Historic Wilmington Foundation

Who We Are & What We Do

In 1966, a small group of citizens determined to save local built history united to form the Historic Wilmington Foundation (HWF). As a member-supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit, HWF utilizes a combination of advocacy, education, preservation easements, and a revolving fund to preserve and protect the irreplaceable historic resources of New Hanover, Pender, and Brunswick counties.

Our Impact:

  • Plaque Program: With over 700 hand-painted plaques adorning historic structures in our community, our local plaque program is one of the most prolific in the country, celebrating and honoring a variety of historic places—from bungalows and mansions to alleyways and beach cottages.

  • Revolving Fund: Our revolving fund has saved numerous historic structures. In recent history, the fund facilitated the relocation of an 1890s bungalow and contributed to the Coastal Land Trust’s efforts to restore Reaves Chapel, a landmark of Gullah-Geechee heritage.

  • Educational Programs: We believe in the power of education to foster appreciation for historic preservation. Our Tar Heels Go Walking tour reaches every 3rd grader in New Hanover County. We also offer free walking tours and home maintenance and repair workshops to the public. Further, we partner with Cape Fear Community College to train contractors (and stewards of old homes) in proper restoration techniques, ensuring a strong future for our historic homes and businesses while strengthening the local job market.

  • Legacy Architectural Salvage: Legacy Architectural Salvage is a vital source for historic building materials (e.g., doors, windows, flooring, and more). When a building is facing demolition, Legacy is the best case option in a worst case scenario, with a team of staff and volunteers who salvage these irreplaceable pieces of our built history. Legacy accepts and sells donations of pre-1970s architectural salvage, furniture, and home decor; all proceeds support our mission.

  • Historic Preservation Easements: HWF ensures that historic buildings stand for generations to come through historic preservation easements, which permanently protect buildings from demolition.

  • Preservation Equity Fund: HWF’s Preservation Equity Fund helps to preserve historic structures that provide naturally occurring affordable and workforce housing; to date, the Preservation Equity Fund has saved two homes on the City of Wilmington’s Demolition by Neglect list. This program serves our neighbors who are most in need—saving not just their home, but our community’s collective history.

  • Maides Cemetery: In 2021, HWF committed itself to finding a solution for perpetual care of Maides Cemetery, a historic African-American cemetery located in New Hanover County with graves dating back to the 19th century. Since this project began, a GPR survey of the cemetery has been completed, and an interpretive history module has been developed for the purposes of public education.

  • Giblem Lodge: Also in 2021, HWF partnered with the Prince Hall Masons to save Giblem Lodge, the second-oldest Black Masonic Temple in North Carolina. The building’s envelop had been severely compromised, leading to rapid deterioration. This partnership has led to the building’s designation as a Local Landmark and the installation of a new roof to protect it from the elements.

Our Mission

To preserve and protect the irreplaceable historic resources of Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear Region. 

Our Vision

A historic landscape that is inclusive, resilient, affordable, and accessible.

Our Values

  • ADVOCACY– HWF advocates for policies and practices that promote historic preservation at a local, state, and federal levels.

  • SUSTAINABILITY – HWF recognizes that historic preservation is an act of sustaining the earth’s non-renewable resources.

  • STEWARDSHIP – HWF provides adequate care to our region’s historic resources and architectural materials.

  • COLLABORATION – HWF seeks to excite and energize a broad network of preservation supporters and engages like minded organizations.

  • LEADERSHIP – HWF is viewed by citizens and elected officials in New Hanover, Brunswick, and Pender Counties as the leader in preservation policy and practices.

  • EQUITY – HWF prioritizes projects that preserve and protect our community’s diverse and inclusive history.

  • EDUCATION – HWF provides equitable access to information about our region’s built history and responsible preservation practices.

  • RESPECT – HWF respects the diversity of historical experiences within our community and strives to provide voice to those narratives.

Watch Us in Action!

To learn more about what we do, watch “For a Future that Respects the Past,” created for our 2020 Annual Fundraising e-Luncheon. And below, you’ll find the video from our 2020 Annual Meeting.

Please note that, since these videos were released, Beth Rutledge has stepped down as Executive Director. Our present Executive Director is Travis Gilbert, former Board member and tour guide—who is also featured in “For a Future that Respects the Past”!