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Why are there brick semi-circles in the pavement on Front Street at the Cotton Exchange?

Ken Little

The materials are historic, but the semi-circle design dates from the mid-1970s, when the Cotton Exchange property was refurbished.

“It is decorative,” says Beverly Tetterton, local history librarian with the New Hanover County Public Library.

The urban renewal program of the 1960s resulted in the destruction of many historic buildings in Wilmington’s downtown area. Work was done to preserve some of the properties that remained. One of those was the Cotton Exchange, which has been in constant use since before the Civil War.

When the building and Front Street were being redone, a supply of cobblestone, bricks and Belgian block became available as excavations unearthed the materials.

“They were trying to revitalize downtown after urban renewal. They put them there decoratively,” Tetterton says. “At that time, there was a lot of block and brick lying around. It looks beautiful.”

The building housing the Cotton Exchange was the home of the Cape Fear Flour and Hominy Mill in the mid-1880s. The mill was the largest of its kind in the South. The structure was rebuilt in 1919-1920 by Alexander Sprunt & Sons to house a cotton export business.

Tetterton suggests those who want to know more about the history of the building and other departed city landmarks purchase her book, “Wilmington: Lost But Not Forgotten.” It is available at local book stores and online though purveyors like www.amazon.com

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One Response to “ Why are there brick semi-circles in the pavement on Front Street at the Cotton Exchange?”

  1. On November 15, 2009 at 9:10 pm Bob Hammond wrote:

    More details. The block of north Front Street in front of the Cotton Exchange was made into a pedestrian-only block for a period of about 3 or 4 years when the Exchange was first opened. The brick and cobblestone decorative pavement lunes were an attempt to apply what is known in the trade as “helicopter architecture” because it is best seen from a helicopter. There was a line of posts and rope across each end of the block but trucks were allowed to enter the block to make deliveries to adjacent businesses. The major decorative feature was a large structure in the form of a ship installed in the south (Grace Street) end of the block, right in the middle of Front Street, made out of 8″x8″ or 10″x10″ wood beams set vertically into the ground, with its plan (vertical) view forming the outline of a ship’s hull. It had a flagpole serving as its “mast”. After a very few years, the inground portions of the wood beams rotted, predictably, so the “ship” was removed and the road was opened to one way northbound traffic and public parking spaces were then marked on the pavement. There was a fear that general traffic would damage the brick pavers, but that has apparently not been the case.

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