Fort Fisher Revetment Project Nears Completion (March 1996)

[Originally published in the March, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter]

At last month’s [Feb, 1996] meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, Mr. Bill Dennis, a civil engineer with the US. Army Corps of Engineers – Wilmington District, presented a thorough site history and review of the Fort Fisher revetment project to a well-attended audience. Mr. Dennis, a native of New Jersey, began his slide presentation and discussion with a quick overview of the Federal Point area and how changes in its shape led to a need for a protective seawall to save the fort.

In 1761 a hurricane drastically reshaped Federal Point when it opened a passage known as New Inlet between the ocean and the Cape Fear River.

New Inlet, however, later played an important role during the Civil War as an entrance for sleek, fast blockade runners to slip past the Union fleet and enter the river under the protective guns of Fort Fisher. These ships were able to successfully deliver their valuable cargoes to Wilmington and on to the rest of the Confederacy until early 1865.

The Rocks2

‘The Rocks’ from Battery Buchanan to Zeke’s Island

Following the war, Federal Point again underwent a major transition in appearance when the US. Army Corps of Engineers closed New Inlet to improve river navigation. During the 1870s and 1880s the Corps built a stone structure known as “The Rocks” in two sections across the inlet and swash that still exists today.

The upper section of the dam extended from Battery Buchanan on Federal Point to Zeke‘s Island, a distance of 5,300 feet. The continuation of the lower section known as the Swash Defense Dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island [Bald Head Island], a distance of 12,800 feet, made the entire closure just over 3 miles in length.

Ft Fisher vs Erosion

Erosion at Ft. Fisher

In addition to the natural deterioration of Federal Point, serious erosion problems occurred near Fort Fisher alter the state intentionally removed coquina rock from the shore just north of the earthworks during the 1920s for use as road construction fill. Since that time approximately 200 yards of sea front has been lost to wave action.

This loss forced the state in the early 1950s to realign the very same highway that had been built with the use of the coquina rock. The North Carolina Highway Department, and later aided by local communities, then began dumping concrete and other large construction debris along the sea front near Battle Acre. As a further means of slowing erosion at Fort Fisher, the state placed a line of rocks along the shoreline in 1970. Storms since that time showed the revetment to be too short. Shoreline erosion continued at a rate of nearly 10 feet per year.

Since the end of the Civil War the ocean has claimed nearly half of the fort.

A more substantial solution to the site erosion problem came in 1995 when matching federal and state funds for a larger revetment project became available. The state and Corps of Engineers approved a plan for a permanent seawall based upon a design of Mr. Dennis.

After two years of planning, an acceptable design called for the construction of a 3,040-foot seawall to extend from south of Battle Acre to north of the Fort Fisher mounds.

Bids went out for the construction of the seawall. Selected for the construction project was Misener Marine Construction, Inc. of Tampa, Florida, at a bid of 4.6 million dollars.

Fort Fisher Rocks and BeachWork on the project began in June 1995, and included a multi-layered rubble revetment with circular tie-ins to natural ground on both ends of the site.

Beginning on the south end, the construction company dug a trench to 3.5 feet below mean sea level in which to lay the revetment ends. Within the trench at both ends, and along the shoreline, a fabric liner was first applied topped by a layer of gravel. Slightly larger bedding stone was then applied and finally a layer of armor stone.

The armor stone, weighing approximately two tons apiece, came from a quarry near Raleigh, while the smaller bedding stone was mined near Castle Hayne.

Approximately 68,000 tons of rock form the seawall.  Along Battle Acre the revetment overlaid most of the preexisting rubble. To prevent the new stone from washing into the sea from the sloping shoreline, Misener Marine placed a line of concrete sta-pods at the toe of the protective stone. Nearly four hundred of the pods, weighing 5 tons each and shaped like a tri-pod, were interlocked in a parallel row to the shoreline.

Reventment - Ft FisherSticking slightly above the water, marine algae soon covered the sta-pods.  On December 15 , 1995, Misener Marine placed the last rock in the revetment—nearly three months ahead of schedule.

The revetment rises slightly above the natural ground elevation at about 12-15 feet above sea level. Behind the revetment, sand was placed to form a gentle slope from the crest of the revetment to the existing ground. Currently landscaping with trees and scrubs is occurring near the revetment.

3,200-foot seawall completedat Fort Fisher Museum and Earthworks.

