By Elaine Henson
Many of you may not know that the Hanover Seaside Club at Wrightsville Beach actually had its beginnings here at Carolina Beach.
Captain John W. Harper and other investors formed the New Hanover Transit Company in 1886. They planned to ferry passengers from downtown Wilmington to Carolina Beach by steamer to a dock on the Cape Fear River. From the dock, passengers could board the Shoo Fly train for the trip from the river to the sea beach.
The first excursions began in the summer of 1887 with guests staying over at Bryan’s Oceanic Hotel and dining at the Railroad Station Restaurant both barely completed. The resort grew over the next few years to include bath houses, cottages and amusements.
In January of 1898, Captain Harper met with leaders of Wilmington’s sizeable German community who were interested in building a club house at Carolina Beach. They elected officers, appointed a committee to draw up a constitution and by-laws and to choose a site. Since most of them came from Hanover, Germany they decided to name it ‘The Hanover Seaside Club’.
The group of over a hundred subscribers pledged an initial fee of $10 each to construct the club. Later they set up a membership fee of $20 with annual dues of $3. By March, 1898 they approved plans for the clubhouse by architect Henry Bonitz. He had designed the 1887 pavilion at Carolina Beach and later designed Lumina Pavilion at Wrightsville Beach built in 1905.
Construction on the clubhouse began in early May of 1898. It was located ocean front in the block between cross streets Fourth and Fifth which ran from the ocean to Myrtle Grove Sound as seen in the early plot map.
Over a hundred years later, in 1988, the Town of Carolina Beach changed the name of Fourth to Seagull Lane and Fifth to Sailfish Lane.
Also note that the map is before Myrtle Grove Sound was dredged and widened in 1939 becoming the yacht basin with the dredge spoil creating additional land and Canal Drive.
The Club’s first floor had a 30’ by 40’ auditorium in the center with a ladies’ parlor and toilet room, kitchen, dining room and lunch alcove. The upper story was for the gentlemen and was accessible only by an outdoor stair. It contained a 25’ by 30’ billiard salon, a café, smoking room, two card rooms, a plain chamber and custodian’s room. The building was encircled downstairs with a 20’ wide porch or piazza as it was called. The upper floor had a porch in the front and back together containing 1,000 feet.
The Club was completed by July 3, 1898 and had safety lines with floaters, also called life lines, in the ocean for the safety of the bathers. It also had a 120’ long railroad platform so members could get off and on the Shoo Fly train right at the club house.
The members enjoyed nine seasons at Carolina Beach before deciding to build a second club house at Wrightsville Beach which opened September 3, 1906.
The plan was to have two locations but by1909 they sold the Carolina Beach building to T. A. Boyd of Hamlet who operated it as a boarding house.
Anyone interested in reading more about the Seaside Club can get a copy of Ann Hutteman’s One Hundred Golden Summers: A History of the Hanover Seaside Club 1898-1998 at the library. Ann is my good friend and a longtime member of FPHPS. Most of my research for this letter came from the first chapter of her book.