Wrightsville Beach History
(scroll down to see history of Wrightsville Beach Parks and Rec AND our Wrightsville Beach History Timeline!)
First know simply as The Banks, and then as Ocean View Beach, the town of Wrightsville Beach was incorporated in 1899, named for the Wright family of Wilmington who owned large tracts of land nearby and for whom Wrightsville Sound and the small community of Wrightsville on the mainland side of the current drawbridge were already named.
Accessibility to the beach improved in 1887 when the Shell Road – following the route of current Wrightsville Avenue – was completed, running from Wilmington, 10 miles west, to the edge of what is now the Intracoastal Waterway and the Heide Trask drawbridge.
Soon after, Wilmington Seacoast Railroad Co. built rail transportation, known as the “Beach Car” from downtown Wilmington all the way to the “Hammocks” (Harbor Island). The Hammocks was a smaller barrier island between the mainland and the beach proper. When visitors got off the beach cars at the Hammocks, they then took a footbridge across Banks Channel to the beach.
In 1889, the rail line was extended across the Hammocks and onto the barrier island, later known as Wrightsville Beach, where it then ran southward along a route which is now South Lumina Avenue. Until the automobile era, the “Beach Car” was the lifeline to Wrightsville Beach.
The winter of 1902-03 the small-gauge railroad system to the beach was converted to an electric trolley system connected to the streetcar system in Wilmington. The Beach Car was now run by electricity and during the summer months, heavily used. On July 4, 1907, 8700 passengers traveled to the beach by rail.
At the end of the Beach Car line was Lumina pavilion, built in 1905 by the Tidewater Power Co. and named for the thousands of lights outlining its facade. Lumina was constructed on 200 feet of ocean frontage and later expanded to include access to Banks Channel on the sound side. This 12,500 square foot complex presented visitors with three levels of games and activities including a magnificent dance hall, a movie screen in the surf, and a bath house with changing rooms and showers.
The Great Fire of 1934 destroyed over one hundred buildings on the north end of Wrightsville Beach, including The Oceanic Hotel, but not touching the south end or Lumina. In 1935, the trolley era began to give way to the automobile, with the last trolley running in 1940. The tracks were pulled up, sold for scrap metal, and the track-bed paved for cars.
Hurricane Hazel hit Wrightsville Beach, at high tide and with a full moon, on October 15, 1954, destroying approximately 200 houses and damaging 500 more. Hazel continues to be the only documented Category 4 hurricane to make a direct hit on the North Carolina coast.
A new era began in the 1960s as Wrightsville Beach rebuilt after Hurricane Hazel. Currently, there are 2,604 year round residents, with the population swelling to 45-50,000 in the summer months.
A History of Our Parks and Recreation Department
From a field of marshy land to a center of family fun, Wrightsville Beach Park, along with the Parks and Recreation Department, has become important to the Wrightsville Beach community…
FROM MARSH GROUND TO PLAYGROUND…
Wrightsville Beach in the 1960’s was a folksy town with an emphasis on community. Although recreation certainly did not lack, organized activities did. This inspired a group of people to turn Wrightsville Beach into more than just sand and surf when seeking leisure activities. Signature to the area during the time, parks and recreation were casual and unofficial. However, by 1974, the town was ready for an established program. That summer, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee was approved by the Board of Aldermen, and Susan Love Lewis was appointed Director. Just over a year later, the land of what is Wrightsville Beach Park was obtained for use.
Early on, some of the major activities promoted included boating and sailing lessons, regattas, and classes in the arts. French, clogging, and sewing were some of the most popular of these workshops. However, as classes came and went, the ideals of the Parks and Recreation Department stayed the same.
The program was based upon the idea of unity, which meant “involvement from all ages, participation from all ages, understanding for the particular cause from all ages, coordination from groups or individuals involved, and cooperation from those involved”. Director Lewis defined recreation as “‘Those activities an individual chooses to participate during his leisure,’” and the importance of recreation was that it “‘Re-creates and Refreshes the Individual’”. Recreation brings a community together and improves quality of life. Because of this, a variety of recreation programs evolved to fit the interests and needs of a growing population.
