Figure Eight Island
|Native name: Figure Eight|
Figure Eight Island, North Carolina
New Hanover County,
|Area||1,300 acres (530 ha).|
Figure Eight Island is a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, just north of Wrightsville Beach, that is known for being an affluent summer colony of the American Southeast. The island is part of the Wilmington Metropolitan Area. The island is surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. It is a private island that can only be reached by boat or via a guarded causeway swing bridge that is the only private bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway in the Southeast. The island has been known as a popular destination for wealthy North Carolinians as well as celebrities and politicians including former Vice President Al Gore and Senator John Edwards, who owns a house on the island. The island has been home to several important industry and finance figures, including former CEO of Morgan Stanley, John J. Mack and textile executive William Johnston Armfield IV.
Figure Eight Island was first acknowledged as part of the Province of North Carolina in 1762, during the reign of King George III, as a tract in a royal land grant to James Moore, the brother of Roger Moore of Orton Plantation, son of James Moore, Royal Governor of the Province of Carolina, and grandson of Sir Rory O'Moore. In 1775, the island passed from James Moore to Cornelius Harnett and became known as The Banks. In 1795, Harnett's property was purchased at an auction by James Foy and the island became part of Poplar Grove Plantation and was renamed Foy Island and also popularly called Woods Beach. Foy Island remained a part of the Plantation for the next 160 years.
During World War II, the United States Coast Guard maintained a structure and small watertower on the island, which itself was patrolled via horseback. Coast Guard Auxiliary craft monitored the surrounding inlets. Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and Bell P-39 Airacobra aircraft based at Bluenthenthal Field used the island for strafing practice.
In 1954 Hurricane Hazel hit the East Coast and destroyed much of the development from Myrtle Beach up to Topsail Beach, with more than 15,000 homes and structures completely destroyed and another 39,000 homes damaged. Beach properties were no longer in as high demand, and many landowners wanted to sell their properties. During this time the Mayor of Wilmington, Dan Cameron, and his brother Bruce Cameron began the process of acquiring the island from George Hutaff and the Foy family. The Camerons paid the Foys $50,000 for their portion of the land, and then purchased two areas of adjoining marshland for $25,000 apiece in 1955. For the next 10 years the property lay dormant. The Cameron brothers joined their cousin, Raeford Trask, and investor Richard Wetherill, forming the Island Development Company, to develop the real estate on the island. They named the island Figure Eight to indicate Rich's Inlet Creek's crooked paths in the marsh. At this time, the only way to access the island was by boat, so the Island Development Company approached Champion Davis, owner of the marshland off Porters Neck, on acquiring more land to build a bridge to the island from the mainland. Davis turned down an offer to partner with the company. The Island Development Company eventually purchased two small tracts and a small parcel of land from the members of Edgewater Club to build a roadway bridge that now leads to Figure Eight Island's bridge. The first bridge was built on top of a government surplus landing ship tank.
The Camerons hired Richard Bell Associates to design Figure Eight's development concept. John Oxenfeld and Haywood Newkirk, Sr. were brought on to design the early houses. The first lots sold for as little as $5,000, and the first house was constructed in 1966. On March 30, 1971 the Camerons sold Figure Eight Island to Young M. Smith, Jr., an attorney and developer from Hickory, North Carolina, for $4 million. Smith's company, The Litchfield Company, was already in the process of building a luxury condominium complex near Pawleys Island, South Carolina. When the change of ownership over Figure Eight took place, thirty houses and one hundred and twelve lots were sold. Smith brought architects Ligon Flynn and Henry Johnston in on the development project as well as landscape architect Dick Bell. Smith's wife was the grand niece of the late Julian Price, a wealthy insurance executive of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Company in Greensboro. Price's son, Ralph Clay Price, who inherited the business, left his niece and her brothers as heirs to the Price estate. Much of their fortune was invested in the development of Figure Eight Island. The local marina club opened on August 11, 1973.
While Figure Eight enjoyed early success in home and lot sales in the early 1970s, the recession hit The Litchfield Company hard and its subsidiary, Figure Eight Development Company, went into bankruptcy in 1974. The marina club closed down. After two open auctions were held at the New Hanover County Courthouse in 1975, Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Company emerged as the island's new mortgage holder. The marina club reopened in 1976, and adopted the title of Figure Eight Yacht Club in the spring of 1977. In 1980 a modern bridge from Port Royal, Virginia was bought to replace the old bridge connecting the island to the mainland for $1.5 million.
