Federal Point Light

The Search for the Federal Point Lighthouse

N_83_3_5 Un-Ident.LH Ft Fisher-by George Tate

Unidentified Light House / Fort Fisher – by George Tate

Rebecca Taylor & Gayle Keresey

Years ago, while I was working as supervisor of the Carolina Beach Library, the branch manager told me that she’d seen a picture of a strange old house with what appeared to be a lighthouse lantern room on the top hanging in a corridor at the County Administration Building.  It was captioned Federal Point Lighthouse. Neither of us had ever heard of a Federal Point Lighthouse.

Several phone calls later, I’d managed to find out that the Cape Fear Museum owned the original photo, and that they’d be more than willing to make us a large mounted copy to display at the Carolina Beach Library where it hangs to this day.

Our first source for all things Lighthouse in North Carolina was David Sticks’s North Carolina Lighthouses where we found that indeed there had been a lighthouse at Federal Point; in fact, there had been a succession of three different structures erected to guide ships through the “New Inlet.”

This significant opening between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River had formed during a storm in September of 1761 about 5 miles above the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

For several years our research stopped there, but in 2007 I retired from the Library and took new part-time position at the Federal Point History Center, a small museum and visitors’ center run by the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.    I was surprised to discover that the Society’s logo showed a lighthouse, one that looked nothing like the photograph hanging in the Library.  The Society’s old-timers told me that the depiction was of the first Federal Point Lighthouse, created by a member, who had taken descriptions in historical records and created the logo.  Soon after starting, I found a lighthouse folder in the History Center’s files that included a detailed history along with pictures of the three successive lights.

The Local History Room of the New Hanover County Public Library also held a number of sources, including the Bill Reaves Files which are extensive newspaper clipping grouped by subject that go back to the early 1800’s.  Our problem was that no two sources agreed on exactly where this lighthouse stood. Over the next two years we managed to piece together the history of this almost forgotten light.

In 1814 the U.S. Congress, responding to cries from seagoing navigators as well as merchants in Wilmington, authorized the construction of a beacon at Federal Point. By September 1816 Robert Cochran, collector of customs at Wilmington and superintendent of the lighthouse on Bald Head Island, signed a contract with Benjamin Jacobs for the construction of the beacon.  The land upon which the light would stand was acquired by the Federal Government April of 1817 when New Hanover County deed books record that “Charles B. Gause deeded an acre of land on Federal Point to the United States Government for the erection of a lighthouse.”

We also discovered that U.S. Lighthouse Service records from 1816 and 1817 describe the light as a “conical brick beacon standing forty feet in height to the base of the lantern.”  It is also recorded that “at the base it measured six feet across with walls three feet thick.”  The tower was also described as having a shingled roof and an exterior that was plastered and painted white.

This first light served its purpose well, and there are continuing mentions of it in both Blunt’s American Coast Pilot and the annual Treasury Department Reports to Congress throughout the next 20 years.  In 1832 Robert Mills provided the following description in his book American Pharos, Or Lighthouse Guide. “This is also a stationary light, erected on Federal Point, in latitude 33.58 and longitude 78.06.”  Sadly, the Wilmington Advertiser of Friday April 22d, [1836] reported that “The Beacon at Federal Point was destroyed by fire on the night of Wednesday the 13th.”

Federal Point LightThe light must have been an important aid to navigation because by May of 1837 the Wilmington Port Collector’s Office was advertising for bids to rebuild the light. “Proposals will be received … for building a Light House and Dwelling House at Federal Point.”