After years of funding and programs, the Parks and Recreation Department merged with the Department of Planning and Inspections to create the Department of Planning and Parks. Still, recreation carried on. Some of the more recent popular programs offered include the Farmer’s Market, cooking classes, and pickleball. Other smaller parks such as South Channel Park, Island Drive Park, Greensboro Street Mini-park, and Wynn Plaza located outside of the main Wrightsville Beach have been improved and managed under the department. Renovations have also been completed to provide modern safety and improved equipment for youth and adults alike. The most recent renovation of playground equipment in Wrightsville Beach Park included the Liberty Swing, which provided accessibility for disabled children. Other groups outside of the Department, such as the Harbor Island Garden Club, the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, the NC Coastal Water Federation, and the Chamber of Commerce Visitors Center, have also stepped in to contribute to beautification or recreation projects around the island. The legacy of the Parks and Recreation Department will continue to be seen as recreation persists and continues to grow in the town of Wrightsville Beach.
Parks and Recreation Timeline
- 1961 A simple, six-week outdoor recreation program is created for Wrightsville Beach, mostly consisting of water safety classes
- 1967 American Red Cross swimming lessons are offered (until 2000)
- July 26, 1974 The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is approved
- August 5, 1974 Susan Love Lewis is appointed as the first Director of Parks & Recreation
- 1974 Gentle Yoga classes are offered; Nancy Hayes begins teaching the class in 1983
- 1975 Surfing lessons are offered (until 2009, ended because of growing competition with businesses); Sailing Lessons are offered (until 1994)
- November 1975 The land of what would become Wrightsville Beach Park was obtained.
- 1976 Tennis lessons begin (Jackie Jenkins starts teaching in1990), Water Safety & Boating Safety Classes offered (through the Coast Guard Auxiliary)
- 1977 After School Care
- 1978 The softball field and basketball court are installed in Wrightsville Beach Park
- August 1979 The tennis back wall and overlook deck were installed in Wrightsville Beach Park
- 1979 The Department starts Adult Fitness Classes such as Slimnastics, and adds Low Impact in 1982
- 1981 The Surf Sun Sand Volleyball Tournament is held annually (until 2012)
- 1989 Parks and Recreation staff are moved into the current office
- 1990 The Fran Russ Recreation Center is opened for programming
- 1992 Bark in the Park Canine Disc Competition (Skyhoundz Hyperflite)
- 1993 Adopt-A-Beach Access; Hammerheads Soccer Camp (until 2009, started again 2012)
- 1996 Improvement projects are started for Wynn Plaza and Greensboro Street mini-parks, completed by 2000; Concerts in the Park begin; Tone and Stretch classes offered (currently Tone, Strengthen & Stretch)
- 1998 Shag lessons (with some occasional line dancing) are offered
- 1999 Playground equipment is replaced. The sand wheelchair becomes available for the handicapped
- 2000 The Flag Football league and Women’s Tennis Ladder are started
- 2001 The Old Fire Station is no longer used by Parks and Recreation for programs
- September 2002 Wynn Plaza Dedication
- 2003 Parks & Recreation Director’s position is eliminated, Parks and Recreation Department combined with Planning & Inspections to create the Department of Planning & Parks, Pilates classes are offered
- 2005 Power and Vinyasa Yoga classes offered
- 2006 First annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
- December 2007 A new cushioned floor is installed in the Fran Russ Recreation Center
- 2008 Lacrosse Camp is offered
- February 2009 Cotillion is offered for youth; the first Farmer’s Market is held
- July 2010 Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant is given for a tennis court lift and a new fence, as well as improvements to parking lot islands, an extra basketball court, and the construction of an event stage
- 2011 Improvements are made to the Greensboro Street Park
- June 2011 The event stage is added in Wrightsville Beach Park, the second basketball court is installed
- 2012 Kids’ Cooking Classes are offered, as well as Line Dancing
- 2015 Barre Fit, Pickleball Ladder, and Pickleball Lessons are new additions to classes offered; WBOR Lifeguards teach Junior Lifeguard Program, Safe Sitter Baby Sitter Training is offered
- October 2015 A grant is given to the Department to construct an inclusive playground in Wrightsville Beach Park. This provides new equipment such as the Liberty Swing and fitness stations.
