From the President — September, 2016

By Elaine Henson

Due to popular demand, our Bathing Suit Exhibit will be open through the month of September on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10-4.  So you have a last chance to come in and see it if you haven’t already.

It gives me an opportunity to feature one last Carolina Beach bathing beauty and we may have saved the best for last.

Hannah Solomon Block hailed from Portsmouth, Virginia when she moved to Wilmington in 1935 as the bride of Charles M. Block, one of the founders of Block’s Shirt Factory.  The couple built a home in Forest Hills, but also had a cottage at Carolina Beach where she became the first woman head lifeguard on the North Carolina coast.  She served in that post from 1940 to 1949 while many men were away during WWII.

In addition to being head lifeguard, she also served as Chairman of the Carolina Beach Water Safety and First Aid Committee Henson #1who operated a first aid station in Town Hall located at that time on the boardwalk. The station was established in 1936 as the first Red Cross Highway First Aid Station in eastern North Carolina.  Hannah’s duties included running the station, training life guards, training town employees in first aid and life guarding herself. During WWII she was also a charter member of the USO and on its Board of Directors.

Block swimsuit

Courtesy of the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science

This photo from the May 30, 1946 edition of the Wilmington Evening Post shows her with two lifeguards demonstrating life saving techniques in transporting a stretcher case to the first aid station.  She is wearing a black bathing suit with her Red Cross lifesaving patch; the suit was most likely made of wool knit very similar to one in our exhibit.

Many years later, Hannah donated a similar bathing suit to the Cape Fear Museum for their collection. It is a Jantzen with the familiar Swim Girl logo and also has her Red Cross Lifesaving patch.

Hannah Block went on to devote her life serving her adopted hometown working on the Azalea Festival Committee in many capacities, helping organize the first Miss North Carolina Pageant (1947), training Miss Wilmington for the NC Pageant for 40 years, serving as the first woman Mayor Pro Tem of the Wilmington City Council (1961-63), and being a pioneer in restoring houses in the Historic District among many other activities.

Her work with the USO during WWII was rewarded in 2008 when the former 1940 USO Building was renamed the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center in her honor.

 

Seabreeze Part 4 — Growth of Seabreeze

by Rebecca Taylor

In February, 1930, the Wilmington Star reported that, “Electric poles are now being set from Wilmington to Seabreeze, a colored resort, by the Tide Water Power Company for the extension of electrical current.” Then in July of 1931, the Wilmington News reported that the North Carolina Negro Insurance Association held its annual convention at Seabreeze with speakers from Durham, Winston, Charlotte as well as smaller towns.seabreeze #1

By the Labor Day holiday of 1933, the Wilmington Star reported that “Ten thousand Negroes visited Seabreeze yesterday. They came by trucks, motor cars, buses, and, in fact, every mode of vehicle. Some trucks were loaded with as many as 75 to 100 men, women, and children all packed in these vehicles like sardines. Four large buses were employed in conveying the crowds to and from the resort. Trucks came from Fuquay Springs, Lumberton, Pembroke, Charity Cross Roads, and from numerous other towns in eastern and Piedmont North Carolina.”

By July of 1934, Dr. Foster F. Burnett, a local Negro physician who was a Harvard University graduate, constructed a convalescent home and recreation center at Seabreeze that would  accommodate up to 10 persons at a time. A pier was also constructed from the home to the sound. Dr. Burnett had plans to also build tennis courts, a golf course and other recreational facilities. That same month Dr. Burnett was promoting a request to the State Highway and Public Works Commission to improve the road connecting State Highway 40 with Seabreeze.

By the summer of 1935, the resort was so developed that the North Carolina Utilities Commission voted to grant a franchise to a Wilmington bus company to operate a bus line from Wilmington to Seabreeze.

In July 1938, the Wilmington Star reported the “purchase of a site at Seabreeze in connection with a development for colored tourists, to cost about $7,600 was announced yesterday by Ben McGhee. The pavilion is to be located off the Carolina Beach road near the entrance to Seabreeze.”

By the summer of 1938, C.C. Spaulding, President of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company of Durham, announced plans to purchase a lot and build a vacation home at Seabreeze. “Spaulding announced his plan following a weekend visit to the resort in which he was favorably impressed with the quietness of the resort on the southern side of Seabreeze as most conductive to rest and relaxation.”

