February Meeting – Jim McKee on the Wilmington Reserve Fleet

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, February 19, 2018 @ 7:30 PM at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Jim McKee from Brunswick Town – Fort Anderson.

Jim will be speaking on the Wilmington Reserve Fleet which was one of eight National Defense Reserve Fleet’s (NDRF) anchorages established around the United States to store merchant vessels after World War II.

By 1951 the Wilmington Reserve Fleet was at full capacity, and was the second largest reserve fleet in the nation. There are thousands of people who still remember the ships moored in the Brunswick River, but have no idea why they were there or what their purpose was.

Jim McKee is the site manager at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site in Winnabow, NC. He graduated from Greensboro College, has his Master’s from Southern New Hampshire University, and has worked for the National Park Service and the North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport. He has been researching the Wilmington Reserve Fleet since 2007.

 

Presidents Letter – February 2018

By Elaine Henson

The Breakers Hotel, Part II

The Breakers Hotel opened for its second summer season under the management of Forrest Smith.  An article in the Wilmington News Dispatch dated June 5, 1925, stated that he planned for the hotel to remain open all winter that year. It is not known if the Breakers did stay open year round, but we do know that the golf course, tennis courts, Great Atlantic Pier, two smaller piers and other plans did not materialize. Most likely a lack of capital was the reason and the Great Depression of 1929 was certainly a factor.

The economy at Federal Point beaches experienced an upturn in 1931 when the Dow Chemical Company bought a 310 acre tract in Wilmington Beach. They planned to build a pilot plant for extracting bromine from sea water on the mile wide tract of land. It stretched across Federal Point from the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean for a mile just south of the Breakers Hotel.  By 1933 Dow Chemical and Ethyl Gasoline Company formed the Ethyl Dow Corporation.

In August of that year, Ethyl Dow announced that they were building a $3 million permanent facility that would employ over 350 workers. The Breakers Hotel, then owned by Mainland Beach Corporation, was leased for one year as a private hotel for upper management, superintendents, foremen, and technicians.  It was redecorated and refurnished for the Ethyl Dow employees.  John S. Divine was the manager of the Breakers during the lease period.  He was formerly the manager of the Seashore Hotel at Wrightsville Beach and the Orton Hotel in Wilmington.

Breakers Hotel as it appeared when Ethyl Dow leased it 1933-1934, the sign near the end of the second floor porch says “EDCCO Club”.  Photo from FPHPS’ Collection.

Monroe Shigley came to the N. C. Ethyl Dow plant from the Midland, Michigan Dow Chemical plant in 1933 and was plant manager from 1936-1941. Mr. Shigley recalls the Breakers Hotel in an oral history interview by Ralph Buell who was also employed by Ethyl Dow.  In part of that interview he stated:

Monroe Shigley

The hotel, during our residence had a big dining room, named the EDCCO Club, where everyone ate.  The number 1 table fed the top people: the Beutels, the Bransons (head of construction), the L.J. Richards (chief engineer) and the Willard Dows and Ethyl bigwigs when they came.  That table had finger bowls and the services of William Polite, a distinguished black headwaiter who wore formal dress.  The second table had some of William Polite’s time but no finger bowls.  Of perhaps ten tables, I and some others were at the last table.  More business was certainly done at the top tables but at ours, we had more fun.”  

Monroe Shigley was a Harvard graduate with a degree in engineering. He went to work for Dow Chemical in 1930 and retired in 1970 after a 40 year career. He worked at their plants in Michigan, North Carolina and Texas. He and his wife, Mary Graham Shigley from Wilmington, spent their retirement years at the family apple and cherry orchard in Freemont, Michigan and later lived in Yakima and Tacoma, Washington. He died in 1999 and she in 2008; they are buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Lansing, Michigan.

The Shigley interview was submitted by Howard Hewett in September of 2014 along with other documents and photographs and is part of FPHPS archive on Ethyl Dow.  It can be accessed here on our website.

Next month:  Breakers Hotel Part III

 

January Meeting – Dr. Keith Holland on Shipwreck “Maple Leaf”

Monday, January 15, 2018   7:30 PM

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, January, 15, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker will be Dr. Keith Holland from Jacksonville, Florida, who will discuss the story of the Maple Leaf, a Federal troop transport ship which carried men from six Federal regiments who would later take part in the two attacks on Fort Fisher.

