Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Brief Tour of Wilmington, N.C.'s Historic Water Street

Recently I enjoyed a short visit to the oldest section of Wilmington, NC: Water Street. Wilmington was founded in the 1730s and Water Street is the best remaining memory of the town's original pre-automobile and people-focused layout. 

Here is a portion of the architecturally-lovely Alton Lennon Federal Building at the corner of Water and Market. At this point, Water Street is about 20-25 feet wide, paved in brick, and quite pedestrian-friendly.

This picture was taken from where the riverfront boardwalk meets the sidewalk in a plaza-like space. The tree-lined street with the parked cars is Market. The public art is a couple of giant Venus flytraps, I think. The river itself is less than ninety feet away from that (gorgeous) blue building, to give an idea of how close to the water Water Street really is.

The brick part of the street narrows to about 13 feet as you walk southward. From what I saw, most cars tried to avoid this section of the street. The speed limit, I would guess, is about 10 mph. Walking in the middle of the street was quite comfortable with traffic being so limited, but most people stuck to the ample sidewalk space. The building to the left (built in 1857) is a popular restaurant.

Looking back to where we started. (I'm also just a huge fan of those two buildings!)

A bit further down the street.

By this point, the riverfront boardwalk is separated from Water Street by buildings. Most of the foot-traffic (i.e. tourists) stuck to the boardwalk. Very little car traffic...

...until this tour bus drove by (although "crawled by" would be more accurate.) Why someone would rather drive than walk down this street, I have no idea. Also, a neat little pocket park is to the right.

Overall, Water Street is easily the nicest-looking and most walkable section of Wilmington. It seemed a bit lacking in the people department (most stayed closer to the river) but I visited at noon on a weekday so maybe it gets hopping at nighttime. This street is definitely one of North Carolina's best.
Here is a map of the area (click to enlarge) from Google Earth with the approximate locations of where the pictures were taken. The distance from picture 1 to picture 6 is less than a quarter of a mile.


  1. Very insightful comments/pictures for that small but beautiful section of Wilmington...thanks!