The buildings located within the historic districts are part of the cultural heritage of Wilmington and reflect the ambition and taste of its citizens for almost two-and-a-half centuries. While most of the early buildings are gone, what remains is a three dimensional nineteenth-century city which still retains the flavor of the bustling seaport and commercial center it once was.
The original grid of streets which extends from the waterfront contains a variety of residences, churches, commercial and government buildings – some the work of prominent architects and builders. The Italianate style with its bracketed roof overhangs was one of the most distinguished and prevalent styles in Wilmington before the turn of the century.
In Wilmington, one will find the large high-style houses of the affluent sawmill owners, commission merchants, cotton exporters and railroad executives. One can also find the smaller houses of the middle-class, workers’ cottages and twentieth-century bungalows. The plazas are lavishly planted and retain some of their original street furniture. Early brick pavement adorns the streets and the sidewalks are lined with stately old oaks.
The streetcar suburbs which emerged after the turn of the century have matured with time and offer another dimension of Wilmington’s architecture. Neoclassical, Georgian, Colonial Revival and exotic revivals are found side by side with cottages and bungalows. The large yards, generally unfenced, are richly planted with azaleas, camellias, crepe myrtles and other flowering shrubs.
Today the area is relatively unchanged except for the increased size of the trees and the busy traffic on Market and Chestnut Streets.
Historic Preservation Planning
Historic Preservation Planning administers the design review process in the historic districts through the Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) process. The Historic Preservation Commission reviews all proposed major changes to the exterior of properties, structures, new construction, signage and changes to the surrounding grounds, including landscaping. The City's Historic Preservation Planner assists and offers guidance to the community and the commission on matters of historic preservation. Minor exterior changes to properties can be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Planner through the administrative bypass process.
Local Historic Districts
- Historic Districts
- Historic District Brochure and Map
- Wilmington Design Guidelines for Historic Districts and Landmarks
Certificates of Appropriateness (COA)
- What is a COA?
- Do I need a COA?
- COA Application for Major Works
- COA Bypass Application for Minor Works
Local Historic Landmarks
Historic Planning Links
- NC State Historic Preservation Office
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
- Bellamy Mansion Museum
- Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
- Preservation Briefs Online
- Federal and NC Historic Tax Credit Programs
- Preservation North Carolina
- Historic Wilmington Foundation
- Port City Architecture
- Wilmington Architecture Salvage
- National Register of Historic Places
- American Association for State & Local History