BROWSE BY:     Title Number Subject Creator Digital Content

Interview with Bruce Cameron,  August 8, 2001 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

pdf icon Get PDF Version
Interview with Bruce Cameron,  August 8, 2001
August 8, 20001
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Cameron, Bruce Interviewer: Hayes, Sherman Date of Interview: 8/8/2001 Series: Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length

Hayes: Okay today is August 8, 2001. We’re here with Bruce Cameron, Adina Lack and Sherman Hayes.

Hayes: Today Bruce we would like to talk about philanthropy. Your family and you in particular have a long history of giving away resources as well as making resources and we want to talk about some of those for the record, but also kind of why do you think that happened. It’s not the case with everybody who becomes kind of a local philanthropist. Have you ever thought of why it happened for you?

Cameron: Well I don’t really know the answer to that. Personally I don’t understand why some people I know aren’t more that way. My experience has been for whatever reason that I never found that it cost very much. That someway or another, it always seemed to come back.

Hayes: Oh that’s interesting. Not while you do it, but it happens to come back?

Cameron: Well it always worked that way with me.

Hayes: What would be an example where it came back?

Cameron: Well no specific source, but for one reason or another, an opportunity presented itself or for some other reason, I never know why if that really happens. That’s been my personal experience.

Hayes: Well did you have a tradition in your family, was your dad a giver of sorts?

Cameron: Yeah, he certainly was. My dad started with very little, but he was always generous with what he had. He was probably, in my opinion, the best man produced in Wilmington in my lifetime. I've already lived about 30 years of adult life more than he ever did and I've always wondered if he’d have had a chance to live to be my age, what he would have done. He was a real goer. We had the benefit of a good start. We had enough to go on, not any great amount or anything, but we at least had a start that he didn’t have.

He was mayor during World War II. He died when he was mayor. At the shipyard, he was the main local stay connected with the shipyard, built over 250 ships here during World War II. He was in to most anything that went on here. He was in a number of different businesses including the petroleum business, transportation, petroleum products and that type of thing. He was a very busy fellow. When he died in 1944, right after the invasion in Europe, I was in New Guinea in the Army and my brother Dan was had just gone in on the Normandy Invasion and there were a million things going on and I think that had a lot to do. My brother-in-law was a major in the Army and all of his eligible people, we were all gone somewhere when he died. I think that had a lot to do with it, having a cerebral thrombosis.

Hayes: You think he just worked himself too hard.

Cameron: I think he did and he had all of Camp Davis was going and the Marine base was going and the air base, Wilmington population had about doubled in a period of a couple years there.

Hayes: Well what are some of the areas that you feel really good about that you've donated to? Some have names and some don’t so just…the hospital is one. I mean what was the connection there?

Cameron: Well none, no connection. The building over there, the AHEC building and that was to the best of my recollection, the reason for building it was that we would cooperate with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. By having the facility there, we would have on the spot access of doctors and medical tower in Wilmington on a more or less permanent basis or people would probably turn over, wouldn’t be here for a long time permanently necessarily, but we would have experts here all the time from Chapel Hill to train local people in new things that they had at Chapel Hill Hospital that we might not have here. That was a long time ago now. I forget how many years, 25, 30 years ago. Another thing we gave them the place for the medical station there on Shipyard Boulevard which the hospital still owns, emergency care there.

Hayes: Oh that Medac?

Cameron: Yeah Medac which I think they probably lease to Medac now. I don’t know how they work it, but they own it though.

Hayes: And then the hospice is a recent one.

Cameron: Well the hospice, we give them land for that project for the hospice. The building, they built a real nice building. We didn’t build the building, we gave them the site. I think it serves a good purpose. Most of the inmates don’t come out of there walking unfortunately, but that’s the purpose of it, to try to really make dying easier for people who are more or less terminal. I think about 99% terminal when they go there.

Hayes: Yeah, well I think B.D. Schwartz was just there. We had a professor from the university who just recently was there and we went out to see the facility. I think it’s a great service.

Cameron: Everything I've heard has been favorable. People seem to appreciate having a place like that. They have a really fine facility there and I think they do serve a very worthwhile purpose. The hospice in general does more things than that, but mainly with helping critically ill people either at home or in a dying condition over in the facility.

