The Gullah Geechee Cultural Corridor

By Nancy Gadzuk

[Tap or click on any image]

Sean Palmer, Director of the Upperman African American Cultural Center at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, was the speaker at the February 18, 2019 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. Sean spoke on the Gullah Geechee Cultural Corridor.

The Gullah Geechee Cultural Corridor is a stretch of land about 30 miles wide that follows the Atlantic coastline from Pender County, North Carolina down to St. Johns County, Florida. Geographically, this area is very similar to coastal west Africa, where rice was already being cultivated in the 17th century.

Enslaved Africans were brought to what is now the southeastern U.S. coast because they had the knowledge, techniques, and skills in irrigation and rice cultivation to work the rice plantations and make them profitable for their wealthy owners.

Life was hard for these enslaved people. The average life span of a worker in the rice plantations was only five to seven years. Children were brought as slaves because they were young enough to survive the treacherous ocean voyage from Africa, and then do back-breaking work in the rice fields.

Only recently has the “brain trust” of enslaved Africans been acknowledged for the skills and knowledge they brought to tame the swamp for growing and processing rice and indigo.

Of course these enslaved people brought more than their environmental engineering knowledge to the Americas. They brought arts, language, food, music, and spiritual beliefs.

Ivey Hayes, Harry Davis, and Jonathan Green are three African American artists who have featured Gullah Geechee culture and people in their art. Sweetgrass baskets are unique to the Gullah Geechee and the intricate designs and fine handwork make them prized collectors’ items.

Gullah Geechee language forms the framework for Ebonics and African American linguistic traditions and rhythms that show up in preaching, folklore, and hip hop.

Spiritual beliefs infuse all of Gullah Geechee life. One example is the belief that the color blue attracts the spirit world. Porch roofs may be painted “haunt blue” to attract spirits, and bottle trees decked with blue bottles are designed to attract the spirits the porch might miss. Enslaved people built praise houses or prayer houses on plantations to maintain and enrich their humanity despite the inhuman and inhumane system of slavery that bound them.

Each year, the Upperman Center runs an alternative spring break for students, tied to their larger thematic program. The 2018 spring break was “Travelin Round De Bend” and students got to explore the Gullah Geechee corridor, visiting museums, restaurants, and waterways in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. Students learned about the complexities of language, slavery, land, and traditional Gullah cuisine in their five-day trip.

Fortunately for the rest of us, their complete itinerary is available online, and it provides some great road trip ideas for learning more about the Gullah Geechee. There are also links to all the museums they visited:

Gullah Geechee culture is built on the back and blood of slavery, and there is nothing wrong with acknowledging and understanding all of our history, the negative as well as the positive. What would be wrong is repeating certain parts of this history.


March Meeting: Celebration of our 25th Anniversary

Monday, February 18, 2019  – 7:30 PM

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, March 18, 2019, at 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Federal Point Historic Preservation Society
Founded March 28, 1994

Join us for a trip down memory lane as our founding members talk about the early years of the Society.

There will be special refreshments and time to talk about all the projects the Society has been involved with over the years.

      Newton Homesite and Cemetery

Beauregard Shipwreck Overlook

Sedgeley Abbey

President’s Letter — March, 2019

By Elaine Henson

FPHPS 25th Anniversary, Gazebo/Picnic Shelter

This month we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.  The organization was incorporated on March 28, 1994.  In those early days the Society met at various places including Fort Fisher State Historic Site, but after a few years they were eyeing the gazebo/picnic shelter next to the Town Hall complex in the 1100 block of North Lake Park Boulevard.

The Town of Carolina Beach had purchased the former Blockade Runner Museum in 1989 to remodel and expand into the present day town complex.  The property included a replica of a 19th Century open air public market which was used as a picnic shelter for school groups and visitors to the museum.

In the late 1990s, FPHPS approached the town about converting the picnic shelter into a meeting space.  After a couple of years, the town gave the go ahead and the fund raising and gathering of materials began.

There were generous donations from many individuals from the Federal Point area, Wilmington and New Hanover County.  Many donated money, materials, services, talents and man hours.  Just to name a few, the HVAC was donated by Taylor Heating and Air; M & M Plumbing donated their labor and got a vendor to donate fixtures; EWE Electrical donated their labor; Hanover Iron Works donated the shingles and Lowes gave a discount on all the building materials and other purchases.

Many organizations donated their time such as the Junior Sorosis who donated and installed the ceiling tiles and the North Carolina Aquarium employees who helped with the display cases.  FPHPS members, their families and other volunteers worked tirelessly to complete enclosing the picnic shelter and adding a 16-foot addition to the back to make the almost 1600 square foot History Center.

Upon completion they held a grand opening celebration on March 30, 2001.  The guest speaker was Lisbeth Evans, Secretary of North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.


