Wrightsville Beach History museum has relocated a 1924 beach cottage to expand its education, exhibit space in 2020
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH – When the great Wrightsville Beach fire of 1934 swept across the north end of the destination island, it spared only a few structures.
Among them was a small beach cottage built a decade earlier, which likely survived thanks to a well-placed berm and luck. As it approaches its centennial anniversary in the coming decade, the cottage is getting new lease on life as a relocated extension of the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History.
In 2017, the Bordeaux Cottage was moved to the same Salisbury Street site as the museum’s current cottage building, itself a 1909 salvage. But the museum has far outgrown its 1,100 square-foot home, bursting at the seams with a growing collection — and ambition to live beyond its walls.
“My museum theory is that if all you are doing is keeping the doors open, you’re not really serving the community,” said museum director Madeline Flagler. “You’ve got to do programming and reach out to the community.”
The museum has done more of those programs in recent years, with walking tours and its Loop Through History program on the walking path. But it needed more space to showcase exhibits and hold programs.
The Bordeaux Cottage was the perfect solution.
“We have been in that little house for so long, hoping something else would come available but nothing had until this cottage,” she said. “When I first saw it, it was not in good shape. But it had all the architectural features you’d want for an old cottage. The bones were there, the charm was there.”
Named for its final resident and steward of historic preservation, Betty Bordeaux, the cottage is in the process of being outfitted for its introduction into what Flagler is calling a museum campus.
Inside the Bordeaux Cottage, the entrance room will be the Lumina Room, with panels on the famed Lumina Pavilion; a side room will be the Waterman Room, with exhibits on boating and fishing, as well as presentation space; and other exhibits will include a look at barrier islands and a generational reflection on family fun at the beach.
The back room, which will overlook the community tennis courts and playground, will be known as the Chris Stone Exploration Room for more hands-on activities and programs.
More than $200,000 in contributions have already been put toward the project, but the museum still needs to raise about $35,000 to complete its capital campaign and install electrical and lighting features in order to earn its certificate of occupancy. Staff would also like to install a lift, even though it not required due to its historic status.
“We want this to be open for the spring season,” Flagler said. “That’s why we are making as big a push as we can to move this along.”
Perhaps more pressing is having it up and running by December 2020 for the arrival of a special guest.
The new space made it possible for the museum to apply for new grants and exhibits through the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.. Its pitch secured it a spot on a traveling exhibit called Water/Ways, which explores water’s impact on human land use.
With its foot in the door, the museum also landed another Smithsonian grant called Stories: YES, which uses technology to record oral histories that will then become part of the Library of Congress’ permanent collection.
That grant focuses on the museum partnering with schools in Pender County to record digital stories from students about their personal recovery stories from Hurricane Florence.
“These children that have been through something that is traumatic and overwhelming and hard for them to grasp, but by doing this, they will at least know their piece of it will be part of a larger picture,” Flagler said.
After that project is completed, the Wrightsville Beach museum will be able to keep the equipment.
With more room to breathe and more opportunities already falling in place, Flagler said the Bordeaux Cottage, once funded and completed, will take the museum into a new decade with endless possibilities.
“This museum will be more dynamic than the current Myers Cottage,” she said. “People come in time and time again and they want to look at the model and talk about the things they remember and they like if things are in the same spot. But here, we will have so much more freedom to try new things.”
Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com.