Bath’s new sign embraces maritime heritage
Published 8:35 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016
BATH — A visitor’s welcome to Bath looks a little bit different as the town embraces its heritage as not only North Carolina’s first town, but the state’s first port.
The visual proclamation went up Monday with a new sign that reads “First Town-First Port,” blending design elements of the old sign — most noticeably reliefs of Historic Bath State Historic Site structures — with the new sign at the corner of Carteret and South Main streets in Bath.
“We are trying to slowly, but surely, trying to get the idea of ‘Port Bath’ in recognition of the first town, out there — what caused it to be the first town and why those buildings were there,” said Pat Mansfield, a Bath resident and head of the Blackbeard Adventure Alliance.
Bath will celebrate its 300th First Port anniversary this year, merging Bath Fest and the First Port Celebration, on May 28.
Designed by artist and sign-maker Braxton O’Neal, the sign incorporates Bath’s historic buildings — the Bonner House, Palmer-Marsh House, St. Thomas Episcopal Church and Van Der Veer House — against a backdrop of a tall ship, which represents the ties between Bath’s people and their livelihoods, Mansfield said.
“All of these people connected with these structures relied upon the port,” Mansfield said.
As example, Mansfield spoke about Michael Coutanche, owner of a fleet of ships and a trader in naval stores, being credited with building the Palmer-Marsh House around 1751. A later owner of the home, Robert Palmer, was customs collector and surveyor general for the colony. Joseph Bonner, also a prosperous merchant in naval stores, built the Bonner House in 1830.
Mansfield said the idea to expand Bath’s historic brand started a decade ago, during another major anniversary.
“When I was doing Maritime Heritage Days in 2005, when everyone was celebrating the 300-year anniversary, I already was saying in my literature ‘First Town, First Port,’ and I didn’t realize it,” Mansfield said.
After approaching Historic Bath Commission President Peggy Daw about a potential sign change, the HBC came on board to fund the project, Mansfield said. Also in the works is another sign — this one to greet guests inside the Historic Site visitors’ center.
For Mansfield, the new sign and First Port Celebration are pieces of a larger celebration of maritime history, one that she hopes will result in building a replica of one of the pirate Blackbeard’s ships, the sloop Adventure, with the help of regional partners.