Hayes: What about the Cape Fear Academy? How many years have you been working with those folks?

Cameron: From the day before it started.

Hayes: Really! Just something you believed in or thought we needed another school?

Cameron: Well at that time, we felt like the public school system was probably in for a critical period and some of us felt like it was time to have a facility that wasn’t public, that we could control. The group had chartered a school before I ever got interested in it and they’d been trying to get started with it. They had not been successful in raising any money and they’d been trying for about a year and someway or another it got to me and I was interested in it.

I had two children about the right age for it and I got a group together and people in probably about the same condition that I was in and we decided and we would try. We didn’t have a whole lot of money, but we gathered up enough…well in the first place, we had to get a site. We decided we’d do something and we had to get a site. To start with, Gilton Horton, one of the local people, and Elliott Trask were interested in it

The two of them owned land on South College Road. They tried Horton’s land first and found out there was something wrong with the land, couldn’t do it, almost started building. So Elliott had another piece of land not far from the site it’s on now so we decided to move it there. Three of us, I had a piece of land, another piece of land, and the three of us combined, we gave Elliott enough of our land to compensate for his land and he had plenty of land there to take and we took, I forget, 15 acres maybe and built the original building there on that site which has been added to several times since, but that was in about April, March maybe of 1968 or 69.

Hayes: Wow, been around a long time.

Cameron: I may be wrong on the year on that. I think the school has been there for 31 years now. But anyway, in March, we’re doing all this and decided to build it. We opened that school in September. We built the original building there, it’s still there. The main building, the old main building and hired teachers and headmaster and started out that fall. It’s been going from then on. The old main building is rounded now into a one story building in the middle and the classrooms are still in use and still in good shape. It’s been added to a whole lot of times. The land has been added to, everything that’s available out there now has been bought or acquired some way or another.

Hayes: So were you one of the original board and that kind of thing?

Cameron: Oh yeah. I was president seven out of the first eight years (laughter).

Hayes: So it really is your school of sorts, that’s great. Was it mainly just elementary to start with?

Cameron: Yeah, it started out, we had six grades the first two or three years and gradually when they stepped it up, they stepped it up one at a time until they had 12 grades. My nephew, Bill Cameron, was in one if not the first graduating class and several others, Paul Boney was one of those first graduates. Quite a few of them around here now that are 44-45 years old. It’s been running with a few ups and downs ever since.

Hayes: And this recent addition that you named for I think it was, was that your mother?

Cameron: My grandmother, Rachel Trask Cameron. That was the last building just finished. I think they’re up to almost 600 students this year. They placed, students in almost any big university in this part of the world, there’s a list of them there, I think they had, so the acting headmaster told me the other day, they had scholarships worth almost or about $400,000 offered to the last graduating class. They had one young lady there was offered a four year scholarship to Duke and she turned it down (laughter). She wanted to go to Harvard or some place.

Hayes: Ouch.

Cameron: I'm sorry, I think I got it wrong. I think she ended up at Duke, but she had been offered scholarships at two universities in the category of Harvard that were worth about $50-60,000. So they've had good luck from that standpoint.

Hayes: I was curious whether, you know you talked to us earlier about your love of the outdoors and the land you have and trees and so forth, I just wondered if you had, unbeknownst to other people, been involved in many of the conservation or hunting or any of those philanthropies because they’re aren’t as visible as you know your name on the building, but…

Cameron: Well other philanthropy, probably Cameron Hall at Virginia Military Institute, which is an athletic facility that can seat about, depending how its used, 5,000-6,000 people in Lexington, Virginia, and that was in 1980.

Hayes: Of course, we don’t want to forget UNCW’s Cameron School of Business and was that in the 60s or70s? I can’t remember.

Cameron: I've forgotten, that’s when the business school was started.

Hayes: And who did you work with at that time to get that done? Was that Caylor, Dean Caylor at that time?

Cameron: The one that just died a couple of years ago..

Hayes: Oh Wagoner, directly with Wagoner.

Cameron: Wagoner was chancellor for a long time. Long long before Leutze came in.

