Carolina Beach in 1897 – A Delightful Ocean Resort

from: The Wilmington Messenger, August 22, 1897

The Wilmington - from 'A Colonial Apparition, A Story of the Cape Fear', 1898 – by James Sprunt

The Wilmington – from ‘A Colonial Apparition, A Story of the Cape Fear’, 1898 – by James Sprunt

Carolina Beach, as a seaside resort, has great advantages, as reported in The Wilmington Messenger, dated August 22, 1897. The best proof of this is that it is visited by thousands annually. It has become the Mecca of excursion parties.

In the summer of 1896, the steamer Wilmington, which conveys passengers to the beach from Wilmington, sold, as it is shown by its returns to the inspector of steamboats, 32,000 round trip tickets.

During this summer since the opening in May, 1897, to the present date, the steamer Wilmington, has taken up, in round numbers, 48,000 round trip tickets.

Of these, Captain Harper estimates that one-half were visitors from the Wilmington area and one-half were visitors from other section of North Carolina and other states, and this number of tickets does not represent the whole number of persons carried, for no charge is made for children under the age of 10 years, and there are thousands of these that annually visit the beach.

One might write volumes in description of Carolina Beach, and yet could write nothing that would praise in higher terms the attractions of this resort than this simple recital of facts.

Opened in 1885
Carolina Beach and Captain John W. Harper are associated together in the public mind. Previous to 1885, he commanded the steamer, Passport, plying between Wilmington and Southport, and during the summer months, carried many excursion parties and passengers down the river.

Capt John Harper

Capt John Harper

He conceived the idea of a seaside resort on the ocean beach, with a railroad across the narrow peninsula lying between the ocean and the river, there to connect by steamer with the City of Wilmington. He organized the New Hanover Transit Co., which constructed the railroad, and located the resort at the lower end of Masonboro Sound immediately on the Atlantic Ocean.

He named the place Carolina Beach and in the summer of 1885 the resort was first opened to the public. The little steamer, Passport, the pioneer in this river excursion parties, now out of service, is pleasantly remembered in association with the beach. From the first the resort was a favorite. At first, patronized chiefly by the Wilmington people, it has since grown into larger proportions and now includes in its frequent visitors people from all sections of this and other states.

How Reached – Steamer Wilmington
Steamer WilmingtonThe steamer, Wilmington, runs between Wilmington and the river pier, conveying passengers and freight. It is a comfortable, swift, and commodious steamer, designed especially for her present character of transportation.

She is in length 135 feet, breadth 23 feet, tonnage 110 net, double decked, compound engines, and is allowed by the United States steamboat inspection service to carry 600 passengers a trip.

She can carry 2,000 passengers a day, as she makes five trips daily. The steamer is owned and commanded by Captain Harper. He likewise owns a controlling interest in the beach and the railroad across from the river to the ocean. To this fact may be ascribed, for he is a man of executive capacity and experience, the safe, smooth, and easy system by which the large crowds are handled.

Captain Harper has had an experience of twenty-one summers in handling passenger steamers on the Cape Fear. In this time he has never lost a day in the service, nor ever had an accident on any of the boats under his command. He commands order and requires of his crew and passengers a courteous consideration for the pleasure, comfort and rights of the many who travel under his care.

Sail Down the River

The visitor boards the steamer, Wilmington, at her pier, in the City, the foot of Market Street, and the steamer having cast her moorings he finds himself swiftly gliding down the river, which is a broad and beautiful stream, passing on either side scenes of historic interest and natural attractiveness.

The sea breezes, which sweep up the river, refresh and invigorate, while passing ships, steamers, tugs, both domestic and foreign, which ply along the river, engaged in local, domestic and foreign commerce, enliven the scene, as the steamer speeds on to the pier of the New Hanover Transit Co. – a distance down the river of about fifteen miles.

New Hanover Transit Company

Shoo-fly Train at Carolina Beach

Shoo-fly Train at Carolina Beach

At the pier of the New Hanover Transit Co., which is the river terminus of the railroad running between the river and the Atlantic, Ocean, in length three miles, the passenger is transferred to the railroad car, and after a few moments ride on the train through woodland scenery, he is landed at Carolina Beach, in jumping distance of the great ocean.

