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LOCAL

From the archives: By the 1990s, natives were fighting to relive 'Old Wilmington'

Portrait of Owen Hassell Owen Hassell
Wilmington StarNews

In 1996, Wilmington was in the midst of a major population surge. Six years earlier, an extension to Interstate 40 connected the Port City to Raleigh, and growth came with it. Wilmington's film industry was also enjoying success.

All the changes had some natives clamoring for the old days. In the July 7, 1996, Wilmington StarNews, a story with the headline "They don't make Wilmington like they used to" offered longtime residents the chance to share stories of "Old Wilmington" to keep alive what made the Port City special.

From monkeys at Monkey Junction, A&P supermarkets and Lumina Pavilion to the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, an undisturbed Figure Eight Island and Roudabush's, locals such as former Wilmington mayor and civic leader Hannah Block and N.C. Azalea Festival legend Henry Rehder recalled the days of Wilmington's past.

This was Wilmington's newest A&P store when it opened in 1965 near what today is the intersection of College Road and Oleander Drive.

"They tore down the old buildings, the one- and two-story buildings, and put up buildings that were six, eight, 10 stories," said Rehder of the changes.

Some understood change was inevitable and praised the diversity a larger population brought to the city. Henry Warren remembered how Wilmington struggled in the aftermath of Atlantic Coast Line's departure, but how Corning and General Electric's arrivals helped bring the city back.

Hannah Nixon recalled her father buying seed at Roudabush's feed store. While the building and Roudabush sign remain at the corner of Front and Dock streets downtown, it's now home to The Husk and YoSake restaurants.

To Betty Cappo, "you know you're from old Wilmington when you get lost because it's changed so much."