By the BladenOnline team
On March 11, Bladen County officials visited the historic Harmony Hall Plantation Village (HHPV, Inc.) established circa 1760 in White Oak, North Carolina along the Cape Fear River. Sunday Allen, a longtime volunteer with the nonprofit HHPV, Inc., served as a tour guide for Bladen County Commissioners Ray Britt, Cameron McGill, Charles Ray Peterson and County Executive Greg Martin. Allen presented the value of the village to Mother County.
The plantation house on the 97-acre property was first owned and built by Colonel James Richardson.
Allen said, “This may be the oldest house in Bladen County that still stands on its original foundation.”
Colonel Richardson ran a West Indian shipping company and married Elizabeth O’Neal Purdy of Jamaica. The two loved this area so much that they decided to build their home there. The house remained in the Richardson family until 1874.
“Our story is worth telling, regardless of age, race or religious beliefs,” Allen said.
In 1972 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. HHPV, Inc. currently owns the property.
The Harmony Hall house is surrounded by other buildings, including a former one-room schoolhouse, the Tatum store, a chapel, and the Shaw-McMillan house. Allen took officials on a walk around construction sites and the trail leading to the Cape Fear River as she explained the location’s rich history and potential as a tourist destination.
The buildings on the property have been badly damaged by hurricanes in recent years. Although volunteers have organized work days to help with landscaping and the construction of a staging area, there is a lack of funding for necessary repairs to structures at the historic site.
As Allen showed the old house, she told officials, “We have to go in, outside, replace some of our rot. It needs a good scrap, and it needs a good paint job.
HHPV, Inc, applied for a grant in August 2019 through the National Parks Service for $115,000 specifically for hurricane damage. The grant will fund some of the desperately needed restoration projects.
While explaining the grant process to county officials, Allen said, “We’re about to get this released, but it’s just for this house and to button up the exterior.”
The grant will not cover all restoration costs. Allen explained that restoring the property will require an additional $100,000 to $200,000 “to get us done” due to water damage, electrical work and carpentry repairs needed inside the buildings. Another hurdle for the project is that all home improvements must be approved by the National Register of Historic Places. According to Allen, the approval process made it harder for contractors to agree to do the job.
Commissioner Peterson asked Allen if she could prioritize the needs and list them. “Yes,” Allen replied.
Commissioner McGill spoke of the historic site’s potential to attract tourists and increase revenue.
Allen announced plans for events and tours to be held at the site. Currently scheduled by HHPV, Inc., a spring throwback will take place on Saturday, May 12. Harmony Hall Plantation Village is located at 1615 River Road in White Oak, NC.
Harmony Hall Plantation Village Inc. holds a 501(c)3 tax-exempt status and accepts donations to continue preservation efforts and education. Donations are accepted on PayPal with the QR code listed below or by mail.
ATTN: HHPV, Inc.
C/O Treasurer: S. Allen
1800 Winding Creek Road
Elizabethtown, North Carolina 28337
Read more about the story in one of BladenOnline’s previous articles linked below.
Harmony Hall Village: a piece of history in white oak