He has made the trip from Wilmington in one hour and fifteen minutes.


from 'A Colonial Apparition, A Story of the Cape Fear' – by James Sprunt

from ‘A Colonial Apparition, A Story of the Cape Fear’, 1898 – by James Sprunt

Its Location
The site of Carolina Beach has been well selected. The hotel, pavilions and cottages are all situated on the beach, fronting the ocean. There is a stretch of twenty miles of beautiful beach. It is wide, hard, smooth and slopes gently to the ocean, extending northward to Masonboro Inlet, which divides this beach from the beach at Wrightsville, and southward as far as the celebrated Fort Fisher.

Behind the cottages lay the waters of the lower end of Masonboro Sound, which affords delightful still water bathing and opportunities for fishing and sailing; back of the site are pine groves, water oak and woodland scenery.

It is within one-half of a mile of what is known as Camp Wyatt. Here in the Civil War the Confederate soldiers stood guard of the coast defenses. As one looks out upon the Atlantic, he sees the wrecks, still two or three blockade runners, which failing in their attempt to run into New Inlet and escape the blockade, were destroyed rather than permit them to pass into the hands of the enemy.

Carolina Moon Pavillion NHC Library - LT Moore Collection

Carolina Moon Pavilion c. 1907
NHC Library – L.T. Moore Collection

Its Advantages and Pleasures
It is perfectly healthy, for the land upon which it is situated is dry and well drained. The visitor breaths only the pure air of the ocean. The sea breezes make it always cool and refreshing. The surf bathing is rendered comparatively safe by the gentle slope of the beach.

To say that the ocean water is better here than elsewhere on the coast might strike an inland man as exaggerated. The fact is, however, the water of the ocean further south is too warm and insipid; farther north it is chilled and one can remain in it but a few moments. The temperature of the water here, as along this Carolina coast, is neither to warm or too cool; it has a delightful temperature.

It is nothing for surf bathers to remain in the surf for an hour, with impunity, and as in this time one is undergoing continuous active exercise, accompanied by the pleasure of bathing, the benefit is greater than where his bathing is made necessarily short by the discomfort of the water. there are all the facilities, of course, for surf bathing and protection to bathers while in the enjoyment of the sport.

There are splendid opportunities for fishing either in the ocean or in the sound, and sailing, either over the smooth waters of Masonboro or the rolling billows of the ocean. The sheep-head, drum and sea-trout are the fish usually landed by the sportsman. The beach excellent facilities for driving and bicycling, and is a play ground for the children of endless interest and amusement to them. All the pleasures of the sea are here.

Oceanic Hotel
Bill-Reaves-Carolina-Beach-The-Oceanic-Hotel-Rocks-May-15-1893The Oceanic Hotel is kept by Mr. R. A. Jenkins. It is the rendezvous of excursion parties. The proprietor does not undertake to serve Delmonico meals, but one may have at all times well served sheepshead, soft shell crabs, shrimps and, in season, oysters, as well as all the delicacies that come out of the sea. The hotel comfortably accommodates a limited number of transient boarders.

Cottage Life
There are forty private cottages at Carolina Beach, owned by residents at Wilmington, Charlotte and elsewhere. The housewife has comparatively little trouble in keeping house. Merchants of Wilmington send daily to the cottages for orders and deliver goods at the door. The fisherman and truckers deliver in like manner fish, game and vegetables. Water is supplied by water works and sanitation provided in modern methods.

The cottage life of this resort is one of the most agreeable and peculiar features. The afternoons and evenings are spent in many kinds of social enjoyment and in the interchange of hospitalities between the cottagers. Time passes among them, not in the nervous and enervating excitements of fashionable life, but in the quiet, peaceful life and occupation suggested by the fresh air and natural environments of the place.

The management reserves at all times the best of order, although there are few temptations to invite on the part of anyone the least disorderly conduct, and as a result of the excellent decorum alike among permanent and transient visitors, there is a feeling in the cottage life of security and protection that lends additional pleasure to the resort.

