Upcoming Exhibits

Snows Cut_Swing Bridge Plaque

Plaque reads:
Intracoastal Waterway From Beaufort To Cape Fear River NC
Built Under The Direction Of The Corps Of Engineers USA
For The N C State Highway Commission
Built By The Roanoke Bridge and Iron Works Inc.
Roanoke Va
1930-31

The Exhibit Committee (Elaine Henson, Darlene Bright, Demetria Sapienza and Rebecca Taylor) is currently working on two upcoming exhibits.

We will showcase Snow’s Cut beginning in the early Fall of 2016, and commemorate the United States entry into WWI beginning in 2017.

We are looking for artifacts to use with both. If you have pictures, letters, or objects  you would lend us, please let Rebecca at the History Center know; 910-458-0502

We are also looking for ideas for additional rotating exhibits that will run for 3-6 months at the History Center and may be offered to other local institutions.

Please send your suggestions to Rebecca at Rebecca@federal-point-history.org.

Seabreeze – A History Part 2 – Carolina Beach and Shell Island

by Rebecca Taylormap cropped

Because Sea Breeze was a leisure site, it has deep meaning for residents and former business owners, as well as for people who patronized it. The old resort has a remarkably wide constituency. All over North Carolina I have encountered people who have vivid and fond memories of Sea Breeze.”  – Jennifer Edwards, 2003

Through the last part of  the nineteenth century there was considerable cooperation between the Seabreeze and Carolina Beach communities.

  • From the August 15, 1891 Wilmington Messenger we find: “Professor Edward Jewell, the good-looking young aeronaut, left the earth in his balloon at 6 pm and was borne upward into the boundless space on the horizontal bar attached to his big canvas balloon inflated with hot air. He went up to 5,000 feet and came down in the ocean about one mile from shore. About 1,800 people, men and women, old and young, and many children had collected to witness the spectacle.
Seabreeze Resort

Seabreeze Resort

Bruce and Roland Freeman, with five men each,went to Jewell’s rescue with their whale boats. Professor Jewell, when about six feet from the water, sprang into the surf and against the tide and through the breakers swam one mile to the shore, as reckoned by the Freemans. The boats brought in the balloon and all was well.”

  • “Ellis Freeman, the well-known caterer, was prepared to furnish Myrtle Grove oysters at Carolina Beach. He was making a specialty of roasts. – Truelove’s Sauce, new delicious and appetizing.”
  • “It has been learned that Roland Freeman, one of the heirs to the Freeman estate, colored, which owns considerable quantities of land near Carolina Beach had practically closed negotiations for the sale of 250 acres of land owned by the estate and that he had also agreed to give options on a like amount of territory. The home of Roland Freeman was near the beach.”
  • “Real Estate Transfer – J. N. Freeman and wife transfer to A. W. Pate, trustee, for the Wilmington & Carolina Beach Railway, for $1 and other considerations, a 100-foot right-of-way through their lands in Federal Point Township.”
  • “On March 11, 1887, W. L. Smith Jr. bought a strip of land comprised of 24 acres for the amount of $6650. These acres were between the head of Myrtle Grove Sound and the ocean beach as recorded in New Hanover County Deed Book YYY, Page 578.”   Today, this land is located in the heart of the business district of the Town of Carolina Beach.

 

Shell Island Resort/Wrightsville Beach

In 1924, as Seabreeze was just beginning to flourish, Thomas H. Wright and Charles B. Parmele began to promote the Shell postcard of suitsIsland Beach Development Company. With an investment capital of $500,000 they planned to make Shell Island “a Negro Atlantic City.” A small island just north of Wrightsville Beach, it lasted only three summers before it mysteriously burned to the ground.

Shell Island Resort was destroyed by fire about 1926 and was not rebuilt. In the 1930’s Wrightsville Beach began enforcing ordinances that prohibited blacks from bathing on but one extreme northern section of the beach. They were also prohibited from wearing bathing suits and walking on the boardwalks in front of private white cottages.

Earlier attempts by blacks to develop resorts in the Wrightsville Beach area in 1883, 1902, 1904, and 1920 were either short-lived or never developed. In 1993 E. F. Martin took a ten-year lease on the Jim Hewlett place, at Greenville Sound, for a natural park and resort for the black community. Called Atlanta Park.