Seabreeze #2By the mid-1930s, Seabreeze was in full swing. They had so many visitors that parking became a problem.  On summer weekends cars lined Carolina Beach Road for up to a mile. On holiday weekends the New Hanover County Sheriff assigned deputies to supervise traffic flow to and from the resort. At least 10 restaurants, including Barbecue Sam’s, served summer visitors. The area’s cooks quickly became famous for their clam fritters, often with finely chopped bell peppers and onions.

At some point in the 1930s, there seems to have been talk of incorporating Seabreeze as a municipality.  An editorial appeared in the Wilmington Star that advised them that it would be “Wise to go Slow” concluding with; “It is, therefore, our advice to our Negro citizens to proceed with caution. They should do everything possible to develop their resort, and for this they are to be commended, but corporate responsibilities may invite worries that are not compensated by such benefits as might accrue.”

Wilmington Water Tours

Featured Business Member
September, 2016

By Tony (Lem) Phillips

The History Center is very proud to have Wilmington Water Tours as one of our Business Members. In fact, we are just plain proud to know these folks.

WWT #4We have taken several of their cruises up and down the Cape Fear River and many times accompanied by local historians narrating our journey. Folks like Dr. Chris Fonvielle and Beverly Tetterton tell us so much of what we never knew.

You really have to visit Wilmington Water Tours website to fully appreciate all the ways in which you can be entertained, whether it is a Sunset Cruise or a lazy day cruise sipping Bloody Marys, you will find something affordable and fun to do.

WWT #3Captain Doug Springer and his wife, Diane Upton, returned to Wilmington in 2004 to pursue their dream of life on the water.

The Wilmington is the first and finest state-of-the-art catamaran to serve Historic Downtown Wilmington, NC. She has a wake cancelling design and is fully enclosed (heat if needed).

She is handicap accessible and offers a flexible layout for comfortable seating up to 49 guests. All ABC permits and spacious restroom complete our package. Come downtown and visit us.  You’ll be impressed with our 46′ catamaran, The Wilmington.

Wilmington Water Tours is based out of Wilmington, North Carolina, here to serve the City and its new convention center. They offer sunset cruises and private charters. Their investment in the custom design and state of the art catamaran, The Wilmington, the first vessel of hopefully many, allows them to provide a wide WWT #3range of offerings.

Give these folks a look and let them know that you, too, are a member of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. And remember, they will donate a part of the ticket purchase price to the Historic

Society for every ticket purchased by members. To reserve tickets call FPHPS at 910-458-0502

 

Wilmington Water Tours, 212 S. Water Street, Wilmington, NC 28401
Tickets: 910.338.3134
Private charters: 910.632.4095
email: info@wilmingtonwt.com

 

Society Notes – Sept, 2016

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

DONATION! Thanks to Jane Albers for the donation of framed images of Hurricanes Bertha, Fran, Bonnie, Dennis, Floyd and Irene. They are a great addition to the Burnett Cottage Hurricane Hazel pictures.

Welcome to new members Gerry Clonaris of Charlotte, Debra and Garth Bowling of LaPlata, MD, Sandra Shugart of Winston-Salem, Joan Dunn of Wilmington, and Barbara and Michael McQuery of Carolina Beach. WOW!

The History Center recorded 167 visitors in August. That is even higher than last month, and now the highest month in our records. We had 34 in attendance at the August Meeting. The gift shop took in $396.50.

The History Center was used by Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club.

Thanks to our active volunteers this month; Darlene Bright, Andre Blouin, Tony Phillips, and Jim Kohler for helping Cheri with the August newsletter. Thanks to Steve Arthur and Mary Ann Targonski for the refreshments at the August meeting.


We need “old” photos! — We’re working on enlarging our photo collection.

Do you have photos that document “the way things were?”

We would love to scan and archive a copy.  Lend them to us for a few weeks and we’ll scan them, and give them back to you, and share a digital copy with you if you want one.

We need pictures of buildings, people and events that have taken place in Federal Point from the 1920s to the 1970s.


Officers:           2016-2017
President:           Elaine Henson
Vice-President: Tony Phillips
Treasurer:         Demetria Sapienza
Secretary:          Nancy Gadzuk

Board of Directors: 2015-2017
Skippy Winner
Jim Dugan
Chris Fonvielle
John Moseley

Board of Directors: 2016-2018
Andre Blouin
Barry Nelder
Jean Stewart
Byron Moore
Cheri McNeill

The Ghosts of 1898

Ghosts of 1898 - Wilmington

The Daily Record of Wilmington was reportedly the only black owned newspaper in America in 1898. White supremacists destroyed it, killed dozens of peaceful citizens, then posed for this photograph.

