Historic Preservation Dinner

by Pat Bradford, Teresa Kramer, Richard Leder
June 2008

Right here on Wrightsville Beach, at the Little Chapel on the Boardwalk, is the 2nd Loaf Ministry. During the summer months, this outreach allows both locals and visitors to donate food to The Good Shepherd Ministryís soup kitchen, as well as to its Second Helpings program for needy families in our community. This year will be 2nd Loafís seventh summer of service, and as always, the collection tent will stand in the church parking lot, accepting all nonperishable, as well as most perishable foods, each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, beginning May 26 and continuing through Labor Day. Church-member volunteers of all ages will man the booth, offering water, sunscreen and a "doggy cool-off pool" to all passers-by. Donated items may also be dropped at the church office Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon, and from 2-4 p.m. The generosity of Wrightsville Beach residents has been witnessed time and time again: Last year, more than 300 pounds of food and other items were donated, as well as monetary donations. So once again, please make a point to stop by the tent this summer. Your kindness makes a huge impact in the lives of less-fortunate children and families in our community.

At The Table

On March 31, 2008, we gathered these 12 passionate preservationists at the spectacular Bellamy Mansion in Historic Downtown Wilmington for dinner and a discussion of the significance of historically preserving our cultural landscape, the consequences of failure and the rewards of success.

Myrick Howard | Preservation North Carolina, President

Myrick Howard serves as president of Preservation North Carolina and has led the statewide membership organization for 30 years. He attended Brown University and UNC Chapel Hill, where he received a masterís degree in city planning and a law degree in 1978. The author of Buying Time for Heritage, Howard has taught preservation classes at the University of North Carolina Charlotte for more than 20 years and was recently made an honorary member of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (A.I.A.) for his work in historic preservation.

Beverly Ayscue | Bellamy Mansion Museum, executive director

Beverly Ayscue is the executive director of the Bellamy Mansion Museum. She has overseen many restoration projects that have taken place, including construction of the Carriage House Visitor Center and the completion of the mansionís historic gardens. From 1992 to 2000, Ayscue served the North Carolina Arts Council as project manager/public art administrator. As exhibition coordinator for Preservation North Carolina (1993-1998), she coordinated the organizationís educational series "North Carolina Architectural Heritage Exhibitions," which was created to augment public knowledge of the stateís heritage.

William D. Moore | UNCW associate professor of public history

William D. Moore is an associate professor of public history at UNCW. Director of the public history program since 2005, Moore earned a Ph.D. in American and New England studies from Boston College and a degree with high honors in folklore and mythology from Harvard College. Currently, Moore serves as a preservation consultant for the Planning Division, City of Wilmington, and as a board member of Old Baldy Foundation of Bald Head Island, North Carolina. Moore was the recipient of Historic Wilmington Foundationís Preservation Award of Merit, honored for his work in preserving local sites of historic and architectural importance in 2002 and 2003.

Marjorie Taylor Way | historian

Marjorie Taylor Way has been a resident of Wrightsville Beach for 40 years. She received masterís degrees in intermediate interdisciplinary studies and educational administration from UNCW. Way is the historian for women of the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington, as well as a Sunday school teacher. She is on the board of directors of the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, Wilmington Kiwanis Club and is vice chair of Wrightsville Beach Historic Landmark Commission.

Edward F. Turberg | architectural historian, restoration specialist

Edward F. Turberg holds a masterís degree in architectural history from UVA. He has worked as an architectural historian, restoration specialist and National Register consultant. He has also served on the board of directors for Bellamy Mansion, Inc., Historic St. Thomas Preservation Society, Inc., the board of trustees for Wilmington Railroad Museum Foundation, Inc., as the chairman of the 13th Annual Old Wilmington by Candlelight Tour, as well as the Wilmington Historic District Commission and the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Inc., co-chairman of Wilmington Historic Preservation Network, and on the Historic Preservation Foundation of NC Advisors. He received the Gertrude S. Carraway Award of Merit from the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina in 1996.

Kaye Graybeal | Planning Division of Wilmington, director of development services

Kaye Graybeal holds a masterís degree in design, with a concentration in historic preservation, from UNCG. She has served as director of development services for the Planning Division of Wilmington for the last year. Before becoming director, Graybeal served as manager and was instrumental in establishing long range plans for the city. She authored the "Historic Preservation Element" for the cityís Future Land Use Plan. In the past, she has held jobs as a historic resource specialist and preservation planner. She is a member of the American Planning Association, Preservation North Carolina Board of Advisors, Historic Wilmington Foundation and National Trust for Historic Preservation.

