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Whatever happened to The Glenn at Wrightsville Beach?

Ben Steelman
The Glenn

The Glenn at Wrightsville Beach was built in 1940. (Courtesy New Hanover County Public Library Digital Archives)

The venerable tourist apartment complex at 16 Nathan Ave., Wrightsville Beach [Map this], was demolished in 2008, after spending two years on the Historic Wilmington Foundation‘s “Most Threatened” List.

An adjoining brick building, which served as a sort of annex to The Glenn and had housed The Glenn Restaurant until Hurricane Hazel in 1954, was recently renovated and is now the home of South End Surf Shop, 708 S. Lumina Ave., Wrightsville Beach [Map this].

The Glenn was built in 1940 (many sources erroneously list 1939) by Esther Naomi Mintz Yopp, a recently widowed real estate developer. Yopp bought Lot 16 of the E.I. Bear subdivision — at the corner of South Lumina and Nathan avenues — on Feb. 21, 1940, drew up plans and hired contractor Sam Blake to build the project.

The result was a three-story wood frame building, with asbestos shingle siding, divided into 24 apartments. During World War II, these apartments housed wives and families of Army servicemen from Camp Davis and shipyard workers spilling over from overcrowded wartime Wilmington.

For most of the rest of its history, though, the Yopp family rented out apartments to tourists, generally on a weekly basis, between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

The Glenn was never air conditioned (or heated). Most of its apartments had shared bathrooms, and at least a few of the apartments had their original furnishings to the last. Despite its old-school approach, though — or perhaps because of it  — the apartments kept a loyal following. Vacancies were few, and many guests returned every summer for up to three or four decades.

Yopp operated The Glenn with her daughter, Esther Naomi Yopp, until her death in 1972. The daughter inherited the property and kept it open until her death in 2005, at the age of 91.

In 1997, in his Wrightsville Beach history, Greg Watkins wrote:

“Today, The Glenn still has the same rocking chairs on the porch, the same neon sign and the same furniture in four of the 24 rooms that it had when it was built …”

User-contributed question by:
Tokeah Barnes

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2 Responses to “ Whatever happened to The Glenn at Wrightsville Beach?”

  1. On February 20, 2011 at 10:06 pm Glenn Davis wrote:

    Because my first name was Glenn, that building was special to me at the age of 4 (1954) when I first remember seeing it. I later got acquainted with Ms. Yopp in the 90’s. The restaurant building had been condemned and I was able to assist her in restoring the masonry walls back in 1996. After that she was able to protect it with an historic plaque. The Glenn Apartments however was not declared an historic building and I never learned why. Miss Yopp was determined to keep it original and it truly was an historic site to me. She turned down many offers from developers who wanted it badly.

  2. On August 11, 2013 at 5:00 am Ernest Ray Dixon wrote:

    I was 15 I think when I stayed at the Glenn with my mother and stepfather. His family had stayed at the Glenn in the past. This was one of the few vacations that I had been on before this point in my life. I experienced long lasting memories. Yes it was my 15th birthday. I had my first 14inch pizza all to myself, hey I ate most of it. I never had seafood until I ate that blue grab, I found a new love in food that day. My stepfather and I bounded more than ever on that trip, before that I thought he didn’t even like me. I think staying at the Glenn and being around Naomi stirred up allot of memories for him. I learned to bodysurf, another love made for the ocean. I walked the beach in searched of shell and sand dollars. I found many neat shells, but not one sand dollar. I liked talking to Naomi very much, she had such a brightness to her. I felt happy and warm just being around her. It stormed I believe the day before we had to depart for Ohio. Lightning hit the transformer 3ft. from my window as I was watching the hard rain and wind, thinking maybe a hurricane was on us. The power was out for only a little while. My mom, stepfather “Soup”, and I went downstairs and sat with Naomi. I think see saw a little fear in my eyes and wanted to cheer me up. She went over to a self, opened a little box with a object wrapped in a cloth. Naomi walked over to where I was seated and gave it to me as she said be very carful with it. I opened it and it was the biggest sand doller I have every seen. I thought back then that at the beach you could use them like real money, but no matter how much it was worth I would never part with it. I felt so proud that she would do this for me. It is a little hard to write this with tear filled eyes. I gave her a big hug to thank her.
    The day we had to go, I would have loved to stay forever. Mom brushed off the thought not knowing how much I wanted to stay. I gave Naomi another hug I would see her next year, but as I did Soup’s look did not confirm my promise. I found that we would not be taking a vacation. So I saved up my money from waiting at Ponderosa. I would have my license in July. I think I only had about 600$, but I went anyway. I probably should not of taken my girlfriend and her foster sister, but we were all young. It was the first time they had ever got to go to the ocean. When we got there my mom and the sheriff had already called Naomi. I told my mom where I was going, she just did not believe me. The girls where only there for a few hour before they got picked up. I was told that I should not come drive back alone, so Soup was in route to bring me back. Mom told me I would have to pay for his trip and missed work. Naomi did not look at me with any resentment for what I had done. I said I would be back and here I was. She offered me a place to stay for as long as I needed, so long as I helped do a few chores. They were not chores in my eyes, but a school of the Glenn. Naomi told me I could stay for the whole summer, if my mom would allow it. I begged my mom until my voice was rough. “Soup is on his way and that’s that”. I have tears falling knowing what happened to such a good place. I am now 36, and am ashamed that I never took my son to feel the warmth of the Glenn and Naomi. I am in deployed Afghanistan now, but when I return I will take a trip around October 20, 2013 to pay respects.

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