This time those building specs give us a very good idea of just what the Lighthouse must have looked like.  “The tower to be built of hard brick, the form round; the foundation to be sunk three feet deep…the diameter of the base to be 18 that of the top 9 feet.”  The specifications go on to detail everything from the size and placement of the windows and circular iron stairs to this description of the lantern. “The height and diameter of the lantern to be sufficient to admit an iron sash in each octagon, to contain eighteen lights, eleven by nine glass…” For the first time a brick keeper’s cottage is also included. “thirty-four feet by twenty feet, one story, of eight feet height, divided into two rooms…”
For the next 25 years this lighthouse and keeper’s quarters stood vigil beside New Inlet, though records show that “A complete renovation of the lighthouse [Federal Point] and the keeper’s dwelling was made during the years 1843 through 1847.”  We also eventually came across a slightly different set of coordinates: 33.56.30 by 77.55.00 was published by the US Lighthouse service in 1849.

With the coming of the Civil War In 1863 the Confederate Governor John W. Ellis ordered all of North Carolina’s costal lights “destroyed, rendered inoperative, or have their lanterns removed.”   From records of the war we know that Col. William Lamb, commander of the growing fortification at the tip of Federal Point, had originally used a platform built against the lighthouse to watch for the swift and sure merchant ships running the Union blockade to bring arms and supplies into the port of Wilmington. This platform is clearly visible in a painting done in 1863 by Captain George Tait of the 40th North Carolina shortly before the lighthouse was pulled down in 1863.  Interestingly, for the first years of the war, the light so important to the blockade runners that each was expected to contribute one barrel of sperm oil each time they used the passage and protection of Fort Fisher.

However, by early 1863 the Union blockade had closed in on the Cape Fear and Union ships began to use the lighthouse tower to target the fort and particularly Lamb’s headquarters located in the keeper’s quarters just below it.  In the military record of North Carolina Troops we came across the following: “Campen, Alfred, Private. Enlisted in Beaufort County at age 19, September 30, 1861 for the war. Killed at Fort Fisher, New Hanover County, January 30, 1863 ‘by the falling of the lighthouse.’”

After the war, it didn’t take long to replace this vital aid to navigation. In the spring of 1866, a notice appeared that “the new Federal Point Light-house on the north side of New Inlet” would be in service by April 30. This third lighthouse was a very different style of structure.  Here, finally was the two story wooden frame house with the light apparatus on its roof. The light was also in a new location further south and closer to the edge of New Inlet.

Throughout the 1860’s and 70’s there was considerable activity at Federal Point and along New Inlet.  A group of men from Beaufort established a mullet fishery on the beach near the lighthouse. Hunting appears to have been good, too. On January 2, 1878, the Wilmington Star reported “Mr. Taylor, the keeper of the Federal Point Lighthouse, dined on a fine, fat duck for his dinner on last Saturday, although it was a rather costly duck to the government. On Friday about midnight, Mr. Taylor was attending to his light, when a duck came crashing through one of the large glasses, falling at his feet dead…valuable glass was shattered beyond repair. This was the second time that a bird had crashed into the Lighthouse.”

But there were soon to be other changes in the area of New Inlet.  By 1871, the Federal Government had conducted a study of the various channels and shoals, sand banks, and inlets that made up the navigation network from the mouth of the Cape Fear to the Port of Wilmington.  As a result, a series of projects attempting to close New Inlet lasted throughout the 1870’s. The hope was that by pushing more water through the mouth of the Cape Fear River between Bald Head Island and Oak Island, those navigational channels would deepen and become more stable.

With the closing of New Inlet, the Federal Point Lighthouse’s days were numbered.  In the 1877 Annual Report of the Light-House Board, this ominous note appears:  “The station needs extensive repairs, but in view of the probable discontinuance of the light on the closing of New Inlet, works to accomplish which are now in progress, nothing has been done toward making them.”  By 1879 the Federal Point Lighthouse was no longer a listed “aid to navigation” and in 1880 the Bald Head Light was re-lighted because New Inlet had been closed and the Federal Point Lighthouse had been found to be “useless.”

One final record of the light appears in Wilmington papers. “August 23, 1881: The lighthouse at Federal Point was destroyed by fire late this afternoon. This lighthouse had not been in use since the closing of New Inlet, but it was occupied as a dwelling by Mr. Taylor, the former keeper.”

