Brunswick County receives preservation award from Historic Wilmington Foundation

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

WILMINGTON—Brunswick County Commissioners were among the winners of the Historic Wilmington Foundation Annual Awards, announced last week in Wilmington.

George Edwards, executive director of the Historic Wilmington Foundation, said Brunswick County Commissioners were honored with the preservation award for leadership for completing the county’s first comprehensive historic resources survey in Brunswick County.

The preservation award for leadership and example was for “outstanding leadership, example and contribution in historic preservation for the historic resources survey in Brunswick County of the lower Cape Fear Region.”

This year’s preservation awards ceremony was Thursday, May 19, at the historic New Hanover County Courthouse in downtown Wilmington.

“This capstone event was just one of the many celebrations of National Preservation Month offered by the Foundation during May,” Edwards said.

The theme for National Preservation Month is “Celebrating America’s Treasures,” and the awards are a direct reflection of preservation at work in our community, Edwards said.

Leslie Bell, Brunswick County Planning and Community Development director, oversaw the county’s comprehensive historical survey.

Bell enlisted Landmark Preservation Associates and committee to complete the architectural historic survey, a process that took more than a year to complete.

“In looking through the files, we had a survey that was done back in the 1970s, and Southport had done some work, as well. But we did not have a comprehensive one since then,” Bell said of the comprehensive survey.

“The project was initially a survey of the architectural historical resources in Brunswick County. We coupled that with the cemetery identification project conducted by our GIS department, and we documented the origin, name and importance of more than 100 unincorporated communities in the county.”

Most threatened historical places

On Monday, May 23, the Historic Wilmington Foundation released its list of most threatened places in the Cape Fear Region, which includes Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.

Wooden marker cemeteries throughout Brunswick County were included on the list of the most threatened places.

“Some of Brunswick County’s cemeteries are graced by rare, wooden grave markers.  These extant examples of a regional mourning tradition are threatened by neglect and lack of proper attention,” the most threatened list reads.

Bell said the county has already been working to locate and document these historic cemeteries.

Twenty-eight historic resources have been deemed for further study in the comprehensive survey, including several cemeteries.

Bell said the county’s GIS department recently completed mapping and documenting these fragile cemeteries.

“Some of the older cemeteries were something that were very rare to still have standing,” Bell said.

GIS (Geographic Information Systems) officials located the cemeteries and continue to update the list. They have also digitized the cemetery locations with GPS coordinates, Bell said.