Take 5 with Beverly Tetterton

Making Wilmington history come alive

Wilma 0420 Take5 1

Local historian BEVERLY TETTERTON met her business partner while getting coffee near downtown’s New Hanover County Library, where she worked for 31 years. Despite her retirement in 2012, her work in archiving and research hasn’t stopped.

Tetterton shares her passion proudly. She has been researching and archiving history and books for decades. Her love of the past dates back to days growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia, where she attended elementary school across from Williamsburg Palace.

“We used to have classes on the Williamsburg green,” she says. “Where we were, history was practically shoved down your throat.”

But, for Tetterton, the study of history never got old, so to speak.

At Java Dog Coffee House, she and Dan Camacho started a conversation over their shared love of writing and history.

“We started talking,” Tetterton explains, “and then eventually Dan asked, ‘you’re a librarian, aren’t you?’”

One year later, after more meetings with Camacho at their coffee shop “office,” the duo developed plans for the 2013 launch of their new venture, Java Dog Press, named for their meeting spot. The company publishes history books written by the duo – three to date, available at javadogpress.com – as well as the Wilmington.tours app. Java Dog also offers private, in-person tours upon request.

The app includes five tours (many walkable): 2nd Street to the River, 3rd Street & East, Civil War Wilmington, Pub Crawl Wilmington, and the newest edition, African American History. Tours include site descriptions, both written and audio-recorded, as well as old photos, many of which were collected and archived by Tetterton.

“But it was Dan’s idea to do the app,” she says. “We started out with the walking tours because it interested both of us.”

They worked together to map out site lists for each tour, to write narrations of each site, and to develop strategies for marketing the app.

Tetterton and Camacho each brought relevant experience to their shared venture.

Working in the library’s North Carolina Room, Tetterton pioneered the digital archives, collecting thousands of historic photographs and documents of the Cape Fear region. For her work, she received awards, including the Solpa Award for best library digitization project in the Southeast United States and the David Brinkley Preservation Award.

While working for Amazon years ago, Camacho collaborated with librarians to identify books that readers would enjoy, based on their past purchases or views.

“When we met, he said to me, ‘I love librarians,’” Tetterton explains. “Librarians have been doing this work since the beginning of time, keeping pages of reference books.”

Both Java Dog Press partners like living amidst history as well.

After finishing an MFA in Creative Writing at UNCW, Camacho bought a house down the street from Tetterton, in historic downtown Wilmington.

“We like to joke that his house may be older than mine, but I have more awards than him,” Tetterton says and laughs.

Tetterton loves walking to nearby coffee shops and historic homes surrounding her neighborhood, just as locals and visitors are guided to do on their tours.

The business keeps her busy, but since retiring, Tetterton has enjoyed more leisure reading time with her husband and continues to chair the Historic Wilmington Foundation’s plaque committee.

“I find great satisfaction in sharing my life’s work through this project (Java Dog Press),” she says, “but the most interesting thing is to find out something new each time.”

Take 5 with Beverly Tetterton of Java Dog Press

How does your work for Java Dog Press challenge you as a researcher and historian?

“Our knowledge of the past is always changing. When I look at a photograph or document that I have never seen, I learn something new. Just when I thought I knew all about an historical subject I find another interesting tidbit of history.”

Which historical era do you enjoy studying most?

“I love studying and learning about the eighteenth century. Growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia, has made it a lifelong passion.”

What’s your favorite historical site in the Wilmington area?

“My favorite site is Market Street from 10th Street to the Cape Fear River. From Gallows Hill to the center, Wilmington’s earliest port is where most of Wilmington’s 280-plus history unfolded.”

If someone wrote a biography of your life, what would it be called?

“She Was a Good Woman Who Hated Tape. Having been an archivist for thirty years, I have cursed tape-encrusted documents nearly every day.”

What other activities or hobbies have you started since retiring from the New Hanover County Library?

“I have always been a lifelong reader, but after retirement, I have enjoyed joining a neighborhood book club. I am also more physically active, especially when I take care of my young grandson.”

To view more of photographer Terah Wilson’s work, go to terahwilson.com.

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Categories: Women to Watch