Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

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Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Johnny Mercer's Pier
Johnny Mercer's Pier
Location in New Hanover County and the state of North Carolina.
Location in New Hanover County and the state of North Carolina.
Coordinates: 34°12′40″N 77°47′55″W / 34.21111°N 77.79861°W / 34.21111; -77.79861Coordinates: 34°12′40″N 77°47′55″W / 34.21111°N 77.79861°W / 34.21111; -77.79861
Country United States
State North Carolina
County New Hanover
Township Harnett Township
 • Mayor Chad Hudson
 • Total 2.4 sq mi (6.2 km2)
 • Land 1.3 sq mi (3.5 km2)
 • Water 1.1 sq mi (2.8 km2)
Elevation 7 ft (2 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 2,477
 • Density 1,943.4/sq mi (750.3/km2)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP code 28480
Area code(s) 910
FIPS code 37-75820[1]
GNIS feature ID 0997665[2]
Website http://www.townofwrightsvillebeach.com/

Wrightsville Beach is a town in New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States. Wrightsville Beach is just east of Wilmington and is part of the Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 2,477 at the 2010 census. The town consists of a four-mile-long beach island, an interior island called Harbor Island, and pockets of commercial property on the mainland.


Outdoor movies at the Lumina, ca. 1920s.

The island's first structure was the Carolina Yacht Club, built in 1853. A train track was built in 1888 from the mainland to Harbor Island to the exterior island along the beach, which brought vacationers from nearby Wilmington and spurred development. In 1902, the train was converted to electric streetcars—i.e., the beach trolley. The most significant structure on the island was the large dance floor and entertainment center, the Lumina Pavilion, which opened in 1905. In its heyday, it attracted numerous entertainers, including most of the famous Big Bands. Cars were finally allowed on the beach in 1935, hastening the demise of the beach trolley, which last ran in 1940. Lumina closed in 1973. The Wrightsville Beach Museum of History, housed in a relocated cottage built in 1907 on Salisbury Street near the entrance to the island, features the town's history.

Recent history[edit]

Since the 1970s, development has increased at a rapid rate. A desalination plant was constructed in the middle of Harbor Island in 1960 by the Carrier Corporation. The method used to desalinize the water was freezing. The plant proved to be costly, inefficient and difficult to maintain. Residents also complained about the barely potable taste of the water. It was closed and is now used only as a water pumping station.

Shell Island Resort, constructed on the northernmost end of the island in 1984, was considered controversial due to its large parking deck and its proximity to Mason Inlet. The construction of luxury condominiums at Duneridge, Sterling Edition at Wrightsville Dunes, and Cordgrass Bay occurred soon afterward.

During the 1990s, Wrightsville Beach suffered from several hurricanes including Bertha, Fran, Irene, Bonnie, Dennis and Floyd. Although these hurricanes caused great destruction on the beach, the growth of the island has continued to flourish. In the late 1990s, it became increasingly apparent that Mason's Inlet at the northernmost part of the island was drifting southward. Residents became alarmed that Shell Island Resort and other high value residences would succumb to the Inlet. For some time, the northern side of the resort had to be strengthened by sandbags. The Army Corps of Engineers undertook a $6.5 million contract to move the inlet 3,000 feet north. On April 15, 2002, the project was completed and Wrightsville Beach gained a sizeable amount of virgin beach on its northern side.

In the 2000s, Hurricanes Isabel, Charley and Ophelia affected Wrightsville Beach. These hurricanes were not as severe as those of the previous decade and many residents did not lose power.

Wrightsville Beach at sunrise.

The 1991 film Sleeping with the Enemy starring Julia Roberts was filmed, in part, in a prop home just north of Shell Island Resort Hotel.[3]

Wrightsville Beach north views towards Johnni Mercer Pier.


Many of the classic, old-fashioned beach cottages have been renovated or replaced over the years. The oldest of these early cottage dates to 1897.[citation needed] Construction, renewal and renovation are constantly occurring on the beach, even among houses built in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Bradley-Latimer Summer House, Cape Fear Civil War Shipwreck Discontiguous District, Mount Lebanon Chapel and Cemetery, and James D. and Frances Sprunt Cottage are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[4]


Wrightsville Beach is located at 34°12′40″N 77°47′55″W / 34.211194°N 77.798636°W / 34.211194; -77.798636,[5]

Wrightsville Beach lies south of Figure Eight Island, separated by Mason Inlet, and north of Masonboro Island, separated by Masonboro Inlet.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 2.4 square miles (6.2 km2).1.3 square miles (3.4 km2) of it is land and 1.1 square miles (2.8 km2) of it (44.40%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 22
1910 54 145.5%
1920 20 −63.0%
1930 109 445.0%
1940 252 131.2%
1950 711 182.1%
1960 723 1.7%
1970 1,701 135.3%
1980 2,910 71.1%
1990 2,937 0.9%
2000 2,593 −11.7%
2010 2,477 −4.5%
Est. 2014 2,549 [6] 2.9%
U.S. Decennial Census[7]

At the 2000 census,[1] there were 2,593 people, 1,275 households and 566 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,943.4 per square mile (752.8/km2). There were 3,050 housing units at an average density of 2,285.9 per square mile (885.4/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 98.11% White, 0.27% African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.19% from other races, and 0.50% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.66% of the population.

There were 1,275 households of which 10.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.6% were married couples living together, 4.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 55.6% were non-families. 32.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.02 and the average family size was 2.47.

Age distribution was 8.9% under the age of 18, 16.8% from 18 to 24, 34.0% from 25 to 44, 25.3% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 125.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 126.1 males.

The median household income was $55,903, and the median family income was $71,641. Males had a median income of $35,388 versus $36,083 for females. The per capita income for the town was $36,575. About 2.0% of families and 9.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.4% of those under age 18 and 2.2% of those age 65 or over.


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "Sleeping with the Enemy (1991)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 24 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  5. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  6. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  7. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 

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