Now we knew the chronology and what had happened to each of the three Federal Point lights. We even knew what each had looked like, but where exactly had each of these lighthouses been located?

Using the clue about Battle Acre we began researching the plot of land that is now within the North Carolina State Historic Site.  Documents showed that in the early 1960’s eminent archaeologist Stanley South had begun his career as manager of the site.  He’d gone prospecting in Battle Acre and found the brick foundation of a building that exactly matched the historical record of the second light keeper’s cottage.  An extensive excavation found a number of artifacts both from the Civil War era and from earlier occupation.   But he failed to find any sign of the actual lighthouse foundation and concluded that over time it had washed away into the ocean along with almost all of Fort Fisher’s sea facing revetments.  We managed to meet Dr. South when he came back to Fort Fisher for a program, and in the few minutes we had with him he confirmed his belief that the foundation of the second Lighthouse seemed to have been washed away.  He also told us that back in the sixties he’d found the foundation of the first lighthouse located within the boundaries of the historic site but closer to the river. Before this everyone we’d talked to assumed that the foundation for number two had been laid atop the foundation of the first lighthouse.

Federal Point Lighthouse Excavation. Nov. 2009Then in November 2009 I received a call at the Federal Point History Center.  The staff of the Historic Site, with the help of members of the North Carolina Office of Archaeology, had uncovered a round brick foundation that matched the measurements of lighthouse number two perfectly.   It had been there all along located just a few feet east of the Keeper’s Quarters.

Jim Steele, the current manager of the Fort Fisher Site, told me that they had been working on adding ADA access walkways to Battle Acre.  Because it is a registered historic site, they had to do test holes to be sure that the new construction won’t disturb any existing historic structures.  One of the test holes had taken them down to a brick foundation, so they stopped and asked the North Carolina Office of Archeology to come down and help them find what was down there.

What they found was a foundation that extended exactly three feet below the base, and which matched the dimensions of second lighthouse perfectly.  It was situated dead center in that original acre of land bought by the Federal Government in 1817, and it was accompanied by artifacts not only from the Civil War era but also from family life as early as the 1840’s.

Sadly for lighthouse enthusiasts the site remained open only two days.  The foundation  was immediately reburied, due to considerations about how long it might remain intact exposed to the wind and weather, as well as for its safety from tourists who might chip off a piece as a memento.     Steele hopes to eventually find a way to interpret the site though with the current budget woes that may be awhile in coming.

The Third Federal Point Lighthouse

The Third Federal Point Lighthouse

The exact site of the third light remains undiscovered. In an Island Gazette story Mark Weaver, a local Civil War buff, says “I have roamed through the woods, all through the Fort Fisher area looking for the lighthouse ditch and couldn’t find it.  I searched and searched for some clue to where the exact spot of the lighthouse was.  I guess it’s under the foundation of the Aquarium.”  Another local historian swears that he’s seen it, and that it’s buried in the briars and brambles deep in the woods of the aquarium property.

So, though there is nothing to see at the original sites, you can see the photo of Lighthouse number three at the Carolina Beach Branch Library at 300 Cape Fear Blvd., just two blocks west of US 421 In downtown Carolina Beach.  Be sure to call 910-798-6380 for open hours.

Or stop by the Federal Point History Center, at 1121 S. Lake Park Blvd., just south of the Carolina Beach Town Hall where you can see pictures of all three lights as well pictures taken of the 2009 excavation. Check its hours by calling 910-458-0502.

The next time you come across a picture or reference to a lighthouse you’ve never heard of don’t hesitate to dig in and discover its history, You must may find a lot more then you expected.
Related:

 

Federal Point Historic Preservation Society

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society was formed on March 28, 1994, for the purpose of bringing together persons interested in the history of Federal Point Township and who wished to make a contribution in documenting and preserving North Carolina history.

Through historic research, surveys, public education, markers, plaques, publications, structure identification, National Register nominations, genealogical research, and legislative lobbying, our preservation society hopes to preserve, document, and present the history of our area.

