Current Exhibits at the Museum
The Wrightsville Beach Museum is designed to reflect how life was lived in a typical summer cottage at Wrightsville Beach. We have a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen showing typical furnishings of the time. Other rooms feature exhibits showcasing various periods of history, events, or items that reflect a lifestyle of times past. Visitors can view slideshows of photographs and postcards in our collection and an oral history video, where longtime residents reminisce about Wrightsville Beach and Lumina pavilion of the 1940s.
Here are some of our current exhibits.
The Mailbox is currently at the museum!
Now on display at the museum is The Mailbox that was formerly at the north end of the beach. For 11 years this mailbox sat in a secluded spot at the north end of Wrightsville Beach accessible by a short walk into the dunes. A local couple kept the mailbox supplied with notebooks for visitors notes, rotating out the filled notebooks and replacing them with blank ones and a steady supply of pens and pencils. 125 Notebooks have been given to the museum along with the last mailbox. We are making a few notebooks available each month for visitors to look at. Just in: Notecards of the mailbox by a local photographer.
NEW!! The History of the Bathing Suit: a timeline showcasing how swimsuit fashion has changed.
Wrightsville Beach Museum of History’s new exhibit is on the history of the bathing suit with a timeline showing how the design and materials changed over the years and why. Did women really have to wear stocking and swim “booties” in the early 1900s? Did men have to wear bathing shirts? Those unattractive black bathing suits you could rent at Lumina in the 1920s – what material were they made of? We have lots of answers to your questions and fun photographs. We even have a life-sized cut-out of a man and woman in bathing costumes with space for you to put your face through and have your photo taken as a 1920s bathing beauty!
Our NEW Lumina Exhibit
The Wrightsville Beach Museum of History has newly updated exhibit on Lumina pavilion. Lumina, built in 1905 and torn down in 1973 is a perfect vehicle to discuss the social changes at Wrightsville Beach during this time period.
Beginning in the era of large establishments that provided a place for a variety of entertainments for hundreds of people, Lumina was at the cutting edge of style and progress. Visitors arrived by train and then trolleys, at times as often as every thirty minutes, flocking to the beach. Wrightsville Beach, with the grand pavilion, two luxurious hotels, three bath houses, two yacht clubs, and plenty of boarding houses and cottages for rent, was the epitome of the thriving and roaring Twenties. Throughout The Depression, people were still coming to Wrightsville Beach, some as day-trippers and some to spend a week or more. Families in Wilmington had modest and not-so-modest homes along the strand, moving out to the cooler beach breezes for the summer, commuting into to town by trolley as needed while Lumina continued to be at the center of Wrightsville Beach social activity. World War II transformed the beach into a place where military housing created the first large-scale numbers of year-round residents. The blackouts dimmed Lumina’s lights, but not its importance. Big Bands played as servicemen danced with their sweethearts and patrols used the facility to keep watch for U-boats. Big Bands transitioned to Rock-N-Roll, and radios and phonographs made large venues less popular and less viable. Lumina continued to hold a special place in the hearts of the Wrightsville Beach community but it struggled to find a viable future. A last hurrah was The Upper Deck, a bar and grill on the south side of the building that in the 1960s had a loyal following (they still have reunions)and a killer dance floor that came to an end with the wrecking ball of 1973.
Couples dance at Lumina to the music of Benny Goodman. A young lady emerges from the bathhouse sporting her new bathing suit. The trolley stops, dropping off its first passenger of the day to Wrightsville Beach.
These images, along with the sun, sand, and ocean, come to life in the museum’s centerpiece–a twelve foot model of Wrightsville Beach as it looked circa 1910, about the time that the museum house, the Myers Cottage, was built. Displayed are replications of Lumina, Brown’s Bathhouse, a working trolley car, Station One, Little Chapel on the Boardwalk, The grand Oceanic and Seashore hotels and the museum cottage in its original location. The construction of this model is due to the skill and craftsmanship of Maricam Kaleel of Model Makers and Bill Creasy. Working form photographs, many of which were over 100 years old, they made the original model piece by piece, inch by inch. More recent additions were done by Jon Michael and Ted O’Quinn. The new model cover, completed in 2015, was made by Matt Winkle.
The Trolley Exhibit
This display contains pictures and artifacts pertaining to the trolley that once ran from downtown Wilmington out to Wrightsville Beach, just 10 miles away. in its heyday, a trolley would arrive at the beach as often as every 30 minutes, bringing hundreds of visitors as well as vendors supplying the island with ice, milk, vegetables and all types of needed items since there was no market at Wrightsville Beach.
In the early twentieth century American kitchens, the dominant color was white. Walls were frequently covered with white ceramic tile or painted with white enamel paint, as was the furniture and all the woodwork. The ideal kitchen sink was porcelain enameled on cast iron, also in white.
For cooking, the convenience and cleanliness of electric stoves took preference in households, as in this kitchen. Displayed here are pieces of china from the Oceanic Hotel, which burned down in the Great Fire of 1934, samples of previous linoleum flooring, and a variety of kitchen equipment you may recognize.
Dining was frequently enjoyed outdoors on the porch to take advantage of the cool summer breezes at Wrightsville Beach. The porch was also the place where the icebox was kept, for easy disposal of the melted ice. Here, perishables such as butter, milk, and meats were stored. The icebox was introduced in the 1860s, and in thirty years became a household necessity. It remained the primary food storage appliance until the introduction of the monitor-top refrigerator in 1927.
Iceboxes were available in various sizes, ranging from a twenty-five pound to a hundred pound ice block capacity. The trolley brought routine deliveries of ice from Wilmington to the inhabitants of Wrightsville Beach to keep the icebox cool in the blistering summer heat.
In a turn of the century beach cottage bedroom, the theme was simplicity. Pictured here is the jailhouse bed retrieved from the servant’s quarters at the house’s original location.
During the early decades of the nineteenth century, bathing was not a regular practice. Indoor plumbing did begin to emerge in the 1830s but usually only in the homes of the wealthy. Bathrooms only became a commonplace feature in the urban American home after the Civil War due to the rise of industrialization, reliable water systems and new ideas on sanitation and cleanliness.
By the 1890s, the American bathroom had developed the general equipment and arrangement that characterize today’s bathroom. Standard fixtures included a bath or shower, a toilet, and a wash basin. Designs were kept simple, for the stress was on the utilitarian function of the bathroom.
By the early 1900s white fixtures in the bathroom were the trend just as it was in the kitchen. Pictured here are typical fixtures of early twentieth century bathrooms–the free standing, single pedestal sink, a high-tank toilet, and claw-footed tub.