- 2016 Foundation Flag Football for Youth and Soccer Skills Instruction for Youth begin in the spring; the first annual Wrightsville Beach Valentine 10k is held in February
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH HISTORY TIMELINE compiled by Scott McKinnon
1853 Carolina Yacht Club, currently the second oldest yacht club (NY Yacht Club established in 1844) in America, was founded on Ocean View Beach, which later became Wrightsville Beach.
1854 Carolina Yacht Club (CYC) constructed the first building on the beach after being founded in 1853.
1880 Seaside Park Hotel, the first hotel in the area, constructed at Wrightsville Sound.
1887 Shell Road(turnpike toll road) completed from Wilmington to Wrightsville Sound (took 12 years to complete).
1887 Train passenger service began by Wilmington &Seacoast Railroad steam engine, named Betsy, from Wilmington to Wrightsville Sound. Up to twenty-five round trips per day were made.
1888 Trestle & train tracks extended from Wrightsville Sound to the Hammocks by Wilmington &Seacoast Railroad.
1888 Island Beach Hotel, sometimes referred to as Hammocks Hotel, the first hotel built east of Wrightsville Sound, constructed on Banks Channel on the Hammocks. A 900 ft. long 100 room annex constructed in 1891 established it as the hotel with the longest oceanfront on the east coast. The annex was destroyed in an 1893 wind storm and the main hotel was destroyed by fire December 25, 1894.
1888 Footbridge from the Hammocks to Wrightsville Beach completed in front of Island Beach Hotel. Separate bath houses for men and women were added the following year.
1888 Ten-Pin Alley & Shooting Gallery opened on the lower end of the Hammocks where swings for children, boats, bait and tackle were available.
1889 Railroad trestle across Banks Channel was constructed to carry passengers from the Hammocks south to Masonboro Inlet by Ocean View Railroad, reorganized from Sea View Railroad, after leasing sole rights from Wilmington & Seacoast Railroad.
1889 Breeze House, later named Mayo Hotel, the first hotel on the beach, was constructed on the same site as Lumina would be built in 1905.
1889 Switchback Roller Coaster constructed next to the train switchback at the south end of the beach. Closed in 1896.
1891 Hammocks Theatre, an octagon shaped pavilion, opened just north of the Island Beach Hotel on the Hammocks. Used as a theatre and dance pavilion. The Messenger newspaper called it, “the most unique structure of its kind in America”.
1892 Land survey by the Wilmington & Seacoast Railroad showed 95 available lots (77 accessible by RR) and 12 buildings.
1894 Island Beach Hotel destroyed by fire on Christmas day along with the adjoining pavilion and theatre.
1895 Hammocks Diamond, site of first baseball game on the Hammocks between High Point and Wilmington All Stars.
1895 The Clarendon Yacht Club founded by the Sel Air Club, a social body in Wilmington, near what was to become Station 6. In 1898, the name was changed to Atlantic Yacht Club. After the Great Storm in 1899, the clubhouse was completely rebuilt and remained in operation until the land was sold in 1911.
1896 Water Works system(500’ artesian well) installed by Wilmington &Seacoast Railroad System drilled to provide water to south end of beach. Windmills were used to pump the water to its destination.
1897 Water tank burst on south end beach. It carried water to the beach from artesian wells on Harbor Island.
1897 First private cottage built on Wrightsville Beach by Col. F. W. Foster and another fifty cottages were built within a year.
1897 Phone service to the beach available for the first time consisting of 2-party lines.
1897 Seashore Hotel, considered an early showplace on the island, opened with 180 rooms (150 with fireplaces) on the current site of the Blockade Runner Hotel. Other hotels in existence were Atlas House which burned in 1897 and was replaced by the Ocean View Hotel in 1899. The Seashore Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1919, but rebuilt in 1922.