The Early Years of Federal Point History Center

The 1990s

♦  June 22, 1994: First Speaker, Catherine Bishir of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Historic Preservation Section

♦  October 21, 22, 23, 1994: First fundraiser “Ocean Plaza Ballroom Blast” Featuring Chicken Hicks

♦  Fall 1994: First Newsletter, editor Sandy Jackson

Ballroom Blast, 1994

♦  December 1994 – October 1995: First Preservation Campaign – Protection and preservation of the historic plantation ruins of  Sedgeley Abbey

♦  March 1995: Lighthouse logo, created by Martin Peebles, adopted

♦  Spring 1995: Agreement with Town of Carolina Beach for the construction of the Beauregard Shipwreck Overlook

♦  April 1995: Bingo fundraiser

♦  Spring 1995: Ocean Plaza and Joy Lee Apartments nominated to the National Register of Historic Places

♦  July 1995: Fort Fisher Revetment Project, advocacy, support, and ground breaking

♦  October 20-22, 1995: Second Annual Ocean Plaza Reunion

♦  Received $10,000 grant from North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources for compiling an inventory of known historic sites and cartographic inventory of Federal Point, directed by Sandy Jackson

♦  May 26, 1996: Hosted a celebration marking the 50th Anniversary of the Ocean Plaza Building. Wilmington Concert Band performed, followed by a fashion show in keeping with the original opening in 1946

♦  August 18, 1996: Participated in Belk “Preservation Celebration” fundraiser

♦  June 22, 1997: Oakdale Cemetery guided tour by E. F. “Gene” Risley Jr.

Beauregard Shipwreck Overlook

♦  Saturday October 18, 1997: Barbeque fundraiser

♦  November 15, 1997: Traditional Holiday Decorating Workshop, hosted by Fort Fisher State Historic Site, with demonstrations by staff members of Tryon Palace

♦  February, 1998: First Cookbook

♦  February, 1998: House Plaque Committee was formed and drafted guidelines for plaquing historic buildings

♦  March 1998: Published Monuments & Markers of Federal Point, North Carolina compiled by Sandy Jackson

♦  May, 1998: Fundraiser: Raffle of framed art print of the Federal Point Lighthouse by Kay Robbins

♦  Summer, 1998: Entered into an agreement with MOTSU to maintain, prepare signage and protect the Newton Homesite and Graveyard. Work began with construction of a wooden fence

♦  September, 1998: The first historic plaques were awarded to the Loughlin Cottage, Burnett Beach Cottage, and Ocean Plaza Ballroom, all over 50 years old and of significance to the community

♦  December 5, 1998: “Down East” Barbecue fundraiser

Newton Homesite and Cemetery

♦  February, 1999 – Entered into a lease with the Town of Carolina Beach for the Gazebo structure to be converted into the Federal Point History Center

♦  April 1999: Sugar Loaf Battle marker moved from Dow Rd. to Federal Point History Center

♦  May, 1999: First Student Essay Contest open to fifth grade classes at Carolina Beach Elementary School was won by Waverly Jones

♦  May 23, 1999: First fundraising Cruise – Aboard Pirate IV

♦  June 27, 1999: Commemorative Ceremony held celebrating the listing of Newton Homesite and Graveyard in the National Register of Historic Places

♦  October 22, 1999: Ground breaking for renovation of the Gazebo structure to become the Federal Point History Center


Society Notes – March, 2019

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

Lois Taylor

Editor’s Privilege: Longtime member, Lois Taylor, passed away on Monday February 18 at the Brunswick Care Center of Lower Cape Fear Hospice. Lois joined FPHPS in 2000 soon after she moved to Kure Beach. She served as Secretary of the Society for many years and she is the reason Rebecca works here now.

Lois’s father was a U.S. History and Civics teacher in the Youngstown, OH schools for almost 40 years and she was a keen observer of politics at the state and national level. When traveling, every time they passed a historical marker she demanded they screech to a halt, pull over, and read it.  Her love of history led her to attend every historical lecture, program, and event that took place in our area and she was a charter member of the Chris Fonvielle Fan Club!

Lois spent 25 years as office manager for her husband’s CPA firm and worked as a freight pilot for International Harvester in the 1980s and 1990s. She was very active in the Ohio Chapter of the Ninety-Nines, an international club of women pilots. After she retired to Kure Beach, her interests included turtle tracking at the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, and playing bridge.

At various times she belonged to five book clubs. She also traveled with numerous Road Scholar groups, and managed to visit every continent except Antarctica.  Her greatest joy was indulging her 2 daughters, 2 granddaughters, and 1 great granddaughter.

The History Center recorded 53 visitors in February. There were 50 people in attendance at the February meeting. The History Center was used by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Club, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and Step Up For Soldiers.

Welcome to member, Brian and Whitney Tribble of Wilmington and Jeanette Koshar of Carolina Beach.

Thanks to Jim Kohler for helping with the Newsletter, Steve Arthur for removing our “swimming pool,” and general moral support. Thanks to Cheri McNeill and Steve Arthur for the February refreshments.

Upcoming Programs:

Monday, April 15, 2019: 7:30-9:00 pm.
Program: Richard Jones, who is licensed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to grow Venus Flytraps, will talk about the history and biology of our most famous native plant.

Monday, May 20, 2019: 7:30-9:00.
Program: Chris Fonvielle returns to talk about the Battles of Sugar Loaf, which took place on January 19 and February 11, 1865. The Union’s repeated defeat forced them to move troops across the river and approach Wilmington from the west.


A Look Back at Our First Year – 1994

[Editor: To view this PDF of the 1995 Newsletter in full screen, click on the page title above.  Mobile devices have better viewing by clicking the title above then holding the device horizontally.]

A Look Back at Our First Year - 1994

From our Feb. 2019 Newsletter:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Lynn Benson, who passed away recently. Lynn was a founding member of our Society, which formed in March, 1994. 

Lynn served as an Officer and Board member through 2006.  She had a keen interest in local history and genealogy. She was a very active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  Lynn will be missed by all.