December 14, 2016. Courtesy of The State Port Pilot. http://stateportpilot.com/
By Lee Hinnant
The 100-year-old rifle pit at Caswell Beach is among the historic places featured in a new traveling exhibit. Below, the former Brunswick County Courthouse and past Southport City Hall is also one of the focal points.
Three of Brunswick County’s historic treasures are among the featured places in a new traveling exhibit coming to libraries in Southport and Oak Island.
Historic Wilmington Foundation’s 2016 most-threatened historic places exhibit will be at the Harper Library in Southport through December 29. The exhibit will then move to the G.V. Barbee Sr. Library in Oak Island until January 20, 2017.
The exhibit, like the list, is designed to focus attention on historic places, particularly those that are vulnerable to demolition, deterioration or neglect. This year’s list, which covers Brunswick, Pender and New Hanover counties, includes the Fort Caswell rifle pit, the former Brunswick County Courthouse in Southport and private cemeteries in Brunswick County.
The former courthouse, now owned by the City of Southport, is not in danger, but the foundation listed it to raise awareness. Once used as city hall and the police station, the building’s future use has not been determined but the city has hired engineers to design and oversee renovation.
The rifle pit, located in the Caswell Dunes subdivision, has been stabilized but is in need of repair, according to a recent engineering report. The pit was part of a range where soldiers bound for the Great War learned long-distance marksmanship.
Friends of the Fort Caswell Rifle Range, a non-profit group, intends to distribute the engineering report to members, leaders of Caswell Dunes and the Caswell Beach Board of Commissioners, said founder Ron Eckard.
“We anticipate the upcoming Kentucky Derby fundraiser with emphasis on veterans of World War I with our Wall of Honor,” Eckard said. “Prior to the derby event our website should be in place, making it convenient for the public to submit pictures and information of family members who served in World War I. Community involvement is critical to raising funds and negotiating the logistics needed to take advantage of this opportunity to save the 1918 historical structure.
“Being placed on the Historic Wilmington Foundation’s list as one the Most Threatened Historical ‘Places in the lower Cape Fear Region’ verifies how critical our mission is,” Eckard said.
“We hope the community continues to support the efforts and work to achieve the goal of preventing further deterioration and ultimate collapse of the target pit structure,” Eckard continued. “We have a short window of opportunity to complete a proposal submitted this year to the National Society Daughters of American Revolution, a huge supporter of historical preservation. Final cost estimates are critical for submission of the application. The proposal due date is fast approaching, and we are busy writing our ‘letter to Santa Claus.’”
The traveling exhibit recently left the Leland library. After Oak Island, it will go to Thalian Hall and the Northeast New Hanover County Library.
Every year in May, in recognition of National Preservation Month, the foundation releases a new list of the most threatened historic places in order to raise awareness about the places most at risk of being lost forever. The foundation has published the list since 2006, and the 2010 list was instrumental in encouraging Brunswick County to complete its first inventory of historic sites.
The foundation accepts recommendations for at-risk sites anytime, and currently nominations are being accepted for the 2017 list. Nominations may be sent to George W. Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org.