The City of Wilmington assembled a group of experienced local dedicated volunteers who offered their expertise in the areas of art history, graphic design, and area history, as it related to the waterways adjacent and around Wilmington and neighboring regions. The goal was to select images to be permanently housed in the Wilmington Convention Center that offered an historical maritime perspective through imagery that bind Wilmington’s waterways to major battles of stateside battles, industry, military, recreation, and commerce.
When visiting the Center, you may self tour through time that served as source of pride for the City of Wilmington and add to the visitor’s enjoyment and overall positive experience of the Convention Center.
Includes over 275 photos, postcards, watercolors, artifacts, and oils depicting Wilmington’s past. The images and display items are integrated fully into the architecture of the Wilmington Convention Center and be in harmony with the design of the facility.
Bordering the Cape Fear River on the WCC property is a wonderful sculpture entitled, The Dram Tree which was the creation of Wilmington native and independent metal sculptor, Dumay Gorham, III. The tree sculpture stands 24 feet high and is made of steel and other metals whose natural weathered patina are an unique feature.
The story of the Dram Tree dates back hundreds of years in coastal mariner history.
The Dram Tree was a bent, somewhat scraggly cypress tree, covered with Spanish moss, that stood several yards out in the Cape Fear River, at a marshy patch on the east bank, near the present location of the State Port and the Sunset Park neighborhood.
The tree was a landmark to mariners from colonial times, who when passing it would “toast” the tree with a “dram” of rum or grog (watered down rum). According to tradition, the sailors toast signified a wish for or acknowledgement of a safe passage for either their outgoing or incoming vessel’s journey that included navigation of the dangerous Frying Pan Shoals at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
As state Rep. George L. Morton put it in 1909, the Dram Tree “umpired loving cup conviviality and good fellowship on the Lower Cape Fear.” The Dram Tree was destroyed sometime in the 1940’s by dredging of the Cape Fear in connection with activity at the N.C. Shipbuilding Co., located approximately where the State Port is today.
The metal Dram Tree sculpture, designed to last for many years, will be a reminder to us of all those who view her of Wilmington’s vast maritime history.
Come and take a walk through time while viewing the maritime displays of the Wilmington Convention Center.