Of course, one is not here out of the world, as the newspapers are delivered to him by 7 o’clock in the morning and there are two mails a day each way to Wilmington.

Its Future
Carolina Beach is no longer an experiment. It is an assured success. Every year has marked an increase in visitors. The coming years will show it’s still greater development. Captain Harper realizes that another year will be under the necessity of running two instead of one boat to the beach. There is in contemplation the erection of a fine club house in another year. Enlarged hotel facilities will come. The prospect of this pioneer of seaside resorts along the Cape Fear shores is destined to become one of the famous resorts of the Atlantic seaboard.

[Feb. 2015: This article’s text was originally published in the May 1997 – FPHPS Newsletter (pdf)]Walk of Fame - Harper Marker

[Bill Reaves provided FPHPS with this story from ‘The Wilmington Messenger’, August 22, 1897 · Page 12]

(Editor’s Note, 1997:  Bill Reaves, a long time supporter of our Society and a foremost historian of the Cape Fear area, has recently completed Volume III of the History of Southport, the most recent of a long line of publications to his credit. Bill is a regular contributor of materials from his extensive research. The Southport Historical Society has declared June 1, 1997, to be ‘Bill Reaves Day’)

A noted historian, Mr. Reaves was involved in over fifty local history publications and genealogical abstracts, covering New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Duplin counties. A charter member of the Southport Historical Society, he wrote a remarkable four volume history of Southport. He was the author of Strength Through Struggle, The Chronological and Historical Record of the African-American Community in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1865-1950, for which he received a national award from the American Association of State and Local History. – (New Hanover County Public Library)

View excellent pictorial descriptions of Carolina Beach in the late 1890’s by local authors:
1.   Carolina Moon Pavilion – by Ann Hewlett Hutteman
and ..
2.   The Pavilion was called many names – by Elaine Blackmon Henson
‘Carolina Moon, Carolina Club Casino, Carolina Club’

Captain John Harper – from the Bill Reaves Files – a FPHPS webpage

A brief history of the steamer, Wilmington



Carolina Beach Walk of Fame – Dedication January 3, 2015

Walk of Fame - McKee Family

[Thanks to Island Gazette and WWAY for their great coverage of this event.]

CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY)– A dedication of the Walk of Fame in Carolina Beach was held Saturday afternoon. Commemorative stones were placed around the lake to recognize the names of individuals who made major contributions in the history and development of the town.

Walk of Fame - Tom ConnollyAlthough it was a gloomy day on Pleasure Island, everyone had smiles across their faces as the community gathered together.

Chair of the Walk of Fame, Sarah Efird, said the event was “to honor all citizens or people of Carolina Beach that have done outstanding things for the town or for the community, or for the resort part.” The day was extra special for one man whose dream for many years finally came true.

Tom Connolly is the founder of the Walk of Fame. He was a police officer for 22 years and started many youth programs in Carolina Beach. His vision for the Walk of Fame came several years ago with the intention of bringing notoriety and acknowledgment to those who helped shape the community.

Connolly expressed his reasoning for the dedications by saying, “People in our past that were not recognized and I felt they needed recognition for all they have done for Carolina Beach and this is the way to pay them back.”

Walk of Fame - Harper MarkerWalk of Fame - Connolly MarkerWalk of Fame - Winner Marker

During the unveiling ceremony, 10 people were honored. The list includes Tom Connolly, Joseph and Anna Winner, Capt. John W. Harper, John W. Plummer, James R. and Amanda L. Bame and family, Glenn Tucker, Robert “Bob” Weeks, Pat Efird, Kimberly Barbour Munley and the McKee Family. Some people who were recognized dated back into the 1800’s and some who were there to share the memories with their loved ones.

Walk of Fame - Darlene BrightSarah Efird’s mom was honored at the ceremony. “My mother is being honored and she was on the town council for 34 years,” Efird said. “She’s really done a lot to help change this town, I think for the better, and she loved it.”

Each year 5 more people will be chosen for the award and the recipients will be honored with a granite stone.

