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What is the history of the Long Leaf Park neighborhood near the state port?

Cece Nunn

A Long Leaf Park homecoming celebration in years past.

What today is known as Long Leaf Park was built in the early 1940s to house some of the thousands of workers who moved to Wilmington work at the N.C. Shipbuilding Co., which was located at what later would become the Port of Wilmington.

Bounded on the north by Shipyard Boulevard and on the east by Carolina Beach Road, the duplexes that remain today were actually the second part of a two-phase development.

Built with assistance from the federal government and run by the city of Wilmington, the first phase of homes were put up very quickly to meet the critical wartime housing needs. They were occupied in 1942. Soon after the second phase of sturdier duplexes were under construction. Those homes remain today. The entire neighborhood was known as Maffitt Village.

It was named after Captain John Newland Maffitt (1819-1886), a member of the U.S. Navy and Confederate States Navy and later captain of a blockade runner vessel.

Soon after the war was over and the shipyard closed, the oldest section of homes were torn down. Eventually the Babcock & Wilcox boiler plant would be built nearby. To this day, house foundations, manholes and governor asphalt roads can be found in the woods south of Sumter Drive and J.C. Roe School.

The newer houses remained property of the Housing Authority. Two public buildings for community activities served the area — the Vance Buidling, now the site of the Brigade Boys & Girls Club, and the Raleigh Building, near the old B&W plant. There also was a Maffitt Village Baptist Church in the neighborhood.

A small shopping center was built on Vance Street and for many years housed Taylor’s Store and later Rooks Store, both small grocery markets. Buzz Davenport’s barber shop was located there as well as a coin laundry, a pharmacy and a bar called the Red Fox.

The housing authority later sold the houses and some of the renters were able to become homeowners.

Before the important role it played in World War II, the area played an important role in another conflict — the Civil War. To this day eroded earthern mounds can be identified in the woods between the western part of the original Maffitt Village and River Road. These were part of the many small fortifications that guarded the Cape River during the Civil War.

For some time now a Maffit Village reunion has been held and the group has a Website — maffittvillage.com — where you can find some old photos as well as a list of families and the streets they lived on.


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2 Responses to “ What is the history of the Long Leaf Park neighborhood near the state port?”

  1. On January 22, 2014 at 10:21 pm Annette Powell wrote:

    My family and I are planning a visit to Wilmington soon. Amongst the many souvenirs I hold dear is the time I lived in Maffitt Village as a newlywed to a native wilmingtonian. I myself was born in Casablanca, French Morocco.
    I recall even appearing on the Wilmington TV station, with the moderator I only recall by the first name of Jim. This was early 1964?We lived on Sumter Drive, near a Mrs. Simmons and the Craven family directly across from us.
    I was all of 22 years old and gave birth to my first daughter at James Walker Memorial Hospital , the same hospital her own father was born at during the war.
    We still have relatives in Wilmington, hence the reason for our upcoming trip.
    Any info on the future Azalea Festival would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

  2. On January 23, 2014 at 12:20 pm Si Cantwell wrote:

    Hope you have a good visit. You can keep up with Azalea Festival news at StarNewsOnline.com/Azalea.

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