Q. Why are the city blocks between McRae Street and 11th Street, the area west of Oakdale Cemetery, not parallel with the rest of downtown Wilmington’s streets?
A. It’s a longish story. Most of Wilmington’s downtown streets run in a near-perfect grid: more or less north-south (parallel with the Cape Fear River) or east-west. (On old maps, by the way, 10th Street north of Walnut used to be marked as Dickinson Street, or sometimes Dickenson Street, while 11th Street was Woods Street.)
According to retired local history librarian Beverly Tetterton, it’s because MacRae Street follows the path of an 18th century road that used to lead to Duplin County. Sometimes referred to as “the Duplin road,” it roughly followed the path of modern Blue Clay Road and then modern day Castle Hayne Road/N.C. 117.
The road was there before the street grid went that far out, Tetterton said, and rather than re-route the road, builders just tilted the streets. By the early 1800s, of course, those streets also ran close to the old Wilmington & Weldon/Atlantic Coast Line railroad tracks, which took a gentle northeasterly curve out of downtown Wilmington.
The northeast tilt continues into the Love Grove community.
Date posted: February 5, 2013
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