By Mel Beasley
After being suspended 20 feet above the ground for nearly two months, the historic Ewing-Bordeaux cottage will lowered onto its permanent platform this week, marking another step forward in the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History’s expansion plans.
The museum has set a July target to open the cottage for public use, which will include several exhibits. The museum moved the cottage to its current location on the town’s historic square.from its original spot on 405 N. Lumina Ave. on Jan. 11.
Setting the cottage on its foundation comes after some delays due to strong winds and issues with the building’s foundation.
“Part of the problem is that the house is not square, so workers are trying to fabricate the foundation to match the shape of the old-style structure,” says Madeline Flagler, the museum’s executive director.
Workers intend to custom-place the foundational supports to match the unique shape of the house, which has proven more challenging than originally expected as workers have run into concrete during digging, Flagler said. Strong winds have proven to be another challenge for the project because the plumb-lines, a surveying measurement of the straightness of vertical lines, would not stay still enough to gather adequate measurements. Measuring the foundational structures accurately with the plumb-lines is imperative since the house is not a typical shape.
“In the next few days, they will start placing the pilings for the house and then they can set the house after that,” Flagler said on Monday.
The house was originally a beach cottage built in 1924 and was lived in only during the summer months, according to Flagler. Residents of the town donated the building to the museum before it was demolished.
“We feel very fortunate to have it and that the town is letting us place it here,” Flagler said.
The museum plans to have some part of the extension opened by July of this year, and Flagler says they hope to move some of the existing exhibits from the main house and into the new one.
The main museum house will mimic an historical beach cottage while the new house will display more exhibits, Flagler said. The new house will remain nine feet above the ground so that the bottom can be used as a demonstration area where she said visitors can enjoy a more hands-on experience.
Saving a historic building, the 1924 Ewing-Bordeaux Cottage, located at 405 N. Lumina Avenue, along with its neighbor, the Williams-Bordeaux, are the oldest fully-intact structures north of Stone Street. They are the last two of six cottages that survived the Great Fire of 1934. Currently the greatest threat to historic cottages is the steady rise in property values and demand for development. Moving the Ewing-Bordeaux Cottage saved a rare example of local Wrightsville Beach architecture of which only a handful remain and transitioned it into a public building to be enjoyed on a much wider scale.
Not only did moving the Ewing-Bordeaux cottage allow the Wrightsville Beach Museum to preserve this special building, but it also made it possible for the Museum to expand its programs, exhibits and other services to the community. The cottage allows our growing project, the Waterman Hall of Fame, to have a permanent home to celebrate water sports and professions that are so important to our community and celebrate those who make positive contributions to our way of life. This is an exciting time in the life of the museum as this cottage allows us to grow, providing outdoor teaching spaces and indoor experiential learning resources.