Boardwalk History Tours Begin June 19, 2018

Coming this Summer!

 

Guided Tour

Historic Carolina Beach Boardwalk

10 am every Tuesday!

 

 

 

June 19, 2018 – August 7, 2018

40 minute guided walking tour

 

Meet on the Boardwalk at the southwest corner of the new Hampton Inn.

Park at: the Municipal Parking lot across from the Town Marina, as close as you can get to the Hampton Inn.

Donation requested: $5.00 per person.

 

 

Carolina Beach Opens for Season, June 11, 1927

[Wilmington Morning Star, June 5, 1927]
Carolina Beach Hotel - June 1927

[The newly built (1927) Carolina Beach HotelThe hotel was located on the western end of what is now called Carolina Beach Lake, where Carolina Beach Elementary School is now located]

Image caption:  ‘Nestling amid the pines yet commanding a magnificent flow of the broad reaches of the Atlantic Carolina Beach Hotel offers the tourist every advantage the modem hostelry knows. A beautiful fresh water lake studded with artificial islands lies between the hotel and the ocean.’


Carolina Beach Opens for Season, June 11, 1927

By Bill Reaves – from Wilmington Morning Star, June 5, 1927

Carolina Beach, premier of Wilmington’s southern mainland beaches, will officially open its 1927 season, June 11 with a burst of glory and gaiety that has never been equaled in the annals of the growing resort.

Improvements have been made and others are still in progress which will undoubtedly add considerably to the beauty and attractiveness of the resort, whose popularity is growing with each season. The beach has grown rapidly during the last few years and today it is the mecca for thousands annually.

Officials of the Carolina Beach Corporation are spending money lavishly in beautifying the fresh water lake that is within a stone’s throw of the mighty Atlantic and also to construct an adequate and modern roadway around the lake. A dredge is now at work in the lake and it is making rapid progress.

Beautification of the lake includes the construction of small crescent-shaped islands, dredging of a canal which will make possible boating and the formation of a sand beach which will enable fresh water bathing The bathing beach is being formed in front of the Carolina Beach Hotel.

Carolina Beach Lake - 2015

Carolina Beach Lake – 2015

The lake’s beach will undoubtedly appeal to hundreds who love the ocean, but who are afraid to “break” into tempting waves. It will be convenient to hotel guests and will also provide a place where small children can enjoy bathing.

Various depth will be formed, making possible simple bathing and also swimming and diving.

The last feature cannot be obtained in the ocean, therefore, those gifted with the ability to make beautiful dives will find the lake a place for many hours of real enjoyment.

Other improvements are contemplated which will add considerably to the attractiveness of the beach. Officials expect to install a complete and new line of amusements which will have a distinct appeal to the children and younger set. Arrangements for these, however, have not been definitely completed. Formal announcement of these plans will be made later.

Opening of the pavilion on June 11 will meet with favor of hundreds of this and other cities. Dancing always has been a real feature at the beach and it will hold sway again this year. Music will be furnished by the Carolina Aces, popular Wilmington orchestra.

Considerable holdings of the Carolina Beach Corporation, including the Carolina Beach Hotel, were recently sold to John R. Baker, of Winston-Salem, who contemplates improvements that will blend nicely with those of the beach corporation. The hotel will open shortly after the pavilion is thrown open. Definite date will be announced later.

[The above article was originally published in the October, 1997 FPHPS Newsletter]

… and then the infamous story of the Carolina Beach Hotel continues …

The following newspaper clips where all obtained from the Bill Reaves files, where we discover more details and a shadowy story about the Carolina Beach Hotel.

from the Bill Reaves Files – Federal Point News Articles – 1927

May 26, 1927
The Carolina Beach Hotel, all of its furnishing and its furnishings and 755 lots, a considerable portion of the holdings of the Carolina Beach Corporation, were sold to John R. Baker, of Winston-Salem. Wilmington Star, 5-27-1927

June 18, 1927
The handsome Carolina Beach Hotel, overlooking the fresh water lake, was formally opened at dinner this evening. [at the current location of the Carolina Beach Elementary School]

J.T. Webb, general manager of the Southern and Southwestern Hotels Company anticipated one of the most successful seasons at this beach. The management of the hotel was in the hands of W.A. Buckley, for many years connected with the William Foor organization, and now with the O. Henry Hotel in Greensboro.