Holland formed a company, St. Johns Archaeological Expeditions Inc. (SJAEI) to salvage the ship. After almost two years of negotiating, a deal was struck giving the federal government 20% and the salvagers 80% of what was found.

SJAEI subsequently relinquished its rights to the artifacts in order to keep the entire collection intact. The collection of artifacts was given to and remains with the Florida Division of Historical Resources in Tallahassee. In 2015, most of the collection that belonged to the federal government was removed from the State of Florida for possible display at the future National Museum of the US Army in Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

Over a ten-day period in 1989, over 3000 objects were recovered from the shipwreck site and they all had to be handled properly to preserve them. Once taken to the surface and to a source of abundant oxygen, materials start to deteriorate quickly. Holland and crew learned how to safely preserve their precious finds. They learned to treat materials with chemicals, freeze drying and electrical currents to stop oxidation.

The Christmas Flounder

By Ken Blevins / StarNews Photographer

Posted Dec 20, 2010 at 12:01 AM

If there is an old-timer in your house today, he probably is not reminiscing about the grand old tradition of The Christmas Flounder. It is practically forgotten.

The Christmas Flounder is a Yuletide custom unknown outside Southeastern North Carolina, according to Paul Jennewein, the late veteran newsman who was the world’s only authority on the matter. According to Jennewein, it began during the Great Depression, when people in this area were even poorer than usual.

Buying and stuffing a turkey for Christmas dinner was out of the question for many. Something else was needed, something that poor folks could procure in the days before food stamps.

The unfortunate flounders, lovingly stuffed with native delicacies such as oysters, crabs, collards and grits, graced Christmas tables all over the area. Non-Baptists who knew a reliable bootlegger accompanied the humble dish with a jelly glass of high-octane cheer.

It was a tradition born of hardship, but it is unique and deserves to be remembered as part of the folklore of the Lower Cape Fear.

(Reprinted in the Wilmington StarNews every Christmas Eve in an effort to keep this grand tradition alive.)

1- to 3-pound medium flounder (Have your flounder prepared at the fish market by cutting down the center of the fish and filleting the top fillets back.)

1 pound crab meat                                                      2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

½ pound medium shrimp                                            2 tablespoons of butter

½ red bell pepper                                                        ½ cup mayonnaise

½ green bell pepper                                                     2 cups of cornbread crumbs

½ white onion                                                             1 egg

Start by dicing up the onion and peppers and then combine them in a pan with the butter and sauté until the onions become clear. While the onions and peppers are cooking, cut your shrimp into small chunks and add them to your crabmeat in a medium size bowl. Once you have your shrimp and crab mixed, add the cornbread, egg, Worcestershire sauce, mayonnaise, onions and peppers.

After you have all of your ingredients together, open your flounder and begin adding your stuffing. You can add as much as you like, but if you have any leftovers I would suggest making crab cakes out of it for appetizers.

Close your flounder around the stuffing. I suggest putting three bamboo skewers through the fillets and stuffing, holding the sides together and keeping the fish closed. Now that your flounder is prepared, brush it with a little melted butter to help keep it moist. Place the flounder in the oven at 325 degrees for 30 minutes until the shrimp are cooked. Remove and serve. This should feed 4 people.

[To read the original Christmas Flounder story see this year’s December 24th StarNews]

 

From the President – November, 2017

By Elaine Henson

This month we will take one last look at the empty lots at the boardwalk that are home to the rides each summer.

The empty corner lot at Cape Fear Boulevard and Canal Drive used to be the site of the Bame Gulf Station.

The station was managed by Ernest “Tite” Bame whose parents, J.R. and Amanda Bame, owned the Bame Hotel diagonally across the street. World War II took Ernest away in the early 1940’s to serve in the Army Air Corps so he asked his brother-in-law, Jim Knox, to manage the station while he was gone.  Jim and Ernest’s sister, Ruby Bame Knox, had recently moved to Carolina Beach to live year round.

At the end of the war Jim Knox and Ernest Bame became partners and also opened an appliance store next to the station.  It was housed in the bottom floor of a two story white building next to the Gulf station as seen in the photo above.  Cooks and other employees of the Bame Hotel lived upstairs during the summer season.

