2019 Most Threatened Places
Historic Wilmington Foundation has a proud history of identifying structures that may be vulnerable to destruction. Creating awareness is the first step to action. In honor of Preservation Month, we present our list of 12 Places Worth Saving.
The Borst building was constructed in 1926 as Wilmington’s first Chrysler dealership and was one of several dealerships comprising downtown’s historic “Automobile Row” on Second Street. Currently, the building is owned by New Hanover County and used by emergency services. Although a contributing historic structure, it is under threat of demolition in the current Project Grace plan.
New Hanover County Public Library (Belk-Beery Building)
Constructed in 1951-52 as a department store, the Belk-Beery served that purpose until 1979. New Hanover County agreed to purchase the property with the understanding that a library would continue to exist in downtown Wilmington. Today, this building is one of a handful of mid-century commercial buildings remaining in the Wilmington National Register District.
Old WAVE Transit Center
The two brick structures at the old WAVE transit center were built in 1947 as offices and bus bays. The City of Wilmington purchased the parcel in 1974 and operated there until several years ago. Since being vacated, the site has fallen into disrepair made worse by Hurricane Florence. In March 2019, the City approved a resolution allowing the development of the site, leaving the buildings open to adaptive reuse or demolition.
The simple wood-frame Reaves Chapel in Navassa was built in the late 1880s and is believed to be the oldest AME church in the area. It was relocated to its current site in 1911, and, although it has been vacant and deteriorating for decades, it stands as a local landmark to Gullah-Geechee heritage and culture. Efforts are underway to help repair and restore this important structure.
Pender County Courthouse
Located in Burgaw, the stately Georgian Revival Pender County Courthouse has been a focal point of county government since its construction in 1936. It has also appeared in several movies and television shows filmed in the Cape Fear region. After sustaining heavy damage from Hurricane Florence that included floor-to-ceiling flooding in the basement, this building has been closed since late 2018.
Wilmington Area Beaches Historic Cottages
Wilmington area beaches were once home to many traditional wood-clad cottages. Escalating values of beachfront land have seen cottage demolitions increase year after year in favor of new and larger properties. That, along with the threat of sea level rise and more intense coastal hurricanes, mean that these historic structures may soon be gone.
Alton Lennon Federal Building and Courthouse
The stone, three-story Alton Lennon Federal Building, and Courthouse overlooking the Cape Fear is 100 years old and incorporates design elements from the original Customs House that stood on the grounds. Hurricane Florence caused significant structural damage to the building, which has been closed since September 2018.
Eagles Island is located across from downtown Wilmington’s Riverwalk and is situated between the Cape Fear and Brunswick Rivers. Remnants of shipwrecks near the island give the place historical importance, but the island, which frequently experiences flooding, is vulnerable to both environmental and manmade influences. For the last several years it has been under threat of new construction development and has been identified as a potential site for a new bridge crossing the Cape Fear River.
Built by Daniel Russell, Sr. in the 1840s, Winnabow Plantation in Brunswick County was the birthplace of future North Carolina Republican governor Daniel Russell, Jr. Governor Russell was in office during the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898. Today, this once grand Greek Revival structure is in severe disrepair and is currently for sale.
The Sarah and Jacob Horowitz House
The six-bedroom house built in 1921 is a prominent fixture in Wilmington’s historic Sunset Park neighborhood. The house is a good example of the Mission Revival architectural style that is extremely rare in Wilmington and North Carolina. Although it underwent an extensive renovation in 1965, this historic structure has fallen into disrepair. Deferred maintenance appears to have been aggravated by the hurricane, and the stucco house is now for sale. Due to its location, the property is a prime candidate for relocation or demolition due to the proposed Cape Fear Crossing project.
Richard Langdon House
The Langdon House on Orange Street was built in 1808 in the Federal style. It sustained a fire in 1880 and went on to serve as a single-family home for decades before being turned into apartments. First Presbyterian Church has owned it since 2000. The property was for sale prior to Hurricane Florence. The hurricane did further damage to the place, which was already in disrepair. If the house does not soon sell, a demolition permit may be filed.
Wilmington’s Historic Districts
Wilmington has several historic districts located within its city limits. The proposed Cape Fear Crossing and evolving Rail Realignment Plan pose a significant threat to both the Wilmington Historic District and the Sunset Park Historic District. Some of the plans call for the relocation of historic properties to make way for a proposed bridge across the Cape Fear River. While more recent plans have called for the bridge to be built further south, the threat to Wilmington’s historic districts remains high. As the Cape Fear region continues to see unprecedented growth and development, the historic districts themselves are increasingly vulnerable.