3,200-foot seawall completed (April, 1996)
at Fort Fisher Museum and Earthworks.

A security fence, walkway with stairs leading down to the beach on either end, and two observation gazebos are being constructed. The landscaping and construction projects are expected to be completed by April.

The new revetment should halt the ocean-side erosion of Federal Point for the next fifty years.

Mr. Dennis summarized his work on the design and construction of the seawall project when he jokingly indicated, “It took a Yankee to finally save Fort Fisher.”

 

March 1996 Newsletter (pdf) – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society

Changes to the Federal Point Landscape – webpage – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society

US. Army. Corps of Engineers:
Revetment stability study,  Fort Fisher State Historic Site

The “New” Carolina Beach Boardwalk

By Rebecca Taylor

Update:  The Carolina Beach Boardwalk was featured on PBS, ‘North Carolina Weekend‘.  UNC-TV  Thursday, Jun. 18 at 9:00 pm

New Board Walk #1 Have you been to the Carolina Beach Boardwalk in the past few months? If not make sure you visit soon – because it’s a whole new experience!

The Town of Carolina Beach and a group of local citizens from the Boardwalk Makeover Group, which was founded in 2008, have collaborated to create a stunning new look to the oceanfront at Carolina Beach.

Twice as wide as before, with 10 foot wide handicap accessible public beach accesses, the new structure includes seating areas, swings, benches, covered gazebos and sail shades. Also new is a beach-side stage/viewing area to feature a wide variety of performances. Landscape coves provide space for historical and environmental education kiosks, shaded seating, and picnic facilities.

For over a hundred years the Carolina Beach Boardwalk has drawn visitors to this area going back to 1887 when Captain John  Original BoardwalkHarper built the first pavilion, the Oceanic Hotel, and the first walkway along the beach. In those days visitors took one of Captain Harper’s steamships down the Cape Fear River to “Sugar Loaf” and then transferred to the Shoo-Fly train for the trip from the riverside to the ocean.

That first Boardwalk was just that, a walkway on the sand made from boards, so that daily visitors could stroll along enjoying the ocean breezes, without sinking into the sand up to their high-button shoes.

Early Boardwalk with Shoe-fly By the time the Town of Carolina Beach was incorporated in 1925 a variety of carnival type rides and games joined the shops of local proprietors along the walkway creating a family friendly attraction, and a place to catch the cool ocean breezes in the days before air conditioning.

The Thirties brought hard times for almost everyone, but in March of 1936 the Wilmington Star reported, “The State WPA announced approval of an additional allocation of $6,570 for construction of boardwalks at Carolina Beach. This was estimated to provide employment for 32 persons. The building of a public rest room, costing $3,430 and employing 18 persons, was also approved.”

Over the years a number of storms and fires damaged or destroyed various buildings along the boardwalk, as most construction was simple wooden framework, meant to be used just 3 months of the year. However, in September 1940, a devastating fire destroyed most of the business district including the Bame Hotel and most of the Boardwalk storefronts and amusements.

By June, 1941, Carolina Beach was being called “The Nation’s Miracle Beach.”  The StarNews reported, “Carolina Beach Postcard from 1940sopened tonight for the new season. Aside from the new $500,000 midway and business district, hundreds of new cottages and guest houses had been built during the winter and spring. The famous midway was more varied this year than previously. There were more rides, more concessions, larger stores, longer and wider boardwalks, more benches, and public drinking fountains, and a bathing strand which was one-third wider than last year.”

Postcard from 1950s The 1940’s and 50’s are sometimes called the Boardwalk’s “Golden Years.” Wartime brought soldiers on leave from area military bases, and with the economic rebound, families experiencing “vacations” for the first time. The uniquely coastal Carolina dance, “The Shag,” was invented by local teenagers who hung around jukeboxes stationed directly on the boardwalk. Many locals who grew up at that time remember playing under the Boardwalk, and fishing coins from the sand with sticks tipped with chewing gum.

Unfortunately, the 1960’s and 1970’s brought hard times, as the way people vacationed began to change. Air conditioning, television, and apartment type condos, all kept people inside in the evenings. Bars and a rougher crowd began to dominate the businesses that survived.

Then, in 2007 the Town of Carolina Beach revised zoning laws to encourage more desirable New Boardwalk #2businesses to re-locate to the Boardwalk and in 2008 the Boardwalk Makeover Group invited amusements back each summer. Town leaders and staff found funding, in part, from grants from New Hanover County, the NC Division of Water Resources, and the NC Division of Coastal Management.

