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

 

We need your help!

Coming Summer 2018!

“Celebrating  the Boardwalk”

We need your help. We are looking for objects

(souvenirs and memorabilia) to borrow for display.

 


     We will probably keep the exhibit up for 9 months to a year.

Ashtrays, spoon holders, key chains,     

Magnets, plates, tea cups,  Pendants, beer bottles,

cupie dolls, and shells glued to anything.

 

 

 

 

We Need Your Help!

Coming Summer 2018!

“Celebrating the Boardwalk

 

We need your help. We are looking for objects (souvenirs and memorabilia) to borrow for display.

We will probably keep the exhibit up for 9 months to a year.

 

Ashtrays, spoon holders, key chains, Magnets, plates, tea cups,  Pendants, beer bottles, cupie dolls, and shells glued to anything.

 

We need your Knick-Knacks!

 

From the President – October, 2017

By Elaine Henson

This month we are continuing to look at some of the empty lots on the boardwalk where the summer rides are located.

The lot between the Gazebo and the Marriott Hotel was the site of three Bame Hotel buildings built by James Rowan Bame and his wife, Mandy, from Barber, North Carolina.

The first Bame opened on the site in June, 1930.  It was three stories with a white wooden exterior and contained “33 rooms with running water, tubs and showers” according to a 1930s brochure.  Bame’s Hotel faced Cape Fear Boulevard near the wooden boardwalk and included a café with “Miss Mandy” in charge of the cooking. The rates were $1.50 to $2.50 per day or $10.00 to $15.00 a week based on the European Plan which did not include meals.

By 1935, “Mr. Jim” decided to enlarge and remodel his hotel with a brick exterior and including a large paneled dining room and a grill which faced the boardwalk.  The 60 rooms had a single bed or double bed with or without a private bath.

But it was not to last.  On the night of September 19, 1940, a fire began in the old pavilion and swept away two blocks of the boardwalk including the Bame Hotel reducing it to rubble.  Mr. Jim and the other business owners vowed to rebuild in time for the summer of 1941 and they did.  The fact that they were able to restore two entire blocks from ashes in just a few months earned Carolina Beach the nickname “The South’s Miracle Beach”.

The new brick three story Hotel Bame had 80 rooms, 65 with a private bath.  The floors on the first level were tile with hardwoods on the second and third floors. Red leather chairs graced the spacious lobby.

The new Bame also had an elevator, sizable dining room facing Cape Fear Boulevard, another grill on the boardwalk and optional air conditioning window units in the rooms.  It later included a pool room and a barber shop.

J.R. Bame died in 1959 with his son, George, continuing to manage the hotel until his death in 1968.  The family leased it for a few years before selling it to investors from Myrtle Beach in the early 1970s, who tore it down and built a water slide in its place.

 

From the President – September, 2017

By Elaine Henson

Click

The summer boardwalk rides have added so much in making Carolina Beach a family destination again.  The empty lots where families now ride was formerly occupied by several buildings and businesses. Some of those lots are footprints of large hotels built in the 1920s-30s.

This month we will look at the Hotel Royal Palm and Fountains Rooms and Apartments which were along Harper Avenue between Canal Drive and Lake Park Boulevard as seen in this post card.

The builder and owner was named Willie Gardner Fountain.  (Mr. Fountain did lease the building on the right to Mr. Southerland for a few years and thus the sign indicates that this picture dates from that period.)

W.G. Fountain and his wife Serena moved to Wilmington in the 1920s from Chinquapin in Duplin County. Within a few years he started Fountain Oil Company in Castle Hayne selling fuel oil and also operating gas stations in the area. He had a ready work force with their seven sons Clayton, Millard, Alton, Elmo, Woodrow, Gus and Archie. Summer months were slow in the fuel oil business and so he decided to start a summer business at Carolina Beach.

In 1935 he built three two-story buildings with 20 rooms each on Harper Avenue near the boardwalk and named them Fountain’s Rooms and Apartments. One could rent a room or an efficiency apartment for a stay at the beach. They were so popular that Mr. Fountain decided to build a hotel next door opening in time for the 1936 summer season.

The four-story Royal Palm Hotel had 58 rooms with wrap around porches, a spacious lobby, dining room and the first elevator at Carolina Beach. Perhaps its most distinctive feature was a neon sign spelling out the name in four foot letters that could be seen a mile away.

In 1946, Fountain enlarged the Royal Palm with a fifty room addition over a cafeteria that seated 100 people.

People flocked to Carolina Beach and business was good.  These businesses also survived the disastrous 1940 boardwalk fire in addition to rebuilding after Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and several other storms.

W.G. Fountain, a very astute businessman, was the founder of the Bank of Carolina Beach and served on the Carolina Beach Board of Alderman, also serving as Mayor ProTem and Mayor.  He died in 1956 leaving the businesses to his sons and daughter, Lila Fountain, who was Miss Carolina Beach 1939. They sold and moved the Rooms and Apartments in 1959 to make a parking lot for the Royal Palm and later sold the hotel in 1961.

For the next 20 years the hotel had various owners and experienced a slow decline until Vince and Dee Bolden bought it in 1982.  They renamed it the Hotel Astor remodeling the 107 rooms to 53 more spacious rooms with private baths.

In spite of their efforts, the hotel continued to decline prompting the Boldens to sell it in 1994.  That trend continued until it was condemned by the Town of Carolina Beach in 2005.

Awaiting demolition, the building was burned on June 27, 2005, by an arsonist who was later tried and convicted.  The empty lots along Harper Avenue have been there ever since coming to life every summer to the delight of families and children.