Is Carolina Beach building bigger and better, or demolishing its history?

CAROLINA BEACH, NC (WWAY) — A historic building’s demolition could be the end of an era for North Carolina’s oldest still-existing beach town.

It might not look like much now, the plaster is peeling, the paint is fading, but the former reality building on Harper Avenue holds a lot of memories for Carolina Beach locals.

According to local, Robbie Johnson, “We’d go in in the mornings and grab an egg salad sandwich. They the best egg salad, even better than mom’s. Sorry mom.”
Daniel Norris also has fond memories there. “They had toys, and they had a comic book section right there near the front door. I went in there several times with my parents. A few times for some medicine. I don’t know what I had, probably sunburn.”

But for historians like Rebecca Taylor, it holds a lot more than just memories.

“The old drug store building, which is what everybody calls it, is an iconic building which is one of the last buildings that shows what Carolina Beach looked like in the 40s, and the 50s, and even the 60s,” Taylor explained.

So when news spread the old drug store (built in 1941) is to be demolished, residents were surprised and worried the history so deeply embed in the island was fading.

“We can’t wipe out history,” Johnson continued. “We learn from history.”

Taylor says the building is one of several with plaques denoting historical significance in the area.

“I don’t think that people realize that Carolina Beach as a resort goes back to 1887,” she said.

But that doesn’t keep the buildings from being torn down. According to Taylor, Carolina Beach doesn’t have a historic district commission, though a state preservation official did consider it.

Taylor remembered that day. “And they told us there were not enough buildings left. And that was in the late 90’s.”

Because historic overlays are tied up in state law, Taylor said at that time, local government ran out of options.

“So we sort of quit.”

As one of the last remnants of old Carolina Beach, Taylor and other residents are left wondering: Are they gaining a bigger and better town? Or are they losing what made them special in the first place?

“Part of Carolina Beach will lose so much of its character that it’s almost going to be unidentifiable as what it used to be,” Norris said, disappointed.

We reached out to Carolina Beach Town officials about this demolition. Mayor Elect Lynn Barbee responded:

“I have fond memories of this building as it was less than a block away from my home and was my school bus stop as a child. I am encouraged that the owners have indicated their intent to building something complimentary to our downtown.”

Town Councilman Steve Shuttleworth responded: “Change is always difficult. As a community, while we hate to see older buildings full of cherished memories be removed and demolished, we understand that sometimes rebuilding provides great opportunities for the future and the community.”

In an email from Ed Parvin to Carolina Beach’s mayor and council, he said, “The current building has too many maintenance issues for the owners and they believe a new building with a better layout will serve them well. There has been some concern in the community that we are losing a historic building.  This building does not have a historic designation, however the owners are aware of the concerns and they do want to go back with a building that preserves some of the historic features of the current structure.”

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