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Latham busy helping plan Bath celebration

BATH — Bea Latham is a busy woman these days, putting together a celebration that will mark the golden anniversary of what has become the Historic Bath State Historic Site.

That celebration is slated for May 5, exactly 50 years to the day when the site first opened. As assistant site manager, Latham has been working to plan a gala that she said would mirror the 1962 event, which celebrated the efforts of those who contributed to the founding of the historic site.

Bea Latham, assistant manager of the Historic Bath State Historic Site, looks through a scrapbook of clippings documenting the May 5, 1962, festivities celebrating the official opening of the site. (WDN Photo/Kevin Scott Cutler)

The site opened in 1962, but work on the project actually began back in 1955, when a group of history enthusiasts banded together to promote Bath, the oldest incorporated town in North Carolina. The group began researching the area’s sites of interest, raising funds and collecting artifacts and furnishings.

“It really is just exciting to think about how many people worldwide who were involved in this project, from all walks of life, who pulled together to accomplish this,” Latham noted.

The original celebration was supposed to be held May 1, 1962, but that date fell mid-week and would have made it difficult for some of the dignitaries to attend. Besides, there were a few finishing touches to be made to the site before it was ready to go on public view, Latham said. So, the grand opening was postponed a few days, until May 5.

“So, it was on a Saturday then and a Saturday this year,” Latham pointed out. “I’m just so excited about this.”

In planning this year’s anniversary celebration, Latham relied on clippings from the Washington Daily News as well as photographs provided by Bath residents. A scrapbook compiled by the late Edmund Harding, who led the Historic Bath project, proved invaluable.

“People were milling around in droves all day, and we are hoping for that kind of turnout for this anniversary,” Latham said.

While researching the event, Latham learned quite a bit about Bath and the historic site as they existed a half-century ago.

“Many people don’t realize that when we opened in 1962 we were not part of the state system,” she shared. “It was an independent endeavor. We did not become a state site until Aug. 1, 1963.”

This year, there will be an opening ceremony and tours of the historic Palmer-Marsh House, Bonner House and Van Der Veer House will be offered throughout the day. And like the original celebration, food and fellowship will play pivotal roles. According to Latham, the Bath Ruritan Club will host what is billed as a “down home fish fry,” and the congregations of Bath United Methodist Church and Bath Christian Church will prepare and sell homemade desserts. St. Thomas Episcopal Church will tempt those in attendance with homemade ice cream, cookies and brownies.

“The Ruritan Club and the churches will take all the proceeds from lunch and the sale of ice cream and desserts,” Latham said. “These entities are using the monies for upcoming projects. For example, the Methodist women are raising money for new shrubbery and the Episcopal church for renovation and preservation of the Glebe House.”

In the event of inclement weather, the Historic Bath Commission is footing the bill for a tent to shelter outdoor activities, Latham said. Others contributing funds and services (as of Thursday) include Blackbeard’s Slices & Ices, Old Towne Country Kitchen, Adams & Associates, Bath Creek Realty, Coastal Plains Insurance and Minges Bottling Group.

Another important group pitching in to assist with the anniversary celebration includes students from Northside High School. Members of the school’s JROTC program and the Future Business Leaders of America club will be on hand throughout the day to assist visitors as part of a community-service project.

“We really want the younger generation to realize what a treasure has been left to them, and it’s their duty to help take care of it,” Latham said.

For more on the Historic Bath festivities planned for May 5, see this Sunday’s Pamlico Horizons feature in the Washington Daily News.