From the President – May, 2021

By: Elaine Henson

Center Pier – Part II

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.

<center><i>Photo courtesy of Jay Winner</i></center>

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.