Tax deductible donations for the continuing work on this project can be made to FPHPS/Walk of Fame and send to the Federal Point Historical Society at P.O. Box 623, Carolina Beach 28428

Walk of Fame - Elaine HensonDedication Remarks – January 3, 2015

Society President – Elaine Henson

 On behalf of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, I would like to welcome Mayor Dan Wilcox, town officials, Walk of Fame Committee, family and friends to the first Carolina Beach Walk of Fame presentation ceremony.

Our society is dedicated to the preservation of the history of Federal Point and our beaches. In addition to gathering and preserving historical records and archives, we also operate the History Center and Museum adjacent to Town Hall and invite you to visit us on Tuesday, Friday or Saturday from 10-4.

As I said, keeping our history is what we are about. This Walk of Fame is exactly the kind of project we are proud to support. The men and women we honor today have left their stamp on our community in many and varied ways. Some lived in the horse and buggy days of the late 1800s, some through the roaring 20s and the Great Depression, some through the second half of the twentieth century and some are living today. They have served as visionaries, business owners, government officials, civic workers, volunteers and heroes, but all have made this community a better place to live.

We want to thank the Town of Carolina Beach for their financial support for the Walk of Fame and the Walk of Fame Committee for doing the work of getting it started.   We are proud to be a part of honoring our recipients today and are so pleased you could all be here.


(For full-screen images or image slide-show – click any image)

Drifter’s Reef Motel

Drifter's Reef Motel

Drifter’s Reef Motel

Featured Business of the Month
January, 2015

by Tony (Lem) Phillips

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society sends out a very warm welcome to our newest Business Member, Drifter’s Reef Motel in Carolina Beach.

Drifter’s Reef Motel is centrally located in Carolina Beach just a few blocks from our beautiful sandy beaches, old fashion boardwalk with amusement rides, fabulous restaurants, shopping, and great fishing.

At Drifter’s Reef Motel, they offer comfortable nicely decorated motel rooms at affordable prices and a friendly staff that treats you like family.

The Drifters Reef Motel In Carolina Beach offers a fun filled family vacation spot and a clean uncrowded beach. The Carolina Beach boardwalk offers great restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and a family Amusement Park with Thursday night fireworks and kids rides. The Carolina Beach boardwalk and beach are all within a few short blocks and easy walking distance.

Visitors love staying at the Drifters Reef Motel in Carolina Beach because it is convenient to everything that the beach has to offer, and there is so much to do. So, when you decide to come to Carolina Beach for vacation or some fishing, beach fun or just to breathe the fresh salt air, call the Drifters Reef Motel. Book your Carolina Beach Vacation at affordable prices!

And….they are located within a few blocks of the Federal Point History Center.

For reservations today! Call 910-458-5414

Walk of Fame – Carolina Beach Lake – 2015

The Carolina Beach Walk of Fame unveiling ceremony was held on January 3rd, 2015 at 2 pm at the Carolina Beach Lake.

This year’s inaugural Walk of Fame was created to recognize ten people or families who have made tangible and lasting contributions to the Town of Carolina Beach through their outstanding leadership and service.

Each year five more people or families will be chosen for this award.  Letters of nomination, listing the recipients’ contributions to the town, will be submitted to the Walk of Fame selection committee.

After vetting, selected recipients will be honored with a granite stone, displaying their names and their contributions to the town. Throughout the year, there will be fundraisers and the selection committee will accept donations for the following year’s recipients.

During the Jan 3rd unveiling ceremony, 10 people were honored:
Tom Connolly, Joseph and Anna Winner, Capt. John W. Harper, John W. Plummer, James R. and Amanda L. Bame and family, Glenn Tucker, Robert “Bob” Weeks, Pat Efird, Kimberly Barbour Munley and the McKee Family.

(For full-screen image or image slide-show – click any image)

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is partnering with the Citizens Recognition Committee to create a lasting memorial at the Carolina Beach Lake.

At the November, 2014 Carolina Beach Town Council meeting, the Committee made a request for start-up funds and the request was approved.

Two members of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society are assisting the Citizens Recognition Committee: Darlene Bright as a member of the Committee and Demetria Sapienza as finance supervisor.