George W. Edwards | Historic Wilmington Foundation executive director

George W. Edwards, the sixth executive director of the Historic Wilmington Foundation, moved to Wilmington in 2004 from Virginia, with his wife, Angela, also a professional preservationist. Edwards has worked on historical preservation for more than 23 years. Before moving to Wilmington he served as the executive director of the Atlanta Preservation Center, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota, and the Preservation Alliance of Virginia. Edwards has two masterís degrees, one in educational administration from West Georgia University and one in heritage preservation from Georgia State University. He also received a graduate certificate in contemporary planning from Hamline University. Edwards serves on the board of Wilmington Downtown and the facilities committee of the African American Heritage Foundation.

Beverly Tetterton | New Hanover County Public Library Special Collections and Research Librarian

Beverly Tetterton, special collections and research librarian at the New Hanover County Public Library for 27 years, received a masterís degree in library science from NC Central University. She authored Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten and Wilmington Historic District Design Guidelines. She was a member of the Wilmington Historic District Commission from 1990 to 2000, serving as chairman from 1993-1998. A member of the Historic Wilmington Foundation, Tetterton has sat on the board of trustees and chaired the Historic Plaque Committee since 1983. She was the recipient of the Historic Wilmington Foundation Award of Merit for Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten in 2006, and the Katherine Howell Award for long-time work in historic preservation in 2001.

J. Robert Warren | Antique dealer, historian, writer

J. Robert Warren, operator of J. Warren Antiques, served the community for 30 years as a College Park Elementary School teacher. Warren is a consultant for the Bellamy Mansion Museum, as well as the St. James Episcopal Churchís 275th Anniversary project. He served as president of Preservation North Carolina, Residents of Old Wilmington, Lower Cape Fear Historical Society and Friends of Stagville Center Corporation. He is the author of the acclaimed article "History in Towns, Wilmington NC," which won him the Clarendon Cup for historical writing from the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society in 1981. That year, he was also the recipient of the Ruth Coltrane Canon Award from Preservation North Carolina.

Tommy Rogers | builder

Tommy Rogers is a third-generation builder. His grandfather, Luther T. Rogers, started the family business in 1918. He built the Atlantic View pier (now called Johnnie Mercerís) and also built many houses on the north end of Wrightsville after the fire of 1934. Tommyís father, Luther T. Rogers Jr., was the mayor of Wrightsville Beach. Tommy helped his father and uncle with the restoration of Thalian Hall and also worked on the restoration of the Bellamy Mansion. Rogers Building Corporation has worked on a number of projects independently, which includes many houses downtown; most notably, the Murchison House. Rogers is a member of NC Preservation, Home Builders Association and the Wilmington Historic Foundation.

Dean Gornto | St. James Episcopal parish administrator

Dean Gornto, the parish administrator at St. James Episcopal, oversees the maintenance, restoration and expansion of the historic complex in downtown Wilmington. He has lived in an 1886 home in Wilmingtonís original historic district for 33 years, and spends his summers in a 1927 cottage on Wrightsville Beach. He is the former president of the Historic Wilmington Foundation and Residents of Old Wilmington. Gornto was also chairman of the de Rosset House Restoration from 1984 to 1988. He is currently serving his fourth term on the board of directors of the Historic Wilmington Foundation.

Pat Bradford | WBM editor/publisher

Pat Bradford, the publisher and editor of Wrightsville Beach Magazine, was gainfully self-employed as a real estate broker for 16 years, prior to her present position. For many of those years she specialized in the sale of Wilmington historic homes. To her credits she lists historic restoration of the home at 101 Dock Street, as well as ownership of a historic cottage at Seventh and Orange Streets. She served on the Wrightsville Beach Landmark Commission from 2001 to 2005 and as its chairman for the last two of those years.


Pat Bradford: Can we start with the defining characteristics of historic preservation?

Beverly Ayscue: You are sitting in one, thank you very much.

J. Robert Warren: Itís a conservation of a building or buildings and its environs, and other related aspects. You have to consider records and documents; it can be more than just a building, but a lot of things that you want to conserve or preserve.

Myrick Howard: Just this morning I was having a meeting with a city councilman about the historic preservation of 1950s and 1960s subdivisions.

George Edwards: The idea of what is worth saving has changed so much in this country. Preservation got started, some people say, with the preserving of Mount Vernon and we thought for the longest time that preservation was just saving the landmark, the famous ó usually white peopleís ó houses, and now, as Myrick said, we are seeing a broader appreciation in Wilmington, too.

Myrick Howard: Ranch houses.

