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Story of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson – Part 2

Ana Johnson – Kennesaw State University

One of the prominent landmarks within Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic  Site is St. Philips Anglican Church. After the establishment of the City of Wilmington in 1739,  the west bank of the Cape Fear River was viewed as St. Philips parish, while the east bank was  St. James parish. Starting in 1741, residents began raising money on behalf of the parish to fulfill  plans for the church. With enough funds collected by 1754, it began to take construction.

“Although funds were raised to start building the church, it took a couple of years to get  the walls up. It wasn’t until 1760 when most of the structure, including the roof, was completed,”  McKee said. As time passed along, there were complications that affected the progression of the  building. The primary setback was the poor weather climate, which involved lightning, rain, and  wind, causing temporary damage. “These heavy storms would cause the roof to collapse within a  couple of months. Once the church gets a new roof, it would be formally dedicated on May 24,  1768.”

It remained active for eight years until it was destroyed by the British in 1776. The only  remains of the present day are the four brick walls. According to North Carolina State Historic  Sites, the church is claimed to be the only above-ground structure that is still partially intact. The  historical foundation is recognized as an engineering marvel within Brunswick County. And  although there are no original blueprints, drawings, or descriptions of St. Philips Anglican  Church, its cultural relevance carries among its oncoming visitors.

“Most of the bricks were locally made. And there are close to a million bricks in that  church. Some bricks will probably be imported from England and brought over as ballast for  use.” McKee said. The materials used towards the church were carried out by slave labor. This  included the distribution of bricks and mortar making on the site. Besides running the brickyard,  the enslaved were utilized for other occupations, such as blacksmiths and machinists.

Currently, the historic location is undergoing development to increase conservation and  preservation efforts within Brunswick County. The site has experienced a variety of erosion  issues. From 2008 to 2013, the site lost anywhere from 80 to 120 feet of the waterfront, which is  cultural and natural resources wiped away. Nonetheless, it exposed quite a few colonial docks  and wharves where ships came in before the erosion. This included two of the first wharves;  Roger Moore in 1730 and William Dry in 1740. The original woodwork showed where merchant  ships unloaded, and the slave vessels landed.

To tackle this issue, Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site has recently  contracted an engineering firm to design a reef maker system. Also known as an offshore  breakwater, the structure is intended to break up the waves. “When you think about offshore sills

or breakwaters, most people think of rocks. This is temporary and will eventually have to be  fixed. Furthermore, it can destroy whatever is underneath it, whether cultural or natural.” McKee  said. However, this system installed will contain nearly zero environmental footprints.

“In other words, if one day we don’t need these anymore and it can be taken out, the  bottom will be able to heal in a matter of days or weeks compared to decades or even centuries.  And it’s working,” McKee said. Around half of the waterfront has been protected under this plan  and will continue to progress over the months. “It’s allowing sediment to come in and rebuild the  marsh and waterfront naturally.”


For more information about Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site, visit:

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