The Committee’s basic function will be to accept nominations and choose no more than five citizens each year who have made a tangible and lasting contribution to the Town of Carolina Beach through their outstanding leadership and service, advancing the economic and social development of Carolina Beach as a residential community and beach resort.

The Committee will review nominations and confirm the information received with the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society to ensure that the information is historically accurate before selecting recipients.

The Committee will solicit and receive contributions and donations to provide for the making of the monuments and these funds will be deposited with the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society for the benefit of the Citizens’ Recognition Walk of Fame.

Each monument will be light gray granite, weighing 165 pounds and measuring one foot by two feet and four inches thick. The monuments will be placed along the walkway around Carolina Beach Lake.

Additional reporting by WWAY, NewsChannel 3 and
Dedication Remarks by Elaine Henson, Society President



December Meeting – Holiday Potluck

John Golden

John Golden

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its annual holiday potluck on Monday, December 15 at 6:30 pm (one hour early)

John Golden, Folksinger/Storyteller will be back providing Christmas themed entertainment  for our evening.

The History Center has many of John’s Christmas CDs available for sale – see here.

Here’s a sampling of some of John Golden and Geoffrey Morris’s YouTube and Vimeo music videos.  John’s video singing St. James Infirmary (2012).  Their music video, Drivin Wheel was filmed on location in Castle Hayne, Burgaw, & Wallace, NC.

This year we will be back at the History Center as it’s a lot easier for the hospitality committee.

History Center - Agave

Federal Point History Center

Please join us for food, fun and festivities.

Christmas 2013 -6We have had two wonderful prints of Carolina Beach scenes donated by Ronald Williams via. Norm Melton.

Raffle tickets are $1.00 apiece, 12 for $10.00, or 25 for $20.00.

We’ll hold the drawing at the Christmas Party.





Raffle Print: Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Raffle Print: Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Raffle Print: Ocean Plaza

Raffle Print: Ocean Plaza











From the President: December, 2014

Presbyterian Church - 205 Charlotte Aveby Elaine Henson

This card shows the Carolina Beach Presbyterian Church at 205 Charlotte Avenue.

The first service in this building was held on March 17, 1946.  The congregation worshiped there until they built a new church at 1209 North Lake Park Boulevard which was dedicated November 10, 1985.  The church’s web site has an interesting link detailing their history.  Check it out at – under “About Us / History”.

Steeple Restaurant 1987 adThe old church was converted into a restaurant in the mid-1980s by Pete Herring.  He named it The Steeple Restaurant and Lounge and was the chef there for a number of years.

Pete was the son of Allen Herring and Juniata Bame Herring who owned and operated the Center Pier and Ocean View Restaurant. Juanita was also the librarian at Roland Grice Junior High School.  Pete’s grandparents were J.R. Bame and Mandy Ludwig Bame, owners of the Bame Hotel.


J.Council'sThe converted church became J. Council’s French American Restaurant and Lounge in the late 90s and later the popular Deck House Restaurant we know today.





Carolina Beach Walk of Fame

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA You may have heard that the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is partnering with the Citizen’s Recognition Walk of Fame Committee to create a lasting memorial at the Carolina Beach Lake.

A request was made to the Town Council for start-up funds and they were approved at the November Town Council meeting.  Darlene Bright is serving on the committee and Demetria Sapienza will be supervising their finances.

The Committee’s basic function will be to accept nominations and choose no more than five (5) citizens each year who have made a tangible and lasting contribution to the Town of Carolina Beach through their outstanding leadership and service, advancing the economic and social development of Carolina Beach as a residential community and beach resort.

The Committee will review nominations and confirm the information received with the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society to ensure that the information is historically accurate before ordering a monument.

The Committee will solicit and receive contributions and donations to provide for the making of the monuments and these funds shall be deposited with the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society for the benefit of the Citizen’s Recognition Program Walk of Fame.

The monument shall be light gray granite, weighing 165 pounds and measuring one foot by two feet and four inches thick. The monuments will be placed around the Carolina Beach Lake.


Lane Holt Remembers Hurricane Hazel

As I Remember — Hurricane Hazel — Sixty Years AgoHurricane Hazel

By Lane Holt

Sixty years ago today Hazel destroyed everything our family owned-our home and our business on Carolina Beach. I still have vivid memories of the destruction. We rode out the hurricane in the Wilmington Hotel. I watched the glass window fronts in downtown burst and shatter from the pressure.

