According to the Dram Tree Legend, a gnarly, stately cypress tree once stood in the midst of the river on the way into Wilmington, N.C. It became a custom for those traveling through to stop and share a toast on their way in and out of port. The legend claims sailors would toast to successful navigation through the treacherous waters when coming into Wilmington from the ocean; alongside, on their way out of port, vessels would raise their glasses for good luck on their upcoming journey.
Standing proudly until the 1940s, the old cypress protected travelers as long as they followed these traditions. Fast forward to almost a century later and you can now find a sculpture inspired by the original Dram Tree standing proudly at the Wilmington Convention Center.
Honoring the legend and the region’s history, a 23-ft. Dram Tree Sculpture was installed in November on the grounds of the waterfront building. The installation signifies the end of a nearly two-year-long artwork project seeking to display nautical works of art throughout the building. Since the project’s beginning, the artwork committee has made selecting local artists a top priority. When it came to picking a designer for their signature piece, a committee of artists and local professors joined forces to select an artisan to represent the entire Cape Fear region. Dumay Gorham, a Wilmington native, fit the role perfectly.
Gorham, a local metal sculptor, based his design off of images of the original Dram Tree and partnered with local venders on nearly every aspect of the project. Featuring a stainless steel trunk opening into branches tipped by rust-colored cor-ten steel leaves, the sculpture will be anchored to a concrete base, designed by local structural engineering firm Andrew Consulting Engineers, Inc. and built by local contractor Matt Hine of Progressive Concrete, Inc. Surrounding the stainless steel structural frame and base plate, cut by Industrial Metal Maintenance, Inc. out of Teachery, N.C., will be a full description of the Dram Tree legend.
The Dram Tree Sculpture continues to develop the maritime theme already featured at Wilmington Convention Center through a nautical-inspired photography collection. Somewhat unusual for a convention center, the collection has been met with enthusiasm from visitors and event attendees since the building’s opening.