The City of Wilmington will host a July 4 “Star Spangled Weekend” of history-making events. The weekend will begin on Thursday, July 3 at 5 p.m. with the rededication of the newly renovated and restored Hannah Block Historic USO building. Wilmington will also officially be proclaimed as “America’s World War II City" at this ceremony, a distinction claimed by no other U.S. city. All events will take place at the Hannah Block Historic USO Building, located downtown on the corner of Orange and Second streets.
The events are as follows:
- Thursday, July 3 at 5 p.m.: Official rededication ceremony with Mayor Bill Saffo
- Friday, July 4 from 6 - 9 p.m.: "Dancin' at the USO" featuring the Wilmington Big Band, followed by the fireworks display on the Cape Fear River at 9 p.m.; free admission
- Sunday, July 6 from 1 - 5 p.m.: USO Open House featuring WWII exhibits and a book signing from 1 - 2 p.m.; free admission
- Sunday, July 6 at 3 p.m.: "Yes We Can" tribute to African-American service during WWII and "Star Spangled Girls" revue; $10.00 admission
Tickets for the show on Sunday, July 6 are available in advance at the USO Building. Call (910) 254-0907 for more information. Seating is limited, so get your tickets now!
Click here to view a poster of the Star Spangled Weekend events.
History of the Hannah Block Historic USO Building.
The federal government opened the USO (United Service Organizations) recreation center in December 1941 for personnel from the five branches of the armed services in our region. Today it is only one of just a handful of USO buildings still standing in the country and is listed on the National Register of Historic places.
The government sold the building to the City after the war, and it evolved into a performance center for arts patrons and a public meeting place. Facing the building's sale and possible demolition in 1997, patron groups rallied public support to save it. The City Council responded favorably, and the $2-million-plus project will be complete in June 2008. Arts and historical organizations have raised substantial private funds to help in outfitting the building with production-related and historical items.
In keeping with its long-time, post-war use as the Community Arts Center, the building’s visual and performing arts facilities have been renovated and expanded for dance, theater, pottery, painting, productions, children’s arts camps and more.
The lobby area has been restored to its wartime appearance. It is filled with WWII exhibits and has become a home-front museum honoring the country’s unique wartime boomtown when Wilmington served as the hub of our region’s WWII activities.
The building is named for Hannah Block, "Mrs. WWII Wilmington," a USO icon and our first female Mayor Pro-tem. At 95, she plans to attend. Wilmington’s surviving Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel Charles P. Murray, Jr., USA (Ret.), also plans to attend. Murray, 86, a 1938 New Hanover High School graduate, received the Medal of Honor for valor in France in 1944.