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StarNews' John Staton on the past, present, and future of a downtown Wilmington institution

The former music venue and nightclub property at 208 Market Street has repeatedly run into safety and code compliance issues.
Benjamin Schachtman
The former music venue and nightclub property at 208 Market Street has repeatedly run into safety and code compliance issues.

The music venue and one-time movie theater at 208 Market Street has been known by many names: The Manor, Jacob's Run, Hammerjax, Ziggy's, the Blue Eyed Muse, and others. It's currently mired in an owner-tenant dispute and faces condemnation — but many hope it will rejoin Wilmington's downtown scene.

Recent coverage:

Ben Schachtman: Well, John, thanks for being here.

John Staton: Ben, thanks for having me.

Ben: So we're here today to talk about 208 Market Street, which I know is the Blue Eyed Muse and Ziggy's and you know as many other things, all the way back to the movie theater.

JS: Yeah, The Manor and it was Jacob's Run for a while in the 90s.

BS: So let's start with what's going on with the building right now.

JS: Well, it just got condemned, basically, and the county is going in and expected it and said it wasn't safe to be inhabited. And so right now, the owner is on a deadline to kind of show them some plans and say, you know, here's what I'm gonna do to bring this up to code.

BS: Some Wilmingtonians may remember this, some newer transplants may not, but we saw a similar story back in 2017.

JS: Yeah, it's almost — it was a little bit of déjà vu there because it was like, well, almost the exact same thing happened in 2017. You know, there was a great venue called the Blue Eyed Muse. I saw Reverend Horton Heat there, among other people. And then one day, it was just closed, and there was a long list of things that were wrong had to be fixed before it can be reopened. And that has not happened yet. Almost six years later.

BS: So in the interim, you know, it's worth noting that we, you know, we did have a major hurricane, right, we had a pandemic, right — but six years is a long time for a piece of property like that, to just sit fallow…

JS: Right, you know, especially like a historic, you know, that's a 1941 it's a historic building, it's been a lot of important things. You know, The Manor was a place I saw movies as a kid and it was a great club, Jacob's Run — great bands there in the 90s. And it had One Tree Hill conventions there. And you know, Cucalorus Film Festival had stuff there. It's been a really just important gathering spot for Wilmington — and new stuff has grown up all around it, you know, there's activity on all sides, that building now and it's just kind of been sitting there.

BS: Yeah, actually, something you mentioned in your reporting is that this is actually is a historic building. So if, if it did get to the point where it was going to be condemned, right, there has to be some approval of how you take that building down.

JS: Right. And it's, you know, it's not going to be it has a lot more protections. And, you know, I guess we saw the historic Shandy Hall torn down a couple of years ago, and that's in a different part of town and didn't have these protections that, you know, downtown, it's got to go through, you know, in the Historic District Commission, who can put a stay on it. It's got a lot of things would have to happen before it gets torn down. I don't think it's gonna happen anytime soon. But you know, it's certainly in the cards if things don't change.

BS: One of the things that struck me about the Blue Eyed Muse, Hammerjax, Jacob's Run, whatever you remember that it as —

JS: Hammerjax, that’s right, I forgot about Hammerjax, we also have to mention The Brickhouse

BS: Yes!

JS: Right.

BS: So it fit right in this sort of part of the venue size spectrum, where it was bigger than places like Reggie's [42nd Street], but not quite Greenfield Lake Amphitheater size, right? Why was that important?

JS: Well, it is important because, you know, you're getting acts that you would not, you know, then that we're not getting now, you know, people like Margo Price, who was probably maybe Greenfield Lake now, but back then, you know, she was kind of a mid level artists playing, you know, 700-800 capacity rooms, people like, you know, Reverend Horton Heat, he's not going to be in a tiny venue, but he's not going to, you know, sell out Live Oak either. So you're kind of missing, you know, these kinds of, you know, mid level touring acts that, you know, now they're just not playing Wilmington,

BS: Do you have a favorite show or movie or memory from there?

JS: Oh, gosh. Well, I definitely remember seeing "The Sound of Music" there as a kid. I mean, they'll have a lot of old Disney and Disney movies that would rerun like, you know, "The Jungle Book" was showing there for literally years, off and on. I mean, Reverend Horton Heat is a pretty great show. That was from the Blue Eyed Muse days, or maybe it was Ziggy's and now it's all kind of blurring together because it was Ziggy's for a while and

BS: —and it was The Throne briefly...

JS: Right. It was like The Throne theater, we have to mention every name it's been because it's been quite a lot of things. I mean, Rural Swine is a great local band, and I saw them there back in the day. I mean, like local bands would play there to, you know, opening up for the headliners. You know, it's a lot of great memories there. And a lot of you know, it's just an important building to this town that, you know, it's kind of been sad to kind of see what's happened to it.

BS: Yeah. Well, we'll have links to your reporting and other reporting on it. And I know, every person I've talked to who says, you know, I hope they find a way to bring it back to downtown Wilmington

JS: Me too

BS: Alright, John, thank you so much for being here.

JS: Thanks for having me.