We’re starting to plan for the resumption of monthly meetings and programs beginning in September of 2021. The hope is that the majority of our members will be vaccinated by then and that the community as a whole will have reached that critical “herd immunity” that will allow us to gather here at the History Center again.
If you have suggestions for programs for the Fall of 2021 or the Winter/Spring season of 2022 please give Rebecca or Cheri the person’s contact information by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d especially like to feature the history and current work of some of our local service organizations or community committees.
We Need Help…
Can you crawl around on the floor for us?
Rebecca is currently cataloging our map collection and needs to take a photograph of each map – many of which are so big they need to be unrolled on the floor to to get a full picture.
If you can help out for a day or two, we have 50 or so maps that need to be spread out, photographed and then re-rolled. Anybody know a teenager or two who need some service hours? Call Rebecca at 910-458-0502.
Following Hurricane Hazel in October of 1954, Center Pier was repaired and was ready for the 1955 season. That year turned out to be a challenge with two hurricanes and a tropical storm back to back over a 37 day period.
The first was Hurricane Connie which hit on August 12, 1955 as a Category Two with typical strong winds, high tides and heavy rainfall. It caused heavy crop damage and 27 deaths in North Carolina.
Photo courtesy of Jay Winner
Five days later, on August 17, Hurricane Diane made landfall in North Carolina as a tropical storm with winds of 50 mph and gusts of 74 mph in Wilmington. The waves were 12 feet, tides were 6-8 feet above normal and the storm surge caused damage to homes along the beach and coastal flooding on top being rain-soaked from Connie.
On September 19, 1955, Hurricane Ione made landfall near Wilmington as a Category Two storm leaving more flooding, strong winds, storm surge, more crop damage and 7 dead in North Carolina.
By the end of that year some of the partners in Center Pier Corporation wanted out. Eventually, J.R. Bame bought them out and was sole owner. Mr. Bame had been in business at the beach since he opened the Bame Café in 1925 and in 1926 operated the only filling station on the beach. He replaced his Café with the first Bame Hotel in 1930, then remodeled, enlarged and bricked it in 1937. That hotel was burned to the ground in the devastating 1940 boardwalk fire.
He rebuilt it again and had it open by the 1941 season. By the mid-50s, he had been through many hurricanes and fires and was used to rebuilding and starting over, so he did that with the pier as well.
The above post card from 1958 shows Center Pier repaired and in good shape with a snack bar and tackle shop. The parking lot is sand and filled with 1950s cars.
In this later card from the mid-1960s, the building looks sleek and modern. Inside is a new restaurant called the Ocean View along with the tackle shop/snack bar and a paved parking lot.
We know that the first road to the Federal Point area was the “King’s Road,” with its colonial ferry to Brunswick Town on the western bank of the Cape Fear River which was in existence by the mid 1700s. However it would be a long and sometimes twisting path until the area was truly connected to the state and national highway system in the twentieth century. Some of the early attempts at road building in the lower portion of New Hanover County are documented in the Bill Reaves Files, as follows.
December 18, 1874:
A bill was introduced in the State House at Raleigh to incorporate the Wilmington and Federal Point Plank Road. WILM.STAR 10-20-1874
January 7, 1878:
Henry G. Davis resigned as overseer of the Federal Point Road, and W. H. Williams was appointed to the position at a meeting of the New Hanover County Commissioners. WILM.STAR, 1-8-1878.
March 3, 1896 :
The appropriation for a public road in Federal and Masonboro Townships was reconsidered, and on motion $500 was appropriated for the road known as the “New Federal Point and Masonboro Road.” W.D. Rhodes was appointed to superintend work on the new road. WILM.DISPATCH, 3-3-1896.
May 5, 1896:
New Hanover County Commissioner Montford, who had been appointed to examine the work done on the new public road, called the new Federal Point road, reported that the work had been done well under the supervision of Mr. D.S. Rhodes. Seven miles of the road had been beautifully graded and only about a mile remains to be completed. WILM.MESSENGER, 5-5-1896.