Mr. Webb‘s company operated a number of successful hotels in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

He expected to make this hotel one of the company‘s leading resort hotels on the coast. The Carolina Aces Orchestra was to give a concert during the dinner tonight. Wilmington Star, 6-18-1927

June 27, 1927
A 300-pound alligator, the last of its tribe to haunt the cooling depths of the fresh water lake that lies between Carolina Beach Hotel and the ocean was killed by Capt. Charles H. Burnett. Capt. Burnett got him with an army rifle. The big fellow sank when fired at, remaining down a day and a half. He then came to the surface and was dragged out. Wilmington Star, 6-27-1927

July 25, 1927
The Carolina Beach Hotel, popular resort center, was sold by John R. Baker, of Winston-Salem, N.C., to Sam Jackson, of Mecklenburg County, and then sold again to the Highway Park West, Inc., of Greensboro. The bill of sale was filed in the New Hanover County register of deeds office.

The former owner, Mr. Baker, acquired the hotel from the Carolina Beach Corporation along with 700 choice lots. The hotel had previously been operated under lease.

John T. Webb, the present lessee, will continue operation for the remainder of the present year. Wilmington News Dispatch, 7-26-1927

July 28, 1927
It was announced today that the Carolina Beach Hotel, sold recently by J.R. Baker, of Winston-Salem, to a Greensboro concern, for a sum of $125,000, was to be operated in the future as a year-round resort hotel. Manager Webb, of the hotel, was now making plans for the operation of the hotel all year. Negotiations for the above sale was handled by Cap. C.H. Burnett, local real estate operator. Wilmington News Dispatch, 7-28-1927

September 13, 1927
While the charred ruins of the Carolina Beach Hotel were still smoldering, attorneys for H.T. Ireland, of Greensboro, one of the owners of the hotel, were busy with an investigation, which they admitted might result in the indictment of one or more persons on charges of arson with a possibility of other warrants being drawn. Capt. W.A. Scott, deputy attached to the office of Stacy W. Wade, fire insurance commissioner, arrived in Wilmington and went immediately into conference with Mr. Ireland and his attorneys.

In the hotel at the time of the fire were Mr. Ireland and J.L. Byrd, both of Greensboro, and their escape from the burning structure was miraculous. The men were at the hotel making an inventory of the hotel‘s property, and were planning to open soon for the winter season. The loss was estimated at $150,000. Wilmington Star, 9-14-1927

November 18, 1927
H.T. Ireland and J.L. Byrd, prominent Greensboro real estate men, were arrested in Greensboro under capias issued after the New Hanover County grand jury had returned indictments for house burning against them in connection with the destruction by fire of the Carolina Beach Hotel on the morning of September 13.

Each man gave bond of $5,000 for appearance at the January criminal term of the New Hanover County superior court. The indictments were returned following an exhaustive investigation by W.A. Scott, and inspector of the N.C. Insurance Department, who came to the hotel site after he was informed of the fire. He was accompanied by an inspector from the National Board of Fire Underwriters who assisted in assembling data and delving deep into the facts surrounding the hotel.

Carolina Beach LakeIreland and Byrd were the only occupants of the hotel on the night of the fire. They were rescued from the roof on the building on the night of the fire. Wilmington Star, 11-19-1927

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Closing of New Inlet (The Rocks) 1870-1881

... and the Swash Defense Dam 1881-1891

By Sandy Jackson

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

The Rocks

The Rocks
Zeke’s Island to Fort Fisher

In 1870 the Corps of Engineers made a postwar survey of the Cape Fear River under Gen. J. H. Simpson.

The results of Simpson’s survey supported closing New Inlet, south of Fort Fisher, prior to any dredging in the river, since sand washed in the inlet would quickly refill the channel.

The River Improvements Act of July 11, 1870, appropriated funds for the Cape Fear improvements. General Simpson and Colonel Craighill of the US. Engineers devised a work at the New Inlet breeches to intercept the sand being washed into the river by the northeasterly gales and to then prevent the spilling of vast volumes of water through the breaches.