Hayes: Has that been a good relationship? Have you been happy…

Cameron: Oh yeah, we've been real pleased with the way that school has turned out I understand that it’s the biggest numbers in the university now, the business school and lots of people, a real convenience and an opportunity for a lot of people who were working who would not otherwise have had access for an MBA for instance.

Hayes: They’re mainly part-time. I think they run 40 or 50 a year, each new class. That’s quite a few over the years.

Cameron: Yeah, well that’s just at the graduate level. I think on the undergraduate level, I believe it’s the largest school or close to it, I believe Leutze told me that, the largest undergraduate school.

Hayes: I think 1500 students now, it’s quite large. The one that’s most visible that we just recently talked about of course is the art museum which is named for your wife. Tell us a little about art. How did you, you know that’s not a recent involvement. When did you start into the art world?

Cameron: Well I'm not really in the art world and don’t claim to be any connoisseur of art. We've always supported St. John’s. All the way back, me and my brother Dan and two of my sisters were the main donors for the present museum, St. John’s Museum, when they acquired the Greek church. Before that it was all in the one little building there.

Hayes: Oh, that was a Greek church?

Cameron: Yeah.

Hayes: Oh, I didn’t know, interesting.

Cameron: They moved out and built another church and sold that church to the museum and it was, of course, next door. The original building, St. John’s building was the original Masonic building in North Carolina, St. John’s #1.

Hayes: So which was the original building, the one on the corner or the second one?

Cameron: No, the second one.

Hayes: The second one is St. John’s.

Cameron: That was St. John’s Museum Masonic Lodge.

Hayes: It was called St. John’s Masonic Lodge. Oh I see, it was St. John’s, so that’s kind of tricky, isn’t it?

Cameron: A lot of people feel that was not a good name for the museum on that account. You know a lot of people think it’s…

Hayes: …a religious museum.

Cameron: Yeah, and the old Masonic symbol is still in there painted on the wall.

Hayes: And then the corner building,

Cameron: That was a Greek church.

Hayes: That was a Greek church, interesting.

Cameron: And the other building was a residence, that is the three buildings.

Hayes: And the grounds came around mainly from the lodge, you know that very nice kind of garden of sculptures. Was that tied to the lodge?

Cameron: I think that was the back of the Lion’s building and some of it could have been the back of the house on the side. I don’t know. I think the lodge’s lot ran back to where the sculpture garden is now.

Hayes: Well Ren Brown told me that many times when a great opportunity came along, he would just call you for support, so do you remember those…he said when the Minnie Evans collection came up, that you were very, very helpful.

Cameron: (Laughter) Well he had good taste with what he chose. I just gave him some money and told him to buy what he wanted to.

Hayes: (Laughter) Okay, so you weren’t picking out the art?

Cameron: (Laughter) No, I didn’t do the picking.

Hayes: Did you pick the art because you just felt it was important to us?

Cameron: I think it’s something a city of this size ought to have and I think this is something, it may be overdoing what Wilmington ought to have, I don’t know. I hope Wilmington can support it.

Hayes: Tell us a little about that, how this evolved to be out, I think we’re talking out on 17th and Independence, right?…so the listener can know where we’re talking about and the name of the museum is going to be the…

Cameron: Louise Wells Cameron, she was my wife, who’s been dead about five years.

Lack: Museum of Art?

Cameron: To start out with, the museum is awfully crowded, St. John’s is. They have about 7 times as much material as they have room to display. They are not able to get a lot of traveling exhibitions of famous art stuff that a lot of it moves from place to place. The people at the museums that own that type work will not loan it if you don’t have adequate facilities to protect it and this present museum does not have that ability for a lot of the higher priced exhibits. So that was one big drawback.

The second thing is there’s no room there. The whole setup is on about less than a half acre really. The idea of the new museum started out with that background in mind, the old military facility, entertainment, USO building across the street had been a nuisance to the city. It’s a wood building. It’s 50 something years old. It’s in bad shape, at least on the inside. It needs a whole pile of money spent on it to make it safe for crowds. Of course the city owns it and they want to get rid of it. Had a price on it, I believe, but anyway we proposed, the museum proposed to buy that facility. That is where I became involved in the thing. I was going to do something, to build an addition across the street…

Hayes: So was it like tear that down and maybe even a bridge or something across the street…

Cameron: Well maybe, but it’s just right across the street from the present museum.

