One week early due to Christmas, one hour early, too!
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, December 12, 6:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its annual holiday potluck on Monday, December 12 at 6:30 pm. This year we will be back at the History Center as it’s a lot easier for the hospitality committee. Please join us for food, fun and festivities.
Joining the festivities will be John Golden and his magic guitar as well as Jay and Deborah Hockenbury. Please feel free to bring family and friends to this cozy community get-together.
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.
After World War II Carolina Beach business owners worked hard to present the beach as a “family friendly” resort. The resort continued to attract large crowds, and on holidays cars might line the road as hundreds of black patrons walked along the main highway to Carolina Beach. Sometimes on weekend nights in the summer, Seabreeze music was audible for miles, and sometimes Carolina Beach officials and residents pressured Seabreeze business owners to lower the volume.
In 1951, Frank and Lulu (Freeman) Hill sold their New York residence and returned to Seabreeze to invest their life savings, building a restaurant, beach pavilion, bathhouse, and a paved parking lot on Lulu’s inherited land – now part of Freeman Park. They called it the Monte Carlo by the Sea.
They came by bus, by cars, and whole churches. The Monte Carlo drew groups from all over North and South Carolina. “We had a lot of groups who came up even as far as South Carolina…We had them come up in busses,” said Frank Hill who was proud of the Monte Carlo and believed it was the best beach facility available in North and South Carolina.
“The black people didn’t have any other place to go…there was that place down in Atlantic Beach, down in South Carolina, but I think they only had about half a block space that they could be on.”
The Wilmington City Directory of 1955 listed the following businesses at Seabreeze Beach: The Hotel Faison, the Daley Hotel, owned and operated by Richard Daley who also owned the Breeze Point Pavilion; the Edgewater Cafeteria, The Breeze Inn, and the Tavern, owned by Bruce and Bill Freeman. The Tavern was a lunch room but also had dining, dancing and facilities for private parties.
The heartbeat of Seabreeze was its many juke joints. At one point there were as many as 31 juke joints where jukeboxes (known as piccolos locally) supplied the “race music” that spawned not only rock-and-roll, but also the Shag, and Beach Music.
Those who vacationed there remember it well. Booker T. Wilson, who lives in Bolton, visited Seabreeze regularly as a young man. When asked what he remembered most about the place, Wilson promptly replied, “The dancing!” His favorite style of dance? “Swing. All of it,” he said.
The music of Seabreeze drew people from miles around as live bands and jukeboxes exploded with the sounds of swing, soul and rhythm and blues brought to life by the voices of Little Richard, James Brown, the Platters and others. The area became known as a music mecca. Seabreeze’s music was so distinctive that many locals called the beach strand “Bop City.”
Recipes for clam fritters were closely guarded family secrets, and fritters varied from one eatery to the next. It would be safe to say that the basic recipe included eggs, milk, flour, and clams. Every restaurant specialized in seafood, fried fish, oysters, and soft shell crabs all gathered from the crystal clear sound shallows. Among the most famous was Sadie Wade’s place where hundreds of diners enjoyed the nickel apiece clam fritters; the recipe is still a guarded secret of those with Seabreeze in their heritage.
Arthur Ross once put together the batter for the cakes. He estimated they sold 3,000 of the 6-inch- wide cakes made up of clams, green peppers, onions, flour and other secret ingredients before being deep-fried. The ocean breezes that blew through Seabreeze were no doubt infused with the smell of palate-pleasing dishes. Restaurants in Seabreeze served a diverse selection of food, but were renowned for their fresh and local seafood.
On October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel came ashore west of Seabreeze, along the Brunswick County Coast. The Category 4 storm, with 140 mile-per-hour winds and an 18 foot storm surge wreaked havoc all along the North Carolina coast, but hit Seabreeze with a blow that it would never recover from.
Because Freeman Beach was not listed as a Wilmington-area beach, it did not receive aid to rebuild.
When the storm departed, residents and property owners were tasked with cleaning, clearing and rebuilding. People who held land in common with other relatives found the job particularly daunting, as they were deemed ineligible for disaster relief loans.
Without financial assistance, many could not afford to rebuild. Those who were able, however, worked hard to bring Seabreeze back to life. Music, food and laughter did return; but the Seabreeze that once was, would be no more.
Frank Hill remembers, “It had taken away everything.” The severe erosion caused by Carolina Beach Inlet and Hurricane Hazel destroyed the majority of the sound side and ocean side businesses and homes. Few people at Seabreeze had insurance and though many salvaged what building materials they could and tried to rebuild, Hazel was followed by two category storms the next year; Hurricane Connie and Hurricane Ione.
