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What’s the status of the old 7-Eleven building off of Princess Place Drive?

Larry Sackett
StarNews

According to Margaret Chabris, director of corporate communications for 7-Eleven Inc., the 7-Eleven store at 2010 Princess Place Drive, Wilmington [Map this], operated from 1968 until 1985, when the building was leased to Zip Mart.

7-Eleven map

An old insurance map shows the 2010 Princess Place Drive grocery store and another building at 2012 Princess Place Drive labeled “CARPR” (for carpenter). (Map courtesy of the New Hanover County Public Library)

In 1988, the building was acquired by Atkinson’s Fabrics, which was next door at 2006 Princess Place Drive, Wilmington [Map this]. Tax records show that both buildings are owned by Michael and Allison Atkinson. Neither building is occupied at present, but you can still see bolts of fabric through the windows at 2006 Princess Place Drive.

Chabris said that 7-Eleven had withdrawn from unprofitable markets, such as Wilmington and Charlotte, in advance of a leveraged buyout that occurred in 1987. The then-Southland Corporation sold non-core businesses and closed dozens of poorly performing 7-Eleven stores as part of the $4.9 billion leveraged buy-out, Chabris said.

The 7-Eleven location was the site of an earlier grocery store, Salmon’s Grocery, that opened in about 1943. It was owned by Thomas Salmon, a carpenter and builder. The building was also his and his wife Amy’s home. At the time, there were two small lakes behind the grocery store, the result of rock quarrying from 1900 to 1915 to pave Wilmington Streets, according to newspaper articles in the Bill Reaves Collection at the New Hanover County Library.

The quarries were up to 40 feet deep in some locations. There were several drownings in the quarries over the years, including two 11-year-old girls in 1930. A concrete-filled iron pipe and many pieces of broken concrete are behind the 7-Eleven building, and may be part of a fence erected around the quarries to keep swimmers out.

The quarries/lakes were on the east side of Burnt Mill Creek. Carolina Heights is on the west side of the creek. The larger of the two lakes is where the present Cape Fear Rugby Club’s playing field is at Fly Trap Downs. The section of North 21st Street that wraps around the playing field between Rhodes Avenue and Chestnut Street by Snipes Academy was originally called Lake Drive. A street sign still bears the name Lake Drive at the intersection of Rhodes Avenue and North 21st Street.

An insurance map at the New Hanover County Library shows the 2010 Princess Place Drive grocery store, another building at 2012 Princess Place Drive labeled “CARPR” (for carpenter) – almost certainly belonging to Thomas Salmon – and the smaller of the lakes directly behind the two buildings. The map also shows a horseshoe-shaped extension of Burnt Mill Creek, which is now filled in, next to the Princess Place Drive bridge. Until 1944, Burnt Mill Creek marked the eastern city limits of Wilmington.

At the time of the Civil War, a dam ran directly behind the 7-Eleven property roughly from North 21st Street to North 18th Street. The areas on either side of Burnt Mill Creek were covered by a body of water called Green’s Millpond, which extended from Archie Bell Park south of Smith Creek, site of another dam, all the way to the Randall Pond next to Randall Parkway near Burnt Mill Business Park. The location of Port City Java and the Carolina Farming grocery story on Market Street between South 21st Street and Borden Avenue was under water during the Civil War. You can see the dip in the road on Market Street where Green’s Millpond used to be.

Ed Turberg, an architectural historian who has written about Carolina Heights, said there were mills at the location of one or more of the dams that created Green’s Millpond.

You can view an interactive Civil War map showing Confederate entrenchments on the east side of the city along Green’s Millpond (Burnt Mill Creek) superimposed on a current Google Earth map of Wilmington at http://www.lib.unc.edu/dc/ncmaps/interactive/276_242.html. The interactive map is part of North Carolina Maps, a collaborative digitization project by the North Carolina State Archives, the Outer Banks History Center, and the University Library at UNC-Chapel Hill.

User-contributed question by:
Jason

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