Hope Plantation faces cutbacksPublished 10:17am Tuesday, June 10, 2014
WINDSOR – Not all “hope” is lost….but some is fleeting.
Dr. Turner Bond Sutton, President of Historic Hope Foundation, announced last week that the Board of Directors of Historic Hope Foundation, at an emergency called meeting on May 22, voted to close the Roanoke-Chowan Heritage Center in the Senator J.J.“Monk”Harrington Building at Hope Plantation as of June 30.
Sutton said the facility will remain open for scheduled events sponsored by Historic Hope Foundation, weddings and wedding receptions, business meetings and other events.
Hope Plantation, the restored home of former North Carolina Governor David Stone (1770-1818), will continue to be open for tours. Docents will greet guests at the Hope mansion as they did when the restored mansion was first opened to the public in 1968. Tours of the Hope mansion and the King-Bazemore house will be available Thursday through Monday of each week. A study of the visitation register has shown that fewer people come on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. However, tours will be available for groups on these days by appointment.
Construction of the Harrington Building was funded by a grant from the North Carolina General Assembly and by contributions from corporations and individuals in honor of Senator Harrington, a native of Lewiston. The building, which opened in 1992, was designed to further the mission of Historic Hope Foundation, which is “to provide educational, cultural, and recreational benefits for the public by the preservation, maintenance, and administration of the Historic Hope Plantation as an element of the heritage of the Roanoke-Chowan Region and as an illustration and interpretation of agrarian life in eastern North Carolina, 1760-1840”.
The Foundation has received funding in prior years from the Bertie County Board of Commissioners to strengthen and expand existing programs in cooperation with Bertie County schools. However, over the past three years the county has reduced this funding by 80 percent.
In spite of the reduction in county funding, the Foundation continues to host all Bertie County school students at no charge and offers programs for them such as Living History Day.
In addition to closing the Heritage Center, other cuts will include a reduction in the staff. There will continue be a full time site manager, who serves as caretaker of the property. He will also oversee the docents and hourly staff including grounds maintenance and office personnel.
Sutton explained that these measures, difficult as they seem, are necessary because of cost overruns as a result of reduced income due to fewer memberships, losses in investments as a result of the recession, and lack of county financial support.
Tours, which bring people to Bertie County, are an important source of income for Historic Hope. So far this year, Hope has had visitors from 21 states and six foreign countries. Sutton said notably absent on the guest register are names of many Bertie County citizens who do not visit or support events hosted by the Foundation.
When efforts were begun to purchase and restore the Hope property, memberships were received from every community in the county and volunteers contributed their time generously to help clean up and repair the mansion – back breaking work each day, Sutton noted.
“Where are these people today,” Sutton asked. “Many have passed away, but they left a legacy of a job well done and a dream fulfilled.”
Today’s citizens can become involved by renewing a membership or joining Historic Hope Foundation for the first time, and by inviting others to join. Membership information can be downloaded at the Hope website (hopeplantation.org/membership/) or by calling Historic Hope Foundation (252-794-3140).