison Avenue and West Main Street. Through the years, Mr. Bulgin taught his sons the trade that earned him the title of “village blacksmith.” He was known to make the statement that he could mend anything except “a broken heart.” (Source: Macon County Heritage, North Carolina; George Miller Bulgin, written by Margaret S. Bulgin) Years after George’s death, my father, John and my brother, Randolph, operated the blacksmith/fix-it shop. Their specialty was fireplace screens and andirons but various metal repairs were accomplished in this shop. I now live very close to my family home place and I am fortunate to have a treasured John Bulgin fire set.

During those years, my daddy forged out a sign holder to advertise the Bulgin Wrought Iron Welding Machine Shop. I have that treasure and used it at first in my landscape but then stored the sign to keep it out of weather. The sign has been waiting for several years to begin a new life. During this waiting time, I developed a love for horses and thus spent most of my time at the barn or horseback riding while the sign holder patiently waited. Soon the properties and businesses in this area of Macon County started to outgrow themselves and many changes started taking place. The old George Reece store that was located across West Main Street from the Bulgin’s residence and shop became too small for their necessary inventory. That property was sold and the Franklin Church of God was born on that site. Some years later, the property on the north side of West Main and the corner of Baird Cove Road became the new home of the Franklin Church of God with a beautiful new modern church building. The old church property was sold and has been home to several different ventures over the years. The property just west of that was a residence owned by Lee Barnard, who was a Justice of the Peace for the county. In recent year, those two properties were acquired by Noah’s Ark Companion Hospital for expansion as well as establishing an indoor boarding and training facility for pets.

After the facility opened for business right across the street from my driveway, it occurred to me that the treasured sign holder lying dormant in my storage space could have a new dawning and serve a valuable purpose in the neighborhood where it was born. Dr. Todd was very excited at the idea. The Bulgin-forged sign holder now proudly holds the sign of the Noah’s Ark Training Center at 486 Old Murphy Road. If you take the time to slow down and look up, you might just hear the grind of the storied history of days gone by that makes us who we are!