TAR HEEL — The newly constructed bridge on Tar Heel Ferry Road may soon have a new name as well.
The Harmony Hall Plantation Village group has filed an application with the state to have the Tar Heel Bridge, as it is commonly called, named after a local historical figure.
Seth Lewis, a leading figure in the Harmony Hall group, is leading the charge in getting the name changed to honor Col. James A. Richardson, founder and builder of the 1760 Harmony Hall Plantation home.
Lewis said the idea for the name change has been around for about nine months, and he has been working with the N.C. Department of Transportation for four months on the approval process. He was inspired to undertake the initiative after witnessing other historical figures acknowledged in the same way.
“I’ve seen a lot of other people honored by having bridges named after them, and thought it was a good idea since the plantation is nearby and since, as close as is, the plantation probably covered the land on one side of that bridge,” Lewis said.
The process of getting a bridge named after someone is a lengthy and costly one. Required documentation includes an application, minutes from local governments showing that resolutions supporting the name change were passed unanimously, letters from family members showing that they approve the process, recommendations from local civic clubs or businesses, information showing why the naming is warranted, and a character verification form completed by a local government.
In addition, applicants must be or have been a North Carolina resident and must have made notable local, state or national contributions or have significant accomplishments. Those requesting the application must pay a $2,000 fee, but, since Lewis began the process before a cost increase, he will be grandfathered in at the $1,000 fee.
After all documentation has been presented, the request is placed on an upcoming Board of Transportation Road, Bridge and Ferry Naming Committee agenda for consideration. If approved, it is placed on the agenda of the full board for consideration. After approval and payment by the applicant, the NCDOT Communications Office plans a naming ceremony and installs the sign.
“The process is to keep anybody and everybody from taking it and naming someone not honorable or worthy,” Lewis said of the cumbersome application process.
Richardson was a Patriot soldier, fighting in the French and Indian War and participating in the storming of Quebec with Gen. James Wolfe. His service earned Richardson a partial grant of land from King George III — which would eventually become Harmony Hall Plantation, a nearly 15,000-acre plantation that adjoined the Cape Fear River. Richardson also served in the Revolutionary War and earned the rank of colonel. His home was taken over by British soldiers under the command of Gen. Charles Cornwallis during the Revolutionary War.
Some work on the process is yet to be done, but Lewis anticipates having an answer on his application soon.
“My hope is that it (the naming celebration) will be done at same time as our annual reunion at Harmony Hall, which is the first Saturday in May,” Lewis said.
The Bladen County Historical Society and the Harmony Hall Plantation Village Board of Directors will both be meeting Thursday, Feb. 18, and Lewis hopes both boards will approve resolutions supporting the name change.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.