The name Preservation North Carolina might sound familiar to many Wilmingtonians. Without a doubt, we all know one of their flagship projects: preserving and operating the Bellamy Mansion Museum. Many remember when the corner of Fifth and Market streets was dominated by a burned-out shell of a house. Now we have a stunning mansion that teaches the history of our area and showcases the power of preservation. As Bellamy Mansion’s executive director, Gareth Evans, reminds people, restoration and renovation are possible; they just take effort and money. I agree with him; the benefits are priceless.
Founded in 1939, Preservation North Carolina works statewide “to protect and promote buildings, landscapes and sites important to the diverse heritage of North Carolina.” The Preservation North Carolina 2018 annual Conference was supposed to be held last fall at Wrightsville Beach; Hurricane Florence had other plans. Consequently, the rescheduled conference is taking place March 20-22 at the newly opened and renovated Blockade Runner Resort at Wrightsville Beach.
Among the issues addressed this year will be a session surrounding race, equality and preservation. Also, there will be a presentation on the activities at Orton Plantation, which has been undergoing extensive work since the Sprunt family sold it several years ago. Clarissa Goodlett, director of communications for Preservation North Carolina, was kind enough to answer some of encore’s questions about the upcoming conference and the organization’s important work.
encore (e): Why would this conference be of public interest? Why is historic preservation important to our state?
Preservation North Carolina (PNC): History and Preservation are linked to the fabric of all of our North Carolina communities—culturally and economically. So, if you have an interest in your community, old houses, history, community history, and racial and economic diversity, or community reinvestment, your interests coincide with our work and this conference. Plus, it’s a fun time with amazing folks.
We’ll discuss some serious topics, but we’ll also have beach parties and tour some exclusive historic properties in and around Wrightsville and Wilmington. We are the organization in the state that offers this type of opportunity in North Carolina at this scale, in a way that feels local and accessible to folks. We are proud of that and it drives us to continue to do it every year.
e: Why was Wrightsville Beach selected? Is there significance to the Blockade Runner as a location?
PNC: Our conference travels across the state. We select different locations each year and try rotate through the regions (east, west, Piedmont) as often as we can. We were in Charlotte last year, and Greensboro before that, so it was time to touch the eastern part of the state.
Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach made perfect sense because we’ve had a long relationship with the area; Bellamy Mansion is owned and operated by Preservation North Carolina. It’s one of our stewardship properties, and we were actively involved in its restoration. The owner of Blockade Runner serves on Bellamy’s board of directors, so they are also part of our Preservation North Carolina network.
The Blockade Runner is a mid-century modern building—many times folks don’t think of mid-century modern architecture and buildings as “historic” but, in fact, as we continue into the first and second decades of the 2000s, those properties are now entering their “historic” phases—defined as properties 50 years and older. So the Blockade Runner is historic by definition, and it has a rich history and serves as an ideal backdrop for our conference. Also, Wilmington is one of great historic cities in the state; we couldn’t miss the opportunity to explore it as well, with Bellamy Mansion as the anchor.
e: Clearly human neglect is a major foe to preservation work. However, natural disasters pose real threats as well. Do you have programs to address those issues?
PNC: In recent years, the threat of natural disasters have certainly been part of our historic preservation conversations and strategies. While Preservation North Carolina does not administer disaster programming, we partner with the State Historic Preservation Office (the official governmental arm for statewide historic preservation in North Carolina) to connect our members and network to the programs they offer and administer.
e: Why is this conference important and meaningful to our area to host it?
PNC: Our mission-driven goal is “saving historic places that matter to the diverse people of North Carolina.” This work comprises the core of what we do, but we learned early on we can increase our impact exponentially by cultivating and supporting a network of folks who are also interested and passionate about saving historic places.
By connecting and bringing these folks together (homeowners, builders, architects, developers, preservations, entrepreneurs, etc.), we are inspiring folks to take on the work in their own towns and communities—and providing them with tools and resources (and inspiration) to do it. Our conference was originally scheduled for October 2018, we had to reschedule it because of Hurricane Florence. In the immediate weeks following the hurricane, we were touched and inspired by the strength and resiliency of the people of North Carolina.
We were excited to showcase the charm and hospitality of the historic towns of Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach to visitors from across our state and beyond. Rescheduling the conference on the first days of spring—a time of renewal and hope—seemed like the right way to honor all the hard work of rebuilding that happened between then and now. It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to show our support for one of North Carolina’s great historic cities.
e: Is there an option for people to sign up for individual workshops or sessions, or must they register for the entire conference?
PNC: Absolutely. We want to make sure the conference is as open and accessible to as many people as possible. Our conference registration is a la carte—you can register for the whole conference or any specific part you’d like to attend. Our educational sessions are just $40 each and cover a complete morning or afternoon of the conference.
We’ve also provided breakout sessions where participants can choose from a variety of educational sessions. The complete conference schedule and registration is available on our website, www.presnc.org/conference. Our registration deadline is March 15, but there are some opportunities to register and attend sessions at the door. We can’t guarantee space at the door, so we advise folks to register in advance, but at the door registration is an option.
e: You’re hosting a racial equality workshop. Does this address issues surrounding gentrification? Will there be another opportunity for the public to benefit from this material?
PNC: Considering conversations are happening nationally around race, we considered our conference an ideal opportunity to explore historic preservation’s roles and connections to these conversations and issues. We’ve asked our facilitators to focus on racial equity in the context of historic preservation, in particular engaging and preserving culturally significant spaces, communities and structures. We can’t predict how the conversations in the workshop will unfold, but we are committed to providing our network with a platform and opportunity to have this discussion.
We have a sponsor for the racial equity workshop that will allow for 25 people to attend for free. (We are particularly interested in having local Wilmington/Wrightsville folks take advantage of this opportunity). Folks who would like one of the 25 slots can e-mail me, Clarissa Goodlett, at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is March 15. Folks should respond with their name, contact info (e-mail, phone), and organization (if applicable).
e: Are there any other opportunities to interact with the material about St. Stephens church? Or Orton Plantation?
PNC: We don’t have any programming beyond the conference planned for these sites, but we are certainly open to reaching out to our presenters to share materials with folks who are interested. Reach out to us at any time via our website or e-mail email@example.com.