The works were intended to close the small inlets contiguous to the main inlet, thus forcing the water into the main channel of the Cape Fear River and scouring the channel to a capacity to admit vessels.

The first step undertaken to close the inlet was the erection of a 500-foot deflector jetty from Federal Point on the northern side of New Inlet, that followed a southwesterly line of shoals.

The Rocks - Zeke's IslandThe work of closing the breaches between Smith [Bald Head Island] and Zeke’s Islands, was under the supervision of Maj. Walter Griswold and consisted of placing large, heavy wooden cribs, filled with stone, across the bottom.

The line of crib works started at the northernmost extremity of Smith Island and extended toward Zeke’s Island. For the greater part of its 1,200 feet length, the works were built upon the remains of a stone dike, constructed by Captain Daniel P. Woodbury in 1853.  At the commencement of the work the water on the bar had diminished to the nominal depth of only 8 feet with a narrow channel.

The Rocks3

The Rocks – up to Battery Buchanan

During the 1870-1871 fiscal year the Corps of Engineers reported that a 607-foot section of the breakwater and superstructure had been completed across the most difficult breach that contained the deepest and strongest current. In addition to the construction of the breakwater, Griswold also began erecting sand fences and planting shrubbery and other vegetation on Zeke’s Island to prevent further erosion.

In 1873 the Corps reported that the closing of the breaches between Zeke’s and Smith’s Islands had been completed. The jetty extended 4,400 feet in length and was protected from the currents by sunken flats and thirty thousand sand bags.

Upon inspection it was found that sand had quickly accumulated, forming shoals around the jetty and further strengthening the structure. As a result of the building sand at the breakwater and sand fences, Zeke’s Island was being thoroughly merged into Smith’s Island beach and returning to its former shape before the 1761 storm that caused it to open.

Federal Point, however, and the outer point of Smith Island beach continued to wear. By 1877 Zeke’s Island had entirely lost its identity.

In 1872 the Corps made a proposal to completely close New Inlet, and a board of engineers met in Wilmington, to consider the idea. After careful review the board recommended closure of the inlet. Congress appropriated an additional one hundred thousand dollars for the continued task.

Building 'The Rocks'

Building ‘The Rocks’

Work began on completely closing New Inlet in 1874 by placing an experimental cribwork along a line of shoals 1,700 feet long to the deep water of the channel. The cribwork consisted of a continuous line, or apron, of wooden mattresses-composed of logs and brushwood, loaded with stone, and sunk—that formed the foundation for a stone dam.

Each section of the mattress was 36 feet wide and 36 feet long and was floated out to its proper position and held in place by anchors. Having proceeded at a cautious pace, the Corps of Engineers halted the construction after two years of difficult work and the construction of only 500 feet for further consideration.

Bill Reaves - Carolina Beach The Oceanic Hotel - Rocks - May 15 1893

Click – to read

While reevaluation of the project was under way, it was decided to use any remaining funds to dredge the channels of the river at Horseshoe shoal, the Bald Head bar, and the “Logs,” a submerged cypress stand 7 miles below Wilmington to a depth of 12 feet.

When work on closing New Inlet continued in 1876 the project proved difficult because of the depth of the water and the amount of stone required to be piled on top of the wooden mattresses. The last mattress raft was sunk in June 1876, and it was estimated that 6,200 cubic yards of riprap stone would be required to be placed on the mattresses just to raise the dam to the low water mark.

The first load of stone was dumped on the dam in January 1877. The work continued year to year by piling small stone rip-rap on and over the foundation. As the dam lengthened, the amount of rip-rap needed increased as the current scoured the mud and sand from around the dam, increasing the depth of water.

The Rocks4By 1879, under direction of Asst. Eng. Henry Bacon, the dam had been built to the high water mark for its entire length of 5,300 feet; and one small middle section that had been left open for navigation was closed. More than 122,000 cubic yards of stone had been placed on the dam, and still more was needed to raise the dam to two feet above the high water.

At the suggestion of Bacon to Chief Engineer Craighill, heavy granite capstones were placed on top of the rock dam. The Corps successfully completed the closure of New Inlet in 1881.

 

Swash Defense Dam 1881-1891

While the Corps of Engineers was engaged in the closing of New Inlet, a storm in 1877 opened a breach between New Inlet and the closed Smith’s – Zeke’s Islands swash.

