Staff photo by Emmy Errante
Saint James Episcopal Church will be one of the stops on the Historic Wilmington Churches Walking Tour on Saturday, March 16.
A rare opportunity to visit and learn about the history and local lore of historic churches in downtown Wilmington — such as the Hollywood star who spent the night with a dead priest or a young boy who was buried alive — awaits ticket holders to the Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear’s Historic Wilmington Churches Walking Tour into six downtown churches to see and hear their storied secrets.
Bush James is the tour guide for the regular Saturday walking tours that meet at the Latimer House, but said Friday, March 8, the Churches Walking Tour is special for many reasons.
“This is sort of a one-time tour … [because] the churches all have their obligations,” he said. “The weddings I can work around, because they pre-plan those, but they can’t pre-plan ... when someone’s going to die; so, if there’s a funeral that day, we’re going to lose that church.”
Though the regular walking tour includes some of the six churches featured in this special tour, James said the churches are usually locked with limited access, but this day allows for more sites and stories.
“A couple of the churches will also have their own historians for the day,” he said. “Each story at its point in time is my favorite. It’s what’s fun at the time and you have to read your audience and you can sometimes tell by the crowd you have what will be of more interest to them.”
In order of the scheduled stops, the walking tour will visit Saint James Episcopal, Saint Thomas Preservation, First Baptist, Saint Paul’s Lutheran, Saint Mary’s Catholic and it will end at Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church across from the Latimer House Museum and Gardens. James said with the scheduled stops on the tour he anticipates it lasting for about an hour and a half to two hours.
“Having six churches on a walking tour you have to figure out the attention span of your audience, so we only spend roughly 20 minutes in each church,” he said.
With stories of pirates and a famous painting by the Latin name of “Ecce Homo” or “Behold the Man” that was found on a ship, and a Bible that mysteriously disappeared for close to 100 years and reappeared, James said people can learn a lot about the town and local legends.
“Probably one of the most famous spies that the South had during the civil war, Rose O’Neal Greenhaw, we talk about some fascinating things about her,” he said. “Frequently, I get natives who have grown up here and have never taken a tour of their downtown. We cover the gamut. I have a good time. Walkers have a good time, and they learn a lot about the wonderful city in which we all live.”
This is a rain or shine event. Tour goers should meet on the front porch of the Latimer House.
Want to go?
Historic Wilmington Churches Walking Tour
Saturday, March 16, at 9:45 a.m.
Latimer House Museum and Gardens
126 S. Third St.