President’s Letter – June, 2018

 

By Elaine Henson

Boardwalk, Part II

 

 

By the 1920s the boardwalk at Carolina Beach stretched along the strand north of Harper Avenue South to Cape Fear Boulevard connecting to bath houses, concessions and other businesses.  The pavilion, called casino in this post card, remained the centerpiece of beach activity located just a few feet south of Harper. The boardwalk connected it to the Ocean View Hotel built in 1929.  The Ocean View is left of center in this photograph with the pavilion on the right.

 

By 1925 the town was incorporated with Robert Plummer as the first mayor.  His home and general store were on Cape Fear Boulevard bordering the boardwalk and across from the Greystone Hotel built in 1916.  The wooden Bame Hotel was built in 1930 next door to the Greystone. In the 30s the boardwalks were replaced and extended as a post-Depression project by the WPA.

 

The three story Bame Hotel and Greystone, with its roof top dance floor, are seen on the right on the postcard below of Cape Fear Boulevard.  Plummer’s Store, which also served as an early post office, is across the street behind the pavilion. West of Plummer’s is an early miniature golf course.  Both sides of Cape Fear are lined with boardwalks.

 

 

Next month:  Boardwalk, Part III

 

Boardwalk History Tours Begin June 19, 2018

Coming this Summer!

 

Guided Tour

Historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk

10 am every Tuesday!

 

 

 

June 19, 2018 – August 7, 2018

40 minute guided walking tour

 

Meet on the Boardwalk at the southwest corner of the new Hampton Inn.

Park at: the Municipal Parking lot across from the Town Marina, as close as you can get to the Hampton Inn.

Donation requested: $5.00 per person.

 

 

The Carolina Beach Boardwalk – From the Bill Reeves Files

August 28, 1893:  During the hurricane there was a high tide at Carolina Beach.  It broke over the beach into the sound and washed up the boardwalk in front of the cottages.  Some of the fences were blown down, but no other damage was done.  Capt. Harper brought his steamer WILMINGTON to the beach to be in readiness to take the people off.  They found everything quiet and no one alarmed.  Residents in the cottages situated for a mile along the beach preferred to stay in their cottages.  Many of the beach visitors wanted the opportunity to see the ocean in all its grandeur, with the wild waves lashing the beach, throwing the surf high in the air.  WILM. STAR, 8-29-1893.

November 10, 1936:  Believed to be the first in North Carolina, an application for the establishment of a highway emergency Red Cross first aid station at Carolina Beach was forwarded to the national headquarters of the American Red Cross.  The station was to be located, after approval, on the boardwalk at Carolina Beach in the town hall.  The site had been inspected by Red Cross representatives and found satisfactory.  The workers who were to administer first aid at the station had just completed a 15-hour course under J. N. Thomas, a Red Cross trained instructor.  WILM. NEWS, 11-9-1936.

August 2, 1940: A four-bout amateur boxing card was to be presented at the Carolina Club on the boardwalk at Carolina Beach.  The main match was between Tiny Taylor, 218 pounds of Wilmington, Golden Gloves champion of southeastern United States, and Huck Liles, the ―Pride of Raleigh.  In the semi-finals engagement, John Johnson, 185 pounds, of Raleigh, will battle Fred Barnhill, of Wilmington, the local Golden Gloves light-heavyweight champion. E. E. Taylor was the promoter of the card.  WILM. STAR, 8-2-1940.

June 6, 1941: Carolina Beach opened tonight for the new season.  Aside from the new, $500,000 midway and business district, hundreds of new cottages and guest houses had been built during the winter and spring.  The famous midway was more varied this year than previously.  There were more rides, more concessions, larger stores, longer and wider boardwalks, more benches,  public drinking fountains, and a bathing strand which was one-third wider than last year.  The life guards added more men and the latest equipment obtainable, and they had enlarged the limits of the restricted bathing area. Carolina Beach was being called ―The Nation’s Miracle Beach.  Untrue rumors were being spread that the beach was now filled with soldiers and defense workers and visitors were being discouraged from visiting the beach. WILM. STAR, 6-6-1941.

