Mary Ulm knows a lot about Wilton Manors. She’s not only up to date on the newest restaurant on Wilton Drive – but she has extensive knowledge about the city’s history.
Ulm and her husband Ron moved to Wilton Manors 12 years ago. The couple, which has been married for 32 years, relocated from Atlanta to be closer to Ron’s father. The Ulms don’t have children; instead, they’ve had a red parrot for 30 years.
They’d been visiting the Wilton Manors area since the late 1970s and made the move despite a less than stellar first impression. “When we first starting visiting, it was a little run down – especially Wilton Drive,” Ulm said.
During that time, Wilton Manors was home to mostly middle-income families, and the city was 99 percent white. Unlike today, Wilton Drive wasn’t filled with thriving shops and restaurants.
Back in Atlanta, Ulm worked for the state of Georgia, specifically workforce staffing. The self-described workaholic put in between 60-70 hours a week. These days, she puts the same level of dedication into the Wilton Manors Historical Society where she serves as President, and Ron is an advisor on Business, Research and Technology. The big living-situation difference: Ulm, now retired, doesn’t collect a paycheck for her hard work.
“It’s all volunteers who love Wilton Manors and preserve the gems that are here and make them known to people. We get excited about the past and the possibilities of the future,” Ulm said.
The organization’s future plans include making improvements to the Carriage House at the Richardson Historic Park. (It’s located directly across from Dairy Queen on Wilton Drive.) The Carriage House is the oldest existing structure in Wilton Manors.
After spending a short time with Ulm, you’ll learn a lot about the history of Wilton Manors such as who founded the city: EJ Willingham founded in 1925. Willingham was a wealthy entrepreneur from Georgia. At one time, he owned the largest fruit and nut shipping company in the U.S. His vision for Wilton Manors was for it to become a very upscale neighborhood.
He probably would be quite pleased with how the city turned out. Ulm is. She’s also very proud of the area’s long history of volunteerism. “We have a lot of people who are excited about the city and want to see it sustain itself,” she tells WMG.
Along with her duties at the Historical Society, Ulm is also on the board of Wilton Manor’s Taste of the Island. The annual event is an evening of food and libation featuring more than 50 area restaurants and drinking establishments. In addition, Ulm also serves on the Wilton Manors Budget Review Advisory Committee Board. But don’t expect to see her in the spotlight – that’s simply not where she’s the most comfortable.
“What I enjoy doing is helping an event be successful. I’m more of a doer. I’d rather be volunteering in some fashion.”