Walking Tours

Specialized tours of Wilmington, led by HWF’s Executive Director Travis Gilbert and other renowned historians.

Each month on a Sunday afternoon, Ten Tours leads small groups through through specialized tours of our historic downtown, tracing our region’s multi-faceted and diverse storylines through our irreplaceable built history.

When & Where

Typically one-mile in length, each tour begins at HWF’s headquarters, located at 211 Orange Street. Tours start at 2:00pm, concluding at 3:30pm, unless indicated otherwise. 


Interested in attending one of our FREE walking tours? Scroll down to see our upcoming tour schedule and sign up by clicking the “Register Now” button! 

These special tours are FREE, but donations are cheerfully accepted!


HWF’s Executive Director Travis Gilbert (pictured, left) leads many of our walking tours, though it is our honor and joy to collaborate with other local organizations and historians to frequently bring in guest guides! Through these partnerships, we are able to engage more deeply with our history and paint a complete picture of where we’ve been—and where we’re going. Each (free!) tour is specialized, and so are our guides! No matter who is leading the way, you’ll be entranced by their knowledge and storytelling. Details about individual tours can be found, below. 

Upcoming Tours

Sunday, May 15, 2022: Wilmington’s Historic Preservation Movement

Celebrate National Preservation Month by exploring the history of Wilmington’s historic preservation movement in downtown Wilmington. Learn about the movement through the built history preserved by organizations such as the Historic Wilmington Foundation, Preservation North Carolina, Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, and Colonial Dames. Your guide will chronicle the creation and expansion of Wilmington’s local historic districts. Special attention will be given to properties with historic preservation easements—or legal agreements protecting the property.

Sunday, June 12, 2022: Wilmington’s Soda Pop District

Wilmington’s newest district is thanks to a commitment to adaptive reuse! Explore the Soda Pop District, from its adaptive reuse of the 1945 Oldsmobile Buick Dealership into Hi-Wire Brewing and the current rehabilitation of the Coca-Cola Bottling Works. The walking tour will explore other architectural gems in this neighborhood, including New Hanover High School, Trinity Methodist Church, and Hughes Bros – who recently celebrated their 100th anniversary!

Past Tours

Sunday, April 24, 2022: Wilmington’s Heritage Trees

Join us for a free guided tour through Wilmington’s heritage trees—a vital part of our landscape and history—in celebration of Earth Day and Arbor Day! The City of Wilmington’s Heritage Tree Program is dedicated to the identification and preservation of heritage trees, which are defined as significant trees due to their age, rarity, grouping, overall beauty or historical significance. This walking tour is a partnership with the Alliance for Cape Fear Trees and the Wilmington Tree Commission.


Sunday, March 20, 2022: Brick Masons Robert & John Wood

Robert and John Wood constructed many of Wilmington’s 19th-century brick residences, houses of worship, and commercial structures. The Wood brothers’ career, launched by the construction of St. James Episcopal Church in 1839-1840, resulted in the construction of several Wilmington landmarks, including Thalian Hall and the Latimer House. Bricks were manufactured at a kiln along Smith Creek, north of Wilmington, by enslaved persons often hired out by their enslavers to the Wood brothers. This walking tour will use the Wood brother’s career to explore Antebellum building patterns and labor practices in Wilmington. Sites will include preserved structures and lost structures attributed to the Wood brothers, such as the Front Street Methodist Church and 1874 U.S. Post Office.


Sunday, November 14, 2021: Wilmington’s Pattern Book Houses

Architectural pattern books contributed to the spread of several architectural styles in Wilmington. Pattern books were published volumes of floor plans and elevations that could be replicated by local architects and builders. The pattern books were typically organized around a particular style of architecture. Famous pattern books include James Gibbs’ Book of Architecture, Andrew Jackson Downing’s Architecture of Country Houses, and the works of Mindard Lafever. The tour will explore the pattern books’ influences upon the DeRosset House, Edward Savage House, William B. McKoy House, and more! 

unday, October 10, 2021: Wilmington’s Heritage Trees

Join us for a free guided tour through Wilmington’s heritage trees – a vital part of our landscape and history! The City of Wilmington’s Heritage Tree Program is dedicated to the identification and preservation of heritage trees, which are defined as significant trees due to their age, rarity, grouping, overall beauty or historical significance. As part of a partnership with the Alliance for Cape Fear Trees and the Wilmington Tree Commission, three tour guides will lead the way: Travis Gilbert (HWF Executive Director), James Gregory (Wilmington Tree Commissioner and Alliance for Cape Fear Trees board member), and Bill Jayne (Alliance for Cape Fear Trees board member).  

Sunday, September 19, 2021: Porches, Piazzas, and Porticos

Wilmington is well known for its front porch culture, which has existed since the town’s founding in 1739/1740! This walking tour will focus on the architecture and use of Wilmington’s outdoor living spaces, from 19th century side piazzas that are trademarks of the Italianate style, to the Neoclassical Revival porticos from the early 20th century. Participants will learn how to identify the orders of columns, especially Wilmington’s distinctive Temple of the Winds columns. Particular attention will be paid to rear porches that were later enclosed and how to identify this trend in Wilmington’s built history. 