My parents and I were some of the first to be allowed back on the island.

My Dad operated the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier and Restaurant. It was the first 1000 foot pier on the east coast, we were told. This brick building that housed the tackle shop and restaurant was constructed so as to survive storms. In fact, many locals wanted to spend the night in this building thinking it would certainly survive any storm. Fortunately, local law enforcement insisted we leave the island.

The road up the northern strip to our home and pier was closed so I started running up the beach. I could immediately see that very little of our pier was left, maybe 150 ft. at most. Some of the things I will never forget as I ran up the beach— the ocean was as calm as a lake. Only a slight ripple where the water met the sand. I will never forget the smell of propane gas from tanks ripped from houses that were now rubble. A couple homes next to our pier were actually now in the ocean.

I met a couple of elderly locals, the Griffins, walking toward me. They had chosen to stay in their home on the north end and you could see they made a mistake. They were in terrible shape. Soon I could see that our tackle shop and restaurant was no more. It was flattened. No one would have survived in that building. The roof was almost one-half mile back toward the intracoastal waterway. It was an eerie sight.

Three feet of water in our home ruined everything in it. We spent many weeks with wonderful friends and neighbors until we were able to rebuild. Our meals came from the Salvation Army truck that came by twice everyday while we were cleaning up. I have not and will not ever pass a Salvation Army fundraiser without giving. I am sure I have paid them back many times over.

In loving memory of my parents, Dan and Margaret Holt.

Lane Holt


Island Tackle

Featured Business of the Month – November 2014

Island Tackle and Hardware

By Tony (Lem) Phillips

Island TackleIsland Tackle and Hardware, a TrueValue store, is also a valued Business Member of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

While the name gives away the fact that they are very interested in fishing, don’t miss out on seeing everything they have to offer the community.

A first class hardware store as well as a shop for gifts to fit anyone’s imagination. And don’t forget the gas for the BBQ. Pull up to the tank and fill up.

They are located at 801 N. Lake Park Blvd. Carolina Beach, NC 28428. Or visit them online at . They have an online store but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, call them at 910-458-3049.

Island Tackle and Hardware, is a True Value Hardware Store and a “Full Service Fishing Paradise.” Visit them soon and tell them that you too are members of FPHPS.Gone_Fishing_3

From the President: October, 2014

Elaine Henson

Elaine Henson

Shoe Fly at Pavilion PostcardIn 1887 the pavilion in this postcard opened to excursionists at Carolina Beach. It was located near the end of Harper Avenue on the ocean. That street was named for Captain John Harper, a steamboat captain and one of the partners of the New Hanover Transit Company that operated the new resort.

Captain Harper brought the beach visitors from Wilmington down the Cape Fear River by steamer to a wharf first at Sugar Loaf and later Doctor’s Point. At the wharf they boarded the Shoo Fly train for the rest of the trip to the sea beach with the train taking them right to the back door of the pavilion.

Henry Bonitz, who designed the famous Lumina at Wrightsville Beach, also designed the 1887 pavilion at Carolina Beach. It burned in 1910 and was replaced in the same location with a new pavilion also designed by Bonitz that opened in 1911. This post card shows the 1911 building with swings, slides and other playground equipment for the kiddies.

On the Beach PostcardThe pavilion was the center of activity at the beach during the season with a bath house where you could rent bathing suits and get a shower after a dip in the ocean.

Evenings and weekend afternoons, orchestras played for dancing and concerts. Holiday activities and celebrations were also held there, even boxing exhibitions.

On September 19, 1940 a fire began in the pavilion that destroyed it and over two blocks of the boardwalk including the Bame Hotel.

Amazingly the boardwalk businesses rebuilt in time for the opening of the 1941 season earning the nickname “The South’s Miracle Beach”.

Interestingly, the arcade that burned September 25, 2014 was in the same location as the pavilions and was one of those buildings reconstructed in 1941.

Both fires were in September and 73 years apart, thankfully our recent one was way less serious.