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What is the Wrightsville Beach Museum of History?

Ben Steelman

This private, non-profit museum at 303 W. Salisbury St., Wrightsville Beach [Map this], preserves a flavor of what the beach was like before the Age of Condos and High-Rises.

It’s housed in a 1907 beach cottage that originally stood off South Lumina Avenue. Threatened by development, the little house was moved to its present site, near Wrightsville Beach park, in 1995. The Wrightsville Beach Preservation Society reopened it as a museum in May 1996.

Period furnishings generally reflect the Spartan but comfy living conditions of a beach house of the 1940s and ’50s, before air conditioning was common.

A small, select number of exhibits and photos reflect the past of Wrightsville Beach, which began to be settled after the Civil War — and especially after the completion of the “Shell Road” (modern-day Wrightsville Avenue) in 1887. The town was incorporated on March 6, 1899 — the same year a rail line from the mainland was extended across Banks Channel, and the same year a massive hurricane nearly wiped the whole town away.

Notable attractions include a diorama showing what the beach looked like between 1905 and World War I, an exhibit about Lumina, the famous beach pavilion demolished in 1973, and a depiction of how barrier islands are shaped. Outside the front door are the remains of a small stretch of track from the “beach cars,” the electric trolley line that connected Wrightsville Beach to Wilmington from 1902 to 1940.

The museum is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon-5 p.m. on Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is $3 per person, free for children aged 12 and younger.

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