Bruce Freeman (one of Robert Bruce Freeman, Sr.’s grandsons) remembered that by 1929, after Shell Island burned, building had really begun at Seabreeze, and the resort was drawing crowds numbering thousands. Spending free time among one’s peers, away from the scrutiny of whites, is an implicit message emerging from oral histories of the people speaking about the early days of Seabreeze.

 

Calling all Members – Volunteers Needed

elains's men's suits

We are currently beginning to plan an outreach program that will put our members on the Boardwalk one or two nights a week, in June, July and August.

We hope to display some of our great pictures, pass out our brochure, and answer questions about Federal Point.

If you could take a night or two please let Rebecca know, 910-458-0502

 

Spring Clearance Sale – Throughout May

Gift Shop

FPHPS Gift Shop
Spring Clearance

      Entire Month of May

               

Gift Shop #3

 

Books         T shirts       Sweats    

Games Toys       Posters

 
 

      Many items as much as 50% off!

 

Steve Pfaff, Seneca Guns – April Meeting

NOAA

Monday, April 18, 2016  7:30 PM

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

Our speaker this month will be Steve Pfaff of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration who will speak to us about the mysterious phenomena called the Seneca Guns.  What are Seneca Guns?  That’s the question.

Now and then, often on a beautiful, clear and sunny day, people in Southeastern North Carolina hear/feel strange booming noises. Some people report them as earthquakes others claim they are hearing something like cannon fire. Others swear they are hearing sonic booms from aircraft.  However, upon investigation none of these things are happening.

Steve Pfaff serves as the Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM) at the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Wilmington, NC.  At the WCM since 2008, he is responsible for promoting weather safety outreach and awareness to the public. Steve is also responsible for providing emergency and decision support services to Emergency Management as well as a Seneca gunsmultitude of local, state, and federal partners.

He first arrived at NWS Wilmington, NC as a Senior Forecaster in 1998 where he served as the Marine Program Leader. Prior to his NWS career, he worked at WNBC-TV in New York where he prepared the forecast and graphics for Al Roker. Steve received his degree in Meteorology from Kean University in Union, NJ in 1994.

“The name Seneca Guns seems to come from Seneca Lake in upstate New York, where the sounds are often heard. In 1850, James Fenimore Cooper (author of “Last of the Mohicans”) wrote a story, “The Lake Gun,” describing the phenomenon, which seems to have popularized the term.

The sounds are heard in coastal areas; observers insist they are never heard at sea. In 2005 and 2008, residents in Brunswick County reported they were loud enough to rattle windows and shake houses.

In December 2001, a Seneca gun event prompted more than 100 calls to New Hanover County authorities. No serious damage, however, has ever been attributed to a Seneca gun.” – Wilmington StarNews, My Reporter column.

Road Trip!

Elaine, Darlene, Demetria, and Rebecca’s Excellent Adventuremissles and more

Just imagine. Two days in a car with the four of us.  On February 17th and 18th we set out to visit a number of small, non-profit museums. The goal: look at their current exhibits, and talk to them about how they fund, produce, and publicize their displays.

We started off at the Missiles and More Museum on Topsail Island.  Rose Peters was gracious enough to come in for a morning, even though they aren’t open to the public this time of year. She shared a whole bunch of ideas with us and several of the businesses she uses for exhibits are actually in Wilmington. The best ideas: use carpeting to back exhibits, then put Velcro on the back of the graphics and just stick them on.  Also useful to us was the idea of using simple hollow core doors to mount exhibits on.  We thought that might work well for us since we could fold them back to the wall when we have meetings.

Swansboro was next, for a great (and huge) lunch at Yana’s.  A real “hometown” treasure, with decor devoted to Elvis and the 50’s and onion rings to die for.

history placeOur next stop was The History Place, in Morehead City. It’s run by the Carteret County Historical Society and features not only exhibits, but also a large research library.  There we talked to Director Steve Anderson who spent a long time talking to us about fundraising, as well as giving us a tour of their new (as in still under construction) exhibit on Pine Knoll Shores.

We then drove up US 17 past New Bern to Plymouth, NC. And where is Plymouth? It’s on the south side of the Chowan River, across the Albemarle Sound from Edenton. It’s actually a very small town, with two small private museums, one on each end of town, about 6 blocks apart. We spent the night in a very nice Holiday Inn Express, though finding dinner was something of an adventure.  The only two local restaurants downtown were closed on a Wednesday night in the middle of winter, but we found the police station and asked for a recommendation.  A very nice young officer sent us back to the “highway” where we found Mama’s Pizza in the only shopping center with lights on.  It turned out to have a nice salad bar and their pizza wasn’t bad either.

The next morning we stopped first at the Port o’ Plymouth Museum.  It is mostly devoted to the Civil War and the battles that Port of Plymouthtook place for the domination of this important shipping harbor. David (sorry I’ve forgotten his last name) met us at the door and showed us around. We were particularly interested in a new display he had just put up on World War I.  While we were there, an older man, a member of their Board, came through and we talked to him for quite awhile. As it turned out, he knew Leslie Bright from his archaeology days.  They do one big fundraiser a year and pretty much exist on the proceeds from that.  One neat idea was the “sandbox” outside where kids could “dig for sharks’ teeth.”  We had also seen a special corner for kids at Topsail and Rebecca wants to work on making our place more “kid friendly.”

After an hour or so we went down the street to the Roanoke River Maritime Museum, where Brenda Roanoke MaritimeConklin greeted us warmly. It turns out she is the sister of the older man we talked to at the Port-o-Plymouth. They had some great exhibits devoted to boats large and small, as well as a replica of the Roanoke River lighthouse. We even found a canoe on display that Leslie had excavated from Lake Phelps and preserved years ago.

By late morning, we were ready to turn south. After a Wendy’s lunch in Greenville we made it to the Wayne County Historical Society museum in Goldsboro right on time.  Chris Lawson welcomed us warmly and talked to us about their displays and programs. One fascinating exhibit is a diorama of the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge, a Civil War battle, waged in 1862 for control of the railroad hub.

Roanoke Maritime exibit #2Our last stop was Liberty Hall in Kenansville but they were just about to close and we only had time to look at the exhibits in the modern building where tickets are sold.  The guided tour of the house and grounds takes as much as 90 minutes, so we hope to go back another day.

A huge thanks to Demetria who did all the driving.  We certainly learned a lot. Some things to do, and some very definitely NOT to do.  We’re working now on a proposal to take to the Board, for creating some seasonal exhibits and for refurbishing the display cases one at a time.

 

Society Notes – January 2016

Darlene Bright, History Center Director

  • The History Center recorded 40 visitors in December.
  • We had 41 in attendance at the wonderful Christmas potluck.
  • The gift shop took in $43.96 in December.
  • The History Center was used by Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club and the UDC for their monthly meetings.

 

  • Don’t forget! If you take a trip with Wilmington Water Tours, please tell them you are a member of FPHPS! If you do, we get a portion of your ticket price. Call us 910-458-0502 or them 910-338-3134. wilmingtonwatertours.net

 

  • The Carolina Beach Walk of Fame Committee has selected 4 people to be inducted on January 30, 2016. The unveiling ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. at Carolina Beach Lake. This program recognizes people who have made a tangible and lasting contribution to the Town of Carolina Beach through their outstanding leadership and service.

 

Holiday Potluck – December 14, 2015

Remember. We start the potluck at 6:30 PMPOTLUCK LOGO

One week early due to Christmas, one hour early, too!

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its annual holiday potluck on Monday, December 14 at 6:30 pm. This year we will be back at the History Center as it’s a lot easier for the hospitality committee. Please join us for food, fun and festivities.

Joining the festivities will be John Golden and his magic guitar as well as Jay and Deborah Hockenbury. Please feel free to bring family and friends to this cozy community get-together.

 

Brooks Newton Preik: River Pilots of the Cape Fear River

by Nancy Gadzuk

Brooks Newton Preik 11-16-15Brooks Newton Preik spoke on River Pilots of the Cape Fear River at the monthly open meeting of the History Center on Monday, November 16, 2015.

Two of Brooks’ great-grandfathers were river pilots, one operating out of Southport and one out of Federal Point.

By the time Brooks was born, though, the family seafaring bent was gone. Her father was an accountant, and his closest encounter with the sea was walking along the water in Charleston to get to his office at the end of the dock.

Haunted WilmingtonThen Brooks heard a ghost story that piqued her interest in her great-grandfathers and the other river pilots. It was “a dark and stormy night” when the little open dory went out to sea, and Mary Stuart kept the fire going all night in Southport, hoping her son would soon be home safe.

Finally she heard footsteps coming up the front walk and she saw her son walk in, soaking wet. He walked to the fireplace and she heard the sizzle as he spit his tobacco wad into the fire. She walked over to hug him. But as she reached out her arms to him, he vanished into thin air. She knew then that the ship had gone down and her son, Thomas Bensel, was dead. Thomas Bensel was Brooks’ great-grandfather.

What would possess a man to take a small boat with four men out on a stormy night in hopes of catching the job of river pilot? It was dangerous: the only way to get from the small craft into the larger vessel was by climbing a tall, swinging ladder up to the ship’s deck. And on a dark and stormy night… Why would anyone do that?

Money. River pilots were paid very well—$200 a trip to guide a ship up the treacherous Cape Fear River to Wilmington, which had the rail lines Southport lacked to transport goods inland.

In Charge - River PilotsThe rule of the sea was this: the first river pilot to board a ship got the job. In 1860, there were 24 active pilots in Southport with its population of 700. Competition was stiff and river pilots would go far out to sea in search of a ship to pilot up the Cape Fear River.

Brooks Preik - TitleDuring the Civil War, river pilots became the last lifeline of the Confederacy, serving as blockade runners and carrying needed supplies.

These pilots influenced the design of new ships, since the blockade runners needed to be fast, low in the water, and impenetrable to outrun the Union navy.

The blockade runners carried cotton to Nassau and returned with arms and guns, and were often paid as much as $5000 for a run.

The success of these blockade runners to bring supplies enabled the Confederacy to hold their ground and thus prolong the course of the war.

The sea did not become less dangerous after the war ended. Thomas Bensel’s boat went down in 1872, and the Mary K. Sprunt sank in 1877. The Pilots’ Memorial in Southport is dedicated to the ten pilots of the two boats, “who in the faithful discharge of their duty were suddenly called to meet their God.”

The wind and the sea sing their requiem and shall forevermore.

 

Pilots of the Cape Fear River – Brooks Newton Preik

brooks Newton Preik #2

Brooks Newton Preik

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

Author and historian Brooks Newton Preik is our November speaker. Her topic will be the River Pilots of the Cape Fear River.

From the plight of the European explorers of the 1600’s whose ships foundered on Frying Pan Shoals, to the Union naval officers outsmarted by the elusiveness of the Confederate Blockade Runners, to present-day seamen with their sophisticated, electronic, navigational equipment, one truth has remained the same: no ship’s captain with any sense at all would risk taking his ship through the treacherous waters of Cape Fear without the aid of an experienced local pilot to guide it.

Southport Pilot Station

Southport Pilot Station

The history of this always small group of talented, intrepid men who braved the shifting shoals and shallows of Cape Fear to guide ships safely through its waters is the stuff of legends.

Descended from a host of these courageous pilots, Brooks Preik will share with us some of the tales of their exploits, the dangers they faced and their unique legacy which has shaped the history of this region. Stories of shipwrecks, pirates, adventurers and even a few ghosts are among the stories Brooks will tell.

Born and raised in Southport, Brooks Preik has been a resident of Wilmington for more than 40 years. Some of her earliest ancestors are buried in the Newton Cemetery at Federal Point. She is a graduate of St. Mary’s Junior College in Raleigh and the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. For 10 years she was an elementary school teacher and following that, for the next 35 years, she was a real estate broker.

Brooks began her writing career in 1993 when she co-authored a guidebook to the area entitled What Locals Know about Wilmington and Its Beaches. Her collection of “true” ghost stories, Haunted Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast, published in 1995 by Banks Channel Books, is now in its sixth printing and she has published more than 80 freelance articles in regional magazines since that time.

She has shared her love of local history and her stories with countless numbers of area school groups, civic clubs, UNCW sponsored events, and various community organizations.

Back in March 1998, Brooks did a presentation about John W. Harper at a monthly meeting at the Federal Point History Center.

Copies of Haunted Wilmington will be available for purchase and signing by the author.