In order to prevent the purpose of the dam from being corrupted by the new opening, it was decided to close the breach by artificial means. The first attempt, made by Engineer Bacon in February 1881, proved to be of insufficient strength and collapsed.

The Rocks2

The Rocks
– walking toward Zeke’s Island

A second attempt to build a sturdier structure followed during the spring and summer of 1881. During that effort over “400 heavy piles eight feet apart in two lines nine feet apart” were driven in a line across the breach. Sand quickly accumulated on the ocean side of the defense, reinforcing the structure.

A series of storms in August and September 1881, however, broke through the beach on the north side of the breakwater, flanking the defense and forcing its abandonment. In order to save the work, Bacon recommended that a line of defense be completed that extended from Zeke’s Island over the shoal water to reduce the tidal difference.

The Corps approved Bacon’s recommendations for the extended defense; without them the effectiveness of the New Inlet dam would have been severely compromised and a great deal of money and time expended with little more than a temporary improvement. A row of mattresses, 40 to 60 feet wide, was laid along the line earlier proposed. On top of the mattresses they piled stone, similar to the New Inlet dam, up to the high-water mark.

Storms again plagued the defense project and forced another swash to open just north of the other two and nearer New Inlet Dam.  As a result, Bacon was forced to lengthen and modify the line of mattresses.

Contractors finally delivered the first load of stone to the works in December 1884 from a quarry on nearby Gander Hall plantation. The placement of the stone continued over the next several years, with minor delays caused by the occasional storm. By 1891 the Corps had completed the 12,800-foot Swash Defense Dam to its proper height and width.

From Battery Buchanan out to The Rocks

From Battery Buchanan
down to The Rocks

The length of the upper section of the dam extended Battery Buchanan on Federal Point to Zeke’s Island, a distance of 5,300 feet. The continuation of the Swash defense dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island, 12,800 feet, made the entire closure just over 3 miles in length.

“The Rocks,” as the entire dam was eventually called, measured from 90 to 120 feet wide at the base, and for three-fourths of the line the average depth of the stone wall was 30 feet from the top of the dam. The Corps of Engineers topped the Rocks with concrete during the 1930s. The Rocks still separate the Cape Fear River from the ocean.

 

 

 

 

[Editor:  Claude V. (Sandy) Jackson III included this article in a book he later published, ‘The Big Book of the Cape Fear River‘.  

In the ‘The Big Book’, there are 22 pages detailing Historic Navigation and Dredging Projects on the lower Cape Fear including  Snow’s Cut with descriptions, locations and pictures.]

 

Bibliography

Hartzer, Ronald B.
1984 “To Great and Useful Purpose; A History of the Wilmington District US. Army Corps of Engineers“. Wilmington: Privately printed.

Rayburn, Richard H.
1984 “One of the Finest Rivers in the South: Corps of Engineers Improvements on the Cape Fear Below Wilmington, 1870-1881.” Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Inc. Bulletin 27, no. 3 (May): 1-6.

1985 “One of the Finest Rivers in the South: Corps of Engineers Improvements on the Cape Fear Below Wilmington, 1881-1919.” Lower Cape Fear Historical Society, Inc. Bulletin 28, no. 2 (February): 1-6.

Sprunt, James.
1896 “Tales and Traditions of the Lower Cape Fear 1661-1896“. Wilmington: Lerin Brothers; Reprint, Spartanburg, S.C.: The Reprint Co., 1973.

US. Army Corps of Engineers
1870 “Annual Report of the Chief of Engineers to the Secretary of War.”  Washington: US. Government Printing Office

Wilmington Star (Wilmington, NC.) 1873, 1876, 1877, 1886

Wilmington Weekly Star (Wilmington, NC.) 1872


[Additional Resources]

‘The Rocks’ Arial View:  Fort Fisher to Zeke’s Island to Bald Head
Google Maps: ‘The Rocks
Images: Zeke’s Island
Zeke’s Island – NC Coastal Reserve and National Estuarine Research Reserve
The Rocks’ 1761 – 1950: from the Bill Reaves Files
‘The Rocks’ in the News

November 1995 Newsletter (pdf) – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society