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Preservation efforts gain momentum
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Preservation efforts gain momentum

Historic houses dating back to the 1800s and early 1900s are becoming popular to many investors across the United States who are making Wilson their home.

The Preservation of Wilson, which markets many of the houses for sale, continues to receive national exposure with several houses being featured in This Old House magazine. Houses that were part of the magazine’s Save this Old House section in 2010 and 2011 were sold and have since been preserved in Wilson. Preservationists hope the same is true for the James T. Wiggins House, at 208 N. Douglas St., an Italianate cottage that was built in 1872.

The house was featured in the magazine’s November/December issue, which has already generated hundreds of calls, with at least one from California and several from the North Carolina coast, said Kathy Bethune, executive director of the Preservation of Wilson. The house is in danger of being demolished and being sold for $1. The buyer will need to move the house from the property and can relocate it in Wilson or elsewhere.

"The response has been overwhelming, especially with a price of only $1 but the house must be moved.” Bethune said. "We are receiving calls and e-mails from everywhere with enthusiastic buyers wanting this wonderful old house in their own back yard.”

The Preservation of Wilson estimates that it could cost close to $50,000 to move the house, which may require the removal of the roof and the house may need to be cut in smaller sections. There will also be costs associated with the renovation of the house.

Bethune has had a strong response from people living along the North Carolina coast as well as other areas of the nation.

"I’ve had people from all over,” Bethune said. "We had one woman who wanted to take it to California. (The have been) a lot of people from North Carolina. I’ve probably gotten at least 300 calls.”

This Old House has increased exposure for many historic houses in Wilson, which preservationists are committed to revitalizing and retaining for their historic and architectural properties. The nonprofit organization lists houses on its website as well as on other similar websites, which tend to be viewed by people from all over the nation.

A writer with This Old House magazine contacted Bethune and wrote the magazine’s first Save this Old House feature on the Oettinger House, at 219 Broad St., a Greek Revival cottage built circa 1913. The house was featured in the magazine’s March 2010 issue as an endangered property. The exposure led to a sale several months later.

The writer, Keith Pandolfi, decided to visit Wilson during a road trip from New York to Florida in December 2010. His visit led to a tour of the area where he was able to see more houses and historic areas of the city. Bethune believes his visit has led to additional stories about endangered historic properties in Wilson.

"We have just been very fortunate,” Bethune said. "I don’t think he would have written the story on the second house if he didn’t feel the preservation energy and the potential for our historic properties.”

In June 2011, This Old House featured a second property, the Gold Harrell House at 304 Vance St., The Queen Ann style house, with close to 3,400-square-feet, was built circa 1884. The house also sold and is being restored.

The national exposure of Wilson’s historic properties has benefited the city, its historic neighborhoods and in fulfilling the goals of the Preservation of Wilson. The city has been appealing to historic home buyers for several reasons, Bethune said.

"A lot of people like North Carolina,” she said. "It’s a quality-of-life issue. We’re getting a lot of calls from people retiring. I don’t think without ‘This Old House’ we would have been able to do what we’ve done because that magazine has just brought the buyers market to us.”

The James T. Wiggins House is endangered and has to move because of a planned expansion of Carolina Family Health Centers. The house has to be moved by June or it could face demolition, due to the health center expansion, Bethune said.

Getting the house featured in the magazine took work and coordination, including the submission of factual data on the house and photos.

Lu-Ann Monson, city of Wilson preservation specialist, provided the historical background on the house in addition to specific architectural details. Many of the photos and several that appeared in the magazine were taken by Barton College students, under the direction of Gerard Lange, associate professor of art.

"Whenever possible, I try to arrange for students to earn professional experience in the community,” Lange said. "Twice now, my students have taken photographs for Preservation of Wilson and I hope to arrange more chances to work with this organization in the future.”

The Preservation of Wilson has seven properties it is listing for sale on its website. The organization has been able to assist with the sale of 12 properties in the city. | 265-7818
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@@gotta be kidding said...