Beverly Ayscue: And slave quarters. A twist on the 20th century is that we began to recognize that life was not all white. Life is diverse, and there are many, many people of various ethnicities that need to be remembered. These slave quarters are an example ó one of hundreds ó of these kinds of buildings that housed thousands of people, and are one of a very small handful that are left. Thatís why weíre so adamant about saving them and making sure they are preserved and open to the public.

William Moore: I would like to suggest that a more forward-looking description for historical preservations is cultural resource management. Instead of emphasizing the historic aspect, emphasizing the natural resource aspect, because the American people understand about natural resources, about salt marshes, about rivers, about lakes. And when you start to talk about the cultural landscape, it is a resource, as well, and it needs to be managed just like salt marshes and estuaries need to be managed. Itís about choosing what is going to make it into the future and whatís not going to make it into the future, and managing it somehow. That approach influences people who arenít necessarily invested in history. When you talk to them in terms of a resource thatís going to be lost if itís not protected, then it can appeal to different groups.

Marjorie Taylor Way: Is that part of your curriculum at UNCW, getting young people to invest in the future in that way?

William Moore: Correct. Thinking about it is as forward-looking rather than backward- looking. Too often, historic preservation has this bad rap, that itís all about trying to freeze time and look backwards, and itís not about freezing time and looking backwards. Itís about looking forward and thinking about how to manage what we have in the present to make the world better in the future, or to at least make sure the world is not worse in the future.

Kaye Graybeal: Itís important for younger people to be involved because by the time theyíre older, 50 years old or older, buildings that were built when they were born have become historic. That generation chooses, or should choose, what they want future generations to know about them. Architecture reflects a generation, so you protect whatever message you want to send to the future about your particular generation. What would you want future generations to know about you?

Edward Turberg: Weíre living in a green age, and isnít historic preservation part of the green world, preserving whatís here and adapting it where necessary for future use? There are many ways to deal with an old building to bring it up to codes and comfort standards and yet preserve it.

Dean Gornto: Tourism, increasing the tax base, going green Ö there are lots of ways to get people to do the right thing. Wilmington is very fortunate. If we had the economic boom in the late 1940s to 1950s, we wouldnít have nearly what we have now. We suffered poverty and the population left the coast and nothing changed much.

William Moore: Neglect wasnít such a bad thing, right?

George Edwards: Thatís why a lot of southern cities, the boom cities in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, lost so much historic fabric. Growing up in Atlanta, everybody always joked that we all lost a great war, referring to the Civil War, but the tragedy in Atlanta was that it didnít burn down in the Civil War ó it wasnít really "Atlanta" then ó it was torn down consciously by the development spirit in the í50s, í60s and í70s.

Pat Bradford: So if somebody buys a home that many of you consider historic, but it doesnít have a plaque, nothing has been done to it yet, whatís the difference between historically preserving it and just up-fitting it?

J. Robert Warren: Preservation of a house should include the interior, but most people, or a lot of people, donít feel that way. I mean, if they are just buying a house, they tend to want a new house inside and an old exterior ó they want a big modern kitchen. I think you can work things out and have the amenities that you want, but I also think there are a lot of considerations that should be given to preserving the integrity of the house as a whole.

Pat Bradford: But arenít the requirements just for the exterior?

Myrick Howard: The requirements for the exterior are local zoning, but in terms of using the tax credits, if you undertake a rehab that any of us are going to be respectful of, youíll have to take into consideration the major interior features of the house. And there are really good incentives for renovation from a statewide standpoint.

Pat Bradford: And they are?

Myrick Howard: Tax credits are 30 percent of your preservation cost. They do take into account the interior. The state, in their review, is going to be more focused on public rooms than private rooms, but you donít want to take all the nails out, you donít want to take all the doors out and why would you? Whatís there is better than anything you are going to replace it with, which is part of the message we have to get across to the world: Just about anybody who has owned an historic house has problems with the new additions way more than they have problems with the historic house itself.

Edward Turberg: Most of my job is working with people to get the tax credit. I believe Wilmington has the record in the state for the number of successful historic rehabilitations. And people who get into a project and want to do a rehabilitation seem to have had experience before or are willing listeners. Theyíre really into what theyíve got. They realize they have paid money for something thatís historic, and they want to learn about it. And the programs that the National Park Service and the state run ó where people get tax credits for rehabilitation ó really help people to understand theyíve got something valuable, and theyíre not about to tear out the interior. Once people realize it is historically a part of the house, hopefully they are going to either try to restore it back that way or do something to preserve it.

William Moore: Part of the story is that historic preservation has been given a bad name by folks who say we donít want people to be using the buildings, but the reality is if you donít have somebody in the building, the roof leaks and it falls down. Finding an economic purpose for the building is the most important part of preservation. Sometimes itís not the best use for it at that moment, but as long as there is somebody in it and it is being used for something, then somebody is at least maintaining it to a minimum.

