By Elaine Henson
Boardwalk, Part III
By 1940 the Boardwalk was truly the Carolina Beach town center.
Not only were there hotels, eateries, bingo parlors, arcades, bath houses, the pavilion, a movie theater, bowling alley, amusements and other summer businesses, but also, essential services that were open year round. Beach residents shopped for groceries at the boardwalk A & P and spirits at the ABC store.
City Hall was located there along with the police station and the fire department. At one time, the grammar school was on one side of City Hall separated by a sheet from those who conducted the town’s business.
In this Louis T. Moore photo from the NHCPL collection, the back of the pavilion is on the left with a new fire station and fire truck on the right. Behind the fire station is City Hall.
But, all that was to change. In the early hours of September 19, 1940, a fire in the pavilion was discovered by CB Police Officer Mosely on his nightly rounds.
The pavilion, near the northern end of the boardwalk and Harper Avenue, was described in a Wilmington Morning Star article as “Old, unpainted, dried and fattened for the kill by 30 odd summers in the sun, the structure exploded with uncontrolled furry before police Officer Mosley, who discovered the fire, could turn in an alarm.” A fierce wind blew the fire in both directions but mainly toward the south. It swept down two blocks of the Boardwalk destroying everything in its path ending at the Bame Hotel.
The Bame was located just south of the present day boardwalk gazebo area on the vacant lot where some of the summer rides are located. So, the fire covered the area between today’s Hampton Inn and Marriott Hotel.
This photo from the boardwalk looking west shows some of the devastation caused by the fire. In the left background is the blue building that faces Cape Fear Boulevard in front of the Gazebo. Photo from the collection of the late Bob and Fran Doetsch.
Undaunted by their losses, the business owners vowed to rebuild in time for the 1941 summer season and they did. Having accomplished that, Carolina Beach was billed as “The South’s Miracle Beach” on post cards published after the fire and rebuilt.
Next month: Boardwalk, Part IV