FPHPS Logo

FPHPS Logo

Statement of Purpose

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society was formed on March 28,1994, for the purpose of bringing together persons interested in the history of Federal Point Township and who wished to make a contribution in documenting and preserving North Carolina history.

Through historic research, surveys, public education, markers, plaques, publications, structure identification, National Register nominations, genealogical research and legislative lobbying, our preservation society hopes to preserve, document, and present the history of our area

Through a grant from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society initiated a cultural site inventory and cartographic review of Federal Point in lower New Hanover County, whereby 175 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, thus far, have been identified and locations mapped.

The Society organized a committee of 12, which included preservationists, developers, county planning officials, and concerned individuals to study and make recommendations to better implement the conservation easements in compliance with New Hanover County’s Conservation Overlay Regulations.

CB Gazebo - Future FP History Center

CB Town Hall Gazebo – Future FP History Center

The Society enthusiastically pursued the protection of the historic colonial site of the Sedgeley Abbey plantation and the establishment of a shipwreck overlook at Carolina Beach.

Both the Newton Homesite and Cemetery and the Joy Lee Apartments have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Oral histories, genealogical studies, youth essay competitions and mobile exhibits are some of the ongoing projects administered through volunteer committee members.

A monthly newsletter is produced which includes a historic feature and announces meetings and events of historic interest. Brochures, pamphlets, and flyers on prominent historic features are also published to provide information and public education.  Procuring a research source collection of photographs, documents, books, and periodicals pertinent to Federal Point history is, also, an ongoing project.

FP History Center

Federal Point History Center

 

The Society entered into a ten-year lease, with option to renew, of an existing gazebo structure adjacent to Carolina Beach’s Municipal Town Hall.  In 2000, this structure was enclosed, complete with a 16-foot addition, bringing the facility to nearly 1600 square feet.  Dedicated in March, 2001, the History Center includes an auditorium, office area, eight large exhibit displays, a kitchen, two restrooms and an archival storage room.  An audio-visual system was implemented to record and present educational programs and projects for students, researchers, and visitors.

The facility provides a meeting place and operating headquarters, as well as a collection and storage repository for research materials and objects related to Federal Point and North Carolina history.  The History Center is open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and welcomes residents and tourists who wish to learn more about our local history.  The Center is located at 1121-A N. Lake Park Boulevard, adjacent to the Carolina Beach Town Hall.

The Society meets the third Monday of each month at 7:30 PM., at the Federal Point History Center.  Lecturers and speakers from throughout the state present programs on topics of historic interest.

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is supported by its membership and by grants and contributions from the community.  Your membership, support or contribution will be greatly appreciated.


Membership:

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society operates as a federal and state non-profit organization.

The Society works to preserve, document and educate the public through the:

  • Development and support of the Federal Point History Center
  • Monthly newsletter
  • Website and Facebook page
  • Monthly meetings with educational programs
  • Nominations to the National Register of Historic Places
  • Historic Newton Cemetery preservation
  • Educational brochures, pamphlets and flyers on prominent historic features
  • Historic structures plaque program
  • Research library
  • Establishment and maintenance of the General Beauregard Shipwreck
  • Oral history program
  • Youth essay competition
  • Historic publications
  • Our Postcard Collection

Annual membership in the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society includes 12 issues of our monthly newsletter and 10 monthly programs at the History Center, as well as June and December socials.

Download and print a PDF Membership Form

Annual Memberships
CATEGORIES Amt. enclosed
Individual $20.
Family $25.
Business $40.
Benefactor $40.
Sponsor $60.
Patron $80.
Lifetime, family $200.
History Center - Agave

Rear of Federal Point History Center – Agave Plant

Make check payable to:

Federal Point Historic Preservation Society – (or FPHPS)
P. O. Box 623,
Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Captain John Harper – from the Bill Reaves Files

August 17, 1880 – The steamer PASSPORT was to make her last trip of the season to the “Rocks” at New Inlet. Capt. John W. Harper, master of the steamer, stated that “the tide will exactly suit for a good day’s fishing at this point, being low water about 12 noon”.  (Wilm Star, 8-13-1880)

