#TBT: Downtown Wilmington’s antebellum architectural attraction
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Bellamy Mansion stands at 503 Market Street in Downtown Wilmington. The mansion was built around 1859 and to this day is an antebellum architectural attraction in the area.
The 22 room house was built to be the home of prominent and wealthy physician, plantation owner, and businessman John D. Bellamy, his wife Eliza, and their 10 children. Bellamy had a turpentine distillery in Brunswick County, served as a director at the Bank of the Cape Fear, and made significant investments into the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad. This contributed to the majority of his wealth.
Dr. Bellamy was a secessionist. Several of his sons joined the Confederate cause during the Civil War. During the war an outbreak of Yellow Fever forced the Bellamy family to leave their home and move to Grovely Plantation.
While the family was away, Union troops took Fort Fisher and subsequently Wilmington. Union forces took refuge in many abandoned homes in the Wilmington area. They quickly moved into the Bellamy Mansion and housed military leaders there. For a time the house was even a makeshift hospital for wounded soldiers.
After the war it was difficult for the Bellamy’s to get their home back into their possession. Many believe that Dr. Bellamy’s political views and status as a large slaveholder only complicated this process. Eventually they were able to return to the mansion.
In 1972 Bellamy Mansion Inc. was started by fourth generation family members, in hopes that they could begin restoration and preservation of the historic home. However, that same year, arsonists set fire to the home causing serious damage.
Throughout the next 2 decades, Bellamy Mansion Inc. worked to bring the house back to it’s former grandeur. In 1989 the Bellamy Mansion was donated to the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina, making it a public historic site.
Today the Bellamy Mansion is a fully operation museum.
** Special thanks to Jan Davidson and the Cape Fear Museum. **