Edward Turberg: The whole point behind preservation and the tax credits was to save buildings from being removed, from being replaced by new construction, and it was a carrot held in front of the individual, not the developer. But the idea was an incentive to let you realize that youíve got a valuable resource and the government is going to recognize it.

William Moore: Which brings us to the common good. These buildings are part of a common good, not just the individual good. Yes, they are individual property, but the community as a whole has an investment in it.

Edward Turberg: And itís what makes a community and a neighborhood.

Pat Bradford: What are the boundaries of the historic district? Where are these communities and neighborhoods?

Kaye Graybeal: Basically, Cowan Street to Dawson and then out to about 10th for the National Register.

Myrick Howard: How many national historic districts do you have now?

Kaye Graybeal: We have seven. They include Masonboro Loop, Sunset Park, Carolina Heights and Carolina Terrace.

J. Robert Warren: Isnít it true that New Hanover County has the largest historic area in North Carolina?

Kaye Graybeal: Yes, I have read that.

George Edwards: We have the largest 19th century National Register district in North Carolina. Thatís the large district. So often itís the only district people think about. Iím constantly trying to educate folks that itís not just right here, but itís up Grace and itís Carolina Heights and Place and Sunset Park and Masonboro Loop and there is a district out there in the river, too.

Kaye Graybeal: The shipwreck district.

Beverly Ayscue: Nobody thinks about that, but those ships are out there.

Edward Turberg: And there must be a car wreck district too. Iíve seen one or two.

Pat Bradford: Wrightsville has talked about it. We looked at Harbor Island as being the most logical choice, but the resistance at the beach has been enormous.

Kaye Graybeal: Because there is a difference in the National Register and the local: the local districts are regulated by a local historic preservation commission.

Edward Turberg: One of the problems that has developed over the years at Wrightsville Beach is that when these little cottages that Tidewater Power built in 1906, 1908, and those built through the teens and 1920s, families would go to the beach, but were reared to understand what timeshare meant.

Pat Bradford: Yes.

Edward Turberg: And certain members of the family went to the beach at certain times and the little cottage or the two-story cottage could accommodate that part of the family, but now it seems that everybody wants to be there at the same time and thatís why you get a multi-story place. Theyíre not sublet. Theyíre the same family or members of the same family group who come there and thatís caused all these little cottages to disappear because there is no way that they could accommodate the whole family at one time.

J. Robert Warren: I think the tax issue is a real problem to be considered because all of a sudden someone who years and years ago bought a house on the ocean ó that is probably one of the older ones left ó is faced with its valuation now close to $2 million and they have an old house, so somebody would pay them that much for the land and not care about the cottage.

Beverly Tetterton: The property is worth more than the house.

Marjorie Taylor Way: There are also problems with insurance. You have to have flood insurance and people start looking at restoring these historic houses that are going to be flooded unless they meet code, and they talk about historically preserving their house and putting up a plaque and then they start having builders look at it and going underneath and the builder sees the house is sitting on two-by-fours, and no way, thatís not going to work.

Tommy Rogers: When I was a child, poor people lived at Wrightsville Beach. The wealthy Wilmington families had beach cottages and came down in the summer. The economics of the whole thing have changed so dramatically that the dirt is worth more than the house and the developers are tearing these little houses down and building mansions.

Myrick Howard: It could happen right here in this district unless there is the political will to go up against it because you can deal with it if you wanted to.

Tommy Rogers: Thatís our biggest challenge, I think. George and I talk about it all the time. How do we stop Mr. Bailey from tearing down the Babies Hospital?

Kaye Graybeal: The city has an initiative right now that weíre working on to update the central business district code regulations. We have a proposal on the table to disallow rebuilding a building above the height larger than it was before if it is a building in the National Register historic district. Once itís down, you canít build higher than what it was before. We put that proposal out last week at a public information meeting. We got complaints today, the mayor spoke to me today, there are developers that are complaining about this proposal.

Myrick Howard: Of course.

Kaye Graybeal: This is in the central business district, shifting away from the houses. We donít propose that for residential, but anything in the central business district.

Tommy Rogers: Doesnít Charleston have a law that says you absolutely cannot tear down an historic building in Charleston?

Myrick Howard: Our historic district enabled legislation only allows a 365-day demolition delay, but whatís happening is at least four communities now have gone through special legislation to allow a permanent delay or permanent prohibition on demolition. Iím hoping enough local communities will do it, and then we can then go statewide with it. This is how the original historic district legislation happened. Local organizations, local governments, did it one by one and then eventually it happened statewide. But New Bern has done it; Statesville has done it; Apex has done it; Salisbury has done it.