 

August 14, 1883 – A moonlight excursion was offered on the steamboat PASSPORT to Federal Point. Music and dancing, Sheepshead Supper at Mayo’s Place. Fare for round trip 50 cents. One hour at Federal Point. John W. Harper and George N. Harriss, Managers.   (Wilm Star, 8-14-1883)

 

June 5, 1887  – Fifteen miles from Wilmington on the banks of the ocean is situated Carolina Beach which is daily, rapidly, and deservedly growing in popular favor. How is it reached? One hour is hardly spent on the steamer PASSPORT when the boat moves slowly to Harper’s Pier, where the pleasure seekers disembark to find in readiness a train of cars awaiting to carry them to their destination. These cars are made after the manner of cars used at Coney Island and are convenient and commodious. A ride of five or six minutes through a level and interesting country, filled with flowers and green shrubbery, brings you in full view of the ocean.
read more

Oral History – Earl Page – Part 3: ‘Blue Top Cottages’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Blue Top was the first home that was built. There was a string of cottages next to Blue Top before 1940. The Army hadn’t come in yet.

Walter Winner ran the Blue Top Cottages in ’37. Granddad ran it 38, 39 and 40. Granddad and grandmother moved in to an end cottage—the very first one on this end became an office and a home. Earl’s father came into the picture in ’46. His Mother didn’t care for this kind of life.

She’d stay maybe a month, two months. She was a city woman. Earl got discharged. His Dad asked him to help keep the pier going. Well, Earl and ten million other guys didn’t have a job. read more

Oral History – Brenda Coffey – Part 1: ‘Living at Kure Beach’

Compiled and edited by Ann Hertzler

Brenda Coffey

Brenda Coffey

Brenda Lee Fry was named for her mother Mary Lee Tyler Fry; her father was Therman J. Fry also know as “Fundy”. Her grandparents were Charles Brover Fry and Ada Sesoms Fry, better known as Ma and Pa Fry. The families moved here in 1943 when Brenda was a little over 2 years old. It was war-time. Her father and grandfather worked in the shipyard in Wilmington and then moved to Kure Beach.

After the war they ran Fundy’s Restaurant. The restaurant was on the south side of the pier on K Avenue. Brenda loved being at the restaurant. Next door to Fundy’s was a little grocery store run by Linwood Flowers. Next door was the small post office. The first post mistress was Mitsn Saunders somewhere mid 1945 to 46. She heard that Mitsn taught school because she always corrected incorrect English.

Fundy’s Restaurant was open in 1946 and 47. They had a serving bar with stools and probably just a few booths serving 35 or 40 people. Fundy’s menu is shown. They prepared all the food – country-style steak, fried chicken, hot dogs, hamburgers, BBQ, and snow cones. They had also operated a BBQ house in Lumberton. Brenda’s mother cooked all the delicious desserts including chocolate pies, fried apple pies, coconut cake and pound cakes. Her father had worked for an automotive parts distributor in Wilmington, and later owned his own automotive business for many years.

They first rented an ocean front house, about 4 blocks south of K Avenue. During World War 11, the rent was controlled by the government. Hurricane Hazel destroyed this home in 1954.

Fundy’s Restaurant 1946 - 1947

Fundy’s Restaurant
1946 – 1947

Around 1946 they bought lots at 109 and 113 South 3rd Street from L. C. Kure. The lots were all 50 by a 100 feet. Their houses were barracks from Fort Fisher purchased for almost nothing after WWII. But you had to pay to move the barracks. Brenda’s Daddy had three barracks moved to the lots – one was for a workshop. Her grandparents lived beside them.

The houses had 3 bedrooms, and a long open living room, dining room, kitchen and bath. They had an electric refrigerator, gas stove, kerosene heater, a septic tank and a well. They didn’t have TV until the late 50s. The phone came probably in the 50s – a party line. They washed dishes by hand.

