Don’t miss the WB Museum’s famous pop-up exhibit, “Loop Through History!” Featuring 25 signs situated around Wrightsville Beach’s most popular fitness area, The Loop. The exhibit started in 2016 around the 2.45-mile stretch to help passersby learn more about the island. The exhibit is showcased eight weekends annually. We invite you to set aside an hour to walk around the Loop to see all the signs.
Donna Starling, a museum board member for Wrightsville Beach, developed the exhibit with one idea in mind: to bring history out to the people. Also, it was a way to think outside the box.
“Everyone is free to learn and take their time and walk it,” Starling exclaims. “Sometimes, it’s intimidating, coming off the beach with sandy feet. You feel like, Oh, I don’t want to go into the museum. But, [on the Loop], whether you’re in tennis shoes and shorts, or in a bathing suit and flip-flops, you can enjoy the history of Wrightsville Beach.”
In addition to illustrating different moments on the island, Loop Through History is a fundraiser for the museum. Families and individuals can sponsor a sign for a year.
Wrightsville Beach Elementary School (sign five), opened in 1953, and has a special place in Starling’s heart. Her family’s history goes back on the island. “My father went there, I went there, and my children went to [what was then known as] Wrightsville Beach School,” Starling reveals, “so three generations.”
Starling and her family have seen changes on the island, too, such as Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier (sign eight) going from wood to concrete. When Starling’s father was young, he would skip school and fish off the pier; the principal always knew where to find him. “That [story was] pretty funny,” Starling remembers.
Starling favors sign 11, Lumina Pavilion—once known as “The Playground of the South.” Having opened in 1905, the pavilion was the hot spot of southeastern NC. It hosted famous jazz acts like Cab Calloway, and in its latter years famous rock acts like Jerry Lee Lewis. In the ‘60s, it hosted the Miss North Carolina pageant, but also Ronald Reagan, who attended what was the well-known Lumina Weekend.
Aside from Lumina’s famous dance floor, it also had a bowling alley, restaurant, and would screen movies on the side of the building. Locals were able to access it via the trolley (sign 18), a system created by Hugh MacRae. Lumina Pavilion was demolished in 1973 to make room for more condominiums. Lack of clear vision for how to use the massive building on the beach led to its demolition.
“If you ever stop [at the sign] on the loop,” Starling says, “you’ll hear people talking about their grandmother [and] their grandfather getting engaged in front of Lumina on the beach.”
For more information on the Wrightsville Beach Museum and its many exhibits, or to sponsor one of its signs in Loop Through History, visit wbmuseumofhistory.com.