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Second Life

Historic buildings get a makeover

Within about a mere forty square miles, the Port City area contains eight National Register of Historic Places, featuring many businesses and residential homes that preserve the area’s rich architectural personality. Of those places, downtown’s river-adjacent Wilmington Historic District is certainly most notable. Three thriving downtown business operators explain how their current spaces have evolved and blossomed since the original construction.

New Anthem Beer Project, 116 Dock Street

The Wilmington craft brewery scene’s recent addition offers a venue with loads of character. The former horse stable (early 1900s) now houses New Anthem Beer Project that opened last October.

Door prize: In keeping with the vibe of the site, New Anthem refurbished an antique-style garage door that provides an indoor-outdoor atmosphere when rolled up on calm-weather days.

“I brought the company in that built the door, and they looked at the mechanism and said it was built in the 1920s,” co-owner and head brewer Aaron Skiles says.

Room with a brew: Together, the bar area and brewing room take up 6,000 square feet of space, but you don’t need to wander too much before finding the real architectural gems.

Historic features include steel casement windows along the original brick wall. Skiles discovered some antiquated surprises during construction of the space.

“When we put our trench drains in the floor, we found, evidently, Dock Street was considered much wider before,” says New Anthem c0-owner Aaron Skiles.

“The cobblestone from Dock Street was underneath our foundation, along with an old beer bottle from a brewery in Richmond and a soft drink bottle from Big Boy soft drinks.”


Manifest Design, 200 North Front Street

This five-year-old interior design firm and furnishings showroom incorporates an exclusive retail approach by taking advantage of natural light and resources, while also showing off some industrial history.

Bankable: Connie Lincoln’s Manifest Design is located at the site of the old Murchison National Bank building, which was built in 1902 and went through multiple uses and bank offices.

“I have some people who come to shop and tell me that they opened their very first checking account right here,” says Manifest Design owner Connie Lincoln, as she points to her cash register counter.

Lincoln knew she wanted her store to be downtown, and she enjoys the open space and fresh lighting this specific building provides for displaying her merchandise.

Safe keeping: Just beyond the large room of seasoned hardwood floors and exposed brick is the old bank vault hiding in the back left corner.

Lincoln cleverly uses the vault door to display items atop the impressive brass. The engraved words “York Safe & Lock Co” can still be found behind some coastal-themed décor for sale.

Relatively new to the space is a loft area that was added by Lincoln’s landlord. Although it’s not original, the view from the top provides an impressive panorama of all the architectural features.


Farmin’ On Front, 143 North Front Street

Originally home to Butler’s Shoes in the 1970s, this address has experienced quite the conversion over the past few decades.

Making an entrance: Before entering downtown Wilmington’s newly opened urban food market, you’ll see the word “BUTLERS” in all caps on the entryway sidewalk of what is now Farmin’ on Front. For ten years, the previous tenant used the space as a resale clothing store dubbed Second Time Around.

“We’ve done a complete 180,” says Ariel McLamb, assistant marketing director for the Farmin’ Brand. Although, the Farmin’ team vowed early on to keep the same large storefront windows that once featured the rousing and often colorful displays of clothes from Second Time Around.

Big reveal: Much like the New Anthem team, the Farmin’ folks encountered some fortunate surprises.

“When we went to do construction on the walls, we found the original brick,” says Farmin' Brand's assistant marketing director Ariel McLamb. “We had no idea what was under that sheet rock when we chose this space.”

The same can be said for the exposed wood beams, which hid underneath a dropdown ceiling.

“The irony of us tearing down the plaster and finding beautiful brick beneath is that it is really symbolic of Farmin’ as a company,” McLamb continues. “We’re getting back to the foundation of farming and connecting the customer with fresh, local produce. Sometimes, it’s best to go back to the way things were.”


To view more of photographer Michael Cline's work, go to www.michaelclinephoto.com.


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