The round, electric washing machines had ringers on the top. Brenda’s mother filled the washer from the house, the wash water and the rinse water. White sheets and other white things were washed first; and then all the heavy wet washed clothes were lifted up and put through the ringer. The water ran back into the washtub and the washed clothes went into the rinse water. The next batch of clothes was put in the wash water. You started rinsing and picking up the heavy wet, clean clothes and taking them outside to hang on the line. Brenda’s Mother wouldn’t let her near the ringer because Brenda might catch her fingers in the ringers.

Her Mother bought groceries from the A&P at Carolina Beach, located on the corner of Lake Park Blvd and Cape Fear Blvd in the building that is now called Ocean Variety. Later the A&P moved to Cape Fear Blvd where the Sea Merchant is located. It was the only place to buy groceries then unless you bought them from the little grocery store beside Fundy’s restaurant.

Brenda gave Kure Beach town hall a copy of minutes of the Kure Beach Progressive Association that describes their meetings in the 1940s and earning money to buy a fire hose and a fire truck (see our December 2011 Newsletter)

There was only one policeman in Kure Beach. The firemen were volunteers. The first permanent doctor Brenda remembers was Dr. Claude H. Fryar at Carolina Beach who moved to the beach 1952. She remembers Dr. Fryar making a house call to give her a shot when she had the flu.

Brenda remembers a passenger plane that crashed near Bolivia, NC on January 6, 1960, when a bomb planted on board exploded in mid air killing 34 people. Pieces of the plane fell on Kure Beach and Fort Fisher. The plane was a DC6, National Airline Flight 2511 from New York to Miami.

 

Oral History – Ray Rothrock – Part 6: ‘Downtown Kure Beach’

by Ann Hertzler

There was also a Mrs. Davis‟ Restaurant in Kure Beach on U.S. 421, now S. Ft. Fisher Boulevard Avenue. It was across from the Lutheran Retreat. The building is no longer standing and is now an empty lot. That building was one of the old Army Barracks moved from Ft. Fisher Army Base. Her restaurant was in the front part and she lived in the back part of it. Mrs. Davis sold predominately local, fresh caught seafood and was only open for the evening meal. Her calling card was her Hush Puppies. She sold more Hush Puppies and Hush Puppy Mix than she probably did food. People would have fish fries at home and have someone go to Mrs. Davis restaurant to pick up Hush Puppies or get her Hush Puppy Mix, just add water (all the other secret ingredients were in the bag) and cook her Hush Puppies to enjoy with their fresh caught fish, oyster roast, or clam bake.

Canoutas Restaurant was at the southeast corner of the main intersection at Kure Beach. That corner is now Jack Mackerel‟s parking. Andy’s Dad, George, ran the restaurant and his wife, Lola had a Bingo Parlor and Beachwear Shop on the other side of it, toward the oceanfront. They later opened a Pool Hall in a building just south of the restaurant and they lived upstairs. Ray and friends enjoyed playing pool, especially in the winter time when it was too cold to be outside. Ray went to school with Andy, who was a couple of years older. Andy was Ray‟s Platoon Leader in Army ROTC in the 10th grade and Company Commander in the 11th grade at New Hanover High School.

The Kure Beach Post Office was next door to that. Just past the Post Office was Smitty‟s. Seems like Smitty put a little building in that was a tackle shop at one time and now is where Freddie‟s is located. Behind that building is where the Kure Beach Dance Hall was and everybody learned the jitter-bug and Shag while the Juke Box was blaring and blasting. Closer to the ocean was a restaurant and on the Oceanside of the crossover walkway, a large building sat on the oceanfront. The bottom floor was George Stathis Restaurant and rooms upstairs for rent. Hurricane Hazel just about took it away and it was moved over to the vacant land that is now where Kure Beach is building the oceanfront park.