Wilmington, North Carolina was a thriving progressive town in the early 1890s where whites, blacks and Indians worked and lived together. Wilmington was North Carolina’s successful hub of business and commerce led by an interracial coalition.

The community built a new political party, the Fusion party, that was more progressive than either the Democratic party, which was controlled  by conservative white supremacists in North Carolina, or the Republican party, which was once the party of Lincoln.

This rise of interracial progressive populism was a grave threat to the slave-wage labor economic model of the wealthy white land owners who had very effectively used racism to divide working class whites from blacks and Indians. If average white folks accepted black leadership and saw that their local economy thrived, elite white landowners and businessmen would lose much of their power.

The feudalistic plantation system, that had ruled the south since the foundation of the republic, when the land was stolen from the Indians, was gravely threatened. The white supremacist elites could not allow a thriving interracial society to develop, but they had a problem.

The African American population in the coastal plain was larger than the white population. The cotton plantations in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain depended on enslaved labor. There were more enslaved black laborers than white bosses and workers in eastern North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

The Fourteenth Amendment had given African Americans the right to vote and vote they did. To restore white supremacy and their power, the elites would have to find a way to slash the black vote. In the mid 1890’s the elites revived the white militias that were used by the Confederate States to terrorize enslaved people into submission.

They dredged up the racist white dregs of North Carolina society to make gangs of white thugs called the Red Shirts. The Red Shirts, who lacked equestrian skills, were lower class  than the KKK. The Redshirts began to lynch and terrorize African Americans to keep them from voting and to put them in their place. The Redshirts were egged on by none other than Josephus Daniels owner of the Raleigh News and Observer.

Over 100 years later the News and Observer published an unvarnished report that confessed their historic involvement in the white supremacist coup in Wilmington that set the stage for decades of lynchings and violence against African Americans.

The Ghosts of 1898 WILMINGTON’S RACE RIOT AND THE RISE OF WHITE SUPREMACY

On Nov. 10, 1898, heavily armed columns of white men marched into the black neighbor-hoods of Wilmington. In the name of white supremacy, this well-ordered mob burned the offices of the local black newspaper, murdered perhaps dozens of black residents — the precise number isn’t known — and banished many successful black citizens and their so-called “white nigger” allies. A new social order was born in the blood and the flames, rooted in what The News and Observer’s publisher, Josephus Daniels, heralded as “permanent good government by the party of the White Man.”
The Wilmington race riot of 1898 stands as one of the most important chapters in North Carolina’s history. It is also an event of national historical significance. Occurring only two years after the Supreme Court had sanctioned “separate but equal” segregation in Plessy v. Ferguson, the riot marked the embrace of virulent Jim Crow racism, not merely in Wilmington, but across the United States.
 
 

 

Zach Hammer, Producer of ‘Summers at Seabreeze’

by Nancy Gadzuk

zachZach Hanner spoke at the July 18, 2016 monthly meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

Zach was the creator of the informative and entertaining musical production, Summers at Seabreeze, produced in 2015 at TheatreNOW, a performing arts complex in Wilmington featuring dinner theater.

Zach is Artistic Director of TheatreNOW, as well as being a driving force in many other artistic ventures in the Southeast.
summers-seabreeze-2Zach talked about his personal experiences that led to the creation of Summers at Seabreeze.

He’d been given the opportunity as a free-lance writer for the Wilmington Star-News to write an article about Seabreeze, the African-American beach community just north of Carolina Beach. But with documentary filmmaker Ken Burns as his role model, Zach wanted to do more than write a single article for the newspaper. And in 2014, he began to do just that.

He read existing writings about the community, including a UNCW master’s thesis on Seabreeze, and contacted about half a dozen former Seabreeze residents who were willing to share their experiences with him.

He learned about the ferry driver on the small ferry running between Seabreeze and Carolina Beach who would “whop rowdy passengers over the head with a cane,” presumably from one of those rowdy passengers. By the time Zach had interviewed three or four people, he said, “I knew I had a show.”

He combined the oral histories of his interviewees with other sources of local history to tell the story of Seabreeze during its heyday in the 20th century as an African-American resort.

