In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you: I go to prepare a place for you. John 14:2
How do you imagine the mansions will look in Heavae? We really won’t know until Jesus takes us home. I image that the mansions will look like the Bellamy Mansion located in Wilmington, North Carolina. I recently spent a morning visiting the grounds. And of course, I took lots of images!
The Bellamy Mansion, built between 1859 and 1861, is a mixture of Neoclassical architectural styles, including Greek Revival and Italianate, and is located at 503 Market Street in the heart of downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. It is one of North Carolina’s finest examples of historic antebellum architecture.
In 1860, Wilmington was the largest city in North Carolina by population and was number one in the world for the naval stores industry. It was considered a cosmopolitan port city where men like Dr. John D. Bellamy could advance themselves politically, economically and culturally. Designed with Greek Revival and Italianate styling, this twenty-two room house was constructed with the labor of both enslaved skilled carpenters and freed black artisans. In 1860 this was a construction site. The architect James F. Post, a native of New Jersey, and his assistant, draftsman Rufus W. Bunnell of Connecticut, oversaw the construction of the mansion. Originally built as a private residence for the family of Dr. John D. Bellamy, a prominent plantation owner, physician, and businessman, the mansion has endured a remarkable series of events throughout its existence. Mrs. Bellamy’s formal gardens were not planted until closer to 1870, and when the mansion was first built there were no large shade trees like today. By the time Dr. Bellamy and Eliza Bellamy moved into the house in early 1861, they had been married twenty years and moved in with eight children who ranged in age from a young adult all the way to a toddler. In fact, Eliza was pregnant with her tenth child. Ten Bellamys moved into the big house while nine enslaved workers moved into the outbuildings. The home was taken over by federal troops during the American Civil War, survived a disastrous fire in 1972, was home to two generations of Bellamy family members, and now following extensive restoration and preservation over several decades, the Bellamy Mansion is a fully functioning museum of history and design arts.
As a young man, John Dillard Bellamy, Sr. inherited a large piece of his father’s plantation in Horry County, South Carolina at about age 18, along with several enslaved workers. John soon moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, to begin studying medicine with Dr. William James Harriss. He left for two years in 1837 to study at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and he returned to Wilmington in 1839 to marry Eliza, Harriss’ eldest daughter and take over Dr. Harriss’ medical practice following Eliza’s father’s untimely death in July. After their wedding, Bellamy took over Dr. William James Harriss’ medical practice in July 1839. The Bellamys lived in the Dock Street home of Eliza’s newly widowed mother, Mary Priscilla Jennings Harriss. Upon his death, Dr. Harriss left behind his wife, along with seven children and fourteen enslaved workers who were also living at the household. John and Eliza welcomed four of their own children into the Dock Street home before they moved across the street in 1846 to the former residence of the sixteenth GovernorBenjamin Smith. It was here, from 1852-1859, that the next five of the Bellamy’s ten children were born.
By 1860, as the Bellamy family prepared to move into their new home on Market Street, their family included eight children, ages ranging from one to nineteen. Along with the ten members of the Bellamy family, nine enslaved workers also lived at the household. In 1861, Robert Rankin was the last born of the children and the only one to be born in the mansion on Market Street.
Two months after moving into the new home, on May 20, 1861, North Carolina officially seceded from the Union. Dr. Bellamy was a secessionist, and he assumed the honor of heading the welcoming committee when Jefferson Davis visited Wilmington in late May. John Jr. described his father as an “ardent Secessionist, Calhoun Democrat, and never after the war ‘reconstructed.’” Dr. Bellamy was so proud of South Carolina’s secession in December 1860 and so dismayed that many prominent Wilmington families “would not take part in the celebration of South Carolina’s withdrawal from the Union, he bought all the empty tar barrels in Wilmington and had them strewn along Front Street…and had a great bonfire and procession at night, three days before the Christmas of 1860. He procured a band of music, and headed the marching column himself, at Front and Market Streets, with his little son and namesake, the author, by his side, bearing a torch upon his shoulder! It was a night to live always in his memory, and of which he was ever afterwards proud!” Marsden Bellamy, the eldest of the sons, had enlisted in the Scotland NeckCavalry volunteers before the official secession, and later enlisted in the Confederate Navy. Just a few months later, his younger brother William would join the Wilmington Rifle Guards.