Summer, 1943:  Carolina Beach (Related by Chicken Hicks) ―Carolina Beach was just like a state fair 24 hours a day.  There were at least eight jump joints that were just a dance floor and a juke box.  They offered rhythm and blues.  Running along the ocean front in the town’s center was a wooden boardwalk, raised 3 to 10 feet above the sand.  It was flanked by two rows of one and two-story rooming houses and cottages filled with vacationers.  Service men from nearby bases swarmed the boardwalk, vendors sold beer, hot dogs, surf mats and towels, and children frolicked at the water‘s edge.  Navy ducks shuttled people back and forth to fishing boats anchored offshore.  Every morning loud-speakers blared out Glenn Miller‘s ―Sunrise Serenade.  A corner café was open 24 hours per day.

There was ―fas’ dancin’ (what came to be called the shag) in every nook and cranny on the boardwalk.  Carolina Beach was where the majority of people came to dance.  An arcade was known as Danceland.  The Green Lantern, which sold beer and rented surf mats during the day, also had a juke box.  Nickels clanked in the nickelodeons and leather soles shuffled and slid across the sandy floors in special open-air juke joints, called ―sugar-bowls, as the surf pounded the background rhythm.

One of the oldest buildings, built in 1946, was ―smack dab in the middle of the boardwalk.  It housed the ―Milk Pail restaurant, the Tijuana Inn and a swimmer‘s bath-house on the first floor.  Upstairs was the Ocean Plaza Ballroom renowned for its big bands.  With a 5,000-square-foot floor, the Ocean Plaza was the largest dance hall on the beach, holding 500 people, elbow to elbow.  Large French double-door windows opened up for the ocean breezes.  Here you could catch Jack Teagarden play trombone and watch the dancers, called jitterbugs.

The boardwalk at Carolina Beach teamed with service men.  After World War II, fights broke out between the jealous service men and the jitterbugs, who were often called beach bums.  There were fights with the Army, the paratroopers and the Marines.

Across from the Ocean Plaza was a club called The Roof one year and Bop City another.  Jimmy Cavello’s Combo was the house band in 1948.  Some of the best records used in the jukeboxes came from the black beach at Sea Breeze.  The forbidden black jive music jumped the Jim Crow rope.  Some of the popular records were Joe Liggins’ I’ve Got a Right To Cry, Paul Williams’ The Hucklebuck, Buddy Johnson’s Fine Brown Frame, Wynonie Harris’ Good Rockin’ Tonight, Erskine Hawkins’ Tippin’ In, Lucky Millinder’s Big Fat Mama and Count Basie’s One O’Clock Boogie.  On the south end of the boardwalk, past Batson’s Jump Joint, was the Sugar Bowl No. 2, an open-air oceanfront dance floor, 70-by-30 feet, bounded by railings. THE STATE – JULY, 1994

September 8, 1943:   Carolina Beach was boasting about its community clinic located in the back room of the old city hall on the boardwalk.  Through the courtesy of Mrs. Homer Wysong, widow of the late Dr. Homer Wysong, this first aid station was equipped. The staff included three registered nurses and three Red Cross graduates and three volunteers. Mrs. Hannah Block of Wilmington and Carolina Beach worked hard to get this clinic started.  She had the clinic room painted snow white. A course of Red Cross first aid was to be offered on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 7 p.m. for five weeks. WILM. NEWS, 9-9-1943.


More articles:   Bill Reaves Files – by Subject.

Federal Point Chronology 1725 – 1994  Compiled By Bill Reaves

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

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”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Meeting – Lynn Welborn on the History of Sport on the Island

Monday, April 16, 20187:30 PM

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, April 16, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Lynn Welborn’s program will focus on the organized sports that were offered on the island prior to 1980, little league baseball (one team), youth soccer (two teams) and church league basketball (various number of teams depending on the year). A discussion of other sports prior to organized sports will also be included.

Dr. Lynn R. Welborn is an award-winning journalist and professor who recently published his debut novel, Crazy Beach, about growing up on the island in the 60s and 70s.

Dr. Welborn was raised on the island, attended Carolina Beach Elementary School, Sunset Junior High, Williston 9th Grade Center and graduated from Hoggard. He played multiple sports both on the island and for local schools.

Welborn went to work in the newspaper business, getting his start at the Island Gazette the paper’s first year. His career path led him to several major newspapers, radio stations, and after earning his Doctorate degree, a career as a professor.  Currently, Dr. Lynn R. Welborn (DM, MBA) is the owner of – QLC- Quantum Leap Consulting.