1897 Shelter of the Silver Cross established to take care of feeble women and children was operated by the Ministering Circle of St. James Church. The Shelter was destroyed in the Great Storm of 1899 and never rebuilt.
1899, Great Storm, known as the Puerto Rico Storm, destroyed railway tracks and trestle connecting the Hammocks to Wrightsville Sound, the Carolina Yacht Club, Atlantic Yacht Club and many other structures.
1899 Wrightsville Beach incorporated and named after the Joshua Grainger Wright family, large, local landowners. The beach had previously been called Ocean View Beach.
1900 Hammocks Boat & Fishing Association, located close to the site of the old Hammocks Hotel, opened with races of yachts and dead-rise skiffs, followed by a big oyster roast and entertainment.
1901 Consolidated Railways, Light & Power Company created from consolidation of Wilmington &Seacoast Railroad, Wilmington Gas Light Co. and Wilmington Street Railroad.
1902 Over a hundred cottages existed on Wrightsville Beach.
1902 First electric trolley, “Beach Cars”, operated by Consolidated Railroad, Light & Power Company replaced wood burning steam engine train after new tracks were installed. Dual tracks were eventually put in place at Station 1 and Station 7 (Lumina) to allow trolleys to pass one another.
1902 The Casino, a vaudeville theatre and playhouse opened near Station 7. It offered free motion pictures and opera.
1904 Free electricity was provided to Wrightsville Beach by Consolidated Railways, Light & Power Company. Electricity remained free until 1917.
1905 Tarrymore Hotel constructed at Station 1 with 125 elegantly furnished rooms with electric lights and a 4,000 ft² dance floor.
1905 Lumina, “Beautiful Place of Lights”, a public three level pavilion constructed by Consolidated Light & Power Co. for games and entertainment with magnificent ball room with the first scientifically designed band shell on the east coast. It became known as the “Showplace of the Atlantic”. Virtually every “big band” era band played there. The last Big Band to perform at Lumina was Vaughn Monroe in the early 1952. Sadly, Lumina was demolished in1973.
1906 Pullman train service established from Atlanta to Wrightsville Beach. Round trip took over sixteen hours.
1906 Hanover Seaside Club, originally organized in 1898 in Carolina Beach, formerly opened its new 3-story club on Lumina Ave.
1907 The Little Chapel on the Boardwalk, located on the west side of the boardwalk between Stations 2 and 3, built to serve as a place of worship for Presbyterians and Episcopalians. In 1952, Presbyterian church moved to the corner of W. Oxford St and maintained the name Little Chapel on the Boardwalk. Episcopalians had established St. Andrews on the Sound in 1924.
1907 Tidewater Power Co. was created as the result of a reorganization of Consolidated Railways, Light & Power Co.
1907 Mrs. Cutbert Martin was appointed official chaperone so that single ladies could come to Lumina unescorted. Assisted by bouncer, Tuck Savage, and a staff of other proper ladies, they enforced policies such as no hand holding, no public kissing, no foul language, no undue closeness, and not allowing a lady to take the arm of a gentleman unless offered.
1907 8,700 people arrived at the beach via the Beach Car trolley on July 4th.The most visitors ever.
1910 Steel pier, said to be the only one of its kind on the South Atlantic, was built in front of the Seashore Hotel. The 700’ pier was destroyed by a storm in 1921being damaged by a 1920 storm. The steel pier was never rebuilt.
1910 Lumina expanded to 25,000ft²with a 6,000 ft² dance floor along with the addition of a 300-seat outdoor theatre.
1910 First Flight of airplane built in North Carolina took place on Shell Island. The Wright Bros. plane was built in Ohio.
1911 Oceanic Hotel became the new name of Tarrymore Hotel after two wings were added. The Onedaga Tea Room on Banks Channel and the octagon-shaped Round House Tea Room on the ocean front were added to the Oceanic Hotel in 2012.
1913 Lumina enlarged again to include a 6,400 ft²promenade and silent-movie screen in the ocean.
1913 Cows and livestock were banned by ordinance of the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen. Violators were subject to a $50 fine. Many people didn’t even know there was any the livestock on the beach.
