By Elaine Henson
Many of you have undoubtedly heard the news about the ocean front Carolina Surf Condominium at 102 Carolina Beach Avenue South being condemned. It seems that the four story, 28 unit condo built in 1986 has a “lack of structural integrity” with metal support beams corroded to half their original size. It got me thinking about what was at that location before the Carolina Surf was built.
For several summers in the 1980s our family rented a cottage right across the street from the Accordion Motel which was then at that address. The Accordion was a large 2 story, “U-shaped” building with asbestos shingling. The rear rooms faced the ocean with a pool in the center of the U as seen in this post card from the 1950s.
The picture taken by renowned Wilmington photographer John Kelly, whose studio/home was at Third and Greenfield Streets near Greenfield Lake. Note the guests sitting on blankets, folding aluminum chairs with woven webbing didn’t become popular on the beach until the 60s.
The motel had 30 pine paneled rooms and baths all “cross ventilated” which is good because I don’t see any window units. It was owned and operated by Alice and John Washburn who advertised that it was “Just a wee bit nicer” and later “Just a wee bit better”.
John William Washburn was an accomplished accordion player and loved to sit on the porch and play. He decided to name his motel for this unusual feature so guests wouldn’t forget the name or his nightly serenade.
John was also the mayor of Carolina Beach from 1959 to 1961. The Washburns later sold the motel to Ree and Jackie Glisson who put in air conditioning units, enlarged the pool to 48 feet and made other improvements. This card shows it under their ownership. The Glissons operated it for several years before it was sold and torn down to make way for the Carolina Surf.