President’s Letter – January, 2018

By Elaine Henson

The Breakers Hotel,   Part I

Breakers Hotel   photo courtesy of the New Hanover County Public Library, Louis T. Moore Collection

The Breakers Hotel opened in May of 1924 at what was then known as Wilmington Beach.  It was a three story brick hotel with 50 rooms, 40 with a private bath.  A second story veranda ran the length of the building which faced the ocean. The Breakers was located on what is now South Lake Park Boulevard between North Carolina Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.  Sea Colony Condominiums are there now.

The Breakers’ story began with an article in the Wilmington News Dispatch on July 6, 1913, about the newly formed Wilmington Beach Corporation and their plans for development.  The investors were C.E. Freenamyer, C.C. Chadbourn, L.W. Davis, Jr., J.J. Hopkins, D.N. Chadwick Jr., F.P. Jackson and S.V. Bowden; their vision was for Wilmington Beach to become the Atlantic City of the South. The corporation’s property ran for one mile fronting the ocean and west across Federal Point to the Cape Fear River.

They planned for a macadam [crushed gravel compacted and often topped with water, oil or tarvia] boulevard one mile long running north to south and 50 to 90 feet wide avenues lined with building lots. The crown jewel was to be a large modern hotel on the ocean with a hundred feet in length and  25 feet wide boardwalk in front.  There was to be a pavilion and large garage for parking near the hotel.

Also the plans called for a Great Atlantic Pier in front of the hotel with smaller piers on the northern and southern ends of the property. The piers would each have refreshment parlors similar to ones at the Seashore Hotel Pier, 1910-1920, at Wrightsville Beach.

They hoped to have the hotel open year round with a golf course and tennis courts, hunting and fishing.   Ocean bathing was to be the main outdoor activity with a life guard on duty and a life line of rope in the sea for bathers to hold onto.  A bathhouse was to be in the basement (surely the first floor) with private shower rooms for the guests. The unsurpassed cuisine would center on fresh catches of fish, crabs and clams all served with other delicacies in the expansive dining room with tall ceilings.

An orchestra was to provide after dinner dancing music throughout the season and perform Sunday afternoon concerts in the spacious lobby for the public.  That 1924 summer opening featured an orchestra under the direction of Jack Cohn.  The Southern Collegians from the University of North Carolina were booked for the 1925 season, playing after luncheons in addition to after the evening meals.  There were also plans to have a railroad serving Wilmington Beach and Carolina Beach, connecting them to Wilmington and the Atlantic Coast Line trains.

(Next month:  Breakers Hotel, Part II)

 

President’s Letter – December, 2017

by Elaine Henson

During WWII our busy bus station was inside the Carolina Beach Drug Store on the corner of Lake Park Boulevard and Harper Avenue.  Long lines of soldiers would line up along the sidewalk waiting for buses to take them back to Fort Bragg, Camp Davis, Camp Lejeune and other military installations.

In May of 1947, Hal Love, manager of Queen City Coach Lines, announced that a new bus station was to be built across from the drug store on the corner of Lake Park Boulevard and Raleigh Avenue.

The new station, of masonry construction, opened on July 30, 1948, with several dignitaries from Queen City Coach Lines, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Wilmington and New Hanover County in attendance. At the grand opening, Mr. Love declared, “This terminal was built for the benefit of the people of Carolina Beach and for the thousands of visitors to this popular resort.”

It had a spacious waiting room with terrazzo floors, three comfortable benches, roomy telephone booths, and rest rooms. There was a separate waiting room for blacks reflecting the Jim Crow era of our history in the South. In that same vein, the soda shop with sandwich bar and soda fountain was for whites only.

The terminal was heated in the winter with gas heaters and cooled with big fans in the summer months. The Queen City buses provided local service from Fort Fisher into Wilmington with several stops in between as well as service to major cities and connections beyond.

They served Carolina Beach for many years until car ownership was the norm, bus travel declined and the terminal closed.  After that it became home to the Battery Restaurant.

In 1982 Carolina Savings and Loan Association purchased the property and hired architects Ballard, McKim and Sawyer to draw plans for renovation.