The first and last pictures (of the modern Boardwalk) are courtesy of Southern Digital Art. The historic pictures are from the collection of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

 

 

From the President: May, 2015

Elaine Henson

Elaine Henson

This 1961 card shows the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin also called Boat Basin looking south.

Landmarks include the Carolina Beach Lake, Fisherman’s Steel Pier and the Municipal Building just south of the basin. Prior to 1939 when the canal and basin were dredged and widened, Myrtle Grove Sound was a very narrow meandering slough in places.

The dredge spoil created additional building lots and a new street called Canal Drive. Because of the possible instability of the land especially west of the new street, a twenty-five year moratorium was in place before building was allowed.

The canal connected to the Intracoastal Waterway and Snow’s Cut which was completed in 1930, but ocean access for our fishing fleets remained limited to Southport or Masonboro Inlet at Wrightsville Beach.

Carolina Beach Aireal shot

 

The Historic Joy Lee Apartments

Joy Lee front[Editor’s Note, 1997: In every developing community, certain structures epitomize detail and design during periods of that development.

Staff of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, as well as many of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society members, felt that Joy Lee Apartments on Carolina Beach Avenue, North at Carolina Beach represented a period of growth in the 1940s that has lasted throughout the last 50 years and is still flesh and useful.

For this reason, Beth Keane graciously volunteered her time and in nominating the beautiful resort attraction to the National Register of Historic Places. As of this writing (early April, 1996), the nomination has passed the local and State level of significance and is being reviewed for national significance. Many thanks to Beth for her contribution to the Federal Point community].

By Beth Keane

Grover Lewis, a masonry construction worker, together with his family, moved to Carolina Beach from High Point, North Carolina, in March, 1941. Mr. Lewis went to work for the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company and moved his family into the Marianette Cottage on Carolina Avenue, North.

When the lot next door was filled in by a storm in the fall of 1944, the Lewis’s decided to purchase it. Mr. Lewis immediately began designing the Joy Lee Apartment Building. Long shipyard hours made it necessary for Mr. Lewis to hire William Bordeaux to build the basic concrete block structure.

After purchasing a hand-operated cement block press, the Lewis family turned out two blocks at a time, approximately fifty per evening.

Named the Joy Lee Apartments after Mr. Lewis’s daughter, the completed duplex was rented to vacationers. Each apartment consisted of a living room, a dining room, a kitchen with an ice box, two bedrooms, each with a closet, and a central hall. Considered luxury units at the time, they came equipped with private porches and private baths with hot and cold running water.

After the war, Mr. Lewis returned to masonry construction work. For the next ten years, Mrs. Lewis ran a large rooming-house, as well as the Joy Lee Apartment Complex. The growth of Carolina Beach doubled during this time period; by 1950, there was a year-round population of 1,080.

Joy Lee poolDue to the popularity of the Joy Lee Apartment Building as a vacation destination, the Annex was constructed in 1948. While similar in form and structure to the original building, stylistically it exhibits design elements reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style.

Carolina Beach experienced widespread devastation several times during the past 50 years. Hurricane Hazel roared ashore with 150 miles per hour winds on October 15, 1954. Hurricane Diana struck in 1984 and last but not least, Hurricanes Bertha and Fran in 1996.

Suffering only minor water damage and some roof damage, the solid masonry construction allowed the Joy Lee Apartment Building to weather these storms intact.

The Joy Lee Apartment Building and Annex are a unique combination of several popular architectural styles, including Mission Style, Art Deco, Art Moderne, as well as the Prairie Style.

After the 1940 fire which destroyed many of the frame structures at Carolina Beach, cinder-block construction became a popular substitute. Not only was it deemed more durable, but because of the war effort, more traditional building materials were in short supply.

Over the years, the Lewis family has modified the Joy Lee Apartment Building several times to remain competitive with more modern buildings being constructed around it, including replacing bathroom showers with bathtubs in 1954, adding a lanai and portico in 1957, and an office and fireplaces in 1960. Major improvements in 1976 included enlarging the dining area with a bay addition, adding spiral cement stairs to the upper level sundeck, and installing an in-ground swimming pool.

