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What is the history of Echo Farms?

Ben Steelman

To begin with, Echo Farms really was a farm — one of the largest dairy operations in New Hanover County and the last to survive.

According to Star-News correspondent Nancy Robert, A.O. McEachern launched the dairy farm in 1908. He named it “Echo” because of the sounds from the nearby woodlands. (The tract, on the southeast side of Wilmington, was heavily forested well into the 20th century. Lawyer John Burney once reminisced with outdoor writer Mike Marsh about goose hunting on the property.)

At its height, the farm covered 1,000 acres; its 200-plus Holstein cows produced some 300,000 gallons of milk per year. McEachern worked closely with professors at what is now N.C. State University in Raleigh to develop his Holstein stock; today, his portrait hangs in Polk Hall on the N.C. State campus.

By the 1960s, however, rising equipment costs and encroaching suburbs were affecting the farm. J.D. McCarley III, McEachern’s grandson, who took over running the operation, told a Star-News reporter that good farmhands were hard to keep once the local GE and DuPont plants opened and began offering higher wages.

In 1972, members of the McCarley family sold the property to Echo Farms Development Corp., which began to renovate it as a residential golf community. Echo Golf and Country Club opened in 1974 at 4114 Echo Farms Boulevard, Wilmington [Map this], with a course originally designed by Gene Hamm and renovated in the 1990s by Ian Scott Taylor. The original dairy barn, built in 1909, served as the course’s clubhouse — containing a dining room, cocktail lounge and pro shop, as well as administrative offices — until wood rot and structural problems forced its demolition in 1999.

The neighborhood was annexed by the City of Wilmington in 1974. In 1997, Codington Elementary School opened at 4321 Carolina Beach Road, Wilmington [Map this], across U.S. 421 from Echo Farms.

From the early 1960s until 2001, the New Hanover County Fair was held on a lot opposite Echo Farms at 4104 Carolina Beach Road, under a special arrangements with the Efird family, several of whose members were grandchildren of McEachern. The fairgrounds were frequently used for performances by the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus and appeared in the 1991 film “Sleeping With the Enemy” starring Julia Roberts.

Echo Farms’ most famous resident was probably Katherine Bell Moore, a trucking executive, a member of the Wilmington City Council from 1991 to 2005 and longtime mayor pro tempore of the city. For much of her service, Moore was the only African American on the Council. Although often controversial in the rest of Wilmington, Moore remained popular with her mostly white Echo Farms neighbors, largely because of her concerted efforts to keep any additional group homes or any low-income housing from being located in or near the neighborhood.

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One Response to “ What is the history of Echo Farms?”

  1. On February 4, 2013 at 9:47 pm Mike H. wrote:

    We enjoy your history on Echo Farms. I have one question which I expect may lead to an entire series of secondary questions and answers. Where was the New Hanover County Fair held at the turn of the century (in the early days)?


    Mike H.

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