President’s Letter – January, 2018

By Elaine Henson

The Breakers Hotel,   Part I

Breakers Hotel   photo courtesy of the New Hanover County Public Library, Louis T. Moore Collection

The Breakers Hotel opened in May of 1924 at what was then known as Wilmington Beach.  It was a three story brick hotel with 50 rooms, 40 with a private bath.  A second story veranda ran the length of the building which faced the ocean. The Breakers was located on what is now South Lake Park Boulevard between North Carolina Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.  Sea Colony Condominiums are there now.

The Breakers’ story began with an article in the Wilmington News Dispatch on July 6, 1913, about the newly formed Wilmington Beach Corporation and their plans for development.  The investors were C.E. Freenamyer, C.C. Chadbourn, L.W. Davis, Jr., J.J. Hopkins, D.N. Chadwick Jr., F.P. Jackson and S.V. Bowden; their vision was for Wilmington Beach to become the Atlantic City of the South. The corporation’s property ran for one mile fronting the ocean and west across Federal Point to the Cape Fear River.

They planned for a macadam [crushed gravel compacted and often topped with water, oil or tarvia] boulevard one mile long running north to south and 50 to 90 feet wide avenues lined with building lots. The crown jewel was to be a large modern hotel on the ocean with a hundred feet in length and  25 feet wide boardwalk in front.  There was to be a pavilion and large garage for parking near the hotel.

Also the plans called for a Great Atlantic Pier in front of the hotel with smaller piers on the northern and southern ends of the property. The piers would each have refreshment parlors similar to ones at the Seashore Hotel Pier, 1910-1920, at Wrightsville Beach.

They hoped to have the hotel open year round with a golf course and tennis courts, hunting and fishing.   Ocean bathing was to be the main outdoor activity with a life guard on duty and a life line of rope in the sea for bathers to hold onto.  A bathhouse was to be in the basement (surely the first floor) with private shower rooms for the guests. The unsurpassed cuisine would center on fresh catches of fish, crabs and clams all served with other delicacies in the expansive dining room with tall ceilings.

An orchestra was to provide after dinner dancing music throughout the season and perform Sunday afternoon concerts in the spacious lobby for the public.  That 1924 summer opening featured an orchestra under the direction of Jack Cohn.  The Southern Collegians from the University of North Carolina were booked for the 1925 season, playing after luncheons in addition to after the evening meals.  There were also plans to have a railroad serving Wilmington Beach and Carolina Beach, connecting them to Wilmington and the Atlantic Coast Line trains.

(Next month:  Breakers Hotel, Part II)