Ten Bellamys moved into the big house while nine enslaved workers moved into the outbuildings. Guy Nixon, the butler and carriage driver for the Bellamys, would run errands, answer the door, and serve meals. Tony Bellamy, the caretaker, most likely conducted maintenance and grounds keeping on the property. The fact he took Dr. Bellamy’s last name after emancipation most likely means he lived primarily at Grovely and only came to town when needed. If the needed repairs and work required him to stay in Wilmington overnight or longer, he would have most likely slept in the same area as Guy. Sarah Miller Sampson (1815-1896) belonged to Dr. William Harriss, Dr. John D. Bellamy’s father-in-law, and was given to Eliza and John D. Bellamy in 1839, the year of their marriage and of Dr. Harriss’s untimely death just a few weeks after the ceremony. Rosella and six other females were also working in the home, including Joan, a wet nurse and nanny for the Bellamy children; Caroline, Joan’s daughter (who was 7 in 1860) and was described as Mrs. Bellamy’s “little maid” who followed Eliza “from foot to foot”; Mary Ann, a 14-year old in 1860 who was likely learning tasks from Sarah, Joan, and Rosella. A 4-year-old girl, a 3-year-old girl and a 1-year-old girl were also listed on the census.
Federal troops arrived in Wilmington on February 22, having pushed many of the Confederate troops inland. Union officers took shelter in the nicer homes in town whose owners had been forced to abandon them. The Bellamy House was quickly occupied and chosen to be headquarters for the military staff. On March 1, 1865 General Joseph Roswell Hawley was placed in charge of the Wilmington District and assigned the Bellamy House. Soon after, the General’s wife Harriet Foote Hawley, an experienced war nurse, arrived in Wilmington in April 1865 to help tend to the wounded.
The now restored slave quarters on the property are one of the best examples of urban quarters in the state, and one of very few open to the public. Seven enslaved female African Americans lived in this building including Sarah, the housekeeper and cook, Mary Ann and Joan, nurses, Rosella, a nurse and laundress, and three children. Two enslaved men that lived on the Bellamy property included Guy, the butler and coachman, and Tony, a laborer and handyman. More than likely, they resided in small rooms above the carriage house. The architecture of the slave quarters is very distinct, and done very purposefully. The attractive brick walls and shutters were a sign of social superiority for the Bellamy family. Because these were urban quarters, they could easily be seen by the public from street level. Having a visibly pleasing slave quarter gave the impression of high social status for the family. There are no windows on the rear of the slave quarters, meaning enslaved workers could only look out and view the main house, which they were close to. High walls, sometimes more than a foot thick, surrounded the entire property, forming a compound where workers spent their day. The smallness of the yards and gardens at the center of the lots seem to magnify the commanding size of the walls and emphasize the calculated isolation of the quarters. The relentless masonry was broken only by the stark escarpment created by the rear of the adjacent buildings- the backs of kitchens, stables, or neighboring slave quarters. Standing in the middle of the plot, the enslaved worker could see only a maze of brick and stone. Thus, the physical design of the complex directed enslaved workers to center their activity upon the owner and the owner’s house. Symbolically, the pitch of the roof of the slave quarters was highest at the outside edge and then slanted sharply toward the yard; an expression of the human relationship involved. The whole design was concentric, drawing the life of the slaves inward. After the Civil War, this building became servants’ quarters.
In February 1972 fourth generation members of the Bellamy family started Bellamy Mansion, Inc., in hopes of beginning preservation and restoration of the historic home. Sadly, one month later arsonists set fire to the home. While the fire department was able to put out the flames, extensive damage was done to a large amount of the interior.
After the devastating fire in March 1972, Bellamy Mansion, Inc. faced a whole new set of challenges regarding the restoration of the home. The house had sustained extensive damage to its plaster work and much of the original wood had been destroyed. Further damage came from the water needed to extinguish the blaze. Over the next two decades more Bellamy family members and community volunteers joined to raise awareness and funds for the restoration effort.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Bellamy Mansion, Inc., worked to complete exterior restoration of the main home and the servants’ quarters in the rear of the property, and to raise funds for the interior renovations. In 1989, the corporation decided to donate the property to the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina. This turned the mansion into a public historic site. Over the next few years the necessary interior repairs were completed, and in 1994 the Bellamy Mansion Museum of History and Design Arts officially opened.
Today the Bellamy Mansion is a fully operational museum, focusing on history and design arts, and a Stewardship Property of Preservation North Carolina. The facility often features changing exhibits of history and design as well as various community events, including the annual garden tour of the famous North Carolina Azalea Festival in Wilmington. In 2001 the carriage house at the rear of the property was reconstructed and became the museum’s visitor center and office building. The authentic and unique slave quarters, fully restored as of 2014, serves to depict the conditions in which enslaved workers lived. Because the property’s slave quarters were constructed only a few years before the abolition of slavery, they are some of the best preserved examples of urban slave housing in the country.
Acting as a nonprofit organization, the Bellamy Mansion is home to many volunteers from the Wilmington community who are knowledgeable of the Bellamy family and the history of the home itself. Tours are given at the museum Tuesday – Saturday from 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM (with the last tour starting at 4:00 PM) and Sunday from 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM (with the last tour starting at 4:00 PM). Aside from being an operational museum, the Bellamy Mansion is also available for weddings and special events rentals. The structure is located at 503 Market Street in Wilmington and on the Web at http://www.bellamymansion.org
The information is from Wikipedia
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