From the President – March, 2017

Carolina Beach Hotel Part III

By Elaine Henson

The trial for hotel owners H.T. Ireland and J.L. Byrd was slated to begin on Wednesday, January 18, 1928, but was continued to Thursday, January 19th, by Judge N.A. Sinclair because a witness subpoenaed by the state was a no-show on January 18th.  Mrs. S.R. Petty of Greensboro was believed to have important information regarding the whereabouts of a certain unnamed party on the night of the fire. It was also believed that Mrs. Petty was in Ohio and had been there for a while having left unanswered another subpoena from January 3rd. The state contended her testimony would have important bearing in the case. But Judge Sinclair decided the trial would proceed on Thursday without her.

The state began with testimony from the treasurer of the Carolina Beach Corporation, W.W. Walsh of Winston- Salem, who stated that the sale of the hotel was, in reality, a trade for a business property in Winston-Salem.  The CB Corporation got the Winston property with a mortgage of $50,000 and John R. Baker got the hotel with 75 lots and a mortgage of $85,000.  Mr. Baker was supposedly purchasing the hotel for a Mr. R.L. Nisson who planned to move his family to Carolina Beach to live and implement plans of vast improvements for the hotel and lots.  As it turned out Mr. Baker bought it for himself and immediately sold it to Sam Jackson of Mecklenburg County who sold it to Highway Park West, Inc. Ireland and Byrd were two of the owners of that company.

Mr. Walsh also testified that the hotel had to turn away guests “by the hundreds” for July 4, 1917, but by August, business had dropped off considerably owing to the beach season coming to an end.

[I have an idea that being a summer season hotel may have influenced their decision to sell it coupled with the location. It was eight blocks southwest of the boardwalk, the pavilion and all the many activities there. This may have created a problem for hotel guests as it was a long walk back and forth to the boardwalk and they would have to drive.

Guests at the Bame and Greystone Hotels could walk out the front door to the boardwalk and ocean. Also, the fresh water lake may have turned out not to be as much of a draw as anticipated and the guests would have to walk or drive four blocks for ocean bathing. 

Indeed, in the trial’s second day the Wilmington Morning Star reported that the “Defense Counsel poked fun at the advertised slogan that the hotel was located in front of the only freshwater lake located within a few hundred feet of ocean along the Atlantic coast.” 

CB Corporation Treasurer W.W. Walsh also touched on the location by testifying that the hotel was 3,000 feet from the ocean to be closer to the fresh water lake and the lots owned by the corporation.  I can’t quite see the advantage of the hotel being close to potential neighborhoods full of homes. But, of course, the corporation didn’t own any lots on the ocean.]

Further testimony by Marsden de Rosset of the firm de Rosset and Hazlehurst, fire insurance agents, revealed that Mr. Ireland purchased $28,500 additional insurance on the hotel on September 6, 1927.  That was seven days before the fire on September 13th.  Oddly, the premium was paid on September 16th, three days after the fire. The additional insurance meant the hotel was insured for over $100,000.

The State called W. W. Lewis, who lived about a block north of the hotel, who testified about hearing shouts and gun shots about 2:30 in the morning of September 13th.  He ran to the hotel where he helped rescue Byrd and Ireland from the porch roof of the burning building and described the scene there.  Also testifying at the end of day one was Captain W. A. Scott of the North Carolina Fire Commission. He explained the details of the department’s investigation against the pair leading to their indictment, but the newspaper account of his testimony was almost nonexistent.

The second day began with defenses’ unsuccessful motion of a direct verdict of not guilty as to end the trial.

The defense then proceeded with a lengthy list of character witnesses. The witnesses included J. Elmer Long, Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina; B.T. Baynes, president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce; C.L. Story, Sheriff of Alamance County; Dr. W. W. Harvey, coroner of Guildford County; bank presidents, real estate developers, builders, insurance executives and attorneys, among the many prominent citizens who testified to the defendants’ character.

