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Transformation underway at property where nuns, actors and a large, wild animal spent the night

Published: Jul. 13, 2018 at 6:40 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 13, 2018 at 8:15 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Actors, nuns and one night, even a large, wild animal laid their heads at a historic property in downtown Wilmington.

Now, it's undergoing a transformation and its interesting past will play a role in its future.

Arrive Hotels is taking over the former Wilmingtonian at the corner of Dock and Second Streets.

Chris Yermal from Old School Rebuilders is working to renovate three old buildings into what will be downtown Wilmington's newest hotel.

Yermal dug up the historical records for the buildings and made some fascinating discoveries.

"At one point, Topsy the circus elephant broke out the circus in 1922 at 13th and Ann," he said. "She went all over downtown. She, at one point one night, leaned against this glass and broke into the building and was in here for about 24 hours rampaging around, trying to get out. She finally calmed down. And at one point because it was a dye works, she sucked up a big trunk full of dye thinking it was water and spit it all out and got it on wedding garments here to be cleaned. She busted out and kept on with her rampage down to Greenfield Lake."

A second building on the property was built in the 1950s as a convent.

In the 90s, a third building was constructed to accommodate the film boom in town.

Actors, directors and writers stayed in the suites, with rooms named "South Pacific" and "Marilyn."

Arrive and Old School Rebuilders will transform the property into a 36-room hotel, which will show movies in its courtyard with visitors enjoying cocktails and company around the outdoor fire pits.

Inside, there will be a restaurant and bar.

This will be the second hotel for the Arrive Hotels team, which has another property in Palm Springs, California.

The hotel group was co-founded by Facebook's sixth employee, Ezra Callahan, and its Chief Technology Officer was one of Facebook's first engineers.

Yermal said the group did an exhaustive search across the country and wanted Wilmington to be its second location, with more hotels coming soon in cities around the U.S.

So, why Wilmington?

"Had something to do with hipsters," Yermal joked. "Somewhere out there, there is a hipster quotient and they saw that and felt like they want to be in Wilmington because it was the right size town. They love the historical nature of this area, close to the river a very vibrant downtown and they just knew it was going to be the right thing for their brand."

Because of this property's connection to the film industry, the goal is to have it open by the Cucalorus Film Festival in November.

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