In 1956, Ray’s Mother and Smitty’s brother (Ronald Smith) left Smitty’s and leased the building that had been moved from the oceanfront which was located between what is now Old Pier Restaurant and the ocean. They named it the R & S Restaurant (Rothrock and Smith). Ray’s mother was the cook and everything she cooked was delicious. She ran it until the early 60’s. It was a lot like Mr. & Mrs. Lewis Restaurant, opening at 4:30 in the morning, serving breakfast to the fishermen, specials for lunch and lots of different fresh, local caught seafood for dinner.

Kure_Beach_Bud_Joe In the early 50‟s, Mr. Fisher was the Chief of Police. Ray believes they had one other police officer, civilian clothes and only called upon when needed. Mr. Christmas was the Constable and back then with not so much crime, no more police were needed. Mr. Fisher was always walking around the main street of downtown Kure Beach, between where the traffic signal is now and the fishing pier. His black, private car with a red light set up with a siren was always parked just up from Bud and Joe’s [picture]. There was a sign, “Reserved for Chief of Police.” Ray does not remember Mr. Fisher having a radio to talk with Carolina Beach, the County nor the State. Later they did get a radio where he could talk to Carolina Beach Police and Emergency Ambulance Services.

Ray was a Kure Beach Volunteer Fireman when he was 16. On October 15, 1954, being young and perhaps foolish, when Hurricane Hazel made landfall, he and the other Volunteer Firemen watched all the piers and most oceanfront buildings destroyed or severely damaged. His family’s oceanfront apartment was one of those buildings that were severely damaged. It was rebuilt and ready for the tourist in the summer of 1955. They had a few Fire Hydrants, but not nearly enough, so the small water truck would have to be filled or run lots of hoses when they had a fire. Didn’t know about CPR but they did obtain a Breathing Machine.

On July 4th, 1955 Ray was a Mate on the boat Lewis Davis had bought. They headed out from The Basin Marina to bottom fish when, about 3 or 4 miles off the beach, a fisherman had an apparent heart attack. Thank goodness the ocean was flat, no wind, no waves and Lewis Davis beached the boat right next to Kure Beach Fishing Pier. They had no radio, no cell phone, no nothing. Ray was on the bow when the boat hit land, he was off and running to Canatouas’ Restaurant to get Andy, the lifeguard, and the keys to the Town Hall where the Breathing Machine was kept.

The Town Hall was the back of the existing ABC Store which is now the building where Bowman‟s Realty is. Andy came without the keys, so he rammed his fist through the glass to unlock the door and get the oxygen machine. In the meantime, the Rescue Squad from Carolina Beach came and took the man to the hospital. Thank goodness the fisherman recovered and continued to come to Kure Beach to fish, but not going out on a boat. They pushed the boat off the beach, turned it around and went deep-sea fishing as planned. In the summertime the only medical was an EMS, 2 Technicians stationed right behind Britt‟s, and an ambulance at Carolina Beach.

v18NO7 July FINAL PDF-003Ray and five others from Kure Beach and the Monkey Junction area went to the Navy Recruiter, then located in the Wilmington Post Office, to join the Navy on August 11, 1955. They had completed all their applications and that was the day they were scheduled to be processed.

Ray remembers the Navy Recruiter asking them, ‘What are you guys doing here today, don’t you know a Hurricane is coming?” One of them answered, “that’s the reason we want to get off the Island!” Ray was the youngest and said, he did not say that. All the others were older and subject to be drafted, so they were ready to go.

Little did Ray or the others know that the Hurricane Connie (August 12, 1955) would destroy most of the beach, Connie and Diane (August 17, 1955) took all of the oceanfront, two-story, four-apartment building Ray’s Mom and Dad had. It also did lots of wind damage to the cottages they had. They did not rebuild the oceanfront, because insurance did not cover the damages from the ocean. They sold the property in the late 60’s and that is where Admiral Quarter’s smaller building now stands.

Ray remembers Kure Beach being incorporated in 1947. Mr. Lawrence Kure was the first Mayor. Ray’s Dad ran for Mayor once but Ray does not recall who he ran against. Back then there may have been a big total of 175 – 185 voters.