Hayes: And then keep the museum that you still had.

Cameron: That’s right…that would have given us one big gallery and that would have been a fraction of what this is costing out here now to do that and that’s why I got started in it.

Lack: Would it have been as large?

Cameron: Large, no couldn’t have been. Anyway as soon as that was announced, there were about a half a dozen or more different organizations of one type or another that had been using that building…

Hayes: for nothing..

Cameron: I don’t know what, but anyway they all started yelling and screaming and scared the City Council to death you know. That just ruined that bill and that’s when we decided we’d try to move. I own the land that the museum is on now and it’s centrally located in the county. It’s not downtown, but it’s out where, something knowing what we’re probably going to do with the rest of that land and the PPD Building is there. The tone was more or less set for what could be done with that area. That’s about the sum of about 400-500 acres, just about at that crossroad there, about in the center. So I decided to go ahead and spend a whole lot more money that I’d started out to spend.

Hayes: Well it looks like it’s going to be a great facility. I went to your groundbreaking and I was impressed with the architect. I go by it regularly. I think it’s going to be wonderful.

Cameron: It’s sitting in the middle now on the corner of a 10 acre tract.

Hayes: And it’s still got what another six months or a year to go.

Cameron: Yeah, I've spent the morning out there today with the architects and engineers and the building is scheduled to be finished…

Lack: This year?

Cameron: Yes.

Hayes: Wow.

Lack: December 2001.

Cameron: It’ll be almost two years.

Hayes: Seems like an awful lot of work to go. Isn’t that funny, you think it looks like…

Cameron: You haven’t been in it lately. The walls and all that stuff are pretty well….

Hayes: Starting to get up…

Cameron: Oh yeah, it’s well along.

Hayes: Now was your wife into the arts? It’s dedicated to her.

Cameron: A whole lot more than I.

Hayes: So she was actively participating and supporting the more day to day things of the arts.

Cameron: And two of my sisters were very active. They had contributed relatively, on a relative basis, they were the heaviest donors to St. John’s and also my brother Dan, I think at that time, was probably the largest donor out at St. John’s.

Hayes: So you still didn’t answer my question about some of the environmental or conservation type things. Did you dabble in any those areas at all for philanthropy.

Cameron: From which angle?

Hayes: You know, being a hunter and so forth and so on, I didn’t know I you were a supporter of you know Ducks Unlimited and some of those kinds of things.

Cameron: Well I think I'm still the largest donor in North Carolina to Ducks Unlimited (laughter).

Hayes: (Laughter) Well see, because people don’t know that and…

Lack: I don’t know what that is.

Cameron: That was over 20 years ago.

Lack: I'm not sure what that is, Ducks Unlimited.

Hayes: It supports conservation of waterways and bird flights, things like that.

Cameron: Mainly duck hunters, to preserve, creating duck habitat, most of the ducks are raised in Canada or Alaska, mostly. Encounter a little bit in some of the northwestern United States states, but Ducks Unlimited was formed in about 1937 and that was the purpose of it.

Hayes: It both serves the hunter, but it also is conservation for habitat and birds.

Cameron: Yeah, they created habitats, wetlands that were wet. Wetlands now don’t have to be wet (laughter).

Hayes: That’s a developer speaking I think, right, the definition of wetlands has changed quite a bit.

Cameron: Quite a bit. But the way the public sees it, always has a duck in it. The way the EPA sees it, very seldom has a duck (laughter). The pictures they use always have a duck.

Hayes: The EPA definition is at one time, there could have been a duck in it.

Cameron: EPA ruling, if I dig a ditch in this land here and it runs or anyway gets to a stream that any way gets to the ocean, it’s now waters of the United States, that’s the interpretation of wetland.

Hayes: Well that’s everything, isn’t it?

Cameron: Everything (laughter).

