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Stedman Incentive Grant from Preservation North Carolina

 awarded to The Friends of the John A. Wilkinson Building

Accepting the award and 
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,
James Lupton
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 until 1996.

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.

Preservation North Carolina

Since 1939 Preservation North Carolina has protected and promoted hundreds of buildings 
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 publications. 

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

919.832.3652 http://www.presnc.org.

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 and reuse.

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 Award.