1913 Life guards with rescue boats were required by new ordinance at the Seashore and Oceanic hotels, Carolina Yacht Club and
Hanover Seaside Club.
1915 Fire Brigade was established and evolved into the Wrightsville Beach Volunteer Fire Department which relocated next to Town Hall on Waynick Blvd. in 1940. The WBFD incorporated in 1987.
1915 Palm Tea Room(The Round House) constructed on the ocean front by Oceanic Hotel for social events.
1915 New Ordinances by the WB Board of Aldermen stated that gas motor boats must have underwater exhaust to decrease noise. Fine $5.00.Also, it shall be illegal for any person wearing a bathing suit to promenade on the boardwalk. Fine $5.00.
1916 Natural gas line from Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach. At 10 miles long, it was the longest gas line in North Carolina.
1916 Harbor Island Auditorium constructed by Tidewater Power & Light Co. on the site of the old Island Beach Hotel. Auditorium Circle, which marked the west and south boundaries, still exists today. During WWI, the Auditorium was used for naval training. In 1934, the Auditorium was converted to a talking picture theatre and later demolished in 1936.
1916 Tent City was erected at Lumina on Banks Channel where people could rent a tent with electricity at economical rates.
1917 Trolley Depot constructed at Wrightsville Sound west of the drawbridge by Tidewater Power & Light Co., it also served as a sub-station. This unique Spanish-style landmark was demolished in the 1950’s to make way for a new draw bridge.
1918 A Beach Car carrying passengers from Delgado Baptist and Presbyterian Sunday Schools on their annual picnic derailed and fell onto the mud flats at Wrightsville Sound. Luckily, none of the several hundred passengers were seriously injured.
1919 Robert’s Market opened for business. The name Robert’s Grocery is still alive, but operates mostly as a convenience store.
1919 Wilmington Light Infantry (WLI) Club formed and located on Island Avenue with members from as far back as the Civil War.
1920 Babies Hospital constructed at Edgewater, Wrightsville Sound spurred by the 1918 flu epidemic. It burned in 1927, was rebuilt at Wrightsville sound in 1928 near the eventual draw bridge.
1921 Seashore Hotel destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1922. The name changed to the Ocean Terrace Hotel.
1922 Inlet Station was created when Oleander Development Co. extended a spur trolley track was by north from Station 1 to Salisbury St. at Moore’s Inlet.
1923 Five groins (jetties), 600’ long, to prevent beach erosion were constructed of creosote timbers on the beach coinciding with the locations of trolley stations 3, 4, 5, and 6. Later groins were constructed at stations 1 and 2 plus other locations.
1923 Shell Island Beach, called the “National Negro Playground”, established with a pavilion, restaurant and several beach cottages on Shell Island as the first Negro resort in the nation. Accessed by a special new trolley spur on Harbor Island and boat, it was abandoned in 1926 due to a series of fires in some of the public buildings, coupled with storm and tidal damage.
1925 Largest parking garage in eastern NC was located on the mainland at Wrightsville Sound for visitors using the Shell Rd.
1925 Pop Gray’s Soda Shop occupied half of the ground floor of the Ocean View Hotel near Station 1 and remained in business until 1945.
1926 Shore Acres formally opened after bulkhead constructed and dredging in sand from Grainger’s Creek to Harbor Island.
1926 Oleander Drive, a concrete road, known as the “Wilmington-Wrightsville Speedway”, constructed for better access to WB.
1926 First automobile bridge and the “Oceanic Causeway”(paved toll road) between Wrightsville Sound and the Hammocks was constructed. The Causeway toll was 10 cents per person, 25 cents per car and 50 cents per truck.
1926 Foot bridge built across Banks Channel from Harbor Island to Wrightsville Beach just south of the existing trolley trestle.
1926 “Northern Extension” created when Moore’s Inlet was moved north by filling in between Asheville and Salisbury streets.
1928 Shore Acres model home, a Spanish style house on Live Oak Dr. was the first house built on Harbor Island and still stands.