Oral History – Isabel Lewis Foushee – Part 2: ‘Lewis Grocery’

By Ann Hertzer – from her interview with Isabell Foushee on January 12, 2007

Lewis Grocery at K Street and 421: Mrs. Lewis, her son, bus station sign and kerosene pump.

Lewis Grocery at K Street and Hwy 421
Mrs. Lewis, her son, bus station sign and kerosene pump.

When Isabel Lewis was 13 or 14, before World War II ended, the family moved to Kure Beach.

Her parents, Ed and Gertie Lewis, opened the Lewis Grocery or Kure Beach Grocery at the stop light at the southwest corner of K Ave at 421 Hwy – an old frame building that has since been torn down and rebuilt in brick.

The Lewis Grocery had 2 gas pumps out front and also had a kerosene pump at the end of the building, sold for cook stoves in cottages. It had an apartment at the end of the grocery store and a little store room. The Citco Station is now there.

A service station was located catty corner from the Lewis store; Canoutas Café where the vacant lot is now.

Gus from Burlington tried to sell them the Big Daddy’s land for $10,000. He might as well have said 10 million because Isabel said they didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Mr. Flowers opened a grocery store on K Avenue. When they moved to Kure Beach, the town was not incorporated yet. The governor appointed Ed Lewis to the first town council.

Because meat was rationed during the war, dad would get a cow or a bull off the island, have it butchered in Lumberton, and bring it back to the store to sell the meat. Isabel stood on a stool by the scales and told how many ration stamps were needed. People were more interested in how many rationing stamps it took than how much money it cost. They wanted some beef. When doors opened at 7 o’clock, a line would be waiting. One day while selling meat, Isabel found out that it was the pet “Booie”.  She just had to walk out.

Her folks built and ran a fish market at the Lewis grocery. Bob Ford (Margaret’s husband) worked at the store some and later rented it. If local fish wasn’t available locally, they’d get it from Failes wholesale fish house in Wilmington.

During the depression we didn’t have enough money to go to a bank. Mother would say “We’re banking and getting change in the Wilmington bank.” Back then, Monkey Junction was a big intersection with a grocery-service store combination and monkeys out back in cages.  About 1950 the Bank of Carolina Beach opened.

Going to the Carolina Beach boardwalk once a week was a special treat. Everyone would sit on the plank boardwalk (now cement) on the ocean side and watch the parade of tourists. We couldn’t wander away. We played around on the board walk and went on the rides. Most of the games came in at the end or after the war – penny pitch tosses, target shooting with rifles, or ball games to knock the milk bottles over – lots of tourist traps.

Many soldiers were down at Fort Fisher. Target planes would fly over. The machine gun embankments were out at the edge of the water. They would have the big guns out there, too. During anti-air craft training the pilings were shot out from under the Ft. Fisher Pier and finally went in the water. Isabel remembers going out at night on the beach and watching fires out on the ocean where the ships had been torpedoed. One German sub shot the land one time just above Kure Beach. During that time, we could not have lights shining at night. Dark blinds were needed.

Fort Fisher brought soldiers in by the 1000s for anti-air craft training. Convoys of big trucks would rumble by for 3 or 4 hours at a time. My folks’ property joined the base property. The MPs went up and down the road that divided the two properties. We could hear the men and the bugle playing taps every afternoon and we knew they were taking the flag down. We got to know a lot of them.

Isabel and her husband built the Center Pier two blocks this side of Wilmington Beach near the big high rise. They opened the pier the first of July; Hurricane Hazel came along October 15, 1954 and took it out. During the eye of Hurricane, her husband came back with a box of fish hooks in one hand and a piece of a reel in the other. It took the pier and the tackle shop down and moved the septic tanks out on the sand.

Isabel was out of high school 12 years before her three boys got up in school. Then she went to Wilmington College for two years and to East Carolina to finish a bachelors and a master’s degree. She then taught English at UNCW.