Did your "recent study" also show a decline in upper income achievement when a school is economically mixed? I've taught in a number of schools, some more economically diverse than others. When lower-income students are mixed into academic groups with upper-income students, the discipline problems created by the lower students disrupt the learning environment for everyone and result in less instructional time on task. It goes both ways, you know. Is it worth it to bring up the lower-income students by using grouping that is detrimental to our upper students? Many students I taught laughed when asked what their plans were when they got out of school. The lower-income students were usually on government assistance such as welfare, food stamps, free lunch, and AFDC. They had absolutely no goals whatsoever other than being parasites on the system. On the other hand, the upper-income students were usually the group that went on to college and became contributing members of society, our doctors, lawyers, and teachers. So why would we sacrifice what is best for the future leaders of our society to benefit the future deadbeats and criminals?
For that matter, what is the big deal about attracting anyone to downtown? Most of the people I know avoid downtown because of issues like vehicle breakins, vandalism, and difficulty parking. Whether or not the schools are integrated, people are not going to want to live downtown until those concerns are irradicated.

Friday, February 01, 2013 at 7:48 PM
@gotta be kidding said...

Wilson is not exactly a major city...busing from Waterford to Hearne School is not all that time consuming. Kids from Salem once walked to the old Woodard building (which was as long a trip, timewise, as a bus ride over to Hearne). And Hearne kids once walked to Sunset Park on a regular basis for the annual end-of-year picnic. Busing is a piece of cake in a city the size of Wilson. Of course, the busing is contrived under a court order. But Wilson had a good thing going for a long while. Too bad it required a court order to do it. Many parents from wealthy areas of town did not want to leave Hearne (and yes, the administration was always worth it...but Wilson Co. Schools, had they been buying clues, could've continued the arts emphasis). A recent study indicated that when a student body in elementary school is economically mixed, the low-income kids do better academically. Schoolsl with a majority of low-income students did not make the progress even when millions of dollars of programs to boost success were poured in to the school. As a community, we need to examine the progress of students in schools where the vast majority are low-income. We have poured $$$$$ into these schools and nothing has worked. To attract families to downtown Wilson , the school district must have a better mix. The "neighborhood school" mantra has always been synonymous with "re-segregation" in the south. (I went to integrated schools in the 1950s, because kids went to neighborhood schools and neighborhoods were racially integrated. (I did not grow up in the south..and yes, I rode a bus that did not go door-to-door. We walked fifteen minutes to the busstop and waited for the bus - no big deal). Oh yes, I grew up in one of the wealthiest school systems in the nation. Never heard my white parens says a black classmate couldn't be invited to my birthday party (a line I heard from one parent of a white child attending Hearne when court-ordered busing was the thing. Hopefully, integrated schools will teach children to get along better than the example set by a few parents...downtown will not greatly improve without successful schools. It's not exactly morale-boosting to teachers to have the local college adopt them because they're not making the grade.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 10:23 PM
Shella Bella said...

Why is everybody always making such a big deal about Wilson history? It's not much of a history. It's not like the Declaration of Independence was signed here.

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 6:44 PM
Ms. Pamaba said...

It's weird how Wilson chooses what buildings it wants to protect and which ones it wants to tear down.

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 6:42 PM
The Truth said...

A huge proportion of people in Wilson don't want diversity, or don't care about it.
As for historic preservation, don't you understand? It's not about making quality of life better. It's just for making a bunch of old houses pretty for the property owners.

Monday, January 28, 2013 at 6:41 PM
Grateful said...

Thank you Preservation of Wilson. This is a good thing.

Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 6:42 PM Gotta be kidding! said...

Diversify old Wilson schools? Do you mean to go back to busing kids all over town miles away from home? The former "diversity" at Margaret Hearne was contrived, not natural, and was the result of court-ordered busing. Any partnership with Barton or emphasis on the arts was a direct result of Edna Earle Boykin and Barry Page's interest in the arts, not from the diversity achieved by busing kids from Salem Drive and Waterford in to Maplewood Avenue. Neighborhood schools are much better for engaging parent cooperation and participation. If a person doesn't want their children to attend a school in "Old Wilson," then they should buy or rent a home in a different attendance area.

Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 12:45 PM Diversify Old Wilson schools said...

Please redistrict Old Wilson so that a diversity of children attend the schools located in that area. Hearne School was once diverse and with principals Edna Boykin and Barry Page, was an arts magnet for low-income, middle income, and upper middle class families. It was a success until the school board meddled with it (the parents of Hearne loved the diversity and were against the school system's re-districting). It can be done again. I realize Barton has a partnership with Hearne, however, the partnership has everything to do with helping a school filled with low-performing kids (I'm betting the partnership will not boost performance significantly). Schools make the difference in where families choose to buy a home. Does the current school board get that?

Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 7:40 PM
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