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Historic property survey underway

Whiteville will see some very specialized tourists in the coming weeks. The N.C. State Historic Preservation Office (HPO) began a comprehensive architectural survey of Whiteville’s historic properties May 1.

Elizabeth King, survey specialist in the HPO’s Survey and National Register Branch, is conducting the project. The survey will help the city develop a database of historic properties, which can then be used to identify individual properties for potential listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The data will be used in the preparation of a report that analyzes the number of historic properties in the city.

The survey was endorsed by Whiteville’s City Council April 11. The city council appointed Councilwoman Sarah Thompson, Janice Young, Fire Marshal Hal Lowder, and Susan Wood to a committee tasked with identifying properties and outlining possible future plans in areas with architectural and historic significance.

Several areas in the city have been identified as focus areas – the Madison Street corridor, downtown and neighborhoods around the courthouse. King will be conducting her fieldwork in May and June. Her research will continue through the summer. Digital photographs, architectural descriptions and historical backgrounds of approximately 300 buildings constructed prior to 1970 are expected results from the survey. All of the collected information will be entered in the HPO’s survey database. Architectural surveys are economic development tools, according to the HPO. The data they gather will aid in planning for future growth in Whiteville, assist environmental review work required for state and federal undertakings, and be the basis for nominating properties to the National Register of Historic Places.

Register status makes properties potentially eligible for state and federal tax credits for certified historic rehabilitation. The survey also may be used to promote heritage tourism. “This is just one of a lot of steps toward preserving Whiteville’s architectural heritage,” said Gene Merritt of the Whiteville Downtown Development Commission. A semi-retired developer, Merritt was involved in the preservation and rehabilitation efforts in downtown Wilmington, and knows firsthand about the benefits of historic and National Register districts. “I think people will be surprised at the treasures the city has tucked away,” he said. “We have some beautiful homes and some history that has been forgotten. This could be a good tool to attract tourists to the city. It’s a big positive step for the council to agree to the survey.”

For more information on the comprehensive architectural survey of Whiteville, contact Elizabeth King (Elizabeth. king@ncdcr.gov or 919-807-7484) or Claudia Brown, architectural survey coordinator of the State Historic Preservation Office (claudia.brown@ncdcr.gov or 919-807-6573).

Story by Jefferson Weaver - The News Reporter - jeffersonweaver@nrcolumbus.com

Bonnie Williams