The three defense attorneys, led by Wilmington attorney John Bright Hill, then gave ending arguments without calling a single material witness.  The judge spent 20 minutes instructing the jury who returned in 50 minutes with the verdict. This is the headline in the Morning Star’s Saturday, January 27, 1927’s, edition:

 

One can only wonder why the State’s failed witness, being from Greensboro, was in Ohio at the time of the trial ignoring two subpoenas.   And, one can further wonder if that witness’ testimony could have had a different bearing on the case. That, we will never know.

Next month: Part IV: Carolina Beach School on the site.

 

From the President – February, 2017

Carolina Beach Hotel, Part II

Click

By Elaine Henson

On May 26, 1927, just before opening for the summer season, the Carolina Beach Hotel with all its furnishings plus the adjacent 755 lots were sold to John R. Baker of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The sale represented most of the holdings of the Carolina Beach Corporation who had built the hotel and owned the lots.  The sale resulted in a change of management and may have been the reason the formal opening was delayed until June 18th.

Surprisingly, on July 25, 1927, John R. Baker sold the hotel and lots to Sam Jackson of Mecklenburg County who sold it again to Highway Park West, Inc. of Greensboro, North Carolina.

Three sales in two months may have been an indication that the “Roaring Twenties” economy was riding high in a bubble that was to break with the October, 1929 stock market crash resulting in the Great Depression.  Economics aside, the new owners from Greensboro announced on July 28th that they planned to operate the hotel year round and were making plans to do so.

Less than 6 weeks later, on September 13, 1927, the Carolina Beach Hotel lay in smoldering ruins, the result of a fire that burned it to the ground.  Miraculously rescued from the burning hotel were two of the owners, H.T. Ireland and J.L. Byrd, both of Greensboro.

The rescue was assisted by a nearby resident, W.W. Lewis, who was awakened about 2:30 in the morning by gun shots and cries for help. Mr. Lewis said Ireland and Byrd were in their night clothes, had on no shoes and jumped from the 14 foot high porch roof.  The pair were the only ones in the hotel.

Earlier they had been taking inventory of the property with plans of reopening the hotel for the first winter season.  The next day attorneys for Ireland began an investigation of possible arson.  Also on the scene investigating were Stacy W. Wade, North Carolina Fire Insurance Commissioner, and his deputy Captain W.A. Scott.

Click

On November 18, 1927, H.T. Ireland and J.L. Byrd were arrested in Greensboro after a New Hanover County Grand Jury returned true bills of indictments against them for house burning in connection with the fire at the Carolina Beach Hotel.  They each posted a bond of $5,000 and were to appear in Superior Court, New Hanover County in January, 1928.

Captain W.A. Scott of the NC Fire Insurance Commission and an inspector from the National Board of Fire Underwriters had conducted a thorough investigation of the fire resulting in the grand jury’s action and the men’s subsequent arrests.

Carolina Beach Hotel, Part I

Coming next month, Part III

 

 

From the President – January, 2017

By Elaine Henson

The grand, new, three story Carolina Beach Hotel opened for the 1926 beach season near the Carolina Beach Lake where Carolina Beach School is today.  But by September of 1927 it was gone. It had lasted for only two summer seasons.

It all began when the Carolina Beach Corporation announced plans for a hotel in mid-1925, you can see the planned site in this April, 1925 map of the beach.

The CB Corporation’s president was S.C. Ogbourne of Winston Salem, NC.  He and Mrs. Ogbourne purchased the Loughlin home on the corner of Lake Park Blvd. and Cape Fear Blvd. as their summer residence.  The house later became The Cottage Restaurant and is presently Havana’s.

Mr. Ogbourne awarded a contract to W.A. Simon on October 27, 1925 to build the hotel which was designed by Wilmington architect Leslie Boney.  By December 7th the hotel’s foundation was laid making it certain to be open by beach season 1926. Also planned was a golf course and a pier for mooring yachts on the Cape Fear River.

The hotel’s location was a big draw as it overlooked a fresh water lake a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean thus affording guests “still water” bathing in the lake as well as the ocean bathing.

Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Ogbourne are seen here enjoying the gardenias at their home on the corner of Lake Park and Cape Fear Boulevard

Mr. and Mrs. S. C. Ogbourne are seen here enjoying the gardenias at their home on the corner of Lake Park and Cape Fear Boulevard.