1928 Harbor Inn, later named Harbor Island Tavern, a hotel and restaurant, built on corner of Live Oak Dr. and causeway was operated for a time by Mrs. H. C. Wysong. And later Mrs. L. L. Newell
1928 Gigantic sperm whale washed ashore and caused quite a commotion with onlookers coming from all around. The over 55 ft. skeleton of the 50-ton sperm whale was sent to Raleigh where it remains on view today at the NC Museum.
1929 Intracoastal Waterway (ICW)also known as “the big ditch” dredging started for the Wrightsville Sound area. This was part of a major government project to provide inland boat access from Boston the southern tip of Florida. Dredging from Topsail to Snow’s Cut took several years to complete. The original idea of the ICW was said to have come from George Washington.
1929 Pomander Walk Cottages, a less expensive alternative to large hotels, was established between Lumina and Banks Channel where Tent City once stood. All twenty units included kitchen with sink, bathroom and shower.
1929 Harbor Island Club, later known as the Pink Club, was founded on Banks Channel by prominent area citizens as a private social club. It became a summer annex to the Cape Fear Country Club. Upon foreclosure, the land and building was auctioned and purchased by Roger Moore who sold it to The Salvation Army USO in 1941. It later became a Methodist Church Youth Center before it was purchased by the Harris Ligon family for their residence in the 1950’s.Boy Scout Troop 224 met in a building on this site in the 1940’s and 50’s.
1931 Original ICW drawbridge, 2-lanes plus trolley track, constructed over ICW connecting Wrightsville Sound and the Hammocks.
1931 Harbor Island Tavern (hotel) remained open year-round for the first time. Mrs. Lester Newell operated the hotel briefly before opening Newell’s Soda Shop in 1934 on Wrightsville Beach
1933 Harbor Island Casino located just north of the Harbor Island Club (Pink Club), on Banks Channel, openedand was a popular dance pavilion where many famous big bands entertained. The Casino closed in 1937 and was demolished.
1934 “The Great Fire” started at the Kitty Cottage and destroyed the Oceanic Hotel (formerly Tarrymore Hotel) plusover 100 cottages, representing about half of all existing cottages, mostly on the north end. Only a half-dozen buildings survived.
1934 Newell’s Soda Shop, owned by Lester and Mickey Newell was established after purchasing the soda shop previously owned by Bud Werkheiser.
1934 Talking pictures were shown for the first time at the Harbor Island Auditorium.
1934 Gasoline service stations banned at Wrightsville Beach. Eventually four gasoline service stations operated on Harbor Island.
1935 Seashore Hotel was renamed the Ocean Terrace Hotel upon being leased by the former owners of the Kitty Cottage where the Great Fire of 1934 started.
1935 Lumina Avenue paved, replacing the boardwalk, but leaving the trolley tracks in place.
1935 Wooden, 2-lane, automobile bridge allowed first automobile access to Wrightsville Beach across Banks Channel from Harbor Island. A raised foot bridge ran adjacent to the westward lane on the south side of the bridge.
1936 Waynick Blvd., named after Capus M Waynick, state highway commissioner, constructed on sand dredged next to Banks Channel west of Lumina Ave.
1937 Ocean View Pier and Hotel constructed. It was renamed Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier after the new owner in 1942.
1938 Sixteen creosote-wood and rock jetties (groins)one thousand feet apart were constructed on the beachfront to replace jetties
Constructed in the early twenties.
1939 Mira Mar Fishing Pier with bowling alley, restaurant and tackle shop constructed over the shipwreck of the Fanny &Jenny. It was later renamed Luna Fishing Pier and then Crystal Fishing Pier. Currently it is commonly known as Oceanic Restaurant and Pier, but locals still refer to it as Crystal Pier.
1940 Moore’s Inlet was moved north of Mallard Street by filling in the original inlet by North Shore Development Company.
1940 “Northern Extension” created by extending North Lumina Avenue nearer to Moore’s Inlet from Salisbury to Mallard Street.
1940 Trolley service ended to Wrightsville Beach and the tracks were removed. The impact of cars and busses led to the demise of the trolley. Much of the steel was used in WWII war effort.
