Navassa, North Carolina

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Navassa, North Carolina
Motto: People Working for People
Navassa is located in North Carolina
Location within the state of North Carolina
Coordinates: 34°15′25″N 78°0′17″W / 34.25694°N 78.00472°W / 34.25694; -78.00472Coordinates: 34°15′25″N 78°0′17″W / 34.25694°N 78.00472°W / 34.25694; -78.00472
Country United States
State North Carolina
County Brunswick
 • Total 13.82 sq mi (35.80 km2)
 • Land 13.34 sq mi (34.55 km2)
 • Water 0.48 sq mi (1.25 km2)
Elevation 16 ft (5 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 1,505
 • Density 113/sq mi (43.6/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 28451
Area code(s) 910
FIPS code 37-46060[1]
GNIS feature ID 1025573[2]

Navassa is a town in Brunswick County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 1,505 at the 2010 census,[3] up from 479 at the 2000 census. Navassa is part of the Myrtle Beach metropolitan area.


Navassa is located on the west bank of the Cape Fear River and of the Brunswick River, a western channel of the Cape Fear. The community first formed because of an ideal river location and possibility for rail access. The fast-growing seaport in Wilmington, in the pre-Civil War era, was isolated from the inland farmers in western North Carolina because trains could only come as far as the nearby town of Belville. Here, the tracks stopped and the freight had to be manually transported across the Brunswick and Cape Fear rivers. Because of the "high bluffs" that came right to the edge of Cape Fear River from the west, and a land mass between Navassa and Wilmington that would allow the construction of railroad tracks across Eagle Island, the railroad company decided to build a bridge across the Cape Fear at Navassa two years after the Civil War ended in 1867.

The Civil War left a struggling southern economy and inexpensive land costs in the area. Building a bridge allowed two railroad companies, the Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Rail Line, to connect Wilmington with Charlotte and the interior counties of South Carolina. Prudent businessmen realized the distinct advantages of locating a fertilizer factory at this location. For years the turpentine industry had been shipping their products to the West Indies without having a product to bring home upon their return. In 1856, large guano deposits were discovered on Navassa Island, a small barren island about 15 miles (24 km) off the coast of Jamaica. Businessmen made arrangements to have the returning ships loaded with the guano and consequently built the Navassa Guano Factory in 1869. The railroad access allowed them to ship fertilizer to the interior of the state for sale. A small village sprung up around the fertilizer factory, and in 1885 the U.S. Postal Service named the village Navassa after the huge fertilizer plant. The town center grew on two subdivisions in the 1890s to the 1920s about a mile west of a fertilizer processing site. Armour Fertilizer was built in 1919, followed by Royster Fertilizer in 1927 and finally Smith-Douglas Fertilizer in 1946. At their peak, these four fertilizer factories employed over 4,000 workers. In the ensuing decades the economics and method of manufacturing fertilizer changed with a modern chemical industrial process, resulting in the decreased reliance on guano. Over time the Navassa fertilizer plants slowed production and finally shuttered their doors.

The town incorporated in 1977, with a mayor and five council members as the governing body. Construction of Interstate 40 to Wilmington in the late 1980s fostered metropolitan growth in the area, and the town of Navassa also began to prosper. By the close of the 20th century the population of the town was 479 people. A decade later, by 2010, the town had grown to 1,505 people. The majority of Navassa's population growth over that decade was caused by the annexation of previously unincorporated areas surrounding the town, including the Phoenix community, which was annexed in 2002. Other population growth came from a new residential subdivision in the town. In 2011, the town approved the rezoning of two large planned unit developments that are expected to grow to over 5,500 homes over the next 20 years, in addition to over a million square feet of commercial, general business, and light industrial land uses. Similarly, in the 2000 to 2010 decade, Brunswick County population grew from 73,143 to 107,127, a 46% increase.