The hotel’s formal opening was held on June 4, 1926. Its manager was J.L. Fagan formerly of the Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida and the Greenbrier Hotel in West Virginia.

There were 75 rooms with adjoining baths, a 150 capacity formal dining room overlooking the verandas, a smaller private dining room and a room for children’s dining. The lobby and mezzanine were furnished with cream colored wicker with print upholstery.  Enclosed porches had orange hued wicker.

Guests could dance the night away to the Meyers Davis Orchestra. The rates were $6 per day or $36 for a week, both rates included meals.

Carolina Beach had its formal opening on June 12 with many Wilmington, New Hanover County and beach dignitaries.

Carolina Beach Hotel from the May 30, 1926 edition of the Wilmington Morning Star

Carolina Beach Hotel from the May 30, 1926 edition of the Wilmington Morning Star

Among the guests at the Carolina Beach Hotel that weekend was the Honorable J.F.A. Cecil and Mrs. Cecil, the former Cornelia Vanderbilt of Biltmore.  The Cecils were married in April of 1924 with a lavish reception at the mansion.  Nearly a hundred years later their grandson, William Amherst Vanderbilt Cecil, continues to oversee the day to day operations of the largest private residence in the United States.

Coming next month, Part II

 

From the President – December, 2016

By Elaine Henson

Many of you may not know that the Hanover Seaside Club at Wrightsville Beach actually had its beginnings here at Carolina Beach.

Captain John W. Harper and other investors formed the New Hanover Transit Company in 1886. They planned to ferry passengers from downtown Wilmington to Carolina Beach by steamer to a dock on the Cape Fear River.  From the dock, passengers could board the Shoo Fly train for the trip from the river to the sea beach.

The first excursions began in the summer of 1887 with guests staying over at Bryan’s Oceanic Hotel and dining at the Railroad Station Restaurant both barely completed.  The resort grew over the next few years to include bath houses, cottages and amusements.

In January of 1898, Captain Harper met with leaders of Wilmington’s sizeable German community who were interested in building a club house at Carolina Beach.  They elected officers, appointed a committee to draw up a constitution and by-laws and to choose a site.  Since most of them came from Hanover, Germany they decided to name it ‘The Hanover Seaside Club’.

The group of over a hundred subscribers pledged an initial fee of $10 each to construct the club.  Later they set up a membership fee of $20 with annual dues of $3. By March, 1898 they approved plans for the clubhouse by architect Henry northend-mapBonitz.  He had designed the 1887 pavilion at Carolina Beach and later designed Lumina Pavilion at Wrightsville Beach built in 1905.

Construction on the clubhouse began in early May of 1898.  It was located ocean front in the block between cross streets Fourth and Fifth which ran from the ocean to Myrtle Grove Sound as seen in the early plot map.

Over a hundred years later, in 1988, the Town of Carolina Beach changed the name of Fourth to Seagull Lane and Fifth to Sailfish Lane.

Also note that the map is before Myrtle Grove Sound was dredged and widened in 1939 becoming the yacht basin with the dredge spoil creating additional land and Canal Drive.

The Club’s first floor had a 30’ by 40’ auditorium in the center with a ladies’ parlor and toilet room, kitchen, dining room and lunch alcove.  The upper story was for the gentlemen and was accessible only by an outdoor stair.  It contained a 25’ by 30’ billiard salon, a café, smoking room, two card rooms, a plain chamber and custodian’s room.  The building was encircled downstairs with a 20’ wide porch or piazza as it was called.  The upper floor had a porch in the front and back together containing 1,000 feet.

The Club was completed by July 3, 1898 and had safety lines with floaters, also called life lines, in the ocean for the safety of the bathers.  It also had a 120’ long railroad platform so members could get off and on the Shoo Fly train right at the club house.

hanover-seaside-clubThe members enjoyed nine seasons at Carolina Beach before deciding to build a second club house at Wrightsville Beach which opened September 3, 1906.

The plan was to have two locations but by1909 they sold the Carolina Beach building to T. A. Boyd of Hamlet who operated it as a boarding house.

