WILMINGTON –– Wilmington City Council will be asked to approve funding Tuesday for a new sign designed for 1898 Memorial Park. The proposal from city staff comes exactly a year after the officials directed them to scrap their previous “institutional and flat” design for the entryway and start fresh.
Based on requests from the community, specifically former member of the 1898 Memorial Committee Bertha Todd, the city and committee members started working toward enhanced signage for the park in fall 2019. The goal was to create a sign visible and prominent from Third Street, yet not obstructing views, and incorporate materials less susceptible to vandalism. The project also includes new solar lighting and landscaping.
Concepts and renderings were developed by spring and presented to council Jan. 4, 2021.
But council was not enthusiastic about the end product: an under 40-inch tall, 6.5-feet-wide brick sign with the City of Wilmington’s signature blue and white text.
Councilmember Neil Anderson compared it to the entrance to a soccer park: “To me, it doesn’t have the gravitas that it needs to be in front of that 1898 Memorial.”
Mayor Bill Saffo agreed, stating the sign needed more character, possibly through texture and silver or gold letters. Mayor Pro Tem Margaret Haynes expressed frustration that their input wasn’t sought out until after the design was completed.
By March 2021, new options were created, including a cast stone sign with brick, a cast stone sign with stacked stone, and an oyster shell stucco sign with stacked stone. The Governance Committee, which select city council members are a part of, ended up directing staff to pursue a tumbled red brick column and base, cast stone caps, cast stone face and oiled bronze letters.
To pay for the project, if council accepts it, the city will allocate $10,542 from the Parks Facilities Maintenance Project and utilize a $5,000 grant from the North Carolina Community Foundation.
The total cost is $15,542, ordered from Southern Sign Company in Wilmington. It would replace the current marker, located on Davis Street adjacent to the parking area and visible from 3rd Street.
The 1898 Memorial Park, opened in 2008 after the community raised funds, recognizes the massacre that took place in Wilmington on Nov. 10, 1898 and the lives lost after white supremacists with the Democratic Party violently overthrew the local biracial government. It is believed to be the only successful coup in U.S. history.
It wasn’t until 2007 the N.C. General Assembly passed a resolution to officially acknowledge the coup. That same year ground broke on the park.
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