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Is it true there were horse stables in the basement of the Carolina Apartments?

Ben Steelman
StarNews

We’re having trouble getting in touch with the apartments’ management, so we can’t give you a definite “no” — but it appears unlikely.

The building, at 420 Market St., Wilmington [Map this] — facing the Kenan Fountain, right across Kenan Plaza from the Bellamy Mansion and First Baptist Church — was complete in 1907, a little late for the horse-and-buggy era.

Longtime resident Bob Jenkins, the proprietor of Wilmington Adventure Tours, says the building’s basement originally contained a kitchen and dining room for the tenants. (There were also dumb waiters, to send plates upstairs to those who preferred to eat in their rooms.) That doesn’t leave much room for a stable area.

Also, most horses dislike stairs or elevators (and the apartments’s elevators were NEVER big enough to accommodate a horse). Access to the apartments is limited today, but a circuit of the structure’ exterior fails to reveal a ramp of any size that could have provided access for horses or their fodder.

This much we do know: The building was designed by Robert Louis Sharpe, the same architect who designed the New York Stock Exchange. (According to local author Connie Nelson, Sharpe modeled it on the turn-of-the-century apartments that once lined New York’s Fifth Avenue.) Henry E. Bonitz, a prominent Wilmington architect, supervised the local construction. Elaborate balconies, with wooden floors and ornate balustrades, were added to the upper-floor apartments. ; the wood floors were later replaced with iron grilles, according to historian Tony Wrenn.

At first, tenants were supplied with wooden ladders in case of fire, but iron fire escapes were joined later to the balconies.

Perhaps the most notable tenant at the Carolina Apartments was Claude Howell (1915-1997), the nationally known artist and illustrator who launched the visual arts program at the University of North Carolina Wilmington; he lived there most of his life (and according to acquaintances, occasionally sunbathed in the nude on his balcony).

The Carolina Apartments have been used as a location or backdrop in a number of motion pictures, most notably “Blue Velvet” (with a key scene occurring on a fire escape) and “The Bedroom Window,” as well as several episodes of the TV series “Matlock.”

User-contributed question by:
Martin

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