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How are local parks and historic sites marked?

Ben Steelman
StarNews
This marker memorializes Archie Blue in a Love Grove Park. StarNews photo by Si Cantwell.

This marker memorializes Archie Blue in a Love Grove Park. StarNews photo by Si Cantwell.

In a variety of ways. On state highways, the N.C. Department of Transportation notes museums, historic sites and points of interest with brown rectangular signs — such as the ones pointing the way to the Moores Creek National Battlefield on I-40 and U.S. 421.

The DOT and the N.C. Division of Archives and History are jointly responsible for the state’s Highway Historical Marker program — those ubiquitous white metal plaques, usually bearing the North Carolina State Seal, which mark historical points of interest (battlefields, birthplaces, graves, etc.) — some of which, unfortunately, no longer exist. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1935 — making it one of the oldest such programs in the state — the program has erected more than 1,400 such markers across the state, with at least one in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. (More than 60 are in New Hanover County alone.)

The state acknowledges it can’t mark everything, but it encourages local governments, historical societies and other agencies to erect private markers. Among such local examples are the markers for Grace United Methodist Church, 401 Grace St., Wilmington [Map this], or for St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, on the 600 block of Market Street.

Other agencies sometimes use different markers. Perhaps the prettiest highway signs in the Wilmington area are the route markers for the Battleship North Carolina Memorial — a white-on-blue silhouette of the warship on a rectangular sign — which have been in place since at least the 1970s. Some surviving examples are on the westboound lane of Market Street, between 16th and 17th streets, and on the southbound lane of South 16th Street between Queen and Wooster streets.

Local monuments and parks are a different matter. The questioner specifically mentioned the 1898 Memorial Park. dedicated Nov. 8. 2008, at 1018 N. Third St., Wilmington [Map this], near the corner of Third and Davis streets. The park and monument by artist Ayokunle Odeleye honor the memory of those harmed in the racial violence of Nov. 10, 1898 — in which an armed mob burned a black-owned newspaper and forced the resignation of the city’s officials, who had been elected on a biracial ticket — as well as those who had worked for reconciliation in succeeding years. The park is rather difficult to find from the street.

That should soon change, however, said Nina Johnson, parks superintendent for the City of Wilmington. The city is in the process of constructing and installing a new series of green street signs to mark all the municipal parks. “We’re trying a new look to them,” Johnson said. The new sign marking Maides Park, 1101 Manley Ave., Wilmington [Map this], is already in place, and one for the new Archie Blue Park, off Wynnwood Drive in the Love Grove neighborhood, should be installed after work on the site is complete. Johnson said signs for the 1898 Memorial Park should be high on the list after that.

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