While the Town of Carolina Beach has replaced many of its earlier structures with contemporary hotels, motels, and cottages, the Joy Lee Apartments is an original, built from the imagination and ingenuity of a World War II shipyard worker. The solid construction of the Joy Lee should ensure its survival, while continuing to provide Carolina Beach visitors with a glimpse into the past.

[This article was originally published in the April 1997 – FPHPS Newsletter]

The Joy Lee Apartments were entered into the National Register of Historic Places on April 3, 1997 (see plaque)

Newton Homesite and Cemetery

Report By: Linda and Bob Newton

Newton Graveyard & Homesite SignThe Newton Homesite and Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on March 13, 1997, thereby providing it with the protection of both Federal and State laws.

 Dow Rd., Carolina Beach, NC

Dow Rd., Carolina Beach, NC

This four-acre site which is owned by the Federal government and maintained by the Department of the Army (MOTSU) is located between the Cape Fear River and Dow Road in an area adjacent and south of the Federal Point Methodist Cemetery. It consists of both an eighteenth to early nineteenth century homeplace and a cemetery containing grave markers with the surnames of Newton, Craig, Dosher, and Grissom, all well known early settlers of the area who become river and blockade runner pilots.

FP Methodist Cemetery Entrance RoadOral reports maintain that up to 40 markers may have existed there at one time and one deed references a “colored people’s graveyard” adjacent to it. Newspaper articles have suggested that the “Meeting House” and cemetery left by Edward Newton, Jr. in his will dated 1844 could be the site of the oldest Methodist Church in the State of North Carolina.

This site is significant as an example of early regional settlement which can also be associated with the region’s early maritime industries as it represents one of the earliest Euro-Amenican domestic settlements discovered on the east side of the lower Cape Fear River.

Newton Cemetery - National Register of Historic Places Sign - 1997

Newton Cemetery – National Register of Historic Places – 1997
(click)

It is one of only a handful of domestic sites which have been identified from the early settlement period of the Cape Fear peninsula, and it is one of only two sites identified as a small plantation associated with the eighteenth through early nineteenth century in this region, and it is one of only four possible maritime-related sites identified in Federal Point. Data from this site would serve as excellent comparative material in conjunction with other sites in the area such as Brunswick Town and the lighthouse keeper’s site on Battlefield Acre.

Members of the newly formed Cemetery Committee have attended three meetings with representatives from MOTSU, St. Paul’s Methodist Church and the Newton family to discuss the use, protection, restrictions and restoration of the site. In response to a letter written by David Brooks, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, to Colonel Toal, dated July 24, 1997, a meeting, was held July 31, 1997, and directions were given for short-term protection of the site against continuing ground disturbing activities which could damage or destroy archeological elements within the site.

The Society was asked to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) outlining restrictions for the care and use of the site. On September 30, 1997, after review by Society member, Attorney Gleason Allen, a proposed MOA concerning the preservation, maintenance and restoration of the site was signed by President Cheri McNeill and forwarded to MOTSU.

Newton Cemetery Historic Site

Newton Cemetery Historic Site
(click)

In a letter, dated October 6, 1997, from MOTSU, receipt of the MOA was confirmed and states that review by the State Historic Preservation Office in Raleigh and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation in Washington is in progress and should be complete in several months. Until the MOA is signed, preservation activities may be pursued on an individual basis with the permission of MOTSU.

The Society now maintains a Cemetery Fund to be used in the care and maintenance of the cemetery and any donated amount would be greatly appreciated. The Committee is working on gathering funds for constructing a picket fence and posting signage. Individuals wishing to donate to the Cemetery Fund to help with these projects, contact Darlene Bright.

[Text originally published in the November, 1997 – FPHPS Newsletter with images added in 2015]

 

[Additional current Newton Cemetery resources]

Memorial: Linda and Bob Newton

Oral History – Howard Hewett – Federal Point Methodist Episcopal Church (adjacent to Newton Cemetery)

View images of the Federal Point Methodist Church Cemetery – and the adjacent Newton Cemetery – taken on November 12, 2014

Complete listing of the tombstones in the Newton Homesite & Cemetery (2007)

 

 

Walter’s Place at Fort Fisher

[This article appeared in the Wilmington Dispatch on September 1, 1923, and comes from the William M. Reaves Collection]

Walter's Place

Walter’s Place

There is a little wooden shack, almost at the point of the peninsular in the southern end of New Hanover County and situated between “The Mound” at Fort Fisher and the sea. The shack serves to designate the establishment known as Walter’s Place.

