Oldest house on Wrightsville Beach close to sale, sparks fears of demolition


The oldest house in Wrightsville Beach may change hands as early as October, leaving local historians and preservationists worried about the fate of a house that was built in the 19th century.

Realtor Diane Thomas said the house on oceanfront property at 217 S. Lumina Ave., once owned by Herbert Bluethenthal, was under contract and the potential buyer is conducting due diligence on the property. Thomas said she couldn’t reveal the buyer’s identity or his or her intentions with the house. The Bluethenthal house was listed in June at $3.75 million.

“It’s all up in the air for everybody,” Thomas said.

But local historians believe the sale of this house could do what the hurricane of 1899 couldn’t — remove the house from the beach strand.

“The community’s fear is that it would be torn down,” said Madeline Flagler, executive director of the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History. “It’s the oldest house on the beach, and not by a few years, but by a fair amount. It’s the only house on the beach that predates the turn of the century.”

The next oldest houses in Wrightsville Beach are at least 20 years younger, said Flagler, who added she believed the house would be closed upon by October.

Several community members would like to see the house moved, she said. However, since the house doesn’t have a historical landmark designation, the buyers are under no obligation to preserve it.

“The seller has come by [the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History]several times and hopes to influence the purchaser to move it,” Flagler said.

There is room for the house to be moved to the Wrightsville Beach square on Salisbury Street, where other historic houses have been moved for preservation. The Myers Cottage was moved from its 124 S. Lumina Ave. location in 2010 to become the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History. In 2013, the Palmgren-O’Quinn House on South Channel Drive was also moved to the Salisbury Street location to house the North Carolina Coastal Federation.

Gareth Evans, executive director of the Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design Arts in Wilmington, said it’s unlikely the house would be kept in its location.

“The land is worth so much more than the building,” he said, noting that the land is worth $3 million while the house has a value of around $500,000.

Saving the house would be difficult since there wouldn’t likely be the time to raise the money to move the house. While moving the house would cost more than $100,000, tearing it down could be done for merely $20,000.

Evans said the old houses on Wrightsville Beach are “dwindling one by one.”

“The pressure of the money is what’s driving this,” he said.

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