[Read more on Crazy Beach in this month’s Society Notes and Ben Steelman’s review of the book and plans for a sequel in the StarNews.]

 

President’s Letter – April, 2018

The Breakers Hotel, Part IV
by Elaine Henson

In this Breakers Hotel ad from the Sunday Star News, June 13, 1948 edition, one can see that the building has been stuccoed and painted white giving it a whole new look.  The ad’s photo shows the side of the Breakers that faced the street. It also shows a north wing and south wing with a recessed porch in between.  The lobby and dining room faced the ocean on the other side along with the long porch running the building’s length.  The original 50 bedrooms have been converted to 73 and the manager that year was George Earl Russ.

In late 1951, the Breakers was purchased by Earl Russ and John Crews.  They spent $5,000 in repairs and new furnishings before a fire broke out in the southern wing apartment on January 10, 1952.  The fire mainly affected the southern wing with the main part and northern wing unscathed.

Two years after the fire, Russ and Crews sold the hotel to Lawrence C. Kure and Glenn Tucker.  They had bought the Wilmington Beach Corporation which included the remaining unsold land.

Tucker planned to market the remaining building lots and Kure planned to build a 1,000 foot pier in front of the Breakers to be named the Wilmington Beach Pier.

It was begun in December of 1953 and completed in time for the 1954 summer season. That was the pier’s  only summer.  On October 15, 1954, mighty Hurricane Hazel destroyed the pier and most of the hotel.

What remained was later torn down bringing an end to the Breakers Hotel.

On its footprint today is Sea Colony Condominiums, between the Golden Sands and Pelican Watch.

The pier ruins stayed on for many years and was nicknamed “Stub Pier” by locals.  It was just south of Center Pier which also opened that summer of 1954, and suffered damage in the only Category 4 hurricane to hit our area in all of the Twentieth Century to present.

 

Fisherman’s Steel Pier

Carolina Beach, NC  (1956 – 1977)

Excerpt from North Carolina’s Ocean Fishing Piers by Al Baird

If there was ever a pier that described the disclaimer ‘It seemed like a good idea at the time,’ it would be Fisherman’s Steel Pier on Carolina Beach.

J.R. Bame and his son J.C. Bame, both Carolina Beach businessmen, were approached with the idea to build a steel pier in 1955. The elder Bame, who already owned a hotel and Center Pier, thought it was a good idea.

In Spring of 1955, they began construction on the state’s third steel pier. The price tag was estimated at about $75,000. At the very beginning of construction, Hurricane Connie destroyed half of what had been built, but the pier was operational by 1956.

Angler Jack Wood recalls the location of Fisherman’s Steel Pier as ‘downtown at the boardwalk.’ The entrance was behind the bumper cars and north of the putt-putt. That put it right across the street from Carolina Beach’s largest amusement park, Seashore Park.

“The pier was built on the site of the Fergus cottage, which was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel, and R.C. Fergus would later become part owner. The one-thousand-foot-long pier was an instant attraction, but – as was the case with other steel piers in the state – the metal did not hold up in the salt water.”

“Fisherman’s Steel Pier had an arcade and a grill, but the main feature was the Skyliner chairlift, which lifted sightseers thirty feet into the air and out over the length of the pier. Many old postcards of the pier and the ride can be found online and in antique stores.”

“In the late 1960s, Bame and Fergus sold Fisherman’s Steel Pier to Effie and Howard McGirt from Zebulon, North Carolina, who were looking for something to do during their retirement years at the beach. One common postcard from 1970 shows the McGirts standing in front of the Skyliner ride at the entrance of the pier.”

“The pier lost about 150 feet to a storm in 1969, and by the early 1970’s, the pier was too much upkeep for the McGirt’s, who returned it to Bame and Fergus. Fisherman’s Steel Pier was closed and demolished shortly after.”

 

Upcoming Events – Walk to Sugar Loaf and Walk of Fame

Walk the “Sugar Loaf Line-of-Defense” with Chris Fonvielle

Saturday March 17, 2017  – 2 pm to 4 pm

Donation $10.00

To register call 910-458-0502.

Including the entrenchments in the proposed “Ryder Lewis Park”

 

 


Don’t Miss the 2018 ‘Walk of Fame’ Ceremony

 Saturday March 24, 2018

1:00 pm

At the Carolina Beach Lake