President’s Message – October, 2020

by Elaine Henson

Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Inn, Part I

Alexander W. Pate was born in Cumberland County in September of 1875.  He would grow up to become one of the principal developers of Carolina Beach.  In 1912, he and partners bought the holdings of the New Hanover Transit Company from Captain John W. Harper, who developed Carolina Beach as a resort in 1887.

Mr. Pate was the president of Southern Realty Company along with D. N. Chadwick as Vice President and J. J. Loughlin, Secretary-Treasurer.  The purchase included a steam train, dock on the Cape Fear River, a railroad to the beach, two pavilions, bath houses and 200 acres of land along the beach for two miles all for $30,000.  Later they bought an additional 772 acres from Robert Bruce Freeman to own controlling interest in Carolina Beach.  They had a long list of plans and improvements to make it one of the finest resorts on the east coast along with selling lots from their extensive acreage.

By 1914, Mr. Pate and partners had completed an electric light plant to provide lights to all the businesses, cottages and future cottages.  They installed a pumping station for two new artesian wells.  To encourage people to come on the weekends and look at lots, Captain Harper lowered the price for a trip down on the Steamer Wilmington as did the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line Railroads during the summer months.

A.W. Pate was a tireless supporter of Carolina Beach and had no end of ideas to promote the beach as evidenced by an article in the Sunday Star News of June 18, 1939, by none other than native son, David Brinkley, a writer for the newspaper at that time.  Among other projects Mr. Pate describes is one to reroute Highway 17 from going through Wilmington to going by Carolina Beach which never materialized.  Here are some excerpts from that article including his comments on dredging Myrtle Grove Sound to make the yacht basin:

Another ambitious project was to provide a trolley line from Wilmington to Carolina Beach.  He planned for it to begin at Greenfield Lake near Sunset Park and run parallel with the new hard surface road from the Masonboro Loop Road to Carolina Beach.  The Wilmington City Commissioners required a vote of the people in order to issue the franchise for the trolley.  On October 11, 1914, the Wilmington & Carolina Beach Railway Company franchise passed by a margin of 473 votes despite opposition from some factions.  One caveat was that three miles of the railway must be completed by August 1, 1916.

Mr.  Pate had a tentative agreement with the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company to build the railway and scheduled an in-person meeting with them in Norfolk, Virginia, soon after the franchise was granted.  On the morning he was to leave for Norfolk by train, he received a call from them asking to postpone the meeting until the impact of the recent outbreak of WWI could be assessed. As it turned out, the meeting was never held and he failed to build the required three miles by the deadline in 1916, so the project failed.

Not to be completely outdone, in 1939, he did buy a beach car from the Tidewater Power Company who was discontinuing their trolley line to Wrightsville Beach.

He placed it next to his Greystone Inn on Cape Fear Boulevard to use as a diner selling hot dogs.  That diner was soon taken over by Mrs. Lille Mae High and became Mrs. High’s Diner.

Next month:  Mr. A.W. Pate and the Greystone Inn, Part II