Rocking Preservation Month Port City style

by Claire Dattilo Parker
Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Staff photo by Joshua Curry

The Bellamy Mansion is celebrating Preservation Month by hosting "Secrets of the Cistern," a preservation celebration at the home of Dave and Kat Spetrino on Thursday, May 24.


National Preservation Month is in full swing and local efforts crescendo in the coming days with events touting the city’s inventory of historic properties.

"Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear region have its share of unique and undiscovered gems as well as the landmarks everyone recognizes, said George Edwards, executive director of the Historic Wilmington Foundation.

"May gives us the opportunity to spotlight and celebrate the people and places that are important for historic preservation," Edwards said.

The foundation, along with the historic Bellamy Mansion Museum of Decorative Arts on Market Street, has scheduled events all month to celebrate the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s "Discover America’s Hidden Gems" annual spotlight on the country’s storied buildings.

Thursday, May 24, the Bellamy Mansion hosts a "Preservation Celebration" fundraiser at 10 Church St. to benefit the house museum and showcase the preservation efforts of local residents Kathy and Dave Spetrino. The couple built a new home on a former parking lot in the historic district, and Bellamy Mansion director, Gareth Evans, said it is a wonderful example of how to properly develop a property in a historic area.

"While Kat and my influences are more along the contemporary or even modern side, it was important that the exterior of the home fit well within the existing street scape and not draw unnecessary attention (or worse, become a distraction from the beauty of our neighbors’ homes)," said Dave Spetrino, president of Plantation Building Corp.

In excavating the site before building, the couple and a team of experts dug through what Spetrino called 100 to 200 years worth of trash and found old ginger beer jugs, tools, toys and other artifacts among the dirt, plus two old cisterns. The Spetrinos saved some of the artifacts, which will be on display during the "Raiders of the Secret Cistern" fundraiser.

Wide-brimmed Fedoras are encouraged during this Indiana Jones-themed event. Tickets are $35 each, which includes food and beverages. To reserve, call the museum at 910-547-9592.

The same night, the HWF will host one of its biggest yearly events when it announces its 2012 Preservation Awards. The annual awards are given for restoration, rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, infill construction and leadership in preservation and conservation efforts.

"This year people will be surprised and pleased," Edwards said. The foundation received about 15 submissions for review and winners will be announced at 6:30 p.m., on May 24, at the New Hanover County Courthouse, 24 N. Third St.

The foundation and the mansion have several more Preservation Month events to highlight the work being done in the community to save and restore historic buildings.

A "Streetcar Suburbs" guided walking tour is planned for Saturday, May 26, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with a brief reception following at the foundation’s office at 2011 Market St. Participants are asked to call ahead to reserve a spot and then meet at the corner of 17th and Market streets to begin the tour of Wilmington’s first streetcar suburbs, Carolina Heights and Carolina Place.

The list of the Lower Cape Fear region’s Most Threatened Places will be announced by the foundation May 29, to bring attention to the area’s most endangered historic properties. Edwards said the list has lessened in recent years, probably because the economy has deterred development of such properties, but there is still threat and neglect.

"A slower economy has taken some of the pressure off," he said. "We are not seeing near the number of nominations, but we are still carefully reviewing."

This year the foundation will add new properties to the list but is also rolling some properties over for additional exposure. Edwards said the foundation will also take a look back at the six years of the list and highlight the progress, or lack thereof, on properties previously listed.

On May 31, the Bellamy Mansion has scheduled a preservation lecture, which is part of a series discussing the history of the area. Next week’s lecture will reveal the plantation economy of the Lower Cape Fear region delivered by Dr. John Haley, professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and is sponsored by the History Teaching Alliance. Admission is $5 for the general public and free for museum members and volunteers, students and HTA teachers.

Preservation Month will end with a Historic Wilmington Foundation fundraising finale, the Shrimparoo Spring Friendraiser, also on May 31. The event will take place along the Riverwalk at Elijah’s Restaurant, No. 2 Ann St., at 6:30 p.m., and includes food and music. Admission is $20 for foundation members and nonmembers can join at the door. Members who bring a friend are admitted free.

If you missed any events this month and want to learn more, the HWF offers resources for real estate professionals, craftsmen and homeowners to find out more about preserving historic buildings.

Visit www.historicwilmington.org  to download workshops and access a list of professionals who work on historic homes.

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