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Whatever happened to Riverside Apartments?

Cece Nunn
Riverside Apartments

Riverside apartments, as they looked on Dec. 14, 1979, when Joe Nesbitt took this photo. (Courtesy New Hanover County Public Library)

Riverside Apartments was a World War II housing complex, red brick buildings near the State Port that held nearly 500 units.

The apartments show up in a listing in Wilmington’s Polk City Directory of 1944-45, a compilation of phone numbers and addresses from the year before, so the apartments were likely built around 1943.

One hundred four-room dwelling units in the complex were opened for occupancy by members of the armed services and their families in 1945, according to a StarNews article in the Bill Reaves collection at the New Hanover County Public Library.

“Each of the Riverside units, built to house essential war workers moved into this area from elsewhere and until now restricted to their use, consists of two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room,” the March 19, 1945, article states. “They are equipped with an electric stove, an electric refrigerator, a hot-water heater and a coal space-heater apiece. They rent for either $41.85 or $43.85 per month each, depending on whether they are corner or inside apartments.”

Over the years Riverside, eventually named Dove Meadows, declined, deteriorating into “embarrassments for Wilmington and white elephants for the federal government,” according to a March 21, 1984, Wilmington Morning Star article by staff writer Laura A. Mercer.

Pyramid, a New Jersey construction company, bought Riverside from HUD in 1983.

“Pyramid Construction Co. is converting the 474 units at Riverside into one- and two-bedroom townhouse apartments,” the article states.

The article goes on to say, “In late 1977, the fortunes of Lake Village (another Wilmington housing complex) were tied with those of Riverside, which had also become badly run down. A group of Charlotte investors bought both properties and with federal government backing set out to renovate them. Under-financed and mismanaged, the renovation attempt failed.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development foreclosed on the properties.

Dove Meadows was acquired by the Wilmington Housing Authority from HUD and demolished in 2002 to make room for a new neighborhood. A $6 million federal grant financed it, and 130 homes and 20 senior retirement villas were planned.

Today, the area is called Sunset South. It was the subject of an April 2011 article by StarNews staff writer Shannan Bowen because it’s within “a geographic tract considered the most racially and ethnically diverse of all census-designated tracts in the state’s southeastern region of Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender counties.”

View Sunset South in a larger map

User-contributed question by:
Ken Shields

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5 Responses to “ Whatever happened to Riverside Apartments?”

  1. On June 30, 2011 at 5:53 am Stanley wrote:

    For years Riverside was the home of low income families, then the City government jumped in and things when downhill from there. Up until the 80s it was a nice place to live. Many of the people that grew up in this area before HUD took over completely went on to be come successes in life. Just goes to prove when someone is given something for nothing they become burdens and destroy what they are given. The early years of the complex was populated by low income WORKING class in the 80s HUD started dumping the free loaders into the complex, those that only tool a check from the government but never worked.

  2. On July 12, 2011 at 10:36 pm Jewell Cecil Singletary wrote:

    I grew in Riverside moved there in 1970, it was a wonderful place to live, go to school, I cherish all the wonderufl memories from there, Growing up we all had hard working parents that taught us right from wrong, I also loved Sunset Junior high. Riverside was a great place, wish we had neighborhoods like that now.

  3. On September 18, 2014 at 11:37 pm Pam Harrelson wrote:

    Riverside kept us from being homeless. We were not freeloaders so please don’t assume you know everything about everybody that lived there. I lived there from about 1976 to 1980. I have great memories from there. My Daddy worked hard every day. Nothing was given to us. I went on the graduate HS and college and fought for your freedom. My brother also graduated high school is is a prominent business man in South Carolina! I made great friends there and we still keep in touch to this day. Believe me, there were worse places to live than Riverside!! Southside forever!!

  4. On April 8, 2015 at 7:01 am Scott Carpenter wrote:

    We lived at the Riverside apartments in the late sixties. My dad was in the Air Force. We actually lived in 3 different apartments. It was a great memory. I’m sad that these apartments are gone, Living on the west coast, I always wanted to chance to visit one more time, I wish there’d been more photo graphs. I’ve got a few. We used to visit the stores that were on the main drag, I attended sunset park elementary, first though third grade. 1967 through 1969. Those were great times to be a kid.

  5. On July 13, 2016 at 6:01 pm Heidi Roy wrote:

    I have fond memories of Riverside Apartments, and was sad to discover that they no longer existed. I attended Sunset Elementary, J.C Roe, Sunset Jr. High, and Gregory schools. My favorite memory was walking home from school, Sunset Elementary, and stopping by Legion Stadium to pet the harness horses that were stabled there, and of course the July 4th fireworks. We also walked to the skate rink on Shipyard Blv. and toured the ships that arrived at the shipyard from foreign lands. Most of my play time was spent in the ‘sand field’ behind the apartments on Adams St. When you go through there today, most of the history is gone – except for the country store and laundromat at the end of Jefferson St. Fond memories.

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