Bluegrass/HotAir Balloon Festival
Incentive Grant from Preservation North Carolina
awarded to The Friends of the
John A. Wilkinson Building
||Accepting the award
the check for $5,000,
from left to right:
Friends chair, Starlon A. Credle; administrative assistant, Bettie Holloway;
vice -chair, Cecil O. Smith;
board of directors member,
John K. Britt, secretary;
and treasurer, Seth D. Latham.
|The Friends of the John
A. Wilkinson Building received the Stedman Incentive Grant from Preservation North
Carolina on November 30 during the PNC annual awards reception at the Fletcher Opera
Theater in Raleigh.
The Stedman Incentive Grant is awarded to recognize and assist non-profit organizations in
their efforts to preserve the state's architectural heritage.
Originating in 1976, the $5,000 award is funded each year by the Marion Stedman
Covington Foundation of Greensboro in memory of Mrs. Covington's father. The grant
encourages and facilitates the rescue of endangered historically and architecturally
significant properties in North Carolina. Only one Stedman Grant is awarded annually.
When Hurricane Fran moved through North Carolina in 1996, many towns in eastern North
Carolina were left devastated. The small town of Belhaven was not an exception. All of the
town's schools were destroyed, except the administration building, the former John A.
Wilkinson High School.
Built in 1937-38 as the Belhaven High School, the school
graduated classes from 1938-1989. In the mid 1940s the school was renamed the John A.
Wilkinson High School. It served as the administration building for the junior high school
The Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA) proposed to demolish all of the schools
and relocate them to higher ground; but, the Wilkinson high school graduates did not want
their school razed and relocated. FEMA had a fight on their hands because the former
students were dedicated to the cause of saving this school. They worked diligently to have
it placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and they launched a grassroots
effort to find adaptive reuse for the school and the funds to rehabilitate it.
Since 1939 Preservation North Carolina has protected and promoted hundreds of
and landscapes important to the heritage of North Carolina.
As North Carolina's only statewide nonprofit preservation
organization, PNC protects historic properties by identifying, purchasing and reselling
them through its highly effective revolving fund. It promotes preservation through its
stewardship properties, educational programs, public recognition program, videos and
PNC is supported through the generosity of
over 5,000 members. Members receive a quarterly magazine, which features properties for
sale and articles of interest. Join PNC and make North Carolina a better place for the
present and future generations.
For more information, contact Preservation North Carolina
P.O. Box 27644
Raleigh, NC 27611-7644
|The loose-knit group of
former students who were being supported by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, the Belhaven
Memorial Museum and the Friends of the John A. Wilkinson Building faced opposition from
the town board and the chamber of commerce. The town authorities were concerned that they
may be stuck with a dilapidated building in the center of town if the Board of Education
gave the building to the Friends as they had requested. Because of the controversy, even
Preservation North Carolina's Northeast Regional office in Edenton had doubts the group
could get organized enough to develop a long-term plan for the building's rehabilitation
Determined to beat the odds, the Friends
incorporated to form a non-profit organization and soon turned the town board and the
chamber of commerce with their plans for the building and their vision for the future.
FEMA, the Beaufort County Board of Education, the Friends, Preservation North Carolina,
the Belhaven Memorial Museum, the Town of Belhaven and the State Historic Preservation
Office entered into an agreement that gave the Friends three months to develop a workable
plan for the building so it would not become an eyesore for the community. The agreement
gave the Friends another six months to raise the funds and stipulated that they would get
the school. They could use the funds designated for the demolition of the building if
their fundraising was successful. With the help of a National Trust for Historic
Preservation grant, private donations and proceeds from various sales, the Friends were
able to hire East Carolina University's Regional Development Institute to develop plans
for the renovation of the building. They obtained commitments from several businesses to
lease space in the building upon its completion. The auditorium's ramped floor would be
leveled to provide rental space for events such as class reunions and family reunions.
In 1999 Hurricane Floyd struck Belhaven and once again the town was flooded but the
Friends continued on their crusade. Recognizing Floyd's disruption to Belhaven, the
fundraising deadline was extended. The Friends reached their goal in the spring of 2000,
and the school board deeded the Wilkinson Building to Preservation North Carolina, which
is holding it for the Friends who are hard at work bringing their old school back to life.
The 2001 awards reception honored five recipients from across the state on November 30 in
Raleigh: Amy Averill, Brevard, Ruth Coltrane Cannon Award; G. Edwin Belk, Durham, L.
Vincent Lowe, Jr. Business Award; Caswell County Horticultural Club, Semora, Minnette C.
Duffy Landscape Preservation Award; Friends of the John A. Wilkinson Building, Belhaven,
Stedman Incentive Grant; and John Larson, Winston-Salem, Robert E. Stipe Professional