Hayes: Everything (laughter). I thought maybe their definition was that if a bird had flown over it…

Cameron: (Laughter) That’s also, if the bird flies, the type that migrates from one state over the state land, that’s interstate commerce (laughter). Really, this sounds like a joke, but if you read the local papers, a lot miles and miles and miles, beaches, not just in New Hanover County, but I'm talking about all the way up the Atlantic Coast, that you can have a beach front house and if they think that there’s any chance that a piping plover might use that beach, they won’t let people walk to the ocean from their own front porch. You have to go a mile or to wherever they've got a crossroad and cross and you walk back between the highest part of the beach and the water, but you can’t walk across 25 feet in front of your house to get to the ocean. That’s what they've got on Shell Island, in the paper this morning, if you read about dredging and the pipe and flow, that whole end of Figure 8 Island that’s not populated, doesn’t belong to Figure 8 Island. People can’t go on that anymore. Nobody has seen a piping plover, but it’s possible that one…

Lack: That’s a bird, right?

Cameron: It’s something that nobody ever remembers seeing, but that’s typical of what’s going on.

Lack: So you don’t remember seeing them around these parts?

Cameron: I don’t think anybody else does, I don’t think there’s one there. But they have held that inlet up now for several years. One thing after another. The piping plover is the last go around. That type of stuff I think has been, the red-cockaded woodpecker, they’re trying to preserve long leaf pines. You hear a lot about long leaf pines. The red-cockaded woodpecker has caused more long leaf pines to be cut down than any other one thing in the last 15 years. They make a nest. On 17th Street on a piece of land, when they were extending 17th Street, there was one tree there that the red-cockaded woodpecker had a hole in and they went out and checked it and they found out there was one woodpecker there, a male woodpecker, and that was the only one there, they wouldn’t, they bent 17th Street to miss that tree. They held it up for a year, stymied it for a year and they put a curve in 17th Street right there before you get to the museum to go around that tree. Lord only knows how much it costs you know, all the delaying, rerouting and resurveying and engineering to do all that, but they went around and left that tree and about a year later, the damn woodpecker had died and they tied up just thousands of acres of land. They wouldn’t let people cut trees on their own land – one woodpecker, and they would take a radius of a mile around that one tree and you couldn’t cut a tree. People got fed up with that and it was mostly long leafed pines that they would use. They cut the trees down while they had a chance. No telling how much timber was cut based on…

Hayes: Fear.

Cameron: How many millions of dollars worth of timber – one bird had a nest there and there was nothing you could do about it.

Lack: This was in the name of biodiversity I suppose.

Hayes: Environmental laws.

Lack: Is that woodpecker in danger or something?

Cameron: Well so they say, nobody knows.

Lack: On an endangered list.

Cameron: The piper’s habitat is out on the Great Lakes somewhere, but they do nest on the seashore. Nobody knows exactly where. It sounds like a bunch of bull, but this is …

Hayes: Well this is the kind of thing as a developer that today you must run into all the time, right?

Lack: You know about that. Is that, Federal laws for the most part?

Cameron: Yeah. And state too lately. The hotel, I think, state has been the one mainly that is going to let the hotel fall into the water.

Hayes: And think, you could have owned that land yourself. That’s what you told us, you could have had that yourself.

Cameron: And the county I see has spent $900,000 messing so far and hasn’t raised the first spoonful of sand, just a waste of money. Smith Creek Parkway, they could have gone straight ahead with that thing and tied it with the Northeast River Bridge, but there was an old landfill in between which had been there for 50 years or so, but rather than go over the top of that landfill, which there was nothing that could hurt, they crossing Smith Creek now at 23rd, before they get to 23rd, they’re crossing, going back where the 117 crosses, crossing again and then tearing all that stuff you see out, there down, added a half a mile or more to the length of the thing. The cost 4, 5 times as much. They have got to go across that swamp and then we cross back again, got to be like on a bridge, make it cost five times what it did before. Extend the time three or four years for nothing. I don’t say everything they do in conservation is bad, but they do so many things that don’t have any basis at all, just for silly reasons like the plover. I understand you know that they’re endangered species that probably, I don’t know, 500-600 species of something every year that disappears for good and has been since the world has been here and there’s probably 400 to 500 species that have been created. The world has been here for a few millions years, the best I can see. (Laughter) When you can find clam shells 5,000 feet under the ground that still looks like the same clamshell you see out here now, to me it’s pretty damn good proof that that land was up where a clam could grow at one time. That’s not bull, that’s a fact. They would drill an oil well, they find clamshells a mile below the surface.