Beverly Tetterton: I think Kure Beach has a height codified limit.

J. Robert Warren: They do.

Myrick Howard: This is to stop demolition. Again, itís a matter of the political will to do it because the only reason you can get those skyrocketing land values is because you can build these mansions. If we said, "You can only build 3,000 square feet and no more," then nobody is going to tear down the existing historic structure. From a Raleigh standpoint, these mansions that are being built are not sustainable. They are going to be the future rooming houses. They are already starting to be that. With regard to the foreclosure issue, those are the buildings that are being foreclosed on. Itís the mansions that are the problems. And you know, there has been news in the last two or three weeks about whatís happening to coal prices in the United States, and the rest of the world, as our electricity rates go up 50 percent over the next 10 years, which is the projection as we watch gas prices go up, who the heck is going to be able to maintain these humongous houses? We went through this in the 1970s. The 1970s were really good for preservation. Energy issues helped save preservation and, in a sense, helped save a bunch of communities because people realized, "Oh, I really donít need that second car if Iím living downtown."

Marjorie Taylor Way: With the slowdown in building, the cost of energy and everything else, people are choosing to stay in their own homes and add on, but thatís a good slowdown, donít you think?

Myrick Howard: I think it will be helpful. But we, as preservationists, have to get out there with that part of that message. I hope that Wilmington will consider going after enabling legislation to do a permanent demolition delay in the historic district.

Kaye Graybeal: Our staff is looking into that. Itís not realistic, but weíre hopeful.

Beverly Ayscue: But can we hold back? This is a booming city; people are desperate to move here. Everybody wants to be here because itís such a beautiful place.

Myrick Howard: So why are we killing the beauty?

Beverly Ayscue: Thatís exactly the issue. Does the city have the power, the ability?

Kaye Graybeal: Theyíve gained the power, but do they have the wherewithal in the political realm?

George Edwards: We can draft an ordinance, there are plenty of smart people here, but it will be whether the City Council will vote to approve it. There are several legislators that would be happy to carry that to Raleigh, but theyíre not going to carry it over the objection of the City Council.

Myrick Howard: In New Bern, as of January of this year, there is a prohibition on demolition within their historic district.

George Edwards: Theyíve established a set of criteria that have to be applied to every single request.

Myrick Howard: Charleston has had it for years.

Beverly Tetterton: When I was on the Historic District Commission we went from the 365 to the 90 days demolition to 365 days and Iím sorry to say this, but I also remember, you know, the Cotton Exchange is not in the historic district, everybody thinks it is, but itís not, and I remember being on the commission and developers coming up to me and saying, ĎYou think you are moving the district over there, you might as well forget it, Beverly, weíre not going to let you have anything.í I think Wilmington would be a tough nut to crack.

Kaye Graybeal: We are the only city in the state that requires a 90-day notice of demolition in the National Register district, other cities donít have that requirement.

Myrick Howard: One real difference between then and now is that waiting a year for demolition is no big deal because it takes that long to get your permits in place anyway.

J. Robert Warren: Times have really changed because people used to drive through Wilmington looking for the battleship, and they had no sense of the historic district. It was either the battleship or the beach. Now, the whole concept thatís most appealing is the history of our area and Historic Wilmington as a destination.

Pat Bradford: How else does historic preservation benefit our community?

Myrick Howard: Historic preservation is a great creator of jobs in our community. Our North Carolina tax credit, at last report, has created 1,500 jobs across the state, which is more than Dell or Google or these other industries that weíre putting money into.

Marjorie Taylor Way: From the historical point of view of a teacher, I think itís a way of helping show the past to future generations so they have something to latch onto. You have to be grounded in something and thatís been the architecture and the beauty of our history here.

Edward Turberg: I think that people who have grown up in Wilmington, and people who have moved here from somewhere else, are here partly because of the history of the city. And in teaching my architectural history classes, we have more and more new people coming in who are interested in knowing something about this town, and the thing I like to point out is it doesnít matter where they are from, from Maine to Washington to New Mexico, theyíre going to find a style of house at a certain period in Wilmington that they recognize as home. And itís because of the continuum of history that people can move here and feel comfortable. It might be deep South or it might be the northern South or it might be the eastern South, but itís a part of a country that they are familiar with, and they can relate to it through the architecture, not necessarily the culture.

J. Robert Warren: I think historic preservation provides a place I very much enjoy living. And through teaching, it gave me an opportunity for a number of years to do some things hands on that I really like to do and that was to take students out for drawing classes, drawing some of the historic houses. That had an important influence on them, to see and feel the history of where they live. Also, it provides a wonderful atmosphere and destination for people who donít necessarily come here to live, but who enjoy visiting Wilmington.

