Preservation North Carolina’s Endangered Properties Program needs your help!

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of our donors, we at Preservation North Carolina (PNC) have so far been able to ride out the unprecedented challenges of 2020. We know 2021 will also be uncertain.

This spring, we had to close the Bellamy Mansion Museum in Wilmington due to COVID-19. We lost six months of admissions, sales and other revenue during our busiest time of the year. Visitors are now safely returning, and thanks to your remarkable outpouring of support, we’re back in business.

Despite the financial challenges that COVID-19 has presented this year, our work to save endangered properties statewide has been surprisingly active. We’ve had tremendous interest in our properties. If everything plays out with the properties under contract as of press time, this year our small properties staff will have sold 13 properties with covenants, protected 10 more with preservation easements, and acquired 3 (both through purchase and donation). That’s amazing!

These properties are anything but run-of-the-mill. Each can be described with superlatives (one of the best, the earliest, the finest, the most important, the last remaining, etc.). Most are significantly threatened.

This winter, we need your help with this important property work.

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We’ve long said that we’re the animal shelter for these buildings. Each of our dogs is different. If you want a healthy pedigree dog, you can find them elsewhere; the traditional real estate market handles those pups. Our poor dogs have problems that require special attention. That means time and money. They may have long been sitting vacant and derelict. They may have a hole in the roof or a collapsed chimney. They may not have clear title. A fire here; vandalism there.

But they all have one thing in common. Without PNC, they might not survive to tell their stories to future generations. And we need those stories to provide the glue that binds us together as North Carolinians.

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One of the verities of revolving fund work is that “revolving funds revolve down.” If these properties could have turned a healthy profit, someone else would have already snapped them up. We constantly have to replenish the fund to keep going with our work. We had to divert our fundraising attention during the complicated three-year effort to relocate our Headquarters to two freedmen’s homes, for which we successfully raised nearly $1.5 million dollars in private funds.

It’s time to get back to the never-ending task of recapitalizing the fund. Capital for the Endangered Properties Program supports a wide variety of needs:

• critical repairs to stabilize and secure properties while we seek a new steward;
• holding costs of insurance, basic utilities, etc., until we have a buyer; and
• in rare instances, legal expenses associated with enforcing our protective covenants or even having to buy back property—we had to do both in 2020!

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Three of our current “dogs” exemplify the problem. Your investment in these properties now will help us sell them in 2021.

The 1835 Greek Revival-style William T. Smith House is a significant National Register property near Fayetteville. The fine house, probably constructed by talented enslaved craftsmen, bore witness to the Battle of Averasboro in the final days of the Civil War. The property was donated to PNC in 2018 after one of the original Flemish-bond chimneys collapsed from saturated ground following Hurricane Florence. Its mismatched vinyl replacement windows are failing. We’ve had lots of interest in the property, but potential buyers are intimidated by the projected renovation costs, where the chimney and windows alone will cost $60,000. It’s become clear that we must address these problems to sell the house to someone who will complete the restoration.

Across the state in Davidson County, we’ve been working to save Beallmont, a rare example of a cottage in North Carolina inspired by the publications of A.J. Downing. For several years, the significant rural National Register house was blocking the development of a large industrial park. In 2017, PNC worked with the County and the State to relocate the house. The County donated a lot and funds for relocation. However, we had to remove three chimneys which exposed major termite damage. Another $75,000 is needed to bring it up to marketable condition. We’ll recoup much of that additional investment.

Down East, the Godette Hotel in Beaufort is a rarity. Built after WWII as a hotel for African Americans, it was the site for many life celebrations for Black residents, who under Jim Crow could not gather at segregated white lodgings. It was condemned, and demolition had already begun. PNC persuaded the Town to give us a chance to save it, and a friendly local couple loaned us the money to buy it. We now have those unrelenting holding costs until we find a buyer: interest, insurance for a vacant building in a hurricane-prone location, repairs, ground maintenance, etc. It quickly adds up.

Properties like these illustrate our need for donor support. We are seeking funds from several foundations, and we hope to leverage your gift with additional funding. If we can raise $25,000, we can rebuild the chimney at the Smith House immediately while we work to raise more. Please help us meet this goal.

We know 2021 will be another challenging year. Getting these “dogs” back in good shape and into new hands will make a world of difference. Please CLICK HERE give online. Thank you in advance for your continued generosity for PNC!