Since both food and music were major components of life in Seabreeze, telling its story through a dinner theater production made perfect and delicious sense, with musical greats like Fats Domino visiting Seabreeze and enjoying their famous clam fritters.

Summers at Seabreeze

Summers at Seabreeze

I had the good fortune to enjoy Summers at Seabreeze when it played in Wilmington last summer – although as a long-time New Englander, I have to say that clam fritters are supposed to be round spheres, not pancakes like the ones served in Seabreeze.  But they were delicious!

While some of the actors in Summers at Seabreeze were seasoned professionals, some were not, and part of the experience, from Zach’s point of view, was to expand and grow all the participants.

Zach would like to stage another, perhaps larger scale, version of the play and hopes to explore that possibility in the future.

Those who saw Summers in Seabreeze last year certainly hope he does.

 

August Meeting – Jack Fryar on the American Revolution in the Cape Fear Area

Jack E Fryar Jr

Jack E. Fryar. Jr.

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, August 15, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Join author and historian, Jack E. Fryar. Jr. as he details the second half of the war in the South, especially as it occurred in North Carolina and the Cape Fear.

With the fall of Charleston in 1780, the Revolutionary War returned to the Carolinas with a vengeance. While the most famous battles of America’s war for independence were fought in the North, the decisive battles were fought in the South, at places like Camden, Ninety-Six, Cowpens, King’s Mountain, and Guilford Courthouse.

When Gen. Charles Lord Cornwallis began his Southern Campaign to return the Carolinas to the Crown’s control, Wilmington and southeastern North Carolina played a pivotal role in his plans.

Jack E. Fryar, Jr. is the author or editor of twenty-two books of Cape Fear and North Carolina history. He holds masters degrees in history and teaching and is the owner of Dram Tree Books, a small press specializing in books about the four centuries of great history in the Carolinas.

Jack is about to launch Carolina Chronicles Magazine, a new digital history publication that will focus on the history of both North and South Carolina. A lifelong resident of the Cape Fear region, Jack lives in Wilmington with his wife, Cherie.

 

From the President — August, 2016

By Elaine Henson

Judy Cumber Moore

Judy Cumber Moore

Our Bathing Suit Exhibit will be open through Labor Day.  If you haven’t been by to see it, we encourage you to do so, Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays, 10-4.

In keeping with that theme, we want to showcase two Carolina Beach bathers that are also members of FPHPS.

Judy Cumber Moore was a teenager when she posed for this photo on the rock jetty in front of the boardwalk.  She is wearing a one piece suit with straps removed for a bare shoulder look.

Judy spent summers at Carolina Beach since her family owned Cumber’s Cottages near the lake. We know her now as Judy Moore, wife of FPHPS board member, Byron Moore.

Byron was a Carolina Beach lifeguard and taught swimming lessons to beach children at the Nel-El Motel pool. Judy and Byron were high school sweethearts now married for 57 years.  He later became an orthodontist and he and Judy raised their family in Winston-Salem.  Fortunately for us, they now mostly live at Kure Beach with monthly trips back to Winston-Salem.

Long time Carolina Beach resident Fran Doetsch sits on a blanket in front of the wooden boardwalk in 1956. She is wearing a trim one piece suit with straps over the shoulders and a kerchief covering her hair. If the sun got too hot, you could get some shade “under the boardwalk”.

President's Letter

Fran Doetsch

Fran’s family moved from the Sea Gate community of Wilmington to Kure Beach in the early 1930s when her step father, Dawson Mosley, took a job at the Ethel-Dow plant.

Like most teenagers at the beach, she loved spending time at the boardwalk.  She met her husband, Bob Doetsch, there and took him home to meet her mother the very night they met. Bob was in the Army during WWII and stationed at Fort Fisher.  They married December 1, 1943 and were married for 64 years when he passed away in January, 2008.

Bob worked for many years with the Army Corps of Engineers and served on the Carolina Beach Town Council as does their son, Gary Doetsch.

At 95, Fran remains a lively lady with an outgoing personality well known to residents of Carolina Beach.  She is also a wonderful resource on our history at Federal Point and always glad to share it with others.

Thank You – Towns of Carolina Beach & Kure Beach

August, 2016

Resolution:

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society would like to thank the towns of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach for their generous donations to be used for the operation of the Federal Point History Center which is a function of the Society. 

We appreciate their continued support of our mission to preserve, protect, and promote the rich history of the Federal Point area.