Beverly Ayscue: I agree. As the executive director of a major attraction in this town, we are a draw for tourists. They come to Wilmington not just for the beaches, but for this beautiful historically preserved section, and they constantly say it is such a beautiful city and itís so warm and the people are so warm, but also that the houses are so glorious. So they come because people feel comfortable in the setting.

Tommy Rogers: I have to go back to Myrickís reason, the economics of it, because I am a builder. It does provide jobs for me and for my family and I enjoy that aspect of it. But mostly itís because we are trying to save these old houses for future generations. I donít know if my kids will be in the construction business, but if they are, in 30 years they can renovate the houses that I renovated for future generations.

Pat Bradford: I think it connects people back to their roots, and people really need that kind of connection.

Dean Gornto: The quality of life is what appealed to me, and thatís from 33 years ago through today. Iím a visual person. Iím just taken with the beauty. That appealed to me immediately. That and the quality of life. I was able to raise my children in a house that was built by a great-grandfather, which we did not inherit. It just created a wonderful life for us, and I donít know why it eludes some people but just walking every day with the dog, all the beauty and the things you see, itís a feast. Anyway, thatís why I became a preservationist. I really wasnít when I started. I simply wanted a nice house with high ceilings, and I didnít want to build it.

William Moore: I think weíre all saying many of the same things. Weíve got enough strip malls. I donít need to put my life into building another strip mall. Somebody else is going to do that. But you canít create character. You can only nurture character. So if this stuff gets all torn down, thatís it.

Kaye Graybeal: Iím not a historian. I come from the same angle that Dean does. My background is design, and so I think historic buildings tell the stories of where weíve been, of the lifestyles and the values at that time, and to destroy such an accurate visual record of what the values were at a particular time would be a shame. Itís sort of like the evolution of the visual arts and painting over time. Architecture tells us about our culture over a period of time.

George Edwards: I think that the distinctive destination award says a lot about Wilmington. Weíve been doing this for a long time and we do a good job with it. We are unique. People donít experience what everybody around the table is talking about in every American city. One of the unique things about this city is that there is a lot of diverse architecture and a lot of diversity in the people who built the architecture. We canít lose sight of some of the wonderful small-house neighborhoods that have been typically occupied by African-Americans or working class folks of the world, some wonderful African-American churches. Those are the assets that we have and need to protect just as rigorously and aggressively as weíve protected the big houses in the city.

Beverly Tetterton: I have lived in an old house my entire life, even when I was in college and I was the undergrad with the crummy apartment in the old house. Iíve lived in Europe, in very old buildings, so I couldnít imagine living anywhere else. Iím like Dean, Iím a street walker. And itís real, our city, from the granite curbing to the brick streets to the buildings to the wood siding. You donít find wood siding anymore, or real wooden windows, so to me the first thing I did when I moved to Wilmington was join the Historic Wilmington Foundation because I was so thrilled to be living in a place like this. I fought a lot of preservation battles with them, and I just think itís a wonderful way of life.

Myrick Howard: Preservation adds a remarkable ability to pull different people together from different walks of life, from different points of view. Itís been so interesting to watch the effort with the slave quarters here at the Bellamy Mansion in terms of bringing African-American folks and white folks together ó who might never have a meaningful conversation with each other ó to have a conversation about the past and the future, and how history is shaping the future. But for the building, you wouldnít be having the conversation.

Beverly Tetterton: Yes, but in one month we lost 13 buildings. Some of them were small cottages, and others were stores, little stores, so there is a lot of work still to be done.

Myrick Howard: Raleigh has had more than 600 teardowns in the last five years.

Beverly Ayscue: I knew that, and itís a tragedy, but I had no idea that we lost 13 buildings in one month on the north side of this town.

Dean Gornto: And they all contributed. You just canít make up for that kind of loss.

Beverly Tetterton: The wood alone and the doors and the windows.

Tommy Rogers: Itís education. I just restored a 1937 African-American bungalow on Masonboro Sound and so many of my friends and family said, "Are you crazy? Why are you putting so much money into this house?" I bought penny-round tile that matches the tile in the historic district exactly, and it was more than $30 dollars a square foot and theyíre going crazy and itís because theyíre not educated and therefore donít know enough about what weíre losing by tearing these buildings down. It seems to me we should be able to define the historic districts, count the houses. Find a definitive number and say, "These are off limits for development. No tearing them down and rebuilding them."

Myrick Howard: If there is the political will, it can be done.

Kaye Graybeal: North Carolina is a major property rights state. Itís very property rights oriented.