Hayes: It’s changed a lot. Fortunately I'm not old enough to know any of those clams (laughter) personally.

Cameron: I dig them up the other day in ditches, that deep under ground, you’ll find clamshells. Long ways from the water. There may be 4-5000 here, still look the same.

Hayes: They've changed a lot, millions of years. You know at one point, the earth was one continent, so you know … And will probably still be changing long after we’re…other philanthropy things. I don’t want to short anything.

Cameron: No, I think we gave them that land. I believe that club – with Longleaf Homes then and a swimming pool and the main building, we gave it to the Boys’ Brigade Club which was an old club that had a number of locations. Boy Scouts, we gave them that land, things like that. Methodist Church out there on Pine Valley, Shipyard, most of the land they have.

Hayes: Oh is that right? I think, I don’t know if you know they’re negotiating or talking with that next church about, they may be moving, not the Methodist, but the next one up.

Cameron: Yeah, the Church of God.

Hayes: Right, I think it’s thinking of moving out, not too far from your museum in fact.

Cameron: I don’t know where they’re going. They called me, the preacher did. I put some restrictions apparently on that land and I told him I don’t know. They wanted to know whether to buy it. One church was going to buy another’s church’s land and I don’t know what they did.

Hayes: I haven’t heard either. I think that the one church is moving, if you keep going down Independence towards Carolina Beach Road, there’s some land in there, I think that that big church is going to go. In fact, it seems like 17th has quite a few churches on it, doesn’t it, they’re starting to get out in that area. There’s some churches that have….

Cameron: Well at the end of the road there, they have one.

Hayes: There’s a big one right on 17th there.

Cameron: Yeah, on College Road there, the Baptist Church and on Shipyard, there’s several, about four or five. The Baptist Church, the good side of them now east, Methodist Church on the same side of the road, a big congregation there.

Hayes: Now when you do major developments today, are you required to like have, you know, give land to the city. I mean there’s some places that have kind of things a developer has to do. Are you in those kinds of rules where you have to give land to the city or to the county?

Cameron: You have to, well you may be required to do certain things…

Hayes: but you don’t have to give…

Cameron: I don’t know of anything specifically that they could require you to give land. They can restrict it.

Hayes: Many times you have to create a park or open land or pond or something like that.

Cameron: Well yeah, they make you build these ponds. Anything you build now practically, any size, you have to have a pond for runoff water, all that lake on Independence there, part of that land…

Hayes: And were they worried, I mean off the street there. When it rains, does it just get overloaded?

Cameron: On the side of it, the one on Shipyard and Independence, we had to build that. It cost about a half a million dollars, not counting the value of the land, but theoretically it catches rain water. Theoretically the pond, the water level is down and when it rains, there’s room in there to contain a certain amount of water and then it has a chance to run out over a period of time to keep flood conditions downstream and hold some of the water and run out. As a matter of fact, most of the ponds stay full, around here, almost full all the time so you have a big rain…actually most of that water runs out the other end as fast as it runs in. Might have a little bit of room, but as soon as that catches up, well then it’s going out the other end as hard as it can run.

Hayes: So they’re worried about…

Cameron: They use up a lot of valuable land for nothing in my opinion.

Hayes: But they’re worried about the creek overspilling and the rivers and so forth. It’s not the immediate runoff, it’s down the stream.

Cameron: It is the immediate runoff that they would like to theoretically make it run slower and give it more time to run out.

Hayes: Okay, I always wondered about that because you know the university now…for the first time now, they have to build the containment ponds and…

Cameron: And in the mountains is where you've got a lot of topography, they can do a lot of good because in the first place, you've got water up here that wants to go that way. You can hold that water up there and when it quits raining, that water is going to run out because its got a place to go downhill. But if you’re on flat land where it’s all the same elevation, unless the sun has dried…whatever water evaporates it might lower it a little bit up. Otherwise, they don’t do much good at all in a flat area like Wilmington in most cases. They would inland where you've got more slow topography. But we’re not building anyway. Logic doesn’t mean anything when you’re talking to environmentalists. What we think is common sense, absolutely doesn’t cut any ice at all.

