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Speaker: Rebecca Taylor, Manager, Federal Point History Center, Carolina Beach
Join us for a special History at High Noon as we look at the history of Seabreeze Resort with Rebecca Taylor, the manager of Federal Point History Center. Taylor’s interest in the Seabreeze resort began almost 10 years ago, when she wrote a history of the community for a pamphlet to add to the center’s histories of Carolina and Kure Beaches. During the height of Jim Crow segregation, from the 1920s to the 1950s, African Americans had few opportunities to spend time enjoying oceanside recreational activities. Though North Carolina had several other segregated beaches, Seabreeze was the largest and had operated the longest.
With numerous hotels, as well as dance halls, restaurants, a pier, and even amusement park rides at the Seabreeze site, summer holiday weekends would attract up to 10,000 visitors. Famous for its clam fritters, as well as Hattie Green’s ferry across the sound to the beach strand where the iconic Monte Carlo was located, Seabreeze’s most lasting contribution to American culture is as the birthplace of the shag dance. The rhythm and blues, soul, and beach music that played there was notorious for drifting down streets and into other neighborhoods, attracting white teenagers from Carolina Beach who carried the “race music” and its dances back to the boardwalk.
Prominent musicians such as Bobby “Blue” Bland and Bo Diddley performed at Seabreeze. Overnight African American visitors, who by law could not stay at hotels reserved for Whites, included entertainers like Fats Domino, James Brown, and Ike and Tina Turner, who played for White audiences in Wilmington but slept at the 25-room Loftin Hotel. Devastated by 1954’s Hurricane Hazel and later hurricanes, and profoundly affected by eventual integration of nearby communities, the once-thriving Seabreeze site has little left today.
Rebecca Taylor has managed the Federal Point History Center in Carolina Beach for the past 14 years. Before that, she worked in public libraries for 30 years, primarily with the New Hanover County Public Library as a branch manager for multiple branches in Wilmington and Carolina Beach. With a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in library science, as well as a lifelong interest in history, Taylor works with the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society on everything from historical research and writing articles for the newsletter to organizing and cataloging the archives.