Streets you can’t beat — or maybe you can

“When longtime resident Fred Helms, a 93-year-old lawyer, turns onto Queens Road West, he draws an appreciative breath and announces, ‘We are now entering …  the most beautiful residential street in the world.’ ”

— From “Charlotte’s Magnificent Mile” (Sept. 17, 1989)

(Beautiful, but not indestructible. Less than a week after this story appeared in the Observer, Hurricane Hugo littered Queens Road West with snapped-off willow oaks. And since then the boulevard’s aging canopy has endured “Hugo on Ice” [2002] and continuing assault by cankerworms.)

I was  reminded of Fred Helms’ grand claim by the recognition recently given New Bern’s Middle Street by the American Planning Association. (Hat tip to Mary Newsom.)

My own short list of North Carolina’s great streets tilts toward the less pristine and preserved, even the somewhat seedy. This weekend in Salisbury, for instance, I enjoyed wandering the idiosyncratic old storefronts of Main and Innes  — antique shops, election headquarters, coin shop, hardware stores, wig shop, used book stores, wine shops, famous hot dog stand, drugstore, shoe repair shop, lots of restaurants with no apparent dreams of being franchised — and not a Crate & Fitch or Abercrombie & Barrel to be seen.

So what’s your idea of a great street?