Fort Fisher and its history have come down to us from the Civil War, and its flag-topped mound, its monument and its strategic location and inspirational surroundings are not new, but Walter’s Place is a creation of the year 1923.

Situated on the final loop of the Fort Fisher highway, Walter’s Place offers many attractions to visitors and fishermen alike. The establishment is run as a cool drink stand and bath house. But it is becoming famous for its fish suppers and lunch service for fishing parties. Cold drinks, hot sandwiches and lunches are readily available and will be specially prepared upon-notice.

Walter’s Place – on right
Click

From Walter’s Place you can go fishing in the river, bay at the “Rocks” or out to sea. Boats, tackle and bait are kept on hand for deep sea fishing and the old banks and wreck of Modern Greece offer the best place for this sport.

Fort Fisher Fishing Pier 1936-1954.

1936-1954
Confederate Memorial at Battle Acre in background

“The Cribben,” Buzzard’s Bay, “The Rocks” and the river are also within easy distance. A Ford car and a motorcycle are kept on the beach to take fishing parties quickly along the beach sands to the inlet or any of the other places nearby.

The owners of this popular shore establishment are Walter Winner and his pretty sister, Iona Winner. The latter keeps shop while the former is away with fishing parties and in quest of supplies.

[Originally published in the August 1996– FPHPS Newsletter]

Archaeological Testing Conducted at Burris Site and Civil War Earthworks Located

… in Carolina Beach

[Text was originally published in the March, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter]

by Sandy Jackson

Sugar Loaf Earthworks 3-21-14

Sugar Loaf Earthworks 3-21-14

In articles that appeared last August [1995] and November [1995] in the FPHPS Newsletter, I mentioned that Society president – Lynn Benson and Mr. Jack Hart visited an archaeological site known as the Burris Site located in Carolina Beach behind the Federal Point Shopping Center.

Mr. Hart, a descendent of the prominent Burris family in the Federal Point community, indicated that an old chimney standing on the site was all that remained of a house built by his great-grandfather, James Thomas Burris, in the early 1800s.

Additionally, Ms. Benson recalled the presence of a child’s grave with a headstone at the site although it could not be relocated. The grave was believed to have belonged to one of nine children of James Thomas Burris and his wife Isadora.

Also located in the vicinity were the remains of Civil War earthworks.

The Burris site and earthworks, unfortunately, were located on property owned and under development by Gulfstream Group, Inc. to be known as Carolina Beach Village.

The developers, required by the US. Army Corps of Engineers to conduct a cultural investigation of the area, contracted with an archaeological firm to investigate the site and provide a determination on its significance.

In late October and early November 1995, Coastal Carolina Research, Inc., of Tarboro, North Carolina, conducted limited archaeological testing and documentation of three areas of the proposed Carolina Beach Village.

The firm conducted the study for the Gulfstream Group, in compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

The purpose of the study was to determine if the three archaeological resources within the study area were potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The first of the three sites was the reported location of the Burris farm. The site included a standing chimney of the original house and remnants of later outbuildings.

The second site was a small lunette, or rifle pit, associated with the defenses of Fort Fisher during the Civil War known as the Sugarloaf Line.

CB Earthworks Clearing

Cleared Sugarloaf Earthworks – March 2014

The third site also contained a portion of earthworks associated with the Sugarloaf Line, but was located outside the current permit area for Carolina in Beach Village. They were investigated in anticipation of future development of the tract.

The house at the Burris site is thought to date from around 1840 and appears on Civil War maps of the area. Only the brick chimney survived. This feature measured 4.6 feet wide and 2.3 feet deep.

The stack had a single shoulder and was stepped back. There had been a major repair in the front of the chimney with some concrete blocks added, as well as evidence of recent mortar. An archaeological test unit placed at the east base of the chimney yielded a mixture of mortar and recent artifacts.

Archaeologists also placed two other excavation units and a number of shovel test holes within the vicinity. Although a number of artifacts found during the investigation dated to the mid-nineteenth century, the material clearly came from disturbed contexts. A substantial amount of modern debris was found on the surface and within the upper soil layer of the units.

The remains of an outbuilding, possibly a smokehouse, were recorded in the adjacent woods. That structure was frame and had been constructed with more recent wire nails. No evidence of intact deposits was found at the Burris site, and its integrity had been destroyed over the years. The site did not appear eligible the National Register of Historic Places, and no additional work was recommended.