Frank Hill continues, “We survived until that last one [Hurricane Alma] came through in ’62, and by them opening the Carolina Beach inlet it made it impossible because the beach was eroding so bad and it just put us out of business for good.” This damage was exacerbated by the Carolina Beach Inlet Development Corporation’s establishment of an inlet from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intracoastal Waterway claiming it would make access to the Atlantic Ocean easier.
Beach Music/Birth of the Shag
The R&B, soul, and beach music that played was notorious for drifting down streets and into other neighborhoods. Prominent musicians such as the Bobby Blue Band and Bo Diddley performed at Seabreeze. Accommodations were also plentiful for overnight visitors, who by law, weren’t allowed to stay at hotels reserved for whites. Famous entertainers like Fats Domino, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner played for white audiences in Wilmington, but slept at the 25 room Loftin Hotel.
By the 40’s you had whites in their teens and 20s coming to Seabreeze to listen to the music. Then they’d go back to Carolina Beach and tell the club owners what was hot. Music at Seabreeze was a bit different from Wrightsville and Carolina Beach because it was black swing, rhythm and blues—in short, everything the white race rioters had so greatly feared a couple decades earlier. The dance moves seemed suggestive and the volume was cranked up to a level that could be heard for miles around.
The legend of Malcolm Ray “Chicken” Hicks is a local favorite. Hicks was a teenager in 1941 when he visited Seabreeze and picked up on the R&B music and dance, which he already knew from his upbringing in Durham. Jukeboxes, which were called piccolos, were in every jump joint, and Hicks had an appreciation for what was then called race music.
Hicks also had a connection with a fellow named Parker who loaded up the jukeboxes at both Seabreeze and Carolina Beach, and was able to persuade Parker to put some of the same records he would have heard in Seabreeze into the jukeboxes in Carolina Beach.
Monday, April 17, 2017: 7:30-9:00 pm.
Program:Have you ever seen an old picture or post card of a Carolina Beach building and wondered where it was located or what is there today?
Elaine Henson will show businesses and buildings from long ago and what is there now, and in some cases, what was there in between.
Saturday, April 22, 2017 – Rescheduled Original date: March 18, 2017 – Canceled because of rain.
Historian Chris Fonvielle will lead his annual walk along the remnants of the Sugar Loaf Line of Defense. Pre-registration is required. Call 910-458-0502. A donation of $10.00 is requested.
Chris Fonvielle: Local history buffs hope to rediscover Rock Spring (StarNews Online, March 18, 2017) Members of the Public Archaeology Corps hope to excavate the site of the Rock Spring, underneath the soon-to-be-demolished Water Street parking deck.
Monday, May 15, 2017: 7:30-9:00.
Program: John Batchelor, author of the cookbook Chefs of the Coast will talk to us about his research in compiling the book and how North Carolina’s coastal cuisine is unique.
Monday, June 19, 2017: 6:30–8:30 pm.
Potluck Picnic: The perfect time to bring friends and prospective members.
ALL PROGRAMS ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.
They are held at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd. (Just south of the Carolina Beach Town Hall.)
Or visit the History Center, open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10-4.
Steve Pfaff of the National Weather Service spoke at the History Center’s October 17, 2016 meeting. Originally Steve was scheduled to make a presentation on Hurricane Hazel. And then Hurricane Matthew happened on October 9th.
Despite working long hours dealing with the aftermath of Matthew, Steve found the time to weave his original presentation on Hazel into a fascinating presentation that combined information on both Hurricanes Hazel (1954) and Matthew (2016).
He began by sharing some information about Hurricane Hazel, a “special but evil storm.” Hazel became a Category 3 hurricane very quickly and killed over 1,000 people as it tore through Haiti, a pathway that Matthew would unfortunately follow as well.
He cautioned that we should not let radar fool us when determining how big a threat a hurricane may pose. Over-reliance on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale to determine hurricane strength and possible destructive effects has been problematic, especially with storms such as Hazel and Matthew, where storm surge and high water levels have been so destructive.
He cited meteorologist Ryan Knapp’s apt example to show relative destructive impacts: I can breathe in 100 mile per hour winds, but I can’t breathe under 10 feet of water.
Hazel had what Steve called “good air”: high barometric pressure that allowed for a very large storm surge. High temperatures preceding the hurricane and a high lunar tide, along with unusually warm water temperature, all contributed to a powerful 18 foot storm surge that wiped out most of the oceanfront dwellings in Brunswick County.
Byron Moore, long-time History Center member who lived in Carolina Beach during Hazel, shared some of his recollections of the storm and its aftermath. His family lived on Canal Drive and water went up to the speedometer of the car sitting in the driveway. He remembered seeing propane tanks floating down Canal Drive and 6 to 8 feet of sand on Carolina Beach Avenue North. Other audience members contributed their own memories of the devastation Hazel caused.
Steve warned us that the return period for hurricanes along the North Carolina coast was 5 to 7 years. Also, since 1999 there have been five 500 to 1000 year flood events in the Southeast in case anyone has a notion to become complacent and let their insurance lapse.