 
 
 
 

Seabreeze Part 3 – With the Turn of the Century

Freeman Family at Mt. Pilgrim Church

Freeman Family at Mt. Pilgrim Church

by Rebecca Taylor

The Freeman Heirs

In July 1902, Robert Bruce Freeman Jr., appeared in the New Hanover County Clerk of Court’s Office bearing his father’s will for probate.

The surviving children (all sons) from Robert Bruce’s first marriage inherited most of the Old Homestead. Robert Bruce, Jr., Archie, Rowland, Nathan, and Ellis received fifty-seven acres each.

Dulcia, the widow of Robert and Catherine’s son, Daniel Freeman, were granted lifetime rights in fifty-seven acres of the Old Homestead. Thereafter, the property was to be divided equally between Daniel and Dulcia’s children, Ida and Hattie. Lena was also given fifty-seven acres of the Old Homestead.

Lena’s children were to “share and share alike” with Catherine’s children in all the lands outside of the Old Homestead while Lena’s children were not included in the Old Homestead division.”

Unfortunately, the vagueness of the bequest to Lena’s children would haunt the family into the 21st Century.  As early as 1914 “the court appointed a Board of Commissioners to determine the boundaries for each tract. They decided that the tracts would run west to east, from the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean. This gave each heir access to the river, sound, ocean, and soil suitable for cultivation.”

After Robert Bruce, Jr.’s death, Ellis Freeman, youngest son by his first marriage, took over management of the family lands. “He obtained a $50,000 government permit to sell yellow granite, and created a profitable business carrying people out on the ocean fishing.”

The Beginning of Carolina Beach

In the 1880’s Freeman gave Captain John Harper, owner of the steamer Wilmington and a partner in the New Hanover Transit Company, the right of way to build a railroad through his property at Carolina Beach in exchange for free train passes for the black people of the area.

On March 11, 1887, W. L. Smith, Jr. bought a strip of land comprised of 24 acres for the amount of $66.50. These acres were between the head of Myrtle Grove Sound and the ocean beach. Today this land is located in the heart of the business district of the Town of Carolina Beach.

The following year, 1888, the New Hanover Transit Company sponsored a free excursion to Carolina Beach for indigent and infirmed colored people in Wilmington. About five hundred people took the trip including church members from St. Stephen, St. Luke, St. Mark, Mount Olive, Central Baptist and Chestnut Street Presbyterian churches.

In 1913, the Freeman heirs financed Alexander W. Pate and Joseph Laughlin a large tract with boundaries running from the end of the “old road bed of the New Hanover Transit Company’s railroad” to about 5,000 feet south of Sugar Loaf and then over to the beach.

Seabreeze Established

In the early 1920’s, Ellis Freeman, one of Robert, Sr.’s heirs, sold the first lots on the Seabreeze tract with full right of ingress and egress to and over any and all portion of the sea beach east of and across Myrtle Grove Sound.

Seabreeze managed to promote black ownership of recreational property and businesses – something other black beaches in the country had been unsuccessful in doing in spite of well-organized attempts.”

Seabreeze Beach ResortThe first beach structure called “Seabreeze” was built in 1922. It was about the time of the great boom in beachfront development. It was also a time of resurgent black pride and enterprise, the era of the Harlem Renaissance.

Victoria Loftin

Victoria Lofton

Tom and Victoria Lofton, a prominent black couple from Wilmington, completed construction on the Russell Hotel, a twenty-five room, three-story hotel, restaurant and dance hall. Peter Simpson and his wife opened Simpson’s Hotel and development began to spring up all around.

The Harlem-based, syndicated black columnist Geraldyne Dismond reported, to her surprise, cottages that resembled a “transplanted Seventh Avenue tea room, swank…bungalows and a sporting crowd dressed in linen suits and driving roadsters.”

Seabreeze

Daley Breezy Pavilion

In the spring of 1929, the Wilmington Star reported that at Seabreeze, the Negro resort, a new hotel is under construction.

According to residents of that section it will greatly facilitate the housing problem there during the season and an increase of the number of Negroes visiting this section is expected to result from the construction program.

Then by February 1930 the Tide Water Power Company was extending poles from Wilmington to Seabreeze. And, by July of 1931 the Wilmington News was reporting that the North Carolina Negro Insurance Association held its annual convention at Seabreeze with speakers from Durham, Winston-Salem, Charlotte as well as smaller towns.