Retaining Wilmington : the role of class, heritage and memory in historic preservation, 1882-1963

UNCW Author/Contributor (non-UNCW co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Gareth Evans (Creator)
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW )
Web Site:
William Moore

Abstract: History is made by those who write it, and preservationists write history through the medium of historic buildings. The historic, built environment is irreplaceable, and the work of historic preservation is indispensable in maintaining our sense of identity and place. Historic preservation is a field that aims to maintain the character of a place by renovating and retaining historic structures, and with them the memory of the people who built and used them. Historic preservation was begun and is traditionally led by the upper classes in American society. Early preservation in Wilmington, from the last decades of the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century, illustrates the fact that the powerful create and preserve their own history, and that the upper classes are motivated to memorialize their own heritage through the built environment. This work argues that the success of early preservation in Wilmington was directly proportional to the degree of investment by the upper classes in a specific property. Early successes and failures of preservation as exemplified through the case studies of the Burgwin-Wright House, City Hall-Thalian Hall, the main branch of the United States Post Office, and others support this argument. These examples, as well as the historiography and evolution of historic preservation over time, highlight upper class motivations for preservation such as memorializing, retaining their sense of place and solidifying their position as leaders of society. An examination of early efforts at preservation within the state of North Carolina and across the United States indicates that events in Wilmington reflected larger trends.

Additional Information

A Thesis Submitted to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Masters of Arts
Language: English
Date: 2009
Historic preservation--North Carolina--Wilmington

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