The future of the former Pender County Jail is finally assured after almost twenty years of uncertainty. The Town of Burgaw and Pender County teamed up in the summer of 2013 to renovate and jointly use the building. Starting in June, the building will house Pender County Tourism and the offices of the North Carolina Blueberry Festival in the renovated office space downstairs. The second floor containing the jail cells is largely untouched so it can still be used for filming. Over the years, the jail has been featured in several movies and television shows.
The former Pender County jail was used from its completion in 1925 to its closure in 1979 and housed up to 21 prisoners upstairs along with the jailer and his family downstairs. After its closure, the structure was used sporadically, and by the time the Town of Burgaw acquired the property in 2011, it could no longer be used without extensive stabilization and upgrades. At one time it had been placed on the Historic Wilmington Foundation’s annual list of threatened historic structures.
The partnership also brings advantages to Pender County Tourism and the NC Blueberry Festival, which had been using temporary offices in less prominent locations. “We couldn’t be more thrilled,” Anita Afify, Pender County Tourism Development Authority chair said. “We wanted a more visible location that visitors could easily find.” Located directly north of the Pender County Courthouse and part of Burgaw’s historic downtown, the former jail provides a central location for two organizations that have been instrumental in the success of Burgaw’s Main Street.
The Burgaw Board of Commissioner’s voted to allow the Pender County Arts Council to use a town building for a new community arts center for a two-year period. Pender Arts Council has been searching for a space for several years and is looking forward to having a place to build sets for community productions, hold small performances, and provide art lessons. The town is also partnering with El Puente to provide their nutrition & Zumba classes at no charge every Tuesday morning in the Burgaw Community House. A trial run of Tuesday evening yoga classes will also start in July.
The town also approved starting a downtown Business Improvement District and has agreed to provide $40,000 every year for 5 years in impact fee grants for eligible properties within that district in order to spur community investment such as new restaurants and second-story apartments.
Burgaw Wins Preservation Award
On May 22, 2014, the Town of Burgaw was presented with a Preservation Award for rehabilitation efforts by the Historic Wilmington Foundation for its renovation of the former Pender County Jail and Burgaw Community House. Both buildings are located side by side on the block directly north of the Pender County Courthouse. The Community House, the site for the USO-type activities of the Burgaw Servicemen’s Organization during WWII, is used as a rental facility for private parties and events and may be the site of upcoming parks and recreation activities. Both structures are located in Burgaw’s National Register Historic District and downtown.