The building and loan institution moved into the former bus station/restaurant in 1983 making the Carolina Beach branch their fifth location in southeastern North Carolina.  Today the property is home to BB&T Bank at 7 North Lake Park Boulevard.

 


 

From the President – November, 2017

By Elaine Henson

This month we will take one last look at the empty lots at the boardwalk that are home to the rides each summer.

The empty corner lot at Cape Fear Boulevard and Canal Drive used to be the site of the Bame Gulf Station.

The station was managed by Ernest “Tite” Bame whose parents, J.R. and Amanda Bame, owned the Bame Hotel diagonally across the street. World War II took Ernest away in the early 1940’s to serve in the Army Air Corps so he asked his brother-in-law, Jim Knox, to manage the station while he was gone.  Jim and Ernest’s sister, Ruby Bame Knox, had recently moved to Carolina Beach to live year round.

At the end of the war Jim Knox and Ernest Bame became partners and also opened an appliance store next to the station.  It was housed in the bottom floor of a two story white building next to the Gulf station as seen in the photo above.  Cooks and other employees of the Bame Hotel lived upstairs during the summer season.

Ernest’s wife, Rachel Bame, talked about the businesses and Hurricane Hazel (October 15, 1954) in an oral history for FPHPS:

Hurricane Hazel. It really took my husband’s business – the Gulf station and the appliances.
During Hurricane Hazel, he stayed down at the business. I was living at the corner of Hamlet Avenue at the time. I wondered why he didn’t come home…. During the height of the hurricane the ocean and the canal were almost ready to meet. And it did eventually.
And he was trying to save the appliances. He had just put in a car load of GE appliances. And they stayed down there and tried to save those appliances until it just got hopeless. The building was almost demolished. That’s another reason they had to get rid of the hotel later – so much water came in. All that area just flooded something awful.”

After Hazel Jim and Ernest decided to move their business to the 1000 block of North Lake Park Boulevard. They also decided to go into the building supply/hardware and furniture trade erecting a building large enough for both in 1955.  Ernest and Rachel’s son, Phil Bame, still runs Bame Ace Hardware in that block today.

 

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.

 

From the President – August, 2017

By Elaine Henson

Many of you have undoubtedly heard the news about the ocean front Carolina Surf Condominium at 102 Carolina Beach Avenue South being condemned.  It seems that the four story, 28 unit condo built in 1986 has a “lack of structural integrity” with metal support beams corroded to half their original size. It got me thinking about what was at that location before the Carolina Surf was built.

For several summers in the 1980s our family rented a cottage right across the street from the Accordion Motel which was then at that address.  The Accordion was a large 2 story, “U-shaped” building with asbestos shingling.  The rear rooms faced the ocean with a pool in the center of the U as seen in this post card from the 1950s.

The picture taken by renowned Wilmington photographer John Kelly, whose studio/home was at Third and Greenfield Streets near Greenfield Lake.  Note the guests sitting on blankets, folding aluminum chairs with woven webbing didn’t become popular on the beach until the 60s.

You can also see a rock jetty beside the motel.  Jetties, made from rocks or creosote poles, were used in a futile attempt to keep the sand from washing away back then.

The motel had 30 pine paneled rooms and baths all “cross ventilated” which is good because I don’t see any window units.  It was owned and operated by Alice and John Washburn who advertised that it was “Just a wee bit nicer” and later “Just a wee bit better”.

John William Washburn was an accomplished accordion player and loved to sit on the porch and play. He decided to name his motel for this unusual feature so guests wouldn’t forget the name or his nightly serenade.

John was also the mayor of Carolina Beach from 1959 to 1961.  The Washburns later sold the motel to Ree and Jackie Glisson who put in air conditioning units, enlarged the pool to 48 feet and made other improvements.  This card shows it under their ownership. The Glissons operated it for several years before it was sold and torn down to make way for the Carolina Surf.

 

From the President – July, 2017

By Elaine Henson

Our final local World War I soldier featured in our WWI exhibit is Arthur Bluethenthal.  He was born in Wilmington in 1891 to parents, Leopold and Johanna Bluethenthal, who had emigrated from Germany after the Civil War. Leopold worked in his uncle’s dry goods business which he eventually took over in later years.