Sunday, May 30, 2021: Adaptive Reuse: Salvaging History & Saving Environment

Andy McGlinn, chair of Cape Fear Sierra Club, will lead a tour focusing on adaptive reuse and exploring the connection between preserving our irreplaceable built history and natural world. Giving new purpose to underutilized or deteriorating buildings, adaptive reuse has numerous benefits for our economy, environment, and culture. Circumventing both demolition and construction, adaptive reuse can reduce urban sprawl by repurposing existing buildings within the city—and it’s often cheaper than making an entirely new building. Perhaps most importantly, adaptive reuse restores a building’s heritage features for future generations.
On this tour, Andy McGlinn will highlight examples of adaptive reuse right here in Wilmington, including St. Thomas Church, Burgwin-Wright House, and Edward Teach! One notable and timely stop is the New Hanover County library, formerly the Belk-Beery department store—currently under threat of demolition as Project Grace plans move forward. To learn more about Historic Wilmington Foundation’s advocacy to preserve and protect the historic built resources on this city block, visit our Current Issues page

Sunday, April 18, 2021: Memorialization in Wilmington

War memorials hold a prominent role in the landscape of downtown Wilmington. In honor of Memorial Day, this walking tour will explore the memorialization of Wilmington’s veterans from the Revolutionary War through the World Wars. The tour will discuss details about the memorial’s creation, a critique of their artwork, and the memorial’s evolving interpretation through time. Particular attention will be placed on the modern relocation of the WWI monument and Confederate monuments.

Sunday, March 21, 2021: Women’s History Month

Led by local (and legendary!) historian and Plaque Committee Chair Beverly Tetterton, this timely tour will honor and celebrate the contributions of women in the Cape Fear region. The former special collections librarian and chief of the New Hanover County Library’s North Carolina Room, Beverly has also served on Wilmington’s Historic District Commission for a decade and authored Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten. In 2020, she was presented with the StarNews Media Lifetime Achievement Award. She and Dan Camacho created Wilmington History, a historic walking tour app. NOTE: Only one tour is offered on this date (2:00pm-3:30pm). 

Sunday, February 7, 2021: Black History in Wilmington

Islah Speller, founder of the Burnett-Eaton Museum Foundation and Journey Wilmington’s African American History Tour Guide, will lead February’s tour, in honor of Black History Month! Known as the “Sugar Hill Tour,” this route will include sites such as St. Stephens AME Church and the Telfair House. To read more about Speller’s local tours, click here: Heritage Tour Explores Wilmington’s Rich African American History (StarNews)

Sunday, January 3, 2021: Places of Worship

Wilmington’s thriving port delivered unparalleled religious diversity to the hills overlooking the Cape Fear River. The Port City’s skyline is dotted with steeples, testifying to the breadth of religious activity in Wilmington and chronicling the city’s religious history. Famed architects and local contractors partnered to construct Wilmington’s places of worship. This walking tour will explore Wilmington’s rich religious history, including the Anglicans’ role in the founding of Wilmington, the 19th century evangelicalism of Wilmington, and the religious experience of minority groups, such as African-Americans and the city’s Jewish heritage. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020: Architects of Wilmington: Henry Bonitz (1872 – 1921)

Henry E. Bonitz was the son of German immigrants who ushered Wilmington’s architecture into the 20th century. With a degree from present-day North Carolina State University and the tutoring of Wilmington’s architect-builder James F. Post, Henry Bonitz forever altered the cityscape of Wilmington, from the city’s commercial heart to the quiet residential districts. Stylistically, one can trace Bontiz’s career by following the city’s pilasters and Romanesque windows. When Wilmington’s reach stretched towards the beach, Bonitz followed, by designing pavilions at Wrightsville and Carolina Beaches. This walking tour will explore Wilmington at the turn of the 20th century through the life and works of Henry Bonitz. (Fun fact: In 2019, HWF awarded Ben & Christine Cochran and The Renovation Co. a Preservation Award for the restoration of the Bonitz Building at 213 Princess Street!)

Sunday, October 4, 2020: Architects of Wilmington: James F. Post (1818 – 1899)

Shortly after Wilmington became North Carolina’s largest city, James Francis Post arrived on the shores of the Cape Fear River. For the next fifty years, Post defined Wilmington’s cityscape as we know today, from the Bellamy Mansion to the New Hanover County Courthouse. Together, Post and Wilmington nurtured one another: the city providing the opportunities and the architect-builder providing the vision. Post’s career exemplifies life in 19th century Wilmington, from his employment of enslaved and free black laborers, contracts with the railroads, and service in the Confederate military. His career is chronicled by the ledger books preserved by the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society. This walking tour will explore 19th century Wilmington through the life and works of James F. Post.