Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on historical markers

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State markers for Thalian Hall and Lumina Pavilion are among those broken, damaged or missing after the September storm

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Six months after Hurricane Florence blew through the region, a possible victim of the storm’s wrath is missing.

It was discovered this week that the state historical marker dedicated to Lumina Pavilion, the entertainment venue that drew thousands to Wrightsville Beach between 1905 and the 1960s, has disappeared from its post on Waynick Boulevard near The Oceanic.

The only evidence of the marker’s former location is the post atop which it has sat since being dedicated in 1992 and a broken fragment of the sign.

Ansley Wegner, director of the N.C. State Historical Marker program, said it is likely due to Florence but there’s no way to know for certain unless it turns up.

“If it got knocked down in the hurricane, someone probably took it and hung it in their (house),” she said.

She has contacted law enforcement about the missing marker and will work with the town to try and hunt it down.

Battered markers

If Florence is the culprit, the marker becomes the eighth in New Hanover and Pender counties to be damaged by the hurricane — each of which is in various states of repair. Wegner provided a list of the markers and their damage.

Several were from downtown Wilmington, where the Thalian Hall sign was nearly blown down by wind during the brunt of the hurricane. The city initially put it back up, but it was broken and had to be taken down for repairs. The N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT), the program’s partner that maintains the markers, should have it remounted later this spring, Wegner said.

Across the street, the sign for Johnston Blakeley, the War of 1812 captain lost at sea, was completely destroyed and will have to be remade. Wegner said the department is taking the opportunity to make a few tweaks to the inscription as well.

Two blocks south on Third Street, the sign for John Burgwin beside the Burgwin-Wright House was also destroyed and will have to be replaced. The Thomas Atkinson sign just up Market Street was knocked off its post, but was not damaged and just needs to be remounted.

In Pender County, the Prisoner Exchange sign, designating the region as the site of an exchange of Union prisoners during the Civil War, was broken and remains missing. The Alexander Lillington sign in Rocky Point, honoring the Revolutionary leader at the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, needed a repair to the cap that secures the sign to the post. ATTRIBUTION

The Van Eeden sign, marking the site of an agricultural colony of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in Watha, is in need of a new cap and post.

The signs are cast by hand at a foundry called Sewah Studios in Ohio, and take about three months to make. A new sign and post cost $1,790, and to replace a just the post and cap costs $1,200.

All told, the signs repairs and replacements for the three counties is $8,620 – not including the Lumina sign.

Marker mayhem

Hurricanes aren’t alone in being an enemy of the markers, of which there are 1,609 in the state.

“Usually, it’s mowers, snow plows, hurricanes and drunk drivers that do the most damage,” Wegner said. “It is hard on the program because each time we have to repair or replace one, it’s a big hit on our budget.”

Wegner added that most of her annual budget is just spent on repairs. If the Lumina marker has to be replaced, it will raise the Florence repairs from this region alone to nearly $10,000 — a sixth of her budget. 

When it comes to missing signs, Wegner said she has heard it all.

After posting about a missing marker a few years ago, an antique dealer in Asheville notified her that he bought it for $100 and was selling it in his store.

Another tip led her to find a missing marker in Virginia, where it had been mounted on a truck for the purpose of flying a Confederate flag.

In one case, a marker even showed up back on the post in perfect condition after Wegner posted on Facebook about it missing.

She’s hoping for a similar happy ending for the Lumina sign. Based on photos of the remaining post, she thinks the sign could be remounted if it is not damaged any further.

“If people would just leave them be when they fall, this would be easier and we could just repair them,” Wegner said.

Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or