The Cape Fear Coast, and the port city of Wilmington, North Carolina in particular has no shortage of historic home tours. The Latimer House definitely should be added to your historical tour agenda. The Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear operates and maintains the historic structure, which was built in 1852. Visitors can explore the fine woodwork of the interior of the house followed by a tour of the formal gardens in the backyard. Plan on spending at least an hour browsing the building or pouring through genealogical documents in the on-site research room.
Latimer was the home of local businessman Zebulon Latimer during the mid 1800’s. The house opened to the public in 1963 after it came under the care of the Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear. The Victorian period house features 14 rooms and houses over 600 historical artifacts, furnishings and artwork. Experience the elegance of the nineteenth century upper class as you browse the jewelry and tableware collections.
The home was designed in an Italianete style offering symmetry to the central hallway and mirrored design on both the upper and lower floors. The spacious rooms are filled to the brim with richly textured curtains, bold wallpaper patterns and carved woodwork around the fireplaces and entryways. All of the fireplaces were crafted from a solid slab of marble. An ornate chandelier is the focal point of the first floor. The lighting element was first powered by gas but updated to utilize the modern invention of electricity by William Latimer. Zebulon’s son William did add modern amenities once he took over ownership of the family home, but did not alter the original flooring or woodworking inside the home.
The courtyard area in the back yard features a manicured garden enclosed a stucco wall. The wall has survived the test of time and separates the property from the streets along downtown Wilmington. The Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear has taken care to be true to the Victorian period by planting flowers and shrubs popular during that era. A wrought iron water feature commands attention as you begin your treck through the formal garden area.
Historical interpreters guide visitors through Latimer House, sharing the history of not only the home, but the city of Wilmington during the nineteenth century. A fee is charged for adult tours, and a discounted admission price for children. Visitors to the historic home can purchase a “Three Home” tour ticket for a reduced rate for multiple Wilmington home tours. The trio includes the Latimer House, Burgwin-Wright House and the Bellamy Mansion. Latimer House is open for public tours year around from Monday through Saturday. The final tour begins at 3:30 p.m.
The Historical Society of Lower Cape Fear hosts special events throughout the yer to share local history and raise funds for the upkeep of the property. In June the groups participates in the Discover Wilmington Summer Camp. The day camp begins at Latimer House and includes snacks and beverages for the campers. Participants tour the historic home and then participate in pirate and treasure themed activities and crafts. A farewell feast at the end of the five day experience occurs about the Henrietta ship where costumes and themed photos provide plenty of fun and memories.
The Secret Garden Tour in September showcases local gardens and native plants in bloom around Wilmington.
Experience Old Wilmington by Candlelight during the two day night December event. Glory in the beauty of historical structures, gardens and the riverfront area.
The Latimer House Library and Archives aids in genealogical searches and historical discovery. Visitors to the historic home can browse through the collection of historic photographs, letters and journals from Wilmington residents who put quill to ink over a hundred years ago. A bookplate and pamphlet collection shed light on the thoughts and political sentiments espoused during the heydey of the port city. Many of the collection’s offering can be browsed online at the Latimer House website, courtesy of Historical Society of Lower Cape Fear volunteers.
An extensive document collection covers two centuries of ponderings and news between citizens of Wilmington and their loved ones. Listed below are just a sampling of the documents available for viewing. The thoughts and fears of actual people truly bring to life the impact of wars and what life was like during a specific time period in the nation’s history.
Read correspondence between Hargrove Bellamy and his wife and parents while he was away serving his country during World War I. Bellamy was captured and spent nearly a year in a German prisoner of war camp in 1918. After his safe return to Wilmington, he flourished in his father’s law firm and went on toe become the mayor of the city.
Read through Julia Augusta Bowden’s diary pages and learn what life was like for the young woman during the latter part of the 1800’s.
The Bethell Family Correspondence collection contains letters between George Bethell and his family while he was serving in World War II.
The John Scott Correspondence collection details thoughts on Wilmington economic and business news from the years of 1812 to 1833.
Mary F. Sanders Civil War Notes are a first hand accounting of the effects of the battle between the states on residents of the port city.
Wilmington’s public library head librarian during the 1920’s was a woman by the name of Emma Woodward. She collected and carefully stored bookplates dating to the years prior to the Revolutionary War. One of the oldest bookplates was from the Cape Fear Library with an imprint date of 1760. The library was North Carolina’s first non-parochial public library.
Step back among the pages of history via the pamphlet collection preserved by the Historical Society of the Lower Cape Fear. Leaf through informational packets written by soldiers and published through the Army Corps of Engineers. A Bicentennial pamphlet shares Colonel Richard Gridley’s thought on the Battle of Bunker Hill. Discover the history of the Atlantic Coast Line through a first hand accounting. Read a collection of poems by Elizabeth Ashmead Cantwell. Feel like you are stepping aboard the World War II Liberty Ship after reading the pamphlet and viewing the diagrammed images. Additional historical pamphlet topics include ghosts tales, historical notices, Spanish conspiracy theories, love, religion and business.