Anyone interested in reading more about the Seaside Club can get a copy of Ann Hutteman’s One Hundred Golden Summers: A History of the Hanover Seaside Club 1898-1998 at the library.  Ann is my good friend and a longtime member of FPHPS.  Most of my research for this letter came from the first chapter of her book.


 

From the President – November, 2016

By Elaine Henson

Most residents on our island consider 1954’s Hurricane Hazel as the worst hurricane ever to hit our area.  It was the only Category Four hurricane in southeastern North Carolina in all of the 20th Century or since. And, it came in on a lunar high tide. It is often the benchmark to which all other hurricanes are compared. 

Hazel’s reputation often overshadows the 1955 hurricane season which had three hurricanes impacting coastal North Carolina with two of the hurricanes hitting within 5 days of each other.

Hurricane Connie hit on August 12, 1955 as a Category Two with typical strong winds, high tides and heavy rainfall.  It caused heavy crop damage and 27 deaths in North Carolina.

Five days later, on August 17, Hurricane Diane made landfall in North Carolina as a Tropical storm with winds of 50 mph and gusts of 74 mph in Wilmington.  The waves were 12 feet, tides were 6-8 feet above normal and the storm surge caused damage to homes along the beach and coastal flooding on top of the rain-soaked area from Connie. hazel-cb This August 17, 1955 press photo of Hurricane Diane shows the 1600 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North featuring two flat top houses on the ocean front. Their porches are gone and waves are splashing at the front door. 

Lane Holt, whose parents Dan and Margaret Holt operated the Carolina Beach Pier on the north end, confirmed that these two houses were just a few yards south of the pier.

He remembers Connie and Diane well and reports that the post Hazel rebuilt pier held up through the two storms, but the tackle shop was destroyed again. Then on September 19, 1955 Hurricane Ione made landfall near Wilmington as a Category Two storm leaving more flooding, strong winds, storm surge, more crop damage and 7 dead in North Carolina.

Not only did Pleasure Island have to rebuild after Hazel in 1954, a year later it suffered three hurricanes in just 37 days and faced more rebuilding and repairs.  It makes one understand just how strong and resilient our residents are.

 

From the President – October, 2016

By Elaine HensonHazel CB

Sixty-two years ago on October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel slammed into our area as the only Category 4 storm to hit the Carolinas in all of the Twentieth Century or since.  It came in on a lunar high tide which added to the flooding damage with winds at our beaches clocked at almost 100 miles an hour.  It was possibly the most devastating hurricane to ever hit the NC/SC border.

This picture shows what is now the 200 block of Carolina Beach Avenue North with the two-story Sessoms’ Rooms and Apartments (on the right) after Hazel.  It was pushed over with the bricks formerly covering the exterior tumbled on the sand.

This post card (below) shows what Sessoms’ looked like before Hazel.  It is not postmarked, but the Ford parked next to the building is a 1952 model.  So, this card could be 1952, 53 or even 54 since Hazel hit in October and the photo could have been taken earlier in that year.

On the porch sit several aluminum chairs with webbing which were very popular in the fifties. You entered through a screen door with an aluminum floral design also popular mid-century. All the windows have screens to let the cool ocean breezes in.  You can also see a parking meter by the curb showing that at one time Carolina Beach had meters along that stretch of Carolina Beach Avenue North.  Do you think the guests parked in the sand lot cordoned off by the chain?

sessoms CBSessoms’, 52 Carolina Beach Avenue North, address was before the center of town was moved 2 blocks north which would put it in the present day 200 block.  It was owned by Edger and Novella Sessoms who also owned another Sessoms rooms and apartment. across the street.

Their niece, Carol Sessoms Ford, used to live in the white 2-story building in the Hazel picture. It was purchased by the Sessoms in the late 1950s or early 1960s and still remains at 236 Carolina Beach Avenue North, now part of Surfside Motel.  Carol stated that the Sessoms’ brick building was torn down to make room for a three-building modern motel with a pool in the center which is still there, and also, a part of Surfside.