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, November 21, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
This month our program will be presented by Travis Gilbert. He will talk on the Ladies Memorial Association, which, just after the Civil War, made it their mission to inter or re-inter the bodies of Confederate soldiers and to raise monuments in their honor.
The first Ladies’ Memorial Association sprang up immediately after the end of the Civil War in Winchester, Virginia, which had suffered significantly during the war. Mary Dunbar Williams of Winchester organized a group of women to give proper burial to Confederate dead whose bodies were found in the countryside, and to decorate those graves annually.
Within a year seventy such organizations had been founded throughout the South. The Wilmington Ladies’ Memorial Association was founded in the summer of 1866 to provide an honorable burial for the hundreds of Confederate soldiers buried in unmarked, often unidentified, graves across Southeastern North Carolina.
Founded by women such as Elizabeth Parsley, Catherine DeRosset Meares, and Julia Oakley, the Wilmington Ladies’ Memorial Association organized bazaars, hosted entertainments, and lobbied their male counterparts to establish the Confederate Soldiers Mound in Oakdale Cemetery.
Confederate Mound Plaque: This monument was dedicated May 10, 1872. / To perpetuate deeds of the brave and in grateful tribute to the memory of 550 honored unknown / Confederate dead at the Battle of Fort Fisher / who live buried here.
By the spring of 1868, the association facilitated Wilmington’s first Confederate Memorial Day, and in 1872, dedicated a monument above the Confederate Mound. The ladies’ endeavors were an unprecedented expansion of the traditional southern women’s gender sphere and would lay the foundations for Wilmington’s chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the city’s Confederate relic room, and New Hanover County’s three Confederate monuments.
Travis Gilbert received his Bachelors of Arts in history from Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, where he completed original research on the Barbara Fritchie Memorial Association and Maryland secessionist, Enoch Louis Lowe. In addition, Gilbert worked at public history sites such as Monocracy National Battlefield and the Barbara Fritchie House Museum.
Gilbert is a docent at the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society and a volunteer at the Battleship North Carolina Memorial. Currently, he is completing a manuscript narrating women’s contributions to the rise of the Lost Cause in Wilmington, North Carolina, from 1865 until 1924. Please visit portcityredux.blogspot.com for updates on the manuscript’s progress or follow Gilbert on twitter @_travisjgilbert or Instagram @travisjgilbert
Most residents on our island consider 1954’s Hurricane Hazel as the worst hurricane ever to hit our area. It was the only Category Four hurricane in southeastern North Carolina in all of the 20th Century or since. And, it came in on a lunar high tide. It is often the benchmark to which all other hurricanes are compared.
Hazel’s reputation often overshadows the 1955 hurricane season which had three hurricanes impacting coastal North Carolina with two of the hurricanes hitting within 5 days of each other.
Hurricane Connie hit on August 12, 1955 as a Category Two with typical strong winds, high tides and heavy rainfall. It caused heavy crop damage and 27 deaths in North Carolina.
Five days later, on August 17, Hurricane Diane made landfall in North Carolina as a Tropical storm with winds of 50 mph and gusts of 74 mph in Wilmington. The waves were 12 feet, tides were 6-8 feet above normal and the storm surge caused damage to homes along the beach and coastal flooding on top of the rain-soaked area from Connie. This August 17, 1955 press photo of Hurricane Diane shows the 1600 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North featuring two flat top houses on the ocean front. Their porches are gone and waves are splashing at the front door.
He remembers Connie and Diane well and reports that the post Hazel rebuilt pier held up through the two storms, but the tackle shop was destroyed again. Then on September 19, 1955 Hurricane Ione made landfall near Wilmington as a Category Two storm leaving more flooding, strong winds, storm surge, more crop damage and 7 dead in North Carolina.
Not only did Pleasure Island have to rebuild after Hazel in 1954, a year later it suffered three hurricanes in just 37 days and faced more rebuilding and repairs. It makes one understand just how strong and resilient our residents are.
By the 1940’s Seabreeze had its own hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and dance halls. Drawing crowds from all over North Carolina it became known as the “National Negro Playground.” Among the local businesses – many of them run by Freemans or members of other families linked by marriage – were bathhouses where visitors could rent bathing suits for the day.
Daley’s Breezy Pier Restaurant was a two-story covered pavilion at the end of a pier where bands played and people fished and crabbed.
An amusement park opened in the summertime with a Ferris Wheel, a hobbyhorse (like a merry-go-round), chair planes, a carousel, the Octopus, and the Caterpillar. A fellow named Charlie ran the gambling tables. A Native American known as the Snake Man set up a sideshow tent, and one of the attractions he offered was “the Woman with No Body,” which was actually his extremely short wife in a darkened setting that only revealed her head. He also ran a candy store and a small circus and mounted an impressive snake display.
