Ready for a Plaque?

HWF's Plaque Application

Historic Wilmington Foundation’s plaque program is one of the most prolific in America: to date, we have given out over 700 plaques. Adorning cottages, mansions, alleyways, beach bungalows, and more, HWF’s hand-painted plaques honor the heritage of communities across three North Carolina counties.

What is a plaque, and what does it do?

HWF’s historic plaques are an educational tool, encouraging old home stewards to dive into the history of their property and sharing that building’s story with all who pass by and read the plaque’s text. Plaques do not introduce preservation regulations onto any property or designate a property on any inventories, such as the National Register of Historic Places. 

Is my house eligible for a historic plaque?

To be eligible for an HWF plaque, a property must be 75 years of age or older. (Buildings more than 50 years old at Kure Beach, Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach also qualify.) Russet plaques are for structures 75-99 years old; black plaques are for structures 100+ years old. As of fall 2019, HWF now has two more plaque designations: goldenrod plaques for structures 150-199 years old and sapphire blue plaques for structures 200+ years old!

Cost of a Plaque

Plaques cost $345 for members, and $395 for non-members, payable at the time your plaque is ordered. An additional $50 discount is available for replacement plaques (for replacing one that is weathered, or for replacing a 75-year plaque for a 100-year plaque!).

If your building is eligible and you’d like a new plaque, please contact the staff liaison at or call 910.762.2511.

Non-members become members for 1 year with the purchase of a plaque!

We define preservation as the act or process of applying measures necessary to sustain the existing form, integrity, and materials of an historic property. Work, including preliminary measures to protect and stabilize the property, generally focuses upon the ongoing maintenance and repair of historic materials and features rather than extensive replacement and new construction. New exterior additions are not within the scope of this treatment; however, the limited and sensitive upgrading of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems and other code-required work to make properties functional is appropriate within a preservation project.

75-99 Years: Russet

100-149 Years: Black

150-199 Years: Goldenrod

200+ Years: Sapphire

Application Process

Plaque ownership begins with research, and our application leads you through it step-by-step.

Our all-volunteer Plaque Committee meets monthly to discuss plaque applications. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and are reviewed in the order they are received. Our plaque program is nationally renowned and requires a fair amount of research and citations; luckily, most research can be completed from the comfort of your home!
For more details, see our Frequently Asked Questions, below. 


Is research just not your thing? No problem!
Here are local, experienced plaque researchers available for hire:

Port City Architecture

PORT CITY ARCHITECTURE ONLINE is a special database within the digital archives of the New Hanover Public Libraries. It features most buildings that have been plaqued by HWF since the 1970s, and includes the plaque text along with a photo of the property.


How long will it take to get a plaque?
After you’ve completed your research and submitted your application, here’s the approximate timeline for the plaque application process: 
  1. The application is assigned to a Plaque Committee volunteer, who performs a preliminary review. (1 month)
  2. The application is shared with the entire Plaque Committee for review. (1-3 months)
    • If the application is missing necessary information, it will be sent back for edits—but don’t worry, we can help! This may slow down the process, however, so it is best to be as thorough as possible prior to submitting your application.
  3. The assigned Plaque Committee volunteer writes the plaque’s text, then presents this draft at the Plaque Committee meeting for discussion and approval. (1-3 months)
  4. HWF emails the approved plaque text to the homeowner, in addition to a link for payment. (1 week)
  5. The homeowner approves the text and provides payment. (0-3 months)
    • To keep the process moving speedily, be sure to respond to this email promptly! You may pay online by following the link included in the email, or call our offices to pay over the phone: 910.762.2511. Checks may also be mailed to HWF’s headquarters (211 Orange Street, Wilmington, NC 28401).
  6. HWF places the order, and a local sign-making artist hand paints and letters the plaque. (2-4 months)
  7. HWF contacts the researcher and homeowner when the plaque is ready for pickup at HWF headquarters!
Who does the research for the plaque text?

Research is typically completed by the owner and submitted to the HWF Plaque Committee for review in the form of the application. The application is designed to lead you step-by-step in your research. If the Committee needs more information, a member will contact you and explain what information you need to provide before the next meeting. If you choose, you may hire someone to do the research for you.

Who decides on the wording of the plaque?

After the Plaque Committee approves the research, they compose a plaque text for the building. HWF staff will send you a copy of the approved text to review. If you have any questions or suggestions concerning the plaque text, the committee will work with you, within the current standards set for HWF plaques. (For buildings, this generally means details on the plaque will only refer to the exterior architecture of the building—not interior—and will include names and details of owners/occupants who were in the building for at least 40% of the life of the building.) When pleased with the final product, the applicant submits payment to HWF, and we proceed with ordering the hand-painted plaque.

If my plaque is weathered and old, can I get a new one?

If your plaque has seen better days, you will need to order a new one through the same process as a new applicant. However, you have the advantage of reviewing the original application on file in the HWF office archives, so you may have to do very little additional research as you complete a new application.  You also receive a discount: a “repaint” is $295 for members and $345 for non-members, which will include a 1-year “Household/Family” level membership with HWF. 

My house got older—how do I get a plaque in a different color?

Likewise, if your house has graduated from 99 years to 100 or from 149 to 150, you will need to order a new plaque through the same process as a new applicant. However, you have the advantage of reviewing the original application on file in the HWF office archives, so you may have to do very little additional research as you complete a new application.  You also receive a discount: a “repaint” is $295 for members and $345 for non-members, which will include a 1-year “Household/Family” level membership with HWF. 

What happens to the researched information after my plaque is approved?

The information you gather in the application process is a permanent record of your building and will be available to historians and researchers for years to come. The summary worksheet and all additional information generated by your research will be filed permanently at Historic Wilmington Foundation headquarters. A copy is also kept in the Local History Room of the New Hanover County Library. Some plaque research is now being placed online at the Port City Architecture map maintained by the public library.

What if I get stuck in the research process?

Don’t worry—we can help! Contact our staff liaison by calling 910.762.2511 or emailing to talk through your questions and difficulties. We also have many volunteers who are more than happy to assist, and staff can put you in touch with them by request.