 

From the President — September, 2016

By Elaine Henson

Due to popular demand, our Bathing Suit Exhibit will be open through the month of September on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10-4.  So you have a last chance to come in and see it if you haven’t already.

It gives me an opportunity to feature one last Carolina Beach bathing beauty and we may have saved the best for last.

Hannah Solomon Block hailed from Portsmouth, Virginia when she moved to Wilmington in 1935 as the bride of Charles M. Block, one of the founders of Block’s Shirt Factory.  The couple built a home in Forest Hills, but also had a cottage at Carolina Beach where she became the first woman head lifeguard on the North Carolina coast.  She served in that post from 1940 to 1949 while many men were away during WWII.

In addition to being head lifeguard, she also served as Chairman of the Carolina Beach Water Safety and First Aid Committee Henson #1who operated a first aid station in Town Hall located at that time on the boardwalk. The station was established in 1936 as the first Red Cross Highway First Aid Station in eastern North Carolina.  Hannah’s duties included running the station, training life guards, training town employees in first aid and life guarding herself. During WWII she was also a charter member of the USO and on its Board of Directors.

Block swimsuit

Courtesy of the Cape Fear Museum of History and Science

This photo from the May 30, 1946 edition of the Wilmington Evening Post shows her with two lifeguards demonstrating life saving techniques in transporting a stretcher case to the first aid station.  She is wearing a black bathing suit with her Red Cross lifesaving patch; the suit was most likely made of wool knit very similar to one in our exhibit.

Many years later, Hannah donated a similar bathing suit to the Cape Fear Museum for their collection. It is a Jantzen with the familiar Swim Girl logo and also has her Red Cross Lifesaving patch.

Hannah Block went on to devote her life serving her adopted hometown working on the Azalea Festival Committee in many capacities, helping organize the first Miss North Carolina Pageant (1947), training Miss Wilmington for the NC Pageant for 40 years, serving as the first woman Mayor Pro Tem of the Wilmington City Council (1961-63), and being a pioneer in restoring houses in the Historic District among many other activities.

Her work with the USO during WWII was rewarded in 2008 when the former 1940 USO Building was renamed the Hannah Block Historic USO/Community Arts Center in her honor.

 

From the President — August, 2016

By Elaine Henson

Judy Cumber Moore

Judy Cumber Moore

Our Bathing Suit Exhibit will be open through Labor Day.  If you haven’t been by to see it, we encourage you to do so, Tuesday, Friday and Saturdays, 10-4.

In keeping with that theme, we want to showcase two Carolina Beach bathers that are also members of FPHPS.

Judy Cumber Moore was a teenager when she posed for this photo on the rock jetty in front of the boardwalk.  She is wearing a one piece suit with straps removed for a bare shoulder look.

Judy spent summers at Carolina Beach since her family owned Cumber’s Cottages near the lake. We know her now as Judy Moore, wife of FPHPS board member, Byron Moore.

Byron was a Carolina Beach lifeguard and taught swimming lessons to beach children at the Nel-El Motel pool. Judy and Byron were high school sweethearts now married for 57 years.  He later became an orthodontist and he and Judy raised their family in Winston-Salem.  Fortunately for us, they now mostly live at Kure Beach with monthly trips back to Winston-Salem.

Long time Carolina Beach resident Fran Doetsch sits on a blanket in front of the wooden boardwalk in 1956. She is wearing a trim one piece suit with straps over the shoulders and a kerchief covering her hair. If the sun got too hot, you could get some shade “under the boardwalk”.

President's Letter

Fran Doetsch

Fran’s family moved from the Sea Gate community of Wilmington to Kure Beach in the early 1930s when her step father, Dawson Mosley, took a job at the Ethel-Dow plant.

Like most teenagers at the beach, she loved spending time at the boardwalk.  She met her husband, Bob Doetsch, there and took him home to meet her mother the very night they met. Bob was in the Army during WWII and stationed at Fort Fisher.  They married December 1, 1943 and were married for 64 years when he passed away in January, 2008.

Bob worked for many years with the Army Corps of Engineers and served on the Carolina Beach Town Council as does their son, Gary Doetsch.