Myrick Howard: Whose property rights? When a brand new mega-house is built next door to you and youíve lost your views, youíve lost your sunlight, youíve lost your shade, youíve destroyed the streetscape and your property value goes down, whose property rights are we talking about? At what point do we have some rights as a society on quality of life? Quality of life is not an individual thing.

William Moore: One thing I wanted to put on the record is the National Register of Historic Places, which the general public does not understand. Itís simply a register. Itís run by the Department of the Interior and all it is is a list. Thereís no enforcement aspect to it. They canít tell you what to do. Itís the federal government deciding what resources need to be kept track of.

Edward Turberg: For years our neighborhood was considered to be the almost historic district. Now we are part of the National Register Historic District and people are very pleased to know that, but then they are all upset because they have to get authorization or certificate of appropriateness to do certain changes on the building and they say itís because they are in the National Register. But itís because they are now within a local district. I try to tell them those rules were enacted by the public to protect individuals from the rest of the public.

Kaye Graybeal: In 1962.

Edward Turberg: And realize that these rules are about protecting you from losing your view or losing your shade or having too much shade, things like that.

George Edwards: It protects your investment.

J. Robert Warren: The presence of preservation in North Carolina in connection with the Bellamy Mansion has been an asset to Wilmington too. An investment worth protecting.

Beverly Ayscue: I think so too.

J. Robert Warren: The visibility, thatís been important.

Beverly Ayscue: Itís a safety net for us, we have to sustain ourselves. We are not freestanding by any means. We are responsible for our own budget and our own upkeep, but they are our safety net and we are a stewardship property for Preservation North Carolina and the guidance that they give this building has kept it a viable place in the community.

Pat Bradford: So if I have a house in the historic district of Wilmington, Iím governed by the City of Wilmingtonís Historic District regulations, but could I also be a National Register home?

George Edwards: You would be eligible for a tax credit, which is what the National Register conveys to you.

Pat Bradford: What are the other historic preservation groups?

George Edwards: The Historic Wilmington Foundation. For 42 years, we have been here.

Edward Turberg: The Cape Fear Museum, the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, the Bellamy, Burgwin-Wright, Iím probably leaving somebody out.

Kaye Graybeal: The Architectural Review Board.

William Moore: The battleship.

Edward Turberg: The battleship. I know we all have distinct roles, but the public does have a hard time distinguishing us, so itís a constant educational struggle.

William Moore: We canít forget the Colonial Dames, the Colonial Dames of the Burgwin-Wright house in the 1930s.

J. Robert Warren: They go way back, and we should be thankful for them everywhere.

Beverly Ayscue: They used to hold their meetings in the basement here when Ellen Bellamy lived here. She would let the dames have the meetings downstairs and they decided to buy the Burgwin-Wright house.

Beverly Tetterton: But do you know why they bought it? It was because someone was going to take it apart and move it to Connecticut. They were going to put a gas station on that corner and so these ladies came together and said, ĎWe just canít let this happen.í That was in the 1930s.

Beverly Ayscue: We canít let it happen today, either. Kay, if someone buys a home in the historic district and wants to make some renovations, hopefully preserve it, whatís the first line, what is the first group that they need to go to find out if what theyíre doing is correct?

Kaye Graybeal: It would be best to contact city staff, the historic preservation planner. The city staff guides property owners from there: Whether or not the work you want to do is minor and can be administratively approved or is major and needs to go to the Historic Preservation Commission for review, whether you might want to check with the Historic Wilmington Foundation to see if there are any restrictive covenants on the house.

Edward Turberg: The next step is to call Ed Turberg in for a tax credit and a plaque on your house because that brings the library in and what a resource that is.

Beverly Tetterton: Well, weíve come full circle.

J. Robert Warren: If everyone continues to work together, all the historic preservation groups, they can be an educational force to help people understand what is going on and why itís important to the community.


Menu

Appetizers
Crab dip oceanic
Brie on water wafers with raspberry and chocolate drizzle
Lump crabmeat cocktails

Salad
Grilled romaine with feta, roasted red peppers, served with warm garlic infused extra extra-virgin olive oil

Entrťe
Cashew crusted grouper with herb butter orzo and fresh grilled asparagus with dill

Dessert
Gingerbread and marble cake with berries and fresh whipped cream

Catering by Atlantic Quest Catering Company


History in Bloom

Floral arrangements have been important as long as theyíve been around ó which is a very, very long time ó but it was the Victorians that most embraced their distinctive beauty and individual meaning. In fact, during the Victorian era, numerous dictionaries were created to interpret the various meanings of flowers. The Bellamy Mansion was built in the heart of the Victorian era, and that inspired Letís Talk Historic Preservation florist Roxanne Thompson of Island Florals to create the fabulous floral arrangements for the dinner.