Summers were especially busy when church groups packed buses for a day’s amusement along the waterfront, then turned the beach over to the juke joint crowd at night. Farmers from inland counties would ride dozens of their field hands, on flatbed trucks, to Seabreeze for a day off. Seabreeze was so well known that it even attracted people from all over North Carolina and South Carolina. Some years people would even come on buses from Philadelphia and New Jersey.”
During segregation, Carolina Beach police refused to allow Seabreeze visitors to pass through the town to visit the ocean side of the Freeman property, known as Freeman’s Beach, so the family bought a boat to haul people there, letting them off in the marsh leading to the beach. You had to walk over the marsh lands – get mud in your feet and everywhere else.
Later Captain Rick Wilson – who later became the first black party-boat operator to get a slip at the Carolina Beach marina – ran a speedboat out of Seabreeze, offering rides for 50 cents a head. Others, including Margaret Green, ran ferries to take visitors across the sound to the ocean beach on the outlying barrier island. As the local economy recovered from the Great Depression, the Seabreeze community and its’ recreation area were fully developed.
Bruce’s Tavern was a two-story restaurant and dance hall with a fishing pier owned by Bruce Freeman. There was also Daley’s Pier with a restaurant and pier for fishing and crabbing. At Barbecue Sam’s, the proprietor raised pigs, butchered them, and smoked them on premises. Several bathhouses existed that allowed people to come out of the ocean, take a shower, get dressed, and go to the pavilions to dance.
There was a row of vine covered cottages which were used for overnight stays for people unable to drive and even an unofficial community jail. Photographers’ shops, where visitors could have their pictures taken as mementos of their summer visits to Seabreeze were scattered throughout the area.
William Freeman who was born in 1941 and grew up in Seabreeze says, “It was fun, it was fun, it was fun. For black people to be able to come to a place like this, they came and danced and kicked up and had fun the whole weekend. That had to be a great thing for us psychologically. All these places, blacks owned it all. It was far more valuable than we realized it was.”
In January of 1942 a meeting was called to inform “all negro citizens“ of the Sea Breeze area and to organize civilian defense units. The meeting was held at the Freeman church and Sheriff C. David Jones and the Mayor of Carolina Beach were the invited speakers.
In April 1942, the Federal Works Agency (FWA) allocated $12,800 for the construction of a bath house for the military. It included showers, locker rooms, and a lounge area.
In 1941, Camp Davis opened in Holly Ridge. It rapidly grew to include as many as 100,000 soldiers being trained in a variety of assault specialties. One section trained black soldiers in anti-aircraft artillery while an auxiliary base called Montford Point became the first training base for black Marines. As the war intensified the military presence became notable.
Black servicemen stationed nearby headed to Seabreeze on leave. There were even some training maneuvers that took place in the waterway. One long time resident reports that there were rumors among the residents that even the FBI trained along the undeveloped beach.
Black soldiers from the Fort Fisher training base would come up to Seabeeze. Some of the Freeman girls married some of the guys that used to be down at Fort. Fisher.
By the summer of 1943 a special “Jim Crow loading zone” was set up at the main bus terminal in Wilmington to handle the large crowds of black servicemen coming to Wilmington on leave. Another group was drawn to Carolina Beach, as well. Suddenly boys too young for the draft, but too old for parental supervision, flocked to Carolina Beach to work in the busy restaurants and hotels. White teenagers had learned to dance to ‘race music’ from blacks in the Hayti district of Durham.
While both Carolina Beach and Seabreeze owners were glad to cash in on the war boom, both beaches gained a reputation as somewhat “unruly.” As one white woman who was a teenager during the war remarked; “there was a general feeling that these boys were facing the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country and therefore deserved to cut loose before being shipped out.”
Who has not heard of the Got-‘Em-on Live Bait Club? Since 1979, this organization has grown to over 300 members and has a renown stature in the community for their excellence in supporting tournaments and causes.
For example, the Cape Fear Disabled Sportsman’s Fishing Tournament held in May each year, and the East Coast Got-Em-On Classic King Mackerel Tournament.
Got-‘em-on Live Bait Club is a not-for-profit organization that sponsors community service events and fundraisers to make donations to various charities.
They have supported and made donations to: The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross, Carolina Beach School, UNCW, Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, the Fort Fisher Aquarium, Habitat for Humanity, Carolina Beach Police and Fire Departments, the Senior Center, Dixie Youth Baseball, the Carolina Beach Parks and Recreation Department, The N.C. Coastwatch, CCA-NC, needy Island children, and artificial reef projects. The Federal Point History Center is very fortunate and very proud to have the GEO Club as a friend and business member. We shout out to them this month and wish all the members and the folks that benefit from all they do much success in the coming year.