Saturday, July 13, 2024

Giblem Lodge receives $5k grant for restoration efforts

The Giblem Lodge restoration effort has received another grant. (Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands Williams)

WILMINGTON — Rehabilitation of North Carolina’s second oldest Black Masonic Temple has just been aided by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which donated $5,000 to the effort this week.

READ MORE: First steps underway to restore Giblem Lodge, Wilmington’s time capsule of Black resilience

The grant will help the Historic Wilmington Foundation and Prince Hall Masons of
Giblem Lodge pay for fundraising consultant services and the creation of a major gifts strategy.

Grants from the National Trust Preservation Fund range from $2,500 to $5,000; over $5 million has been distributed since 2014. These matching grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations and public agencies across the country to support wide-ranging activities including consultant services for rehabilitating buildings, technical assistance for tourism that promotes historic resources, and the development of materials for education and outreach campaigns.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which brings us closer to our goal of restoring Giblem Lodge to its full potential,” HWF Executive Director Travis Gilbert said in a press release. “The collaboration between the Historic Wilmington Foundation and the Prince Hall Masons of Giblem Lodge highlights the significance of grassroots preservation, and we are excited to continue our efforts to honor the history and contributions of this remarkable building.”

The building at 720 Princess St. still hosts the masons, despite falling into disrepair. However, the restoration effort goes beyond the masons use into protection of a major landmark of Black history in Wilmington.

In 1866, a year after the end of the Civil War, members of the recently emancipated Black community in Wilmington founded the second Black Masonic Temple in the state. Between 1871 and 1873, the members erected the building known as the Giblem Lodge.

Over the course of the next century, the building would serve as a polling precinct — one of the first places Black men would exercise their right to vote — and a thriving marketplace bringing together inventors, craftsmen and artisans for the state’s first “Colored Industrial Exposition.”

Black leadership of the Republican party would join at the site to strategize and select party nominees for political offices until 1898, the year of the Wilmington massacre at the hands of white supremacists who overthrew the city’s Black leaders.

Giblem Lodge became a target of slanderous rumors; it was also revoked of its tax-exempt, nonprofit status. To earn enough to keep going, the Masons sold a parcel behind the building. Hugh MacRae, co-conspirator of 1898, bought it within days.

But during segregation, the lodge transformed into Wilmington’s first library for Black students.

The Historic Wilmington Foundation and the masons partnered in 2021 to rehabilitate the building. Since then, the Giblem Lodge task force has successfully applied for grant funding, resulting in the replacement of Giblem Lodge’s roof, soffit, and fascia,
as well as a structural engineer’s report.

Thanks to the movement’s research and advocacy, Giblem Lodge was recently designated as a Local Landmark by Wilmington City Council.

The Prince Hall Masons meet on the 1st floor; they seek to rehabilitate the upper floors so that the 3-story building may better serve the community. The implementation of a major gifts strategy would advance this project towards its overall goal: to return Giblem Lodge to full use.

Once the rehabilitation is complete, the third floor will be restored as the Mason’s
meeting hall, with plans to include a public exhibit space to honor the lodge’s history and the contributions of Black Wilmingtonians.

The second flood, historically known as Mariah Hall) will comprise of a community center on the second floor would collaborate with existing nonprofit organizations, and would be open to afterschool programs and other service/civic organizations.

Maintenance will be supported by profits from leasing the first floor to a local business.

While much of Giblem’s recent renovations have been funded by preservation groups — Marion Stedman Covington Foundation, North Carolina Community Foundation’s 1898 Memorial Fund, Residents of Old Wilmington — the task force is seeking to recruit corporate donors and engage local philanthropists.

“Giblem Lodge No. 2, nestled in the heart of Wilmington, holds a remarkable historic significance that resonates within the community,” Worshipful Master of Giblem Lodge Earl Armstrong said in the release. “Its grand architecture, timeless charm, and rich cultural heritage make it a true gem worth preserving. The Historic Wilmington Foundation recognizes the importance of this landmark and is dedicated to supporting the Lodge in its fundraising endeavors.”

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