By Leslie Bright & Daniel Norris
Eugene and Marie Reynolds known as Mom and Pop, knew better days were coming as World War II ended in 1945 and soldiers were coming home. Big bands were the rave of the day and the new money could be made on the north end of the Boardwalk of Carolina Beach with the building of a large enough facility to house big bands and large crowds.
The Reynolds had purchased four and a half lots and a bowling alley on the northeast corner of Harper Avenue and Carolina Beach Avenue North in August 1942, from L. M. Massey. [2015: current construction site of The Hampton Inn and Suites]. They decided to remove the bowling alley and make this the footprint for their new Ocean Plaza building.
The building would contain a bathhouse and café on the first floor; a large cabaret or ballroom with bandstand area on the second floor; and a small apartment on the third floor. Work began to build the Ocean Plaza after the beach season of 1945 and continued through the winter and spring of 1946 under the direction of Mr. Shirley, a local contractor.
Once completed, the Ocean Plaza was a sight to behold. It became the new “Crown Jewel” of the Carolina Beach boardwalk. It was opened for business on May 31, 1946, which was Memorial Day weekend.
Bill Grassick and his orchestra, featuring the lovely singer, Betty McHugh, performed to an audience who paid $2.00 per person to attend. Even though the big band era was waning, the Ocean Plaza remained the center of activity as new trends changed musical entertainment.
The Reynolds sold the Ocean Plaza around 1950 and it changed hands several times before May 1961 when E. F. Courie Sr. and his wife, Rosabelle, purchased the property.
Through the years, many notable entertainers performed to large crowds at the Ocean Plaza. Jerry Lee Lewis, Chubby Checkers, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, and The Embers, to mention a few, attracted audiences from all over.
The Jitterbug, bob, shag, rock & roll, twist and every variety of dance imagined occurred at the Ocean Plaza through the years.
With growth and development of better lodging facilities, the need for a bathhouse on the boardwalk diminished. The bathhouse at the Ocean Plaza was converted into a night club.
During the 80’s and 90’s the entire boardwalk fell into decline causing neglect to many of its structures.
In spite of the decline, the Ocean Plaza remained open struggling at times to do so. The Courie family, including sons, Eli Jr. and Louis, continued ownership until April 1993, when the Ocean Plaza was sold to Leslie and Darlene Bright and son, Sam Bright.
The second floor ballroom was renovated again and opened after several years of inactivity as the private club, Wranglers Dance Hall and Saloon, and later as the Shag Club.
The Brights sold Ocean Plaza to Robert Russo on January 31, 2000 and his Club Tropics was installed on the second floor. Mr. Russo operated Ocean Plaza until April 5, 2006, when he sold to Russ Maynard.
Leslie Bright – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society
From: Carolina Beach, NC – Images & Icons of a Bygone Era
Source: SlapDash Publishing, LLC, 2006
Construction begins on boardwalk hotel at Carolina Beach – 2015/02/03
OCEAN PLAZA T-SHIRTS – Only available at the Federal Point History Center!
The OP’s gone but not forgotten. But we still have our CLASSIC Ocean Plaza T-shirts and Sweatshirts.
We’ve ordered a variety of sizes and they come in sky blue and daisy yellow.
They make great gifts or mementos and are sure to start a conversation with every ol’timer you meet.