CB Earthworks Clearing - March 2014

CB Earthworks Clearing – March 2014

The nearby Civil War earthworks associated with the Sugarloaf Line were also examined. At the feature referred to as a lunette, or rifle pit, the archaeologists prepared a topographic map. The lunette was then bisected with a backhoe trench and a profile drawn. The structure measured approximately 20 x 40 feet with the shape of a waxing moon, hence the term lunette.

The profile showed that the more vertical, high side of the mound was to the west, sloping to the east. This would have provided the maximum protection to the troops, as expected invasions would have come from the east.

The lunette retained its contours and approximate shape. The site appeared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as a feature of the Sugarloaf Line of defenses for Fort Fisher. The documentation at the site served to mitigate the adverse impacts on the site as a result of the construction of the development.

The final earthworks are apparently an entrenchment also associated with the defensive line. An entrenchment can be any temporary or permanent fortification that provides shelter hostile fire, serves as an obstacle to hostile advance, and allows the maximum use of firepower by the defenders.

They would commonly possess an exterior ditch, which provides not only an obstacle to enemy attack, but also the fill for the embankment. The earthworks appear on maps made of the vicinity during the Civil War.

The dissected linear earthworks trend the southwest to northeast and are outside of the current development boundaries; however, the road that will access that area falls in the break between the two sections.

Lewis Park property

2014 – across from CB Town Hall

The soil, vegetation, and the expanded trunks of the trees indicate that the vicinity was a swamp prior to extensive drainage in the area. The earthworks were apparently constructed to the swamp, where they stopped, and were then continued on the other side of the swamp.

No artifacts were recovered at he earthworks. The earthworks are well preserved and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as a component of the Sugarloaf Line.

The Gulfstream Development Group plans to erect a fence and an identification sign for both sections of this protected earthwork thereby preserving the site.

March, 1996 – FPHPS Newsletter

 

 

 

From the President: April, 2015

Elaine Henson

Elaine Henson

This is a photo of Carolina Beach’s float in the 1955 Azalea Festival Parade and it says that Carolina is “A Whale of a Beach.”

The same float was in the 1954 parade and was later parked on Carl Winner Avenue across from the yacht basin and beside the Chamber of Commerce Building for all to see.

Whale in HazelIt was there on October 15, 1954 when Category Four Hurricane Hazel blasted our shores; amazingly it survived as you can see in this Hugh Morton photo.

For the ’55 parade they added “More Alive in Fifty-Five” to reassure everyone that Carolina Beach was up and running for beach season and better than ever.

WhaleBack in those days Carolina and Wrightsville Beaches always had floats in the parade, maybe we should do that again!

 

History of The Haulover and the Brunswick Ferry

By Sandy Jackson

The first authorized ferry on the lower Cape Fear River was established in 1727 in the town of Brunswick on the western shore to the “upper haulover” on the eastern shore (later known as Federal Point) [today, Carolina Beach State Park], where small craft were transported overland from the river to the ocean.

The Brunswick ferry was sometimes referred to as the “Ferry to the landing at Big Sugar Loaf”.

On June 3, 1725, Maurice Moore was granted 1,500 acres of land on the west side of the Cape Fear River. Of this tract, 320 acres were set aside and a portion divided in half-acre lots to be developed as the town of Brunswick.  From the time of its founding until the American Revolution, the town served as a political, social, and commercial center of the lower Cape Fear region.

To facilitate travel between the ocean and the interior of Brunswick County, the general court met at Edenton on March 27, 1727, and determined that a ferry was needed over the Cape Fear River.

Map - Plantations of Lower Cape FearThe general court authorized Cornelius Harnett Sr. to keep a ferry “from the place designed as a Town on the West side of the River (Brunswick Town) to a place Called Haulover, and that he receive the Sum of five shillings for a man and horse and a half Crown for each person”.

Harnett purchased in June 1726 from Col. Maurice Moore two lots, Nos. 22 and 23, within the town of Brunswick for £2 each. Those lots, located in the southern portion of the town near the river, were to be improved within eight months by the construction of two habitable houses not less than by 20 feet in size.

It was from this location that Harnett operated the ferry across the river to the Haulover near Sugar Loaf.

About 1725, in addition to the site of Brunswick Town and adjacent areas, Col. Maurice Moore also acquired by grant extensive land holdings on the opposite or eastern side of the Cape Fear River.