The growth in the Navassa area today is due to many factors, including the Wilmington urban area, the planned extension of road networks such as the I-140 bypass making the area more accessible, a retiring population seeking a warmer climate, the growth of Wilmington as a retail, education and coastal tourist destination center, and more affordable housing options in Navassa as a bedroom community. Navassa is situated with an abundance of waterways, high dry land (25 feet (7.6 m) above sea level), railway access, close proximity to Wilmington (5 miles (8 km)), large single tracts of affordable land with available infrastructure, and a local government that encourages economic development. This small town is consciously striving to maintain its identity while working to provide urban amenities and improve the quality of life of its citizens. It is difficult to accurately project the town's future population because of factors such as the cyclical nature of the economy (growth and recession) and possible future annexation by the town. However, it is expected that the I-140 bypass and the proposed two bypass interchanges will be completed in 2015-16, and the two large planned unit developments will spur additional growth within the town.


Navassa is located at 34°15′25″N 78°0′17″W / 34.25694°N 78.00472°W / 34.25694; -78.00472 (34.256846, -78.004818) [4] along the Brunswick River and Cape Fear River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 13.8 square miles (35.8 km2). 13.3 square miles (34.5 km2) of it is land and 0.50 square miles (1.3 km2) of it (3.50%) is water.[3]

Environment and biodiversity[edit]

The Navassa and Cape Fear region in southeastern North Carolina is considered an exceptionally rich biodiverse area in the United States. This region hosts 50 different habitat types supporting 300 species of plants and animals. Twenty-two of these species are considered "endemic", meaning they are found nowhere else in the world. An assessment of biodiversity was completed by the State and prioritized terrestrial habitats based on the presence and quality of significant natural areas, rare species, important bird areas, high quality wildlife habitat, and wetlands. Aquatic habitats were assessed based on aquatic significant natural heritage areas, native trout waters, anadromous fish spawning areas, high quality benthic communities, high quality waters, outstanding resource waters, oyster sanctuaries, shellfish harvest areas, fish nursery areas, submerged aquatic vegetation, and stream buffers. Anadromous means that fish are born in fresh water nurseries of Navassa's creeks and rivers, spend most of their life in the sea (Atlantic Ocean) and return to the town's fresh waters to spawn.

The Cape Fear River and Brunswick River marshes along Navassa's eastern limits are an extensive 330 acres (130 ha) of tidal marshes upstream of saltwater influence. This tidal freshwater marsh is characterized by tall herbs, grasses and wildflowers. This site supports the only known population of Carolina Bishop Weed in North Carolina. The natural area has been altered by human influences of ditching, diking and roadbed construction. Sturgeon Creek, along Navassa's southern limits, is a tributary of the Brunswick River and supports the same uncommon natural community type of Tidal Freshwater Marsh. The 154-acre (62 ha) marsh contains a population of Cypress Knee Sedge, a rare plant species.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1980 439
1990 445 1.4%
2000 479 7.6%
2010 1,505 214.2%
Est. 2014 1,542 [5] 2.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[6]

As of the census[1] of 2010, there were 1,505 people residing in the town. The racial makeup of the town was 27.1% White, 63.6% African American, 0.5% Native American, and 3.8% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.8% of the population.

There were 177 households out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.4% were married couples living together, 23.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.5% were non-families. 26.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.27.

In the town the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 23.6% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 107.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $35,607, and the median income for a family was $35,179. Males had a median income of $21,875 versus $18,529 for females. The per capita income for the town was $11,328. About 24.8% of families and 27.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 44.6% of those under age 18 and 14.5% of those age 65 or over.


The town of Navassa has a rich cultural heritage supported by strong roots in the Gullah-Geeche culture. Gullah describes a group of African Americans along the southeast coast of the United States from Jacksonville, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida. They have a distinct culture, language, and lifestyle that have been preserved since the early 1700s. In the southeast North Carolina area, the Gullah people of today are direct descendants of slaves who worked in the rice plantations of the Cape Fear River valley. Residents of Navassa have a direct link to this culture. At one time there were five different rice plantations in what is today Navassa. As the plantation system came to a close, the slaves that worked these plantations eventually resettled the area.

In 2006, the US Congress established the east coast Gullah-Geeche Cultural Heritage Corridor to help preserve and educated the public on the importance of this culture in our history. The corridor is preserved with the assistance of an executive committee, of which the Mayor of Navassa is vice-chairman.


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