Friday, August 19, 2022

This 1890s home is scheduled for demolition. Historic Wilmington Foundation needs help saving it

An 1890s bungalow on Wilmington's northside is slated for demolition. Historic Wilmington Foundation is working with a developer to help move the home of its current lot to salvage a piece of downtown history.

WILMINGTON — There’s a house on Bladen Street that needs a home.

What does that mean? Well, right now, the downtown house is slated for demolition to make way for new apartments. But Historic Wilmington Foundation is holding out, hoping someone will step in to save it by physically relocating the house somewhere else.

310 Bladen

A generously sized bungalow, the three-bedroom, one-bath doesn’t have much time left at 310 Bladen Street, where it has been for at least 120 years.

“We’re in a time crunch,” Beth Rutledge, Historic Wilmington Foundation’s executive director, said. 

The foundation has agreed to move the house by Nov. 1 to keep it from being demolished. A total of five structures sit where the owner of City Block Apartments is planning to build, but the most salvageable building is the bungalow.

“Somebody needs to come in and love this building,” Rutledge said. “This is what we do at Historic Wilmington Foundation, we’re in the business of protecting and preserving the irreplaceable.”

The house needs a lot, figuratively and literally. It needs a new electrical system, foundation, heating, ventilation and air conditioning. It also needs a vacant lot to be relocated to, preferably a lot located on Wilmington’s northside.

“It’s going to need everything,” Rutledge said. “Absolutely everything.”

To keep moving costs down and the roof on, Rutledge hopes to keep the 30-foot-wide, 50-foot-deep home on the eastern side of Market Street. “We want to keep it in its natural home, which is north,” Rutledge said. “We’d love to keep it in its neighborhood.” 

But there’s only so many vacant, seasoned lots on the northside, ready for a home with owners willing to take on a fixer-upper. Only a small pool of people can pull this — and Rutledge needs to find a new owner in the 63 days she has left.

“We want to help make this connection happen,” she said. “This is not disposable, it’s here. We’re supposed to do right by it.”

Northside

Though the county’s property records indicate the house was built in 1930, Historic Wilmington Foundation traced it back to the 1890s. They found its first owner was an African American named Oliver Johnson, who worked as a porter.

Today, City Block Apartments’ owner has plans to develop what’s left of the block. Rutledge said the owner has been nothing but accommodating in granting the foundation permission to salvage what they can from the five structures that remain.

“This was a neighborhood,” Rutledge said. “These are the last ones standing.”

One inevitable casualty of the developer’s plans will be the Oscar Fillyaw Building, the city’s last remaining two-story wooden commercial building, built in 1889. With bracketed eaves and a two-tier porch, the Italianate frame house was once a canning factory and a candy shop.

“This will be our first plaqued building that has ever come down,” Rutledge said. 

Though the building is structurally unsound, Legacy Architectural Salvage, a Historic Wilmington Foundation project, has already begun to save what they can.

As for the bungalow, what Rutledge said is the most salvageable structure, Wilmington is open to working with whoever decides to take the project on.

“The city has been 100 percent supportive of us,” she said. “They rarely want to see things torn town that are viable, and this is viable.”

Seeing the home’s destruction as an avoidable loss, Rutledge hopes someone will help Historic Wilmington Foundation fulfill its purpose.

“I get very emotional about the resiliency of these buildings,” she said. “Because they’re still here and they’ve survived, and it’s our job to take care of them; we’re supposed to be their stewards.”

Get in touch with Historic Wilmington Foundation about saving the bungalow at 310 Bladen Street at 910-762-2511 or email Beth Rutledge at rutledge@historicwilmington.org


Send tips and comments to Johanna Ferebee at johanna@localvoicemedia.com

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