Wilmington Design Standards for Historic Districts and Landmarks

6 5 4 3 2 1 Introduction 5 7 1.1 Overview of Wilmington Architecture Architectural historian, Catherine W. Bishir, has observed that “The port city rising above the Cape Fear River contains the state’s richest collection of 19th-c. urban architecture.” Although the town was laid out in 1733 and incorporated in 1739/40, very few buildings survive from the period prior to 1840. A number of devastating fi res during the eighteenth and early 19th centuries destroyed the old town. Early buildings were also replaced by new construction when Wilmington experienced unprecedented growth after 1840, the result of the organization of several railroads coupled with increased port activity. The period from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century was especially productive architecturally in Wilmington, where building kept pace with national styles, technology and quality of design, and those who had the means engaged nationally recognized architects to build their homes, churches and public buildings. Interwoven throughout the city’s architectural history are a variety of vernacular buildings. Without the aid of an architect, these residences, commercial buildings, warehouses, churches and out buildings re fl ect the builder’s ability to use simpli fi ed technology and in many cases emulate current styles in more modest settings for the general populace. Plan of Wilmington Surveyed and drawn in 1769 by C.J. Sauthier Source: North Carolina State Archives Plan of Wilmington Drawn by L.C. Turner in 1856 Source: North Carolina State Archives The port city rising above the Cape Fear River contains the state’s richest collection of 19th-c. urban architecture. “ “ The blending of the vernacular with the more prestigious architecture gives character to the community and a sense of completeness in the built environment. A balance of academic design with simple craftsmanship is the warp and weft of Wilmington’s urban architecture. Peter DuBois, in his 1757 visit to Wilmington, observed that “the regularity of the streets is equal to those in Philadelphia and buildings in general are very good. Many are three stories high with double piazza which makes a good appearance.” Janet Schaw, a Scotswoman who traveled through the West Indies and the Carolinas during the years 1774 to 1776, wrote, “the people in town live decently, and tho’ their houses are not spacious, they are in general very commodious and well furnished.” J.J. Belanger’s 1810 plan of Wilmington (shown on the right) shows a neat gridiron pattern of streets and blocks stretching along the east bank of the river, and the delineation of several public buildings and churches in the lower portion of the map. Sanborn Map of Wilmington, c. 1889 From 1867 to 1977, the Sanborn® Map Company of Pelham, New York, produced large-scale color maps of commercial, industrial and residential districts of some 12,000 towns and cities in North America. Each set of maps represented each built structure in those districts, its use, dimensions, height, building material, and other relevant features (image opposite). Source: North Carolina State Archives

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