February 8, 1898:
The new Federal Point road delegation asked for a special appropriation of $250 to change the course of about 2 miles of their road, starting about 8 miles from the city. The cost would be for 7,000 yards of ditching. It was claimed that the change would save the traveling of about 4 miles of deep sand road for quite a number of people in that section. Messrs. Hines and Horne were spokesmen for the delegation. WILM.STAR, 2-8-1898.
March 26, 1907:
Members of the Board of County Commissioners went down into Federal Point and Masonboro Townships to confer with committees of citizens representing rival delegations urging the permanent improvement of one of the county roads leading into that section. The Commissioners are at sea as to which of two routes to adopt, the people of the townships differing upon which is best. Messrs. Melvin Horne, Owen Martindale and Horton Freeman urged the adoption of the old Federal Point Road, and Messrs. G. W. Trask, George W. Rogers and D. J. Fergus urged the adoption of the “Masonboro route.” A decision was postponed until the next meeting. WILM.STAR, 3-28-1907.
February 21, 1910:
Fales Collection, NHCPL
“Good Roads Rally” was held at Carolina Beach by citizens of Federal Point Township, for the purpose of discussing the good roads question. It was attended by a number of enthusiastic persons. The meeting was presided over by Mr. J. H. Williams.
One of the features of the session was a strong and forceful speech by Mr. J. D. Fergus. In his remarks he called attention to the great need in Federal Point Township for good roads. He believed that the township had been discriminated against as not a mile of good road had yet been installed in the township.
He called attention to the fact that the loop now being made with the Masonboro road would not come within a mile of Federal Point Township. A committee of five drafted strong resolutions calling upon the county commissioners for relief. The meeting was held at Kure’s at Carolina Beach with a big free oyster roast and fish fry. WILMINGTON DISPATCH, 2-17-1910; 2-22-1910.
MARCH 16, 1915 :
The contractor had his convicts at work on the new road at Carolina Beach, the 7 ½ miles between the “Loop” road and the beach.
From a historical standpoint this stretch of road south of the “Loop” was one of the most interesting in the county. By the roadside could be seen the famous double breastworks used by the Confederates to defend this section from invasion, while at intervals could be seen long avenues, leading to the sound from the river. These roads were hundreds of years old and were used until later years in the salt making industry, which was of quite large proportions here at one time.
A short distance further to the right going down to the beach, was Sedgeley Abbey, the historical old ruins spoken of in Mr. James Sprunt’s new book, “Chronicles of the Cape Fear.” This old mansion was connected with the sound by means of a perfectly straight avenue which could still be dimly seen.
Further down on the river side a half mile from the road, was the site of the famous old Gander Hall, whose colonial owner made himself a joke forever in this community by going into the business of raising geese. Preferring to raise the large white ones exclusively, he purchased scores of that kind, with the result that he had a farm full of ganders and not a lady goose in the bunch. It was also interesting to notice the red cedar telephone poles which line the roadside. These were used by the government during the Spanish-American War to connect Wilmington by telegraph with a signal station shortly this side of the beach in order that Wilmington might be warned of the approach of the anticipated Spanish fleet. Later the poles were sold to a telephone company when all danger was past. WILM.DISPATCH, 3-15-1915.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of longtime Society member Deborah Hockenbury, who passed away on May 4 after a long illness.
The History Center had 64 visitors. The UDC held their monthly meeting at the History Center.
Welcome to new members: Brent Byerly of Thomasville, Kelli Weeks of Carolina Beach, John Smith & Jennifer Cameron of Carolina Beach, and Dan Cookinham of Carolina Beach.
The Exhibit Committee is working to “spiff up” some of our exhibits. We desperately need someone to build us a scale model of the original Swing Bridge!
We’d also like to do an exhibit on the Federal Point Lighthouse but need someone who can build us a model of the 3rd lighthouse, the one that was a two story house with a light on top. We can provide photos of both.