Notable People and Topics in Our History . . .
The North Carolina Society for the Preservation of Antiquities and the Modern Preservation Movement
n 1938 the Garden Club of North Carolina hosted a "Garden Fortnight and Tour" in order to "stimulate interest in the historic treasures of North Carolina." Janie Fetner Gosney of Raleigh directed the tour. Fueled by the success of the endeavor, the group formed a restoration committee and resolved to produce a book. A limited-edition volume titled Old Homes and Gardens of North Carolina, with text by Archibald Henderson and photographs by Bayard Wootten, appeared in 1939. The volume, in keeping with the popular assessment of preservationists at the time, featured primarily the most magnificent examples. It was with the preservation of such grand structures in mind, of which there were ever fewer remaining, that the clubwomen set out to form a preservation organization. Maude Moore Latham, a noted Greensboro philanthropist, contemplated the charge in a letter to restoration committee chair Ruth Coltrane Cannon. Latham wrote that "we should have at least a place in every county but [I] am not at all certain that every county has one place of interest."
With the Historical Commission financially incapable of acquiring and restoring historic properties, Secretary Christopher Crittenden included a plea for the creation of a private preservation organization in his 1936-1938 biennial report. Shortly thereafter, Crittenden wrote that "the Society . . . should be headed by a man, but most of the actual work should be done by a woman, who would be called Executive Vice-President, or something of the sort." Gosney was selected to manage the nascent group, with the title of secretary-treasurer. The first president was Joseph Hyde Pratt, former state geologist, who was influential in many state and national associations. With the encouragement and support of the Garden Club and the Literary and Historical Association, the North Carolina Society for the Preservation of Antiquities was formed in 1939. Crittenden was instrumental in the effort; the group kept an office in the Historical Commission suite. Cannon served as the society's president from 1944 to 1956 and is credited with rescuing the group from an imminent demise. The group still awards the Cannon Cup to people and organizations active in historic preservation.
In 1974 the North Carolina Society for the Preservation of Antiquities was rechartered as the Historic Preservation Society of North Carolina. The society established a revolving preservation fund to purchase and resell endangered historic properties. The fund and the society merged in 1984, at which point the organization was called the Historic Preservation Foundation. The group, presently known as Preservation North Carolina (PNC), maintains the revolving fund that has assisted in the rehabilitation of numerous structures representing the broad patterns of the state's history and its architectural resources, including the Briggs Hardware building in Raleigh, the Bellamy Mansion in Wilmington, and the Edenton Mill Village. Preservation North Carolina and the State Historic Preservation Office conduct very different but mutually sustaining programs. PNC also engages in political advocacy on behalf of historic preservation.
Ansley Herring Wegner
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