Local preservation group to release annual list of ‘threatened places’

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The county-owned Tide Water building on Chestnut Street is one of many sites Historic Wilmington Foundation has helped save through its annual list of threatened places. The 2016 list will be announced Tuesday. Courtesy photos.
The county-owned Tide Water building on Chestnut Street is one of many sites Historic Wilmington Foundation has helped save through its annual list of threatened places. The 2016 list will be announced Tuesday. Courtesy photos.

The Tide Water building on Chestnut Street that reopened earlier this year as a modern office complex stands today as a testament to the power of preservation.

It was a building once thought better off razed than rehabilitated, until a little attention from the Historic Wilmington Foundation (HWF) got the notice of New Hanover County government officials, who ultimately decided to give it new life as administrative space.

HWF will once again shine a spotlight on some struggling older properties across the tri-county region with the release of its annual Most Threatened Historic Places list on Tuesday.

Compiled each year with the help of residents’ feedback, the list is released in May as part of National Preservation Month.

While alone it’s not enough to save old homes, hidden cemeteries, local landmarks and little rural gems, HWF director George Edwards said in an earlier interview that “the beauty of the list” is that it often gets the ball rolling by putting a public focus on otherwise abandoned, forgotten or dilapidated sites.

Created in 2006, the Most Threatened Historic Places initiative highlights a variety of sites that “but for the intervention…might be lost through neglect or outright public or private actions that lead to demolition,” Edwards said.

HWF added a traveling exhibit component four years with the goal of further raising awareness. This year’s exhibit will be unveiled in late July and will appear in local and regional public libraries and other frequented spots like Thalian Hall.

The state of the Fowler House on Front Street has remained mostly unchanged since its appearance on the list last year. HWF often features a property more than once to keep it in the spotlight.
The state of the Fowler House on Front Street has remained mostly unchanged since its appearance on the list last year. HWF often features a property more than once to keep it in the spotlight.

In total, HWF has listed 52 homes, buildings, churches and other sites in batches of eight to 10 annually. Some are listed more than one year in an effort to draw more attention. Submissions routinely include thematic issues like wooden windows and the Rosenwald schools, especially prevalent in Pender County. Rosenwald was the name given to educational institutions for black students in the early 20th century.

The forthcoming lineup, Edwards said, includes a few rollovers from last year, as well as some new additions. But he added, the number of recently identified spots is “regretfully” less than in 2015.

“I know that we miss things every single year. I know there are people who still don’t know about the list,” he said. “So, it’s an education process but I know it’s an education process that works.”

Edwards, along with member of HWF’s executive committee, will unveil the list at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Flemington-Oak Grove Cemetery, which made the 2015 list. The county-owned graveyard, located on Sampson Street, a dead-end dirt road just off U.S. 421, contains tombstones moved from Oak Grove Cemetery in the early 1960s to make way for an extension of 16th and 17th streets. Some questions have been raised since over whether the remains of bodies originally buried in Oak Grove were ever moved to Flemington.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.

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