Historic foundation announces new ornament arrival

Published 7:17 pm Thursday, November 21, 2019

For 24 years, the Washington Area Historic Foundation has added a touch of history to Christmas, and Christmas trees.

WAHF announced the arrival of its annual Christmas ornament this week, celebrating the structures that define Washington’s historic charm. This year’s ornament is a building brought back to life by Nick and Susanne Sanders, now home to The Hackney restaurant and a soon-to-open gin distillery. According to WAHF ornament committee chair Dee Congleton, the decision to commemorate the building was an easy one.

“We wanted to promote the preservation in our downtown historic district, and it’s one of the best restorations that’s happened downtown,” Congleton said.

The three-story combination stone and brick building with large, west facing windows and parapets across the roofline, was founded by Dr. Edward Brown as the Beaufort County Bank, before transitioning to the Bank of Washington, First National Bank and, last, the Bank of America, according to WAHF records. Washington’s first radio station, WRRF, started in the building on the third floor on March 4, 1942. The Hackney restaurant is phase one of a three-phase project involving the entire building: the gin distillery opens this month in a separate ground-floor space and rooms on the upper floors are being reworked into boutique hotel rooms.

HISTORIC CELEBRATION: The Hackney is located in the building that started its life as a bank. Over the past several years, owners Nick and Susanne Sanders have restored the circa-1920 building, which led to this year’s decision to commemorate their efforts with the Washington Area Historic Foundation ornament. (Vail Stewart Rumley/Daily News)

The Sanders made an impression on historic preservationists with the renovation of the building on the corner of West Main and Respess streets — earlier this year, they were singled out for a City of Washington Terrell Award, recognizing property owner who make the extra effort to preserve Washington’s architectural history. According to the city’s historic preservationist, Emily Rebert, the Sanders did everything right.

“I think they set the standard, did everything historically correct, went above and beyond and did not cut any corners. They’ve proven and shown that it’s not necessary to lower the standard,” Rebert said at the time. “They adapted the use to the building and made the business plan work with the building.”

That the Sanders’ restoration efforts have been recognized is appreciated, according to Susanne Sanders.

“We’re very honored to have them do the ornament of The Hackney,” Sanders said. “In our view, it’s very exciting, and we’re excited to be able to sell it at the restaurant.”

The WAHF ornament is for sale for $25 at the North Carolina Estuarium, The Hackney and the Washington Harbor District Market.