1940s Paving of additional roads, streets and parking areas took place at the beach during the 40’s.
1940 Town Hall was moved to Waynick Blvd. from Wilmington and handled the town’s affairs with a full-time Town Clerk.
1941 United Services Organization of the Salvation Army (USO) purchased the Pink House, formerly the Harbor Island Club, on Harbor Island. The Harbor Island USO was said to have the best USO facilities in North Carolina.
1941 Surf Club constructed at northern end of Wrightsville Beach at the corner of Lumina Ave. and Mallard Street.
1941 FirstU. S. Post Office on the beach established at Station 1 where the Trolley Stop Hot Dog Stand is located today.
1942 Harbor Island Community Club was founded to promote community civic affairs in the community and a closer cooperation with the fire warden, including installation of fire hydrants on the northern end of Harbor Island.
1942 St. Therese Catholic Church constructed after holding services in private homes for several years.
1944-45 Modern sewer system installed, replacing old septic tank systems.
1945 Police Department was formed with two officers in the winter and three in the summer.
1945 Wrightsville Beach Lion’s Club chartered with 25 members for civic improvement and community betterment. They were known for their Annual Lion’s Club Bread Sale which started in 1949.
1945-47 King Neptune Restaurant (N. Lumina Avenue near Station 1), Nautilus Restaurant (pie-shaped building at Station 1) and the
Marina Restaurant (on the causeway near the draw bridge) and Faircloth’s Oyster Roast (Wrightsville Sound)all opened for business. Duncan Hines awarded the Marina his approval and it was only restaurant recommended by Duncan Hines restaurant in the Wilmington area.
1946 Newell’s constructed a new brick variety store on the sight of Newell’s soda shop. The ABC store stood next door with the post office on the opposite side. Newell’s expanded 1954and the ABC store moved across the street to the corner of Lumina and Stone Streets in 1955. The Newell family sold Newell’s in 1969.
1946 CREST Theatre opened for the summer season. A different movie played every day. It operated every summer until 1973.
1947 Dial phones became available. Wrightsville Beach numbers began with 6- _ _ _ _ and later “ALpine 6” (256-_ _ _ _).
1947 Wrightsville Beach Methodist Church organized. Services were originally held at the Methodist Youth Center(formerly USO building) at 10 N. Channel Drive, Harbor Island.
1948 Atlantic Inn and Judy Inn burned to the ground along with; four residences on South Lumina Ave.
1950 International Nickel Company (INCO) constructed on Harbor Island for testing corrosion in marine environments.
1951 Little Chapel on the Boardwalk moved to the present location between Oxford and Fayetteville Streets.
1951 Municipal Boat Dock was expanded to accommodate twelve boats. Previously, charter boat captains funded the dock to encourage deep sea fishing. The investment paid off as a major run of sailfish brought fishermen from far away in the 50s.
1952 Dunes Garden Club, sponsored by the Cape Fear Garden Club, organized.
1953 Wrightsville Beach School opened with combination grades first/second, third/fourth and fifth/sixth.
1954 Hurricane Hazel destroyed 89structures, heavily damaged 155 with 375 requiring repairs.
1954 Wrightsville Beach Methodist Church relocated to Live Oak Drive, Harbor Island.
1954 Seashore Baptist Church, sponsored by Seagate Baptist Church, formed a mission with services initially held in Lion’s Club building, formerly Little Chapel on the Boardwalk, until destroyed by Hurricane Hazel. The church moved to North Channel Drive, Harbor Island in 1955 and was later renamed the Wrightsville Beach Baptist Church.
1955 Ocean Terrace Hotel, largest hotel on the beach,destroyed by fire. It was locatedon the site of the old Seashore Hotel.
1955 New Banks Channel Bridge was constructed at Salisbury Street connecting to new a causeway parallel to Lee’s Cut.
1955 Newell’s Shopping Center held Grand Opening after expanding to two stories.
1955 Wrightsville Sound Post office located in the Tidewater Power Co. relay station near Faircloth’s Oyster Roast (intersection of Wrightsville Avenue and Airlie Road) closed April 30.
