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Does anyone know the fate of the carousel and other rides at Seabreeze Park in Carolina Beach?

Ken Little
StarNews

The amusement park at Carolina Beach, seen in 1946. Courtesy of the New Hanover County Public Library.

Old-timers in Carolina Beach have no recollection of a Seabreeze Park, but Sea Shore Amusement Park operated at the south end of the boardwalk for decades.

Carl D. Ferris and his family acquired the amusement park from Adolph Kaus after Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and renamed it Sea Shore Amusement Park.

“Carl Ferris’ family came from a long line of carnival and amusement park ride operators,” author Daniel Ray Norris wrote in his 2007 book, “Carolina Beach, NC: Friends and Neighbors Remembered,” Volume 2.

Carl’s son Nelson learned to run and repair the rides and worked alongside his father at the beachfront amusement park. Many fondly recall Sea Shore Park’s vintage carousel, Ferris wheel and other rides like The Moon Rocket, Bubble Bounce, Merry Mixer, Tilt-A-Whirl, Little Dipper and SkyPlane, Norris wrote in his book.

In a 1977 interview with the Wilmington Morning Star, Carl Ferris, then 75, said his favorite piece was the merry-go-round, acquired in 1912 and entering service to a fourth generation of the Ferris family.

Norris’ Carolina Beach book, published by his SlapDash Publishing company, notes “The authentic 1910 Herschell-Spillman carousel that (Ferris) assembled and disassembled for carnivals throughout the first half of the twentieth century made many a child happy and many a revolution since it became a mainstay of the Ferris enterprise in 1912.”

Sharon Ferris Williams, daughter of Nelson L. Ferris, said in an email response to questions that Sea Shore Amusement Park ended operations in 1978, following Carl Ferris’ death.

The story now shifts to Jubilee Amusement Park, which opened in 1978 on a tract of land at 1000 North Lake Blvd.

“My father, Nelson L. Ferris, was contacted by Rick and Lewis Mitchell to sell his rides, including the carousel, to them, (and) move them off of the Boardwalk to the northern end of Carolina Beach. Together the three of them formed Jubilee Park,” Williams said.

Nelson Ferris was a prominent part of the Jubilee Park operation and became known “as the Ferris Wheel Man,” Williams said.

Ferris retired in 2000 and passed away in November 2001, his daughter said.

Jubilee Park endured a bumpy ride due to economic challenges and acts of nature, including damage caused by Hurricane Bertha in July 1996. That storm toppled the Ferris wheel that had been moved from Sea Shore Park, leaving it atop the carousel.

Larry and Ginny Spencer, who acquired the 6.57-acre amusement park earlier that same year, spent the remainder of the 1996 season repairing the carousel and other rides, according to Morning Star articles.

The Spencers replaced the demolished Ferris wheel with a 1947-model Ferris wheel purchased from the Eli Bridge Co. in Illinois.

When Spencer sold the amusement park in 2004, most of its assets passed to the development company that bought the land. Plans at the time were to build an upscale condominium complex there, so the amusement park assets had to go.

That’s when Norton Auctioneers, based in Coldwater, Mich., entered the picture.

According to the company website, www.nortonauctioneers.com, the antique carousel, the waterslides, and all of the rides and equipment were sold “piece by piece” at an absolute auction held on June 14, 2005.

“The auction will feature other items in addition to the Jubilee Park equipment, including a Ferris wheel, trackless train, boats, Octopus, Tilt-a-Whirl, go-karts, kiddy roller coaster as well as numerous other kiddy rides. Additionally, all games, food equipment and park equipment will be sold,” Norton Auctioneers announced online before the sale.

Information about who bought the rides and other Jubilee Park equipment was not available.

“Jubilee Park remained open for a few years after my dad’s passing. The owner at the time sold the rides and the property,” Sharon Ferris Williams recalled.

The antique carousel horses were prized by many, including Williams.

“My understanding is some of the carousel horses went to different collectors. I’m not really sure what happened to the other rides. I lost touch after my father retired,” Williams said.

Williams keeps one of the gaily painted carousel horses at her home as a way of maintaining a link to her family’s unique past.

“Yes, I have one of the very first horses that came off of my dad’s carousel. The horse I have is one he refurbished,” she said. “It is very, very old. It is the horse that’s on the book cover of (Norris’) book.”

The property where Jubilee Park was located passed through several hands subsequent to the 2004 sale. It remains a vacant lot, although current plans are to build a Harris Teeter supermarket on the site.

“We still look forward to opening a new store in Carolina Beach within the next few years and in fact own the land,” Harris Teeter spokeswoman Catherine Reuhl said in January.

No time frame has been established for construction, Reuhl said.

Seabreeze, once a prominent African-American resort on land owned by the Freeman family just north of Snow’s Cut Bridge, has no known amusement park link.

“I have never seen anything about carnival rides there,” said Rebecca Taylor, office manager of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

For more information on Norris’ books and others about local history, visit www.carolinabeach.net

RELATED LINKS

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Does anyone remember the train at Greenfield Park?

 

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Hal Messick

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