The first floor of the Bellamy Mansion was decorated with flowers typically found in the 1800s: hybrid delphinium, burgundy garden rose, Queen Anneís lace, lisianthus, ranunculus, veronica, tulips, dahlias, feverfew, pheasant feathers, curly willow and gardenias. Beyond those beautiful arrangements, Thompson created tussie-mussies or "talking bouquets" for each individual place setting at the dinner table. The bouquets included rosemary for remembrance and wisdom, pansies for thoughts and inspiration, a rose for love and friendship, lavender for success and happiness and scented geraniums for preference. Instead of sending a card with your next floral delivery, let the flowers speak for themselves. óJessica Haywood


The Bellamy Mansion

Its hard to find a better example of historic preservation in the Cape Fear Region than the Bellamy Mansion. The structureís antebellum beauty is a combination of Greek Revival architecture, with its columned porch, and Italianate style, with its tall, narrow windows. From first glance at the breathtaking facade, to the remarkable authenticity of the groundsí restored slave quarters, the mansion is a priceless asset of our community and culture. Ingrained in the woodwork are the stories of a family who lost, regained and all the while treasured their majestic home.

In 1859, on the cusp of the Civil War, architect James F. Post and draftsman Rufus Bunnell commenced construction of the mansion for esteemed physician, planter and community leader Dr. John Dillard Bellamy. Completed in 1861, the 22-room manor housed Dr. Bellamy, his wife Eliza McIlhenny Harriss and their nine children. While the house was known to be Dr. Bellamyís great project, the garden was the undertaking of his wife. Today, the garden is maintained to reflect the lavish style and intricate design Mrs. Bellamy applied to her treasured plants and flowers.

Throughout the mid-1800s, the U.S. suffered a nationwide epidemic of yellow fever. The illness also plagued the South, leaving behind 399 yellow fever victims buried in Oakdale Cemetery. The Bellamy family was displaced by the life-threatening epidemic for a short time, eventually returning to their new home ó but not for long. In 1865, federal troops poured into Wilmington, capturing not only the city but taking over the Bellamy residence, as well. The mansion served as military headquarters through the end of the war. When his property was later denied re-ownership by the Union Army, John Bellamy gained a pardon directly from President Andrew Johnson to recover his residence and return his family to their home.

The last of the children, Ellen Douglas Bellamy, passed away in 1946, leaving the estate to remote relatives. On occasion, it briefly housed tenants or a small shop, but was left vacant for many years. Then in 1972, the Bellamy Mansion was brought back to life by Bellamy Mansion Inc., an organization determined to restore the property and open it up to the public as a museum. But shortly after it seemed the mansion had been rescued, a fire blazed through the house, practically gutting its interior. The interior and exterior of the building were stabilized by preservationists for years until it was decided that the house would be reopened.

In 1989, efforts and planning commenced to restore the structure, and interior restoration began in 1992. The mansion became reacquainted with its city in the spring of 1994, when it opened its doors to the public once again.

Preservation North Carolina, a statewide membership organization dedicated to protecting the structures and landscapes important to the stateís heritage, adopted the mansion as a stewardship property. The organization has completed efforts to restore the residence, reconstruct the carriage house and install a parking lot for visitors to the museum. In addition to past projects, ongoing maintenance is constantly taking place to preserve it. "Weíre always working on something ó painting, re-doing floors," says executive director of the Bellamy Mansion Museum, Beverly Ayscue. "The mansion is such an important work of architecture, such a landmark of Wilmington, that when Preservation North Carolina acquired it, they knew it had to be kept open to the public as a resource."

Today, the mansion serves the community as a museum of history and design arts. Through the collaboration of community efforts and the dedication of individuals at Preservation North Carolina, the Bellamy Mansion is a property where, in a sense, time ceases to move forward. When you pass through the grand doorway, you forget about meetings, deadlines and unending to-do lists, and instead, travel back to an era when women sat with their white-gloved hands folded in place and cigar-puffing gentlemen stood by in their crisp frock coats. ó Lia Kerner


Special Thanks

Venue

Bellamy Mansion
www.bellamymansion.org

Catering

Atlantic Quest Catering Company
www.atlanticquest.net

Floral arangements

Island Florals by Roxanne
www.islandflorals.net

Chairs, Linens,
Dinnerware and tables

Party Suppliers & Rentals
www.partysuppliers.net

Transcription

Tina StancillĖofficial court reporter for the 5th Judicial District

Invitations

Cissy Russell

 


Copyright 2019 Wrightsville Beach Magazine. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

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