Ernest’s wife, Rachel Bame, talked about the businesses and Hurricane Hazel (October 15, 1954) in an oral history for FPHPS:

Hurricane Hazel. It really took my husband’s business – the Gulf station and the appliances.
During Hurricane Hazel, he stayed down at the business. I was living at the corner of Hamlet Avenue at the time. I wondered why he didn’t come home…. During the height of the hurricane the ocean and the canal were almost ready to meet. And it did eventually.
And he was trying to save the appliances. He had just put in a car load of GE appliances. And they stayed down there and tried to save those appliances until it just got hopeless. The building was almost demolished. That’s another reason they had to get rid of the hotel later – so much water came in. All that area just flooded something awful.”

After Hazel Jim and Ernest decided to move their business to the 1000 block of North Lake Park Boulevard. They also decided to go into the building supply/hardware and furniture trade erecting a building large enough for both in 1955.  Ernest and Rachel’s son, Phil Bame, still runs Bame Ace Hardware in that block today.

 

Masonboro Island

Masonboro Island is the largest undisturbed barrier island along the southern part of the North Carolina coast and is located approximately five miles southeast of Wilmington, in the most populous part of the North Carolina coast. The Masonboro site is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway to the west, Masonboro Inlet to the north, and Carolina Beach Inlet to the south.

The Masonboro Island component is the largest site, at 5,653 acres, within the NCNERR system and was designated in 1991. Eighty-seven percent of the 8.4 mile long island is covered with marsh and tidal flats. The remaining portions are composed of beach uplands and dredge material islands. Masonboro Island is an essentially pristine barrier island and estuarine system.

The various salinity patterns found in the extensive subtidal and intertidal areas along the sound side of the island support a myriad of estuarine species.

The habitats found within this site include subtidal soft bottoms, tidal flats, hard surfaces, salt marshes, shrub thicket, maritime forest, dredge spoil areas, grasslands, ocean beach, and sand dunes. Loggerhead and green sea turtles nest on the beaches, where seabeach amaranth plants grow on the foredunes.

All of these species are listed as threatened by the Federal Government. Species of concern are the black skimmers, Wilson’s plovers, and least terns that nest on the island. Sound sediments are home to two state watch list species – Hartmans Echiurid and a polycheate worm in the genus Notomastus.

The nutrient rich waters of Masonboro Sound are an important nursery area for spot, mullet, summer flounder, pompano, menhaden, and bluefish.

Island Reserve has more than 5,500 acres of natural barrier island habitat, estuary habitat and dredge spoil islands. Creation of the Reserve Masonboro Island was privately owned throughout most of the 20th century.

Increased development pressure prompted early conservation efforts by local citizens with the creation of the Society of Masonboro Island and involvement of the N.C. Coastal Land Trust during the 1980s.

Designation as the fourth component of the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve occurred in 1991. Purpose of the Reserve This natural area is one of 10 sites that make up the North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Preservation of the Masonboro Island Reserve allows this coastal ecosystem to be available as a natural outdoor laboratory where scientists, students and the general public can learn about coastal processes, functions and influences that shape and sustain the coastal area.

Traditional recreational uses are allowed as long as they do not disturb the environment or organisms or interfere with research and educational activities.

The Masonboro Island Reserve is managed through a federal-state partnership between NOAA and the N.C. Division of Coastal Management to protect the island’s ecosystems for research and education. The support of ongoing stewardship of the site by a community of partner organizations is gratefully acknowledged. This site is also a dedicated state nature preserve.

The North Carolina Coastal Reserve & National Estuarine Research Reserve is part of the N.C. Division of Coastal Management, a division of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

 

Howard Hewett’s Legacy

from James Hewett:
“My cousin Howard Hewett passed away Monday Oct 6th in Vermont. His funeral will be Saturday in Texas.”

Howard Hewett

Between 2014 and 2015 from his home in Jones Creek, TX, Howard actively wrote many articles for the Federal Point History Center recalling his childhood years living just outside the gates to Fort Fisher.

Howard was a great writer with the amazing ability to recall details from his younger years on Federal Point.

Howard last visited Carolina and Kure Beach in November, 2015 and was the guest speaker at the Federal Point History Center.

Share some of Howard’s memories of Federal Point here.

From the President – October, 2017

By Elaine Henson

This month we are continuing to look at some of the empty lots on the boardwalk where the summer rides are located.

The lot between the Gazebo and the Marriott Hotel was the site of three Bame Hotel buildings built by James Rowan Bame and his wife, Mandy, from Barber, North Carolina.