At 95, Fran remains a lively lady with an outgoing personality well known to residents of Carolina Beach.  She is also a wonderful resource on our history at Federal Point and always glad to share it with others.

From the President — July, 2016

By Elaine Henson

As our summer Vintage Bathing Suit Exhibit continues this month, we are continuing to showcase Carolina Beach bathers. We hope you can come by our History Center and see our exhibit on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10 – 4 pm.

Presidents letter #1It was a beautiful day at Carolina Beach in the 1950s when local girls, Mary Frances All (left) and Sylvia Fountain (right), posed for this post card. The girls are wearing suits with the “modesty panel” in the front like many of the suits in our exhibit.

They have chosen to take off the removable straps for a day of tanning without strap marks. Mary Frances shared with me that they were actually wearing each other’s suits that day. Most girls only had one suit each summer and tired of wearing the same one over and over so they often switched with a sister or friend.

Mary Frances All was a Winter Park girl but she and Sylvia were best friends graduating from New Hanover High School together in 1957. Mary Frances was crowned Teenage Azalea Princess at Wrightsville Beach’s Lumina Pavilion during the Azalea Festival in 1956. She now provides a scholarship for the festival princesses. Mary Frances lives in Stanly, North Carolina, and is the widow of the late Dr. James S. Forrester who also served in the North Carolina Senate. Her son, Dr. James Forrester, Jr. is a cardiologist practicing in Wilmington.

Sylvia Fountain was the daughter of Elmo and Plina Ritter Fountain. She was the granddaughter of W. G. Fountain who built the Fountain’s Rooms and Apartments in 1935 and the Royal Palm Hotel the following year in 1936. Both were in the first block of Harper Avenue. He also served three terms as a Carolina Beach Alderman from 1937 to 1945 and was mayor of Carolina Beach from 1945-47.   In 1949 he founded the Bank of Carolina Beach and served as its first president. W. G. Fountain was one of the honorees inducted into the Carolina Beach Walk of Fame this past Presidents letter #2January, 2016.

Sylvia’s mother, Plina Ritter Fountain (1916-2013), is posing in the Carolina Beach moon on the boardwalk in this photo from the 1940s. It is a little hard to see, but her black and white halter neck suit has a triangle shape cut out in the front just above the waist. These were the forerunners of two piece suits which were popular in the mid-1940s.

Plina ran the Fountain’s Rooms and Apartments on Harper Avenue while her husband Elmo managed the Hotel Royal Palm next door. They were the parents of four children, Ray, Sylvia, Griff and Janet.

Sylvia Fountain Logan passed away in 2008 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; her funeral was held at Bethany Presbyterian Church on Castle Hayne Road. Her parents and grandparents are buried in Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery.

 

From the President — June, 2016

by Elaine HensonPostard One

On June 12th from 2-4 pm we are having a reception for the opening of our summer Vintage Bathing Suit Exhibit.  So, we are continuing to showcase Carolina Beach bathers.

The postcard to the right has a “white border” which means that it dates from 1915 to 1930.  It was published by John Plummer for his store on Cape Fear Boulevard across from the Bame Hotel.  Plummer was the first mayor of Carolina Beach when it was incorporated in 1925.  His store was a popular place to shop since he carried a variety of goods and was also the post office location at one time.

The bathers are wearing suits still made of wool knit but without shoes, stockings and sleeves.  Three have webbed belts and look almost like very short dresses; one even has a collar and buttons going down the front.  All the ladies are wearing hats.

postcard TwoThe linen card to the left with the very glamorous beauty sitting on the beach can be dated 1941 since it has the phrase “The South’s Miracle Beach”.  It was used on many cards published after the devastating boardwalk fire of September, 1940.  The miracle was that the two blocks of destroyed boardwalk businesses were rebuilt and ready to open by beach season 1941.

She is wearing a one piece suit probably made of wool knit with lastex. In the mid-1930s the U.S. Rubber Company perfected a rubber thread which could be combined with cotton, wool, silk or rayon fibers to make a stretchy thread.   It was used for women’s foundation garments, bathing suits and a number of other uses and revolutionized the swim suit industry.