When researching Wilmington, North Carolina, every guidebook will say that you have to visit Bellamy Mansion. As a lover of old houses and historical sites, I was keen to walk around the mansion and see what all the fuss was about. While I loved my guided tour of the mansion, there are a few things I think you should keep in mind when visiting to get the most out of the experience.
Bellamy Mansion: It’s mostly empty
Although the mansion is quite old, it has almost no furniture from the late 1800s. The youngest daughter lived in the house until her death in 1946, but by this point it was falling into disrepair. Eventually, a fund was established by a few of the Bellamy grandchildren to maintain the mansion, but in 1972 arsonists set the building on fire. The frame of the house was saved, but almost all the furnishings were destroyed, thus leaving the mansion mostly empty.
For me, the best part of my visit was the basement. This is where the family ate and everyday chores were done (ironing, washing, etc.). The kitchen was easily the star of the show though; it was decked out in fake food and had the most amazing cast iron stove. Am I the only one who loves scenes like this? You know, the staged working scenes where you can just imagine that someone had just popped out of the room while making cookies or something? Maybe I just have a wild imagination (very probable).
Although the highlight of many house tours is seeing the exquisite furniture of earlier eras, the sparseness of decorations didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the mansion. The interior of the house has been beautifully restored, and it’s not difficult to imagine how it may have once looked.
Bellamy Mansion: Take a Guided Tour
Unlike similar historical sites, visitors aren’t required to take a guided tour of the mansion. You still need to pay an entry fee, but you’re able to walk around the house at your own leisure. For those of you who hate guided tours, this option might sound enticing. I, however, would strongly recommend taking the hour-long guided tour, as it’s almost impossible to ascertain the history of the mansion by simply seeing the interior. My tour guide was an elderly woman who had the sweetest southern accent. Hmmm, maybe that should be an unofficial reason to take a guided tour—to listen to more southern accents (after all, y’all are in North Carolina now).
Guided tours have no extra cost and are offered on the hour. Tour guides are volunteers from the community who have become experts on the mansion, and they’re great resources for finding out more about Wilmington in general as well.
Bellamy Mansion: The Property is Small
This particular aspect of the house doesn’t bother me because the house itself is so large, but I thought it good to mention that the gardens surrounding the house are small. The only reason I bring this up is that many websites talk about strolling through the mansion’s Victorian-style gardens, which is quite misleading. The gardens are beautiful, but you shouldn’t drive to Bellamy Mansion thinking you’ll be spending half your time wandering through endless hedgerows.
Hopefully I’ve peaked your interest and you’re thinking about visiting the Bellamy Mansion. It really is a stunning property, but I think it’s always helpful going into something knowing what to expect. If you’re interested in hearing more about the mansion’s history, you can read about it here.
Do you enjoy visiting historical sites like this? I love them, but I know they’re not everybody’s cup of tea. What are your favorite things to do on vacation? Leave me a comment letting me know your favorite types of vacations!