1956 U. S. Coast Guard Station established next to the Police Department on Waynick Blvd. It was moved to the southern end of the beach in 1969.
1958 Heide Trask drawbridge, a 4-lane bridge across ICW, replaced the original drawbridge constructed in 1928.
1960 Home Demonstration Club organized with the motto, “Today’s Home Builds Tomorrow’s World”.
1960 Atlantic Marine opened on Motts Channel.
1962 Saline Water Plant, referred to as the “Cape Canaveral of Saline Research”, constructed as an experimental saline water conversion plant. The Saline Water Plant supplied some of Wrightsville Beach’s water until it closed in the seventies.
1962 First National Bank of Eastern North Carolina, the first bank on the beach, opened where South Beach Restaurantis now.
1964 Blockade Runner Hotel constructed on the old Ocean Terrace Hotel site and become the largest hotel on the beach.
1964 Bradley Creek Marina constructed.
1965 Harbor Island annexed by Wrightsville Beach.
1965 Sand berm, 3.27 miles long was constructed covering the old wood jetties to protect the beach from erosion. This berm, requiring periodic sand re-nourishment still stands (2017).
1965 Moore’s Inlet was filled in with sand connecting Wrightsville Beach to Shell Island
1966 Rock Jetty (groin) constructed on north side of Masonboro Inlet.
1969 Holiday Inn constructed where the Moore’s Inlet was previously located .Later, name changed to Sun Spree Resort.
1969 Newell’s sold by Mickey and Lester Newell after 35 years of operation. The end of an era for this Wrightsville Beach landmark.
1969 Redix variety and clothing store opened near the old Marina Restaurant location near the draw bridge.
1970’s Channel Walk, the first multi-family homes, constructed on Wrightsville Beach.
1971 Station One Condominiums constructed.
1972 New Banks Channel concrete bridge(4-lane)replaced the old 2-lane wooden bridge at Station 1 built in 1935.
1974 Sea Path Towers Condominiums constructed on the original causeway.
1976 Trolley Stop hot dog stand opened where the original, triangle shaped Post Office building at Station 1 was located.
1977 Public Boat Ramp constructed next to the ICW drawbridge by NC Wildlife Resources Commission.
1973 Islander Condominiums constructed.
1980 Rock jetty ((groin) constructed on south side of Masonboro Inlet.
1982 Doak Apartments fire spread to Hanover Seaside Club. Both were destroyed. Volunteer Fireman, Lt. Robert M. Wynn, died fighting the fire.
1983 Wynn Plaza, site and the municipal dock at Station 1 was renamed in honor of volunteer fireman Lt. Robert M. Wynn.
1986 Shell Island Resort constructed at the extreme southern end of the Wrightsville Beach (formerly Shell Island).
1988 Dune Ridge constructed on land formerly named Shell Island.
1990 Mott’s Channel Seafood opened next to Atlantic Marine on Mott’s Channel.
1992 John Nesbitt Loop (the Loop) was dedicated in honor of former Public Works Director. The 2.7 walkway across two bridges has become most popular year-around attraction at the beach.
1995 Wings purchased the old Newell’s property. Many residents don’t think Wings fits the Wrightsville Beach lifestyle.
1995 Wrightsville Beach Museum, formerly Meyer’s Cottage built in 1909, opened at current location.
1999 Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier replaced the old wooden pier with the first concrete fishing pier in North Carolina.
The following sources were used to compile the dates and events shown above:
Wrightsville Beach Museum of History archives; Newspaper clippings from the Wilmington Star, Wilmington News, Wilmington Messenger in the Bill Reeves collection in the North Carolina Room at the New Hanover county Public Library; Bill Creasy Collection and the Al Creasy Collection; Historical Narrative (1841-1972) of Wrightsville Beach NB by Rupert L. Benson and Helen S. Benson; Land of the Golden River by Lewis Phillip Hall; Wrightsville Beach, The Luminous Island by Ray McAllister;“Lumina Illuminating the Past” by UNCW Department of Sociology, Various Susan Taylor Block publications, Minutes from Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen.