By Elaine Henson
Blockade Runner Museum
Last month we featured the Picnic Shelter/Gazebo next to the Blockade Runner Museum which is the home of Federal Point Historic Preservation Society. This month our focus is the Museum.
John Hanby Foard (1901-1977) opened the Blockade Runner Museum in the 1100 block of Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach, as a private venture on July 4, 1967, after years of research and construction. He moved from Newton, N.C. to Carolina Beach, living on Raleigh Avenue, in 1965 to begin the museum project.
Foard was a retired textile executive whose interest in the Civil War came from his maternal grandfather John Hazard Hanby (1841-1910). Hanby was a Confederate veteran who owned the Atlantic View Hotel at Wrightsville Beach in the late 1880s when Wrightsville Beach was known as Atlantic View Beach. Young Foard delighted in hearing stories of the war, blockade runners and Fort Fisher from his Grandfather Hanby which spurred his life long love of Civil War history.
The museum’s exhibits focused on Fort Fisher and the Wilmington port’s roles with ships getting through the Federal blockade carrying goods vital to the Confederate supply line. There were several dioramas made by renowned model maker Lionel G. Forrest and ship modes by John Railey. It was open for ten years when Foard died unexpectedly in 1977, but remained open until 1983.
Civil War expert and retired UNCW Professor, Dr. Chris Fonvielle, worked at the museum as curator from 1979-1983. He recalls that when he put the key in to lock the door on the last day, the key broke off in the lock. After closing, many of the museums displays went to the Cape Fear Museum where they remain today. One is a diorama of the Battle of Fort Fisher with lights and sound and the other is a very large model of Wilmington’s waterfront during the Civil War.
In 1989, the Town of Carolina Beach purchased the Blockade Runner Museum and adjoining property in the 1100 block of Lake Park Boulevard for $398,000. Town officials and employees moved into the renovated museum in 1990 from the Municipal Building across from the marina on the corner of Carl Winner Drive and Canal Drive. In 1999, after record hurricane flooding in the Municipal Building, they added on to the remodeled former museum making room for the police, recreation and other departments.
Twenty years later we have the handsome town complex, separate Recreation Center and converted the picnic shelter, to the Federal Point History Center, on the former Blockade Runner Museum grounds.
In 2016, four of the smaller dioramas from the Blockade Runner Museum were installed in the atrium in the Carolina Beach Town Complex. One depicts the drowning of Rose O’Neal Greenhow when the blockade Runner Condor went down in 1864; one shows an auction house scene where goods from the blockade runners were sold; another shows Union sailors boarding a blockade runner; and the last is a recreation of Lt. Commander William B. Cushing’s raid on Smithfield, present day Southport. Visitors can view the dioramas during regular business hours at the town complex.