Remembering Wrightsville Beach’s fount of local lore
Bill Creasy Jr. holds hands with his wife, Elaine, on their dock in Wrightsville Beach
in December 2003.
THE late Bill Creasy Jr. was for decades the local go-to guy for
Wrightsville Beach lore, history and preservation efforts.
Creasey served as vice president of the four-person Wrightsville
Beach Preservation Society, founded by Greg Watkins, who had
WBM FILE PHOTO
restored the 1910 Tarheelia Inn on North Lumina and later wrote Wrightsville
Beach: A Pictorial History.
“My grandparents moved to Wrightsville Beach in 1915 and lived on Columbia
Street right down here,” Creasy said in a 1990s interview for Wrightsville Beach
Magazine with Gretchen Nash from his home overlooking Banks Channel. “My
dad bought a house on Charlotte Street in 1926. I was born in 1928 and that was
about my first summer down here. It was a little cottage that was not winterized
As many families did back then, they were Wilmington residents who moved
down to their cottages on Memorial Day and moved back on Labor Day.
Boxes of old photographs depicting life at the beach in the early 1900s were
passed down to Creasy from his father. In 1992, Watkins and Creasy enlarged the
old black-and-white photos for display on the west side of Newell’s Department
Store, and then again at Wynn Plaza where the town docks are.
Creasy commented this was probably the first time that newcomers and tourists
got a glimpse of life on the beach before automobiles and paved roads.
First published December 2009.
Sources: The Bill Creasy Collection,
The Bill Reaves Collection at the
New Hanover County Public
Library, Tide and Time: A History
of Wrightsville Beach, North
Carolina (Commissioned by
Wrightsville Beach History Museum
and written by Virginia Whiting
Kuhn), Wilmington: Lost But Not
Forgotten (by Beverly Tetterton.)
20 people during the tourist
Madeline Flagler, executive
director of the Wrightsville
Beach Museum of History, vaca-tioned
in Wrightsville Beach as a
girl and fondly remembers going
to Newell’s in her bathing suit
and shorts to buy T-shirts and
penny candy, like Mary Janes
“Newell’s was a real local
place that you felt was really
connected to the community,
and Wings was another chain,”
Flagler says. “Those kinds of
family and community-oriented
businesses are vital to the story
of any community.”
Linda Brown misses Newell’s
as well, because she wants her
nieces and other children to
have those memories.
“And sometimes I wonder
what it would be like if it were
still there,” she says. “How
would it have handled all of the
Even though those who hold
fond memories of Newell’s
wish it were still a part of the
landscape at Wrightsville Beach,
it will always remain a symbol
of an era gone by, a story to be
shared from one generation to