Running of the buildings to commence for Historic Wilmington Foundation

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Staff photo by Allison Potter

Nick Monroe, a master’s candidate in the UNCW Public History Program, primes the canvas of his Cape Hatteras Light costume on Tuesday, Sept. 3 in UNCW’s Morton Hall.

New to a local foundation’s 5k Race for Preservation will be the appearance of historic buildings lumbering along the riverfront course. Or at least, runners dressed as such.

On Sept. 12, the Historic Wilmington Foundation, along with Port City Java, will host the downtown 5k and 1-mile walk. This is the organization’s 12th annual event, and this year some of the contestants will be competing while dressed as historic buildings to create some creative publicity for the nonprofit.

Nick Monroe, a master’s candidate with the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Public History Program, said he and program director Dr. Tammy Gordon came up with the idea after running in last year’s benefit race.

“Dr. Gordon and I were talking about it last year after we ran, [about] trying to get a group together, and we came up with this idea that running as historic buildings would be kind of fun,” Monroe said. “I thought it would be a good way to get more people interested in what the Historic Wilmington Foundation is trying to do, in preserving buildings in the community. And also I have no problem dressing up and making a fool of myself.”

Monroe, who is planning to run the race in lighthouse attire, added that the 24-year-old university program had been working with the 47-year-old foundation for a number of years. In an Aug. 29 interview, Dr. Gordon called it “a fairly long collaboration” begun before her tenure, and said it frequently extends to scholarships and internships offered to her students.

“I hope this does some good for the Historic Wilmington Foundation,” Gordon said. “We really support their efforts to save our built environment. It’s all in good fun, and it’s all for a good cause.”

After beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Best Western Plus Coastline Inn, the course will meander through the south end of the city’s central business district, then follow the Cape Fear River and Water Street. After passing underneath the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge, the runners will double back for a final stretch along the river, back to the starting point. 

In an Aug. 30 interview, the foundation’s special events and marketing director Laura Trivett praised the group of costumed racers, who call themselves the Public History Preservation Squad.

“I think what Tammy [Gordon] is doing is really nice because it draws attention to the cause,” Trivett said. “At the end of the day, it’s a fundraiser. And although a lot of people are doing it for the athletic aspect, truly it’s allowing us to do our job to continue in our mission to protect and preserve what’s important here in Wilmington.”

In addition to raising money for the nonprofit organization’s regular programs and projects, some of the funds will likely be used for its latest acquisition, a historic home bought just two weeks ago.

“We have acquired a house on South Front Street, but by agreement with the owner we said that we would not do a news release on the house until she had finished moving some things from the house,” said George Edwards, HWF executive director. Edwards added that while the foundation will own the house during the time it takes to restore the house, it will ultimately sell the property after establishing a preservation easement.

“An easement gives us the absolute right to protect the house against demolition, whereas the city regulations [for preserving a historic structure], which are based on state enabling laws, can only delay the demolition for one year,” Edwards said. “We have the right with an easement to absolutely stop demolition. So it becomes a very powerful tool if you have to deploy it that way.”

The foundation will be taking a contractor, architect and engineer through the years-vacant building in the days leading up to the race to determine the extent to which it will require renovations, Edwards said. The cost of those renovations will be initially covered by the foundation, but he added that it expects to recoup that investment when the property is sold.

As an extra source of fundraising, Dr. Gordon auctioned off the right to choose her costume.

 “I created a fundraiser through, and anybody who donates money to the HWF puts in the name of a building,” she said.

The winner, drawn on Saturday, Sept. 1, was the “Morton Chiller,” a structure which houses the air conditioning unit for UNCW’s Morton Hall. Calling it a “notorious piece of HVAC,” Gordon confirmed it as her costume selection in a Sept. 3 interview, adding that it was selected by a pair of professors at UNCW’s Morton Hall. 

“It goes out without warning and is cursed by professors and students in the humanities [departments],” she said.

The Public History Preservation Squad will be designing signs for those racers willing to compete while dressed as a historic building. For registration and additional information about the race, visit the Historic Wilmington Foundation’s website at


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