The first Bame opened on the site in June, 1930.  It was three stories with a white wooden exterior and contained “33 rooms with running water, tubs and showers” according to a 1930s brochure.  Bame’s Hotel faced Cape Fear Boulevard near the wooden boardwalk and included a café with “Miss Mandy” in charge of the cooking. The rates were $1.50 to $2.50 per day or $10.00 to $15.00 a week based on the European Plan which did not include meals.

By 1935, “Mr. Jim” decided to enlarge and remodel his hotel with a brick exterior and including a large paneled dining room and a grill which faced the boardwalk.  The 60 rooms had a single bed or double bed with or without a private bath.

But it was not to last.  On the night of September 19, 1940, a fire began in the old pavilion and swept away two blocks of the boardwalk including the Bame Hotel reducing it to rubble.  Mr. Jim and the other business owners vowed to rebuild in time for the summer of 1941 and they did.  The fact that they were able to restore two entire blocks from ashes in just a few months earned Carolina Beach the nickname “The South’s Miracle Beach”.

The new brick three story Hotel Bame had 80 rooms, 65 with a private bath.  The floors on the first level were tile with hardwoods on the second and third floors. Red leather chairs graced the spacious lobby.

The new Bame also had an elevator, sizable dining room facing Cape Fear Boulevard, another grill on the boardwalk and optional air conditioning window units in the rooms.  It later included a pool room and a barber shop.

J.R. Bame died in 1959 with his son, George, continuing to manage the hotel until his death in 1968.  The family leased it for a few years before selling it to investors from Myrtle Beach in the early 1970s, who tore it down and built a water slide in its place.

 

Tanya Binford: Crossing the Wake

By Nancy Gadzuk

Tanya Binford, author of Crossing the Wake: One woman’s Great Loop Adventure spoke at the August 21, 2017 meeting of the History Center. She talked about her experiences traveling the 5,000 mile Great Loop Cruise Route around the eastern United States in a 25-foot Ranger tug motor boat. Alone.

Usually I take copious notes during our History Center meetings, but Tanya’s presentation was so spellbinding all I could do was listen with my mouth open in awe. Fortunately, Tanya also wrote a fascinating memoir to provide backup for the notes I didn’t take, and I recommend reading Crossing the Wake for an in-depth look at her trip.

Tanya dreamed of learning to sail, even though she spent most of her life in Arizona. She didn’t want to wait until she was able to retire to pursue her dream.

“Sometimes we have to make the adventure,” she said. At the age of 45, she decided to take a year off when she turned 50 to pursue the dream. Fortunately, she had a job she could do from anywhere that had a good Internet connection. She drew a line on a map from her home in Arizona due east and it led to Southport, North Carolina.

Once in Southport, she made every mistake a beginning boater could make, bought several boats that weren’t right for her, realized sailing was too difficult to do solo, and finally ended up with a 25 foot ranger tug motor boat.

She decided to travel America’s Great Loop Cruise Route, through the Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Approximately 100 boats make the loop each year, but most of them are much, much larger than hers, and very few people make the trip solo.

One of the frightening parts of her presentation was her description of going through close to 100 locks on the canal system along the route, where she was surrounded by much larger commercial vessels in a tight-fitting trough of moving water. She frequently needed to be in two places at the same time, holding a line on one side of the boat while doing something on the other.

Any long boat trip requires time, money, and energy for boat repairs. At one point, Tanya limped into a marina for a needed engine repair. (An impeller, whatever that is.) Tanya was working with Bob, the marina owner, on the repair and she was trying to get a bolt attached somewhere on the engine.

Bob asked what was taking her so long, and she yelled from under the engine, “I’m screwing as hard as I can! Can’t you feel it?”

There was silence until Bob said, “I’ve never had a woman say that to me before,” and they both burst out laughing.

A sense of humor is also useful for any adventure.

 

Gil Burnett – Memories of the Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Click image – to view images & videos

Want to take a walk along the new and improved Carolina Beach Boardwalk?

And learn something about its history from master storyteller and long-time resident Gil Burnett while you’re there?

Click the image or follow this link to a series of pictures from a recent History Center walk with the retired Chief Justice Court Judge. Click or tap on any image in the photo series to view images in full screen mode.

Video clips capture Gil’s experience as a 12-year-old setting up a successful sno-ball operation on the Boardwalk and provide some background on the evolution of shagging in Carolina Beach.

See you on the Boardwalk!