Hayes: Oh well. Other philanthropy, I think we've covered the waterfront here so to speak with those ponds. We’re not wanting you to brag, but I think for history, it’s very important for people who give back. You know, you’re a business person who’s been successful, but you've given back substantially to the region. I wanted to get that record down. I think people forget and you don’t always name stuff, right. I mean you have some big ones, but there’s lots of others that don’t get named.

Cameron: I don’t know, you get a certain amount of satisfaction out of doing something you know. You always feel like if you had had luck enough to do something, that you did more than you needed, there’s nothing wrong with passing it on I don’t think.

Hayes: And do you feel like your next generation is catching the spirit too or not?

Cameron: You never know (laughter). It’s a lot of satisfaction to do something you want to do. Hope that it will be there for awhile.

Hayes: Yeah, I'm sure it will. But you said that you were worried about the museum being supported. Is it, does it need people coming to it or donating.

Cameron: Well it costs a lot more to operate that museum that it used to and it’s going to be something different than they’re used to. St. John’s has been a nice little museum, but this thing is going to cost three, four or five times as much to operate as what they've had. It’s going to need a lot of help to acquire the type of art that they need to have or want to have to display. A lot of that stuff is going to take time and a lot of support. It’s an ongoing thing. It’s not all going to happen at one time. I think our facility for its size will be as good as any in the country.

Hayes: Wow.

Cameron: I think we really got the best architect as far as the building is concerned that’s had a lot of experience and the quality of the building, I don’t think for that size, I don’t think anybody will have a better building.

Hayes: That’s great. But it also will have the advantage of parking. That’s been a terrible problem, hasn’t it.

Cameron: There’s no parking downtown, none practically in the daytime. All that stuff is blocked up.

Hayes: So if you have an event downtown, I always wondered how much that hurts.

Cameron: Well if it wasn’t at night, of course downtown at night now until late, is pretty well covered.

Hayes: So I think your school business will go way up.

Cameron: It’s 30 years old now and I think it’s established well enough that it will probably be here. They've had good luck in raising enough money to do a lot of expansion and improving in the last three or four years. They've done a tremendous amount of work in bringing things up to date. A first class facility now that they've got what they need. Of course, you’re always wanting something else. The land, of course, I wish I had another 10 acres which is going to be hard to come by, but we've got enough room to do a lot of things.

Hayes: That’s the Cape Fear Academy, you think they would even want more land.

Cameron: Oh sure.

Hayes: Of course you never know what’s going to be in 30 or 40 years more so you have to …

Cameron: No, but things like that, you know, somebody can build another one.

Hayes: Now you would, the office that we’re in now is not too far from the hospital which came out in the 70s or 80s that the hospital was built.

Cameron: Before that, early 70’s I guess. 17th Street hadn’t been here for about 30 years or less.

Hayes: But you owned land out here extensively. Did you just anticipate that this was going to be a growth area. How did you happen to figure…

Cameron: All this land here I had bought one time, everything crossing the hospital on this side of 17th Street. That was Federal Point Road was an old road to Fort Fisher and that was about where 16th and 17th Streets, right out where the museum is and the land at that time, the tract of land that I bought here was on the west side of Federal Point Road.

Hayes: When you bought that, was that just…

Cameron: Sand hill.

Hayes: You just thought someday…

Cameron: Where 17th Street ended at Dawson is when I bought that tract and that hasn’t been too long ago.

Hayes: And the hospital wasn’t here.

Cameron: Oh no, the hospital wasn’t here, hadn’t even thought about it. But my house, where I've lived for the last 30 years was here. I used to walk from my house over here. Nothing but scrub oak. This was a dirt road, 16th and 17th Streets.

Hayes: Well it just seems to me that you've had tremendous faith that Wilmington was going to get bigger.

Cameron: Shipyard was there. But nothing, at the end of World War II, there wasn’t anything from Oleander Drive out to College Road except the Oleander Court Apartments if you know where they are. They’re still there. Apartments right on the road there right where Independence and Oleander are. Just before you get to the shopping center, the big mall. There was nothing in there where the big mall is right on down all the way to Monkey Junction, Carolina Beach Road all the way to Masonborough Loop. They’re weren’t a dozen houses and nothing south of Oleander except that one housing project that was built before the war. All that has been built up there since World War II ended.