Moore’s seaside property comprised 2,640 acres that extended from Landgrave Thomas Smith’s lands northward along the barrier beach and sounds approximately 12 miles to a point just below the present Masonboro Inlet.

On April 21, 1736, Colonel Moore sold to Col. Thomas Merrick for £500 the large tract of land that became known as the Haulover plantation and a portion of the property to John Porter. Merrick called the plantation “Hall Over” in a security bond issued to Richard Moorescroft six days later.

While Merrick was probably a longtime resident at the plantation, there is no indication that Moorescroft ever resided at ‘The Haulover’. Perhaps Moorescroft simply held the land in trust for Merrick, inasmuch as Merrick’s heirs owned the property a few years later.

The Moseley map (1733) shows the eastern ferry landing located just below the mouth of a stream that much later came to be known as Telfairs Creek [now Carolina Beach State Park].

This ferry to the landing at Big Sugar Loaf on the opposite side of the river, a distance of more than 2 miles, connected with the only road to the northern part of the province.

Surviving records indicate that Cornelius Hamett Sr. surrendered the operation of the Brunswick ferry in the mid-1730s, possibly as early as 1733. His successor was the mariner Capt. Edward Scott, who purchased lot 29 at Brunswick from Nathaniel Moore during that year for £700. Scott’s employment as a ferry keeper apparently lasted only a few years, for in March 1738 the New Hanover County Court accepted his resignation.

On June 13, 1738, the court appointed Thomas Merrick “to take the Brunswick Ferry” after the resignation of Scott. Merrick operated the ferry until September 1740, when the court also accepted “the resignation of Col. Meerrick as a Ferry Keeper at Brunswick ordered to become effective within a month after this Court,” provided it could find a proper person to keep the ferry.

On June 12, 1741, permission to operate the Brunswick ferry was granted by the court to Roger Moore, who undoubtedly employed others for at least two years to carry out the actual duties involved. From 1743 until at least 1748 John Maultsby operated the ferry. Maultsby came to the lower Cape Fear in the late 1730s from Pennsylvania, where he had previously operated a river ferry. He purchased a 320-acre tract of land on the east side of the river just upstream and across from Brunswick Town.

By 1761 a new tender, Darby Eagan, had commenced operation of both an ordinary and the Brunswick ferry. In September 1760 the court ordered all ferry keepers in New Hanover County to maintain at least two boats to each ferry. By 1765 Darby Eagan had evidently remained at his ordinary in Brunswick Town, while his wife Elizabeth stationed herself on the opposite shore for the convenience of travelers. For the next four years Darby Eagan maintained the Brunswick ferry and continued to operate his ordinary.

He then sought to improve his fortunes by assuming responsibility for ferry service in the larger and more prosperous town of Wilmington. On October 6, 1769, the New Hanover County Court denied Eagan “the keeping of the ferry over to Brunswick any longer, because he had engaged himself at the Wilmington ferry”.

The Brunswick ferry remained in operation with a new keeper until at least 1775 and it is highly probable that it continued to operate until early in 1776. By the end of March of that year, however, British warships present in the lower reaches of the Cape Fear River, along with well-armed troops placed ashore, carried out sporadic raids against Brunswick Town and the surrounding countryside. It was probable during these early months of 1776 that the inhabitants of Brunswick permanently abandoned the town. It is also probable that the Brunswick ferry was forever discontinued during that period.

Bibliography

Angley, Wilson
1986″ A History of the Brunswick Ferry“. Manuscript on File, Underwater Archaeology Unit, Kure Beach, North Carolina.

McKey, Elizabeth
1973 “Early New Hanover County Records”. Wilmington, North Carolina: Published by the author.

New Hanover County Deeds and Court Minutes
Various years. Wilmington, North Carolina.

Saunders, William L.
1886 “The Colonial Records of North Carolina“. Raleigh: The State of North Carolina, 1886-1890.

South, Stanley
1960 “Colonial Brunswick 1726-1776“. State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh, North Carolina.


