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Museum Controversy Pits Homeowners Against Historians

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WAKE FOREST, N.C. — Historians are battling historic homeowners in Wake Forest.

A plan to build a major museum expansion has angered homeowners who want their part of town to keep its character. It has led to a fight between preserving a neighborhood and preserving history.

Wake Forest College had a football team playing in Wake County in '88.

1888, that is.

The football memories are just part of the college's 122 years of history in Wake Forest. The school moved to Winston-Salem in 1956.

All the memories are crammed into a tiny, 183-year-old house on North Main Street.

"Students come here, and they say: 'Ah Ha. That's what it's about,'" said historian Susan Brinkley of the Wake Forest College Birthplace Society.

The Society wants to add a 10,000 square-foot exhibition hall and conference center. The dream is to intertwine the stories of the town and the college that began before the town and to portray them through exhibitions.

The Society wants to put the new museum right behind the old one. Most of the trees behind the old museum will have to go.

"We feel violated," said homeowner Nancy Bates.

Several families who live near the museum are fighting the expansion. They say the new structure will look like a commercial building and won't fit in with the historic neighborhood.

They also claim the new plan violates rules covering historic districts.

"What they do for one property owner, they should do for all property owners," Bates said, "including the birthplace."

It's like the old football games at Trentini Stadium. One side wants to score a big gain; the other wants to block the advance.

The museum expansion plan passed the Wake Forest Board of Adjustments Wednesday night. It still must go before the planning commission.

The neighbors are threatening to go to court to stop the plan.


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