Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

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Wrightsville Beach is a town in New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States. Wrightsville Beach is just east of Wilmington and is part of the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,593 at the 2000 census. The town consists of a four-mile-long beach island, an interior island called Harbor Island, and pockets of commercial property on the mainland.



The island's first structure was the Carolina Yacht Club, built in 1853. A train track was built in 1888 from the mainland to Harbor Island to the exterior island along the beach, which brought vacationers from nearby Wilmington and spurred development. In 1902, the train was converted to electric streetcars—i.e., the beach trolley. The most significant structure on the island was the large dance floor and entertainment center, the Lumina Pavilion, which opened in 1905. In its heyday, it attracted numerous entertainers, including most of the famous Big Bands. Cars were finally allowed on the beach in 1935, hastening the demise of the beach trolley, which last ran in 1940. Lumina closed in 1973.

The Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, housed in a relocated cottage built in 1907 on Salisbury Street near the entrance to the island, features the town's history. Many tourists come to see Wrightsville's history and beaches.

Recent history

Since the 1970s, development has increased at a rapid rate. A desalination plant was constructed in the middle of Harbor Island in 1960 by the Carrier Corporation. The method used to desalinize the water was freezing. The plant proved to be costly, inefficient and difficult to maintain. Residents also complained about the barely potable taste of the water. It was closed and is now used only as a water pumping station. Shell Island Resort, constructed on the northernmost end of the island in 1984, was considered controversial due to its large parking deck and its proximity to Mason Inlet. The construction of luxury condominiums at Duneridge, Sterling Edition at Wrightsville Dunes, and Cordgrass Bay occurred soon afterward. During the 1990s, Wrightsville Beach suffered from several hurricanes including Bertha, Fran, Irene, Bonnie, Dennis and Floyd. Although these hurricanes caused great destruction on the beach, the growth of the island has continued to flourish. In the late 1990s, it became increasingly apparent that Mason's Inlet at the northernmost part of the island was drifting southward. Residents became alarmed that Shell Island Resort and other high value residences would succumb to the Inlet. For some time, the northern side of the resort had to be strengthened by sandbags. The Army Corps of Engineers undertook a $6.5 million contract to move the inlet 3,000 feet north. On April 15, 2002, the project was completed and Wrightsville Beach gained a sizeable amount of virgin beach on its northern side. It is highly unlikely that any further development will occur north of Shell Island Resort.

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