The Figure Eight Homeowners Association now owns the island. The first full-time administrator of the Association was hired in 1982, and after several short-term managers, Arthur Poineau served as administrator for 20 years. David Kellam, the son of earlier residents on the island, has held the position since 2001. There are approximately 475 homes developed on Figure Eight. Figure Eight's boathouse was one of the first structures constructed on the island in the 1960s. The island has been known as a popular vacation destination for celebrities, politicians, and wealthy North Carolinians. When Dino De Laurentiis opened his studio in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1983, Hollywood stars were drawn to the privacy of the island. Prominent homeowners and guests on the island over the years include: Jennifer Aniston, William Johnston Armfield IV, Alec Baldwin, Kim Basinger, Kathy Bates, Robert Downey, Jr., Susan Downey, Senator John Edwards, Frank Genovese, Richard Gere, Andy Griffith, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Terry Holland, Gary Lynch, John J. Mack, Henry McKinnell, Nick Nolte, Harvey Pitt, Nido Qubein, George C. Scott, Dean Smith, Sissy Spacek, Jill St. John, George Steinbrenner III, Ben Stiller, Robert Wagner, and Debra Winger. Vice President Al Gore and Second Lady Tipper Gore vacationed on the island with their children, Kristin, Karenna, Sarah, and Albert in 1997.
In September 1996, Hurricane Fran damaged the island properties. All utilities and telephone lines were knocked out, septic tanks overflowed, the roads were blocked by debris and standing water, all docks were washed out, and one house was completely destroyed. It took one week to pump floodwater out of low-lying areas. The yacht club building was closed for seven months for repairs.
The island has tennis courts, a boat ramp, Yacht club and a marina. The Eagle Point Golf Club, located on the mainland, has connections to Figure Eight, having been built by several Island residents. The Figure Eight Yacht Club is a private island club for dining and formal events. Figure Eight is not accessible to the public by car but is by boat. The majority of the residence of Figure Eight are seasonal. An estimated 90 percent of the homes on Figure Eight Islands are second homes and fewer than one hundred of the homes are on the rental market. Homes on Figure Eight average above $2 million in property value.
Between the northernmost part of Figure Eight and Lea-Hutaff Island lies Rich Inlet, one of the few natural inlets in North Carolina. To the south, between the island and Wrightsville Beach, lies Mason Inlet. The former is a stable inlet, while the latter is migratory.
Due to the island's proximity to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, the ocean temperatures off of Figure Eight are comparable to destinations much further south and considerably warmer than the ocean off the Outer Banks.
|Location||JAN||FEB||MAR||APR 1-15||APR 16-30||MAY 1-15||MAY 16-31||JUN 1-15||JUN 16-30||JUL 1-15||JUL 16-31||AUG 1-15||AUG 16-31||SEP 1-15||SEP 16-30||OCT 1-15||OCT 16-31||NOV||DEC|
|Daytona Beach, FL||61||59||65||70||73||75||78||79||80||80||80||80||81||83||82||79||76||71||65|
Figure Eight Island has never been subject to water quality advisories, which have been issued for nearby beaches.
The local chapter of the National Audubon Society has recorded the presence of 104 different species of birds on Figure Eight. Most live in Rich Inlet, generally considered the southernmost nesting area for the critically endangered Great Lakes piping plover. In 2015, approximately 800 Least Tern nested on northern section of the island, making it the largest Least Tern colony in the state, and one of the largest on the Eastern seaboard. Other birds that nested there include American Oystercatchers, Common Terns, Black Skimmers, Piping Plovers, Wilson’s Plovers and Willets. Savannah Sparrows, Atlantic Plovers, Greater Yellowlegs, and pelicans have been found in Mason Inlet to the south.
Sea turtles have been monitored and protected on the island since 1986, and continue to be monitored on a daily basis. Sea turtle nests are cordoned off for protection. In 2016, there were 8 nests on the island. In 2001 and 2002, the homeowners association commissioned a survey of endangered plants and animals on the island, including piping plovers, sea turtles, sea beach amaranth, and marine mammals. The University of North Carolina at Wilmington surveyed the island's bird populations as part of the $50,000 "Mason Inlet Relocation Project" commissioned by New Hanover County.
Terminal groin controversy
In early 2016, the Figure Eight Island Homeowners Association’s Board of Directors pursued the construction of a terminal groin by the United States Army Corps of Engineers on the northern section of the island to stabilize Rich Inlet and prevent erosion. Various environmental groups, including the North Carolina Coastal Federation, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and the National Audubon Society, criticized the proposal, deeming it largely unnecessary and potentially harmful to local bird and fish populations. On November 17th, 2016 the Figure 8 Island Homeowners Association announced that the proposal to pursue a Terminal Groin did not pass and would not proceed.
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