[Additional resources]

Before the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge was constructed, how did travelers cross the Cape Fear River into Wilmington?  Merton Vance – Wilmington StarNews

Map: Plantations of the Lower Cape Fear 1725 – 1760 (showing ‘Haulover Ferry’)

[Originally published in the April, 1995 – FPHPS Newsletter]

 

Carolina Beach Pavilion, Largest on South Atlantic Coast – 1911

[‘Wilmington Morning Star’,  January 22, 1911]

Shoo Fly Trainarriving at Carolina Beach Pavilion

Shoo Fly Train
arriving at the original Pavilion
from the steamer ‘Wilmington’

Without a doubt the largest strictly pleasure Pavilion on the south Atlantic coast will be erected within the next few weeks [Jan, 1911] on Carolina Beach. The plans and specifications for the magnificent new summer retreat were recently drawn for Captain John W. Harper, owner of the property and the splendid steamer, Wilmington, by which it is reached, by Architect H. E. Bonitz, of Wilmington.

It was Architect Bonitz who designed and supervised the construction of Lumina Pavilion at Wrightsville Beach, which has been so much admired, but in the structure at Carolina Beach, he has gone a step further and provided the largest and most completely equipped Pavilion on the south Atlantic coast – a thing of beauty and a joy forever when it is completed and ready for occupancy about May 1st.

Carolina Moon Pavilion c. 1912 NHC Library - LT Moore Collection

Carolina Moon Pavilion c. 1912   (click)
Louis T. Moore Collection – NHC Library

The contract for building of the new Pavilion has recently been let to Mr. W. B. Bevill, while the plumbing work will be executed by Dosher Bros, of Wilmington. The material will soon be on the ground and Contractor Bevill will send down a large force of hands who will remain on the beach until the splendid new structure is finished.

A 14-foot veranda will encircle the entire Pavilion, which will have all told 13,000 feet of floor space, “40-foot beam and 14 feet depth of hold,” as Captain Harper expresses it in the parlance of the sea with which he is quite as familiar as with the land.

Overall the structure will be 164 feet in length. The ballroom proper will be the largest south of Washington, DC, and as someone has said, the steamer Wilmington, could be put down in the middle of the floor and couples could dance around both ends. The floor will be of select material and will be smooth and highly polished to admit of the most delightful dances.

There will be large and commodious lavatories, toilet rooms and dressing room for ladies and children while another end of the structure Will be a refreshment booth. The design of the building is of the bungalow type and the roof and sides will be shingled.

The Carolina Beach pavilion in 1934 stood almost alone on the beach strandLouis T. Moore Collection, NHC Library

The Carolina Beach pavilion in 1934
stood almost alone on the beach strand.
Louis T. Moore Collection, NHC Library (click)

An entirely new acetylene lighting system will be provided and nothing in the way of expense and comfort for all visitors will be spared. The building will be six feet above the beach, amply protecting it from the highest tides, while provision is made so that trains from the Cape Fear River pier will run directly alongside. Visitors may step right from the cars into the Pavilion and there enjoy the pleasure that awaits them.

Hotel and bathing facilities will be provided at the beach independently of the pavilion which will be devoted exclusively to “have a good time.” Captain Harper is never so happy as when providing for others the means of enjoying themselves, and in the construction of the new Pavilion, he seems to have reached the climax.

Everything at the beach is now being put in good shape and the approaching season promises to be one of the most successful in the history of the resort.

[Editor, 1997:  This Pavilion was later known as the “Carolina Moon” Pavilion and burned in the big fire in September, 1940.  Later, in 1954 the boardwalk was destroyed by Hurricane Hazel.]

Mr. Reaves, a noted historian and member of the Federal Point Historical Preservation Society,  was involved in over fifty local history publications and genealogical abstracts, covering New Hanover, Brunswick, Pender and Duplin counties.  A charter member of the Southport Historical Society, he wrote a remarkable four volume history of Southport.

Mr Reaves was the author of Strength Through Struggle, The Chronological and Historical Record of the African-American Community in Wilmington, North Carolina, 1865-1950, for which he received a national award from the American Association of State and Local History. – New Hanover County Public Library


[Additional Resources – 2015]

Over the years, the Pavilion was called many names – by Elaine Blackmon Henson
‘Carolina Moon, Carolina Club Casino, Carolina Club’

Architect Bonitz, Henry E. (1872-1921) – for a list of Carolina Beach buildings designed by Bonitz – look for ‘Building Types’ then click ‘Recreational’

Henry Bonitz also designed the Lumina Pavillion in Wrightsville Beach – Our State Magazine

Captain John Harper – from the Bill Reaves Files – a FPHPS resource

Wilmington Morning Star,  January 22, 1911

[Text was originally published in the July 1997 – FPHPS Newsletter (pdf)]