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BUILDING HISTORY: Children's Museum of Wilmington

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- With more than 17,000 square feet of fun, it's every child's dream, but the Children's Museum of Wilmington also offers something for history buffs.

"It's awfully exciting, I have to tell you, when I look at this building behind us, because it was built 20 years after the birth of the country," museum executive director Richard Lawson said. "It's been a hotel. It's been a doctor's office. It's been a restaurant. It's been a number of things over 250 years."

If you are looking for history in Wilmington, there are three historic buildings here.

"I'll call them three and a half, because we've got the Masonic Temple, we've got the Cowan House that used to be the governor's mansion when he came for the summer, and the Greek church, which is now across from the university," Lawson said. "And we added the steel and glass to create the Children's Museum."

The Masonic Temple is the oldest of the buildings. Construction started in 1803 and finished in 1805 as the St. John's Lodge Number 1. It is still quite a place today.

Around the corner is the Cowan House, which was built around 1840 as a private residence and used as more of a summer home.

And not to be left out, the former location of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church is at the corner of 2nd and Orange streets. It was finished in 1945 and used here until 1979.

Now thanks to some clever architecture and joined by a glass and steel structure, it all became home to the Children's Museum.

"About eight years ago they were across from the high school in a 3,000 square foot house. When St. John's Museum moved out, we came in here," Lawson said.

Some of our youngest residents play, unaware of the history at their fingertips.

"Across the hall here, right now we're standing in the original backyard porch, and there was probably a garden, is the lodge, the Masonic Temple Lodge Room, and inside is an 1840 altar I guess it is and some pictures," Lawson said.

While there is plenty of new technology, the old original buildings were built with low-tech but long-lasting construction methods.

"We don't hardly use them any more, but there are continuous pieces of timber that are notched," Lawson said. "To put the house in nowadays we use nails and steel girders, but it's notched downstairs, and there are some Roman numerals, and I wonder what they were for."

Children and families stream into the Children's Museum, and the emphasis is on kids learning and having fun. But look around next trip. There is a lot of history here.

There is always something happening at the museum, which celebrate Chinese New Year Feb. 10.

If you have a building with a great story contact cphillips@wwaytv3.com.

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