BUILDING HISTORY: Belk/Library Building

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Submitted: Thu, 06/06/2013 - 12:41am
Updated: Thu, 06/06/2013 - 7:07pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — If you are of a certain age you remember shopping where the downtown Library is now. It’s a place where stores and stories come together.

“Lots of stories, there are still lots of people who were children or adults when the store was here, and they tell me stories about shopping here and coming to buy their first pair of shoes,” Said Joe Sheppard of the Special Collections department at the New Hanover County Public Library. “Everybody has a story about coming in here.”

The library has a number of departments but the building here started out as a department store.

“We have a schematic that shows the various departments that were in this department store,” Sheppard displayed. “Belk Beery was an old fashioned department’s store, with departments just for hosiery or just for mechanics, or just for toys.”

Just like stores today it went through mergers and rebranding.

”Originally it was referred to as Belk Williams, an earlier department store company in downtown Wilmington.” Sheppard explained.

But the Belk Beery store was the place to be at Christmas and the magic started before you even got inside. The windows were wonderful displays and high tech for their time.

“Christmas of course was the big drawing time and there would be various window displays,” Sheppard described. “Sometimes there would be Santa’s village, which would just be a snow covered village. I’ve heard those stories. They had special mechanics because being the Belk’s and Berry’s, they had money and they wanted to make these windows spectacular.”

Not enough history for you? There is a lot more downtown at the library and it spans quite a period.

“Special Collections department which we are in now is the successor of former libraries that have been here since the colonial period,” Sheppard said. “A lot of items such as books or maps that are here in the special collections department were part of those early colonial libraries.”

If you know a building with a good story, let me know at,


  • IReckon says:

    Another experience we kids enjoyed at Belks was riding the escalator! I believe it was the only store in Wilmington at that time that had one. Air conditioning was nice also!

  • Margaret says:

    In 1963 I tried to climb that escalator. Being a tiny toddler I slipped, and fell, catching my clothes and gashing my lower lip. I would’ve been killed if an alert employee had not skidded across the room to press the emergency off button.
    I remember I got blood on his shirt.
    Wherever that man is, thank you for my life. You’re one of the few people that cared.

  • Guest2020 says:

    I remember being fascinated by the escalators. And if memory serves me correctly, they had a bargain basement, but my memory sucks, so I definitely could be remembering wrong.

    You do realize that we are showing our ages.

  • nofaithnlaw says:

    If my memory serves me correct..It was Belk Beery not Belk Berry’s

  • Guest2264 says:

    My mom took me there all the time when I was a child. I can still remember all the departments! And yes, the shoes were right by the entrance, and they actually had salespeople that would fit you properly! I loved the escalator as well, and looking at all the boy and girl scout clothing. And then the basement area, good bargains in there! And of course, no visit was complete without picking up something from Hickory Farms! Ah, good times. I often wonder though, what was the faint “ding ding ding” sound that you’d hear on the intercom at times? Anyone out there know?

  • GuestUSMC says:

    I bought a stereo there in 1977 when I first moved here. It still plays as good today as when I took it out of the box. Loved that old building. Malls just don’t have the same atmosphere as the old department stores.

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