Hayes: Now you had the land and then the hospital came. Why do you think the doctors chose all these kind of small buildings. Was that just a trend at the time?

Cameron: Yeah, at one time we tried to get enough together to build a multistory building across from where the hospital is now for a doctors’ building, but we never could get enough of them that were interested.

Hayes: But now this right up the street from you is the big one so he kind of bucked the trend here.

Cameron: Oh yeah, we sold him that land.

Hayes: I mean he decided to go bigger.

Cameron: Well it started out, it wasn’t that big.

Hayes: Oh I see, they kept adding.

Cameron: Well different people. It was several doctors, four or five. Gottovi back on the left and Wilkins, that’s about four or five doctors started out there, but it’s changed hands and expanded, sold the HMO since then. That was part of this land.

Hayes: And you've built apartments on this land. I would say that this is probably fairly well finished developed, is that your sense? Is this pretty well done, this area?

Cameron: Well we’ll build a hotel over here.

Hayes: And there’s a new medical kind of wing of buildings just off to the side road here.

Cameron: Now there’s one that just opened out on Independence, that new building just moved in, a doctors group of them just moved in. We’re getting a lot of interest in doctors in the area where PPD is.

Hayes: Oh is that right? Now there’s also a large block of land between Carolina Beach Road and backing up to this medical complex that still seems to be very open, not too far from the hospice. Do you see that eventually filling in?

Cameron: That is a tract of land, not our land, it was developed way back maybe in World War I time. It was subdivided into many many lots, very small lots and sold and none of it was ever used. But the lots were on record and for many years, it’s been impossible to use it for anything because it’s these little tiny lots scattered everywhere.

Hayes: Oh my goodness.

Cameron: And somebody took the time and trouble to go in and run all those people down and finally got enough of it straightened out that there is a beautiful piece of land.

Hayes: Don’t you feel like that segment of Carolina Beach Road is really under utilized. I mean they've got that, some sort of, all kinds of car dealerships and little businesses and then what’s that, kind of a flea market over there.

Cameron: Well you know for a long time, everything was on Carolina Beach Road. There wasn’t anything back in here at all. Carolina Beach Road has been used of course for a long time, but there wasn’t anything off the road. There was a dirt road roughly where Shipyard is, but south of Shipyard, that was built during the Depression just to give people something to do, but it never was used much. Then Shipyard when World War II broke out was through there, but it wasn’t four lanes, but during the war, where Shipyard is is where the fort is now and 25,000 people working down there.

Hayes: Now you've got a major hope for development that’s further down the river there past Shipyard. Is that kind of the last big piece along that area too?

Cameron: Yeah, it’s about 1000 acres there that fronts on the river for 2-1/2 miles, beautiful piece of property.

Hayes: That’s good. Does that look that’s going to be…

Cameron: It’s been approved now. We could do something with that now. Just haven’t felt like the time was right, but it is the last big piece of land in New Hanover County, the southern part of New Hanover County. New Hanover County from here to Carolina Beach is about built up, there’s not any land left from here to Fort Fisher. All the land now left is in Castle Hayne, Scotts Hill area, big tracts of land in there.

Hayes: And people are moving into Pender too, right, and Brunswick.

Cameron: Brunswick and Pender are the two fastest growing counties in North Carolina. Percentage wise. I think, in my opinion, that a lot of growth in Wilmington if it keeps on growing, is going to go across the river into Brunswick County.

Hayes: Oh do you, in the Leland area and that…

Cameron: Yeah, all that stuff, they’re having a lot of dissension with Bellville and that type of thing, but in that area is a …it’s not far from where you’re sitting. Bellville you know is a whole lot closer than Wrightsville Beach.

Hayes: That’s right, you don’t think of it that way.

Lack: What about the expansion to the north. Do you think that’s…

Cameron: Well actually it would be to the south, it would hit 17, some turn to the right up there where Magnolia Greens are, that area in there I think and circle around, there’s a lot of land in that area.

Hayes: Okay listen, thank you very much. I think we’re done for today.

Cameron: I think you've about got all I know.

UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database
Found in:
Randall Library | UNCW Archives and Special Collections | Online Database | Contact Us | Admin Login
Powered by Archon Version 3.21 rev-1
Copyright ©2012 The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign