Boyhood Book Helped Forge Chris Fonvielle’s Career

 

Civil War historian Chris Fonvielle is retiring from UNCW at the end of the spring 2018 semester.

When Chris Fonvielle was 8 years old, the Civil War centennial broke out, and he received a young readers’ edition of the American Heritage “Golden Book of the Civil War.” From thereon, he was hooked.

“I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in history,” said Fonvielle, an associate professor of history at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

In fact, Fonvielle, a Port City native, almost literally wrote the book — or books — on the Civil War in the Lower Cape Fear. His master’s thesis became “The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope,” a scholarly account of the battles that led to the fall of Wilmington.

His “To Forge a Thunderbolt” chronicled the rise and fall of Confederate Fort Anderson near Colonial Brunswick Town. “Fort Fisher 1865″ studied the prints of Civil War photographer Timothy H. O’Sullivan, whose images in 1865 provide the only known visible record of the Civil War fortress guarding the entrance to the Cape Fear River.

“His dedication to the Wilmington area and its history is extraordinary,” said Lynn Mollenauer, chairman of the UNCW history department.

For years, Mollenauer said, Fonvielle has been “the public face of the history department,” speaking to local civic groups and giving tours of Civil War sites for the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society and others.

This spring, the 65-year-old Fonvielle is retiring after more than 20 years at UNCW. He and his wife, Nancy, are planning a series of trips, including a long-anticipated tour of Scotland.

Fonvielle will not be giving up on history. He’s completing a different project: a history of the Battle of Moore’s Creek Bridge, the 1776 conflict in which area Patriot militias scattered Loyalist Highlanders marching from what is now Fayetteville toward Wilmington.

Mastering the Revolutionary War era has been “a steep learning curve,” Fonvielle said, but he’s had fun. It gave him a chance to learn new history — for instance, that the prefix “Mac-” means “son of” in Scottish names.

Fonvielle said he also wants to finish a biography of William B. Cushing, “Lincoln’s Commando,” a dashing U.S. Navy officer who, among other exploits, floated a fake gunboat, or monitor, past Fort Anderson to trick the defenders and draw their fire.

Growing up in Wilmington, Fonvielle remembered traveling out with his mother — WWAY-TV news personality Jane Fonvielle — to see the excavations of Brunswick Town and Fort Anderson by the famed archaeologist Stanley South. “He gave me a trowel and put me in the basement of one of the colonial houses and told me, ‘See what you can find,’” Fonvielle recalled.

After graduating from New Hanover High School (where, he proudly notes, he was the first soccer-style place kicker in North Carolina football history), Fonvielle moved on to UNCW, where he earned an anthropology degree.

He headed the Blockade Runner Museum at Carolina Beach from 1979 until its closure in 1983, then worked briefly at Cape Fear Museum, which had acquired the artifacts.

After earning his master’s degree and Ph.D. and briefly teaching at ECU, he returned to UNCW in 1997. He’s been there ever since.

“I’ve had a great career, and I wouldn’t change a thing,” Fonvielle said. “I’ve worked in my home town and taught at my alma mater.”

Reporter Ben Steelman can be reached at 910-343-2208 or Ben.Steelman@StarNewsOnline.com.

 

http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20180518/boyhood-book-helped-forge-local-historians-career

May Meeting – Jan Davidson of Cape Fear Museum

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, May 21, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Join this month’s speaker, Jan Davidson, Cape Fear Museum’s historian, as she takes you on a historical tour of Federal Point’s history through artifacts.   Learn a little bit about what’s been acquired over the years and the stories you can tell through exploring the Museum’s collection.   Cape Fear Museum has a range of items—photographs, bullets, cash registers, brochures, commemorative plates, cameras, flags, postcards, and even a urinal–that shed light on the region’s stories.

Jan Davidson grew up in Wales and moved to the US in 1988.  In 2000, she earned her PhD from the University of Delaware.  She worked at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History as the historian for the exhibit, America on the Move, before she came to North Carolina in 2005.  Since that time, she has served as the Cape Fear Museum’s historian, where she researches the history of the region for talks, exhibits, and programs.

 

Did You Know?

In March of 1898, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) first opened the Museum in one room on the second floor of the Wilmington Light Infantry’s (WLI) building. Since its founding, the Museum has moved around the city. It was housed in two rooms in the County courthouse annex in the late 1920s and then on the third floor of the Police Station building in the 1960s. Since 1970, it has been located at 814 Market Street, in what was a National Guard Armory building.

Just as the building and management has changed over time so too has the scope of the Museum’s collection and its mission. Originally, the institution was founded to preserve Confederate objects and Confederate memories of the Civil War. After the reopening in the 1930s, many new objects were collected, broadening the Museum’s holdings to include a wider range of historical items.

Over the decades, the collection grew to represent regional, national, and international art, history, and science artifacts. Today, the Museum draws on a collection of more than 52,000 items to help us explore a wide range of topics and to tell balanced and inclusive local stories.

 

President’s Letter – May, 2018

By Elaine Henson

This summer we are planning to conduct guided historical tours of our boardwalk.  They will be on a weekday morning, last about 40 minutes and include the history and pictures of the ten to twelve historic buildings/businesses we will feature.  We are also planning a new Boardwalk exhibit at our History Center.

Looking at the definition of the word “boardwalk” the dictionary says: “1. a wide sidewalk, usually made of boards, near the water at a shore resort:  The boardwalk at Atlantic City is a famous promenade2. any sidewalk made of boards.  They enabled early beach goers to walk without getting bogged down and their shoes filled with sand.

Carolina Beach began as a resort in the summer of 1887.  Captain John W. Harper had been taking steamers from downtown Wilmington to Southport and back for many years passing the Federal Point peninsula along the way.  He had the idea to build a pavilion, a hotel, and a restaurant near the ocean for excursionists.  They would ride the steamer down the Cape Fear River to a dock then board a little train that would carry them over to the sea beach. The tracks followed present day Harper Avenue.

The picture above is a vintage post card of Captain Harper’s pavilion with the train pulled up to the back where the passengers would step down onto a boardwalk to enter the pavilion. The front faced the ocean and also had a boardwalk that connected to the Railroad Station Restaurant and the Oceanic Hotel that first year. Later there were bath houses, amusements, and houses connected by boardwalks. Notice the board from the track over to some marsh grass. The pavilion burned in 1910 and was rebuilt opening the next year.  Both were designed by Wilmington architect Henry Bonitz who also designed Wrightsville’s famed Lumina.

The photo to the right shows the later pavilion during the 1920s with three lovely ladies standing at the end of a boardwalk with a fourth, in middy attire, standing on the sand. Hans Kure had several businesses and a summer home at Carolina Beach in the early 1900s.

 

 

This is a photo of his Ten Pin Alley and Bar with a banner advertising Trap Shooting.  Alongside the railroad track is a boardwalk which connected all the buildings there in those early days.

Next Month: The Boardwalk, Part II

 

Carolina Beach Boardwalk in Postcards — Front and Back

 

Carolina Beach

“Carolina Beach, North Carolina, has such a fine hard beach that at low tide automobiles can be driven for miles on the water’s edge. It is one of the few Atlantic Ocean Resorts where one can drive directly to the beach. This playground is located fourteen miles south of Wilmington and is gaining rapidly as a popular Summer Resort”.

 

 

Carolina Beach, N. C. by Moonlight   “The South’s Miracle Beach”

“This is the kind of resort which offers everything dear to the hearts of the vacationist; a beach strand which stretches into the distant haze; spacious hotels, large guest homes and cottages, and hundreds of private homes. It is a haven to the young high school and college crowd. With two long piers jutting out to the very breeding grounds of the game sea denizens, it is ‘’fishing home’ to countless thousands of sportsmen all over the South.”

 

 

 

“At Night on the Midway at

Carolina Beach, Near Wilmington, N. C.”

 

 

 

 

Carolina Beach

“This is the kind of resort which offers everything dear to the hearts of the vacationist; a beach strand which stretches into the distant haze; spacious hotels, large guest homes and cottages, and hundreds of private homes. It is a haven to the young high school and college crowd. With two long piers jutting out to the very breeding grounds of the game sea denizens, it is ‘’fishing home’ to countless thousands of sportsmen all over the South.”

 

 

 

Carolina Beach, N. C.

“Main walk way and playground area at Carolina Beach, the friendly resort of Southeastern North Carolina.”

 

 

 

Beauties on Parade on Main Boardwalk

Carolina Beach, N. C. “The South’s Miracle Beach’”

“This is the kind of resort which offers everything dear to the hearts of the vacationist; a beach strand which stretches into the distant haze; spacious hotels, large guest homes and cottages, and hundreds of private homes. It is a haven to the young high school and college crowd. With two long piers jutting out to the very breeding grounds of the game sea denizens, it is ‘’fishing home’ to countless  thousands of sportsmen all over the South.”

 

 

 

Boardwalk Scene, Carolina Beach, N. C.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Lion’s Club Wishing Well at Carolina Beach, N. C.

The Friendly Resort”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Society Notes – May, 2018

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

 

Free to a Good Home

Early issues of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society Newsletters

New to the Society? 

Interested in reading about our early history?

We’ve uncovered a stash of old Newsletters and are giving them away free.

Stop by the History Center any time we’re open and check out what’s left.

… or read early digital issues of Federal Point History here.

 

   

DON’T FORGET! Our June meeting (June 18, 6:30 pm) is our annual potluck picnic.

A perfect time to invite a friend who might be interested in joining our friendly and welcoming group!


Our Gift Shop’s Current Bestseller!

Images of America: Kure Beach
By Brenda Fry Coffey

Arcadia Books, April 2018

 

 

 

 

 


VOLUNTEERS NEEDED! We will be conducting weekly “Historic Boardwalk” tours on Tuesday mornings this summer. If you are up to about a 40 minute walk, we’ll provide the script and pictures you can show to people about how it looked in “yesteryear.” If you can help for one or two Tuesday mornings this summer, please call Darlene Bright at 910-228-3424


  • The History Center recorded 101 visitors in April! We had 30 in attendance at the April Meeting.
  • Thanks to Cheri McNeill, Darlene Bright, and Rebecca Taylor for the refreshments for Brenda Coffey’s book signing event. We had a great turnout and the book is selling well.
  • The History Center was used for meetings held by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, the Pleasure Island Sea Turtle Project and the Ryder Lewis Civil War Park Committee.
  • Thanks to this month’s volunteers. Mary Anne Targonski and Peg Fisher who brought refreshments for the April meeting.  Darlene is in the process of training our new treasurer, Ed Capel!