The family lived on Dock Street and later at 17th and Market Streets which remains across from the Kenan mansion, home of UNCW’s Chancellor. They also had a home at Wrightsville Beach built c.1897. The home, which was the oldest surviving on Wrightsville Beach, sold in 2015 for over $3.45 million, only to be torn down so the two lots it sat on could be relisted.

Nicknamed “Bluey”, Arthur was educated in local schools, then attended Phillip’s Exeter Academy and graduated from Princeton University in 1913, where he was a star on their football team.  After college he did some football coaching at Princeton and UNC- Chapel Hill.  He also worked in his family’s business.

Arthur joined the war effort in France in May of 1916, the year before the US entered the war. He was a volunteer ambulance driver before joining the French Foreign Legion as an aviator in May of 1917.  He was shot down in combat on June 5, 1918 and was buried in France.  Later his body was exhumed and shipped home.  He was re-interred in the Jewish section of Oakdale Cemetery.  On Memorial Day of 1928, the Wilmington Airport was renamed Bluethenthal Field in his honor and remained that until the 1950s when the name was changed to New Hanover County Airport.

The North Carolina State Archives has a collection of letters that Arthur Bluethenthal wrote from France during WWI.  You can access the State Archives here and search for them and other North Carolinians’ letters from the “Great War”.

This is an excerpt from one of Arthur’s letters that we have on display at our exhibit:

Our own Cape Fear Museum has a collection from the Bluethenthal family. See it at: www.capefearmuseum.com  Photo courtesy of Cape Fear Museum.

 

From the President – June, 2017

By Elaine Henson

Andrew Emile Kure was born March 30, 1893, the youngest child to Hans Anderson and Ellen Miller Kure.  His parents had emigrated from Denmark in the late 1880s, first to Charleston, SC, and later Wilmington where they formed a ship chandler business.

When Carolina Beach was begun as a resort in 1887, the family bought property and started businesses in the new beach community.  In early 1900s they purchased large tracts of land near Fort Fisher.

Hans and Ellen Kure formed the Kure Land and Development Company in 1915 with their four sons, William Ludwig, Hans Adolph, Lawrence Christian and Andrew Emile, thus becoming the founders of Kure Beach.  They also had a daughter, Elene H. Kure Shands.

Twenty-four year old Andrew E. Kure enlisted in WWI on December, 15, 1917, in Lumberton, NC, leaving his job at the Atlantic Coast Line.

He served with the American Expeditionary Force in France, being promoted to Corporal in the Signal Corps in July, 1918, and then to Sergeant in the Air Service in September, 1918.  He was discharged June 9th of 1919.

He returned to his job as auditor in the freight receipt department at ACL and remained there until 1945.

In 1925 he married Elizabeth Hall Singletary.  The couple welcomed their only child, Andrew E. Kure, Jr., in 1927.  Andrew’s mother, Ellen, declared that the baby looked “punky” the first time she saw him. The nickname stuck and has followed their son for 90 years at this writing.

After retiring from the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, Andrew became more involved in the family land and rental businesses and helping to care for his oldest Uncle William L. “Cap” Kure.

Andrew died in 1950 and is buried in the family plot at Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.

(right) Andrew Emile Kure, Sr. and Betty Singletary Kure, parents of Andrew E. Kure, Jr, better known as “Punky” of Kure Beach, NC

 

 

 

From the President – May, 2017

By Elaine Henson

Our World War I exhibit will be opening soon.  We are focusing on soldiers with local ties to Wilmington and Federal Point. Over the next three months we will be featuring Major William A. Snow, Andrew Emile Kure, Sr. and Arthur Bluethenthal.

William Arthur Snow was born at Fort Hamilton, New York, to Major General and Mrs. William J. Snow.  He graduated from West Point in 1916 and was assigned to the Corps of Engineers as a Second Lieutenant. He first served in Mexico from graduation to the spring of 1917.  In late September, 1917, he sailed to France with the 2nd Division.  He immediately engaged his company in construction work and training for battle.

He was at the front in Verdun Sector, Chateau Thierry, Belleau Woods and Soissons being wounded twice and later serving with the Army of Occupation in Germany.  Major Snow was awarded the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Silver Cross, Chevalier Legion d”Honneur, Croix de Guerre with two Palms, and the  Silver Star Citation during the war.

Following the war, Major Snow served in the Army Corps of Engineering in Kansas after which he obtained a BS of Civil Engineering at M. I. T.  For the next two years he was in Washington, D. C. as assistant to the Chief Engineer in that district.

In July of 1926, he was assigned to Wilmington, N. C. as the chief engineer for the Wilmington District.  He was 32 years old.  His assignment was being in charge of the 93 mile continuation of the Intracoastal Waterway from Beaufort, N. C. to the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

There was only one land cut in the whole project that being the area we now know as Snow’s Cut.  That land cut, completed in 1930, transformed our Federal Point peninsula into an island requiring a bridge to cross over.  The cut and the bridge have been known ever since as Snow’s Cut, named for the young Army Corps Engineer.

Next month: Andrew Emile Kure, Sr.

Note:  Last month I mentioned the old Federal Point School on the Cape Fear River and stated that it was located on what is now known as Dow Road near Henniker’s Ditch, which would put it near the Newton Cemetery.  I was contacted by A.E. “Punky” Kure who told me the road leading to the old school on the river is about a quarter mile from where Dow Road curves and becomes K Avenue. 

Punky showed me several ledger sheets belonging to his grandmother, Ellen Kure, who owned the land and the building. They were dated early 1900s and showed $100 a month rent for the property paid by the School Board.  I apologize for the error and am most appreciative that Punky reads our newsletter so carefully and often calls us to task.  A historical society needs to have its facts straight and we welcome corrections when you see an error.

 

From the President – April, 2017

By Elaine Henson

Carolina Beach Hotel, Part IV

The Carolina Beach Hotel opened on June 4, 1926, it was destroyed by fire on September 13, 1927, and its’ owners were acquitted of arson charges on January 20, 1928. In a year and a half, the hotel’s story had come to an end.  The city block bordered by South Fourth and Fifth Streets, Atlanta Avenue and Clarendon Boulevard sat empty for the next ten years.

In January, 1938, construction began on the Carolina Beach School in the same city block where the hotel had been.  Another similarity was that the builder of the new school, W.A. Simon, also built the hotel.

Until 1916 Carolina Beach elementary students attended a school near the river in the area where Dow Road and Henniker’s Ditch are located. Katie Burnett Hines was the principal of that school that burned in 1916.

After that the pupils were bused to Myrtle Grove School near Myrtle Grove Road with the promise that the school board would build a new school on the beach.  About 70 Carolina Beach students went back to the beach for the 1937-38 school year. They used a temporary school located on the boardwalk and called, appropriately, the Boardwalk School.

Carolina Beach School – Class of 1937-1938

Carolina Beach School – Class of 1937-1938

There were two classrooms: one for grades 1-3 and the other for grades 4-6. The rooms were separated by a sheet hanging from the ceiling. It was located near Britt’s Donuts present location.

You can see our late member, Ryder Lewis, in this photo of the fourth, fifth and sixth grades from that 1937-38 Boardwalk School.  He is on the third row, second from the left.  (click image) The late Juanita Bame Herring is on the same row, fourth from left.  You can tell this was post WWI, pre-WWII, and at a time when boys were crazy about planes from all the aviator caps in the photo.

The new school on South Fourth Street was begun in early January of 1938.  It had an auditorium and four classrooms.  You can see how quickly it went up from this mid- February picture from the Sunday Star News.

In April, 1938, the New Hanover Board of Elections made plans to move Federal Point’s polling place to Carolina Beach School since 70% of the voters lived south of Snow’s Cut.  Previously they had voted at Robinson’s Store on Carolina Beach Road.

New Hanover Schools Superintendent, H.M. Roland announced that 105 students were enrolled when the school opened in fall of 1938. Mrs. Madge Woods Bell was principal the first year.  She moved away the summer of 1939 and was replaced by Mrs. C.G. Van Landingham who was still there when the first of several additions was added in 1941.

Carolina Beach School celebrated its 75th birthday in 2013. [This is the only image we have of the early school.  If any of you have a photo we would love to scan it for our archives.]

Carolina Beach Hotel